My top picks for software on MacOS.
So I’ve been using a Macbook Pro for twelve months now, and with a number of people recently asking me what I use on a day-to-day basis I thought it’d be a good idea to note it down.
Mail App: Spark
For some time I used the stock mail app, and I did dabble with AirMail and Polymail for short stints, but they never stuck. Spark is different, it’s a beautifully designed mail app which doesn’t get in my way. You can use keyboard shortcuts and swipe actions to perform pretty much any common action (archive, delete, save for later, pin etc.), you can set custom archive folders, and the app is able to predict which folder you will move a message to based on the subject line and the sender (at least I believe that’s how it does it, I’m not 100% sure). Using any other mail app on any other platform just feels like a massive step back to me after using Spark. The one downside to Spark is that it does do some cloud-storage in some respects, so usage in a corporate environment is unlikely to be a good idea.
Image credit sparkmailapp.com
Calendar App: Fantastical 2
So it’s fair to say that I’m quite obsessed with organisation of my time, mostly so I stay as productive as possible. Having a good calendar app is essential to this, I initially tried using the stock calendar app and had a bad experience, in September a friend of mine introduced me to Fantastical and I haven’t looked back since. “It’s a calendar app, how special can it be?” I hear you ask. Well Fantastical is more than just a calendar app, it’s an organisation app. Sitting in your menu bar so you can access it at the click of an icon, or at the press of a button with a shortcut combo, it is constantly accessible with it’s beautiful drop down interface. Add to that the quite brilliant natural language input and you’ve got me hooked.
Image credit flexibits.com
Developer Tools: iTerm2 & (oh-my-)zsh
I’ve grouped these two together because quite simply you can’t talk about one without the other. Of all the apps I’ve listed here, these are actually the only two I’ve used since day-zero of my MacOS experience. iTerm2 is a wonderfully customisable terminal application, with plenty of features that the stock terminal lacks.
zsh or the ‘Z’ shell, is a replacement for bash or any other shell, with a number of improvements over other shells. Add in the wonderful oh-my-zsh project with it’s large ecosystem of plugins and themes enabling neat features such as showing the version of a node module you are currently looking at, showing your git working branch and git status and you have an experience that’s available nowhere else. It’s also supports transparency, which is nice.
My iTerm2 setup, with ‘Bira’ oh-my-zsh theme*
So Alfred is a pretty strange app to see a use case for, MacOS’ built in ‘Spotlight’ search is pretty awesome, especially compared to the search features of Windows, however I always found it particularly lacking in certain areas — namely seamless web search, developer documentation search (with Dash), and shortcuts (lock, shutdown). It’s amazingly extensible, and I wouldn’t go back to Spotlight after using Alfred.
Image credit alfredapp.com
Alfred is available from alfredapp.com for free, with extensibility coming at the cost of £19/$25.