Here are 5 applications that I use every day on my Mac, making my work life a bit easier. If you’re a Mac person, please leave a comment with your favorite work productivity apps and how you use them.
LaunchBar might be the most powerful productivity application for the Mac. Ever. Quicksilver is a similar application, though it hasn’t been updated in a while. Among other things, you can launch every application, document, web page, email … anything from your keyboard. It’s like Spotlight on steroids because within LaunchBar is a system of widgets and AppleScripts that add other features like searching the Web, calculating, copy and paste history, moving files. It’s kind of crazy because most people never use all of the available features. I’d like to do an experiment to see how many days I could go learning one new feature every day. I suspect that it would take more than a year before I exhausted all the features of LaunchBar. If you have any intention of become a Mac power user, get LaunchBar.
SoundSource is a wonderful free app that does one thing well: helps you choose the source of your sound and where it’s supposed to be output. It loads on start-up, appearing in your menu bar, and from there you choose the various options where the sound is coming from and going. You could do this by opening the Sound Preference panel all the time, but I’m making sound adjustments on my computer at least 5-6 times a day, which would be a pain in the neck. Normally I have one set of ear buds through the headphone jack and a USB headset/mic at the same time. I listen to sound through the external speakers, the ear buds, or USB headset. SoundSource is the traffic control for all those inputs and outputs.
Do you know Growl? It’s a notification system that works in the background, letting you know when activity is taking place in various programs on your Mac. It’s real simple. When I get an email, chat activity, or am using my favorite FTP program, Transmit, Growl gives a graceful pop-up on the screen with information like the email subject line. Not a must have, Growl does make the work day marginally easier.
One thing that irritates me about instant messaging are the too numerous standards: IM, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google/Jabber, and many others. I have three different instant messaging accounts myself! Adium is an open source (free) program that handles all your different chatting accounts in one interface, seamlessly. If you have to use instant messaging for work, get Adium.
I believe one of the most under used tools in online education is the screencast. Depending on your discipline, screencasting can be a useful tool to describe and demonstrate procedures on a computer screen (read my blog post Common elements of effective screencasts). There are probably a half dozen different Mac applications that can help you create screencasts, but I find iShowU HD the best. Based on price and ease of use, iShowU HD is the best. Unlike some others, it’s Mac only; in general I find applications with both Mac and PC versions to be a lesser grade than those developed strictly for the Mac.
iShowU HD comes with presets for creating videos that can be posted to all the major video sharing sites, allows you to create watermarks on your videos, record your face using the built-in iSight camera at the same time as creating the screencast, among many other features. If you need a tool for creating screencasts, I recommend iShowU HD.
Okay, Mac people, what applications make your work day a little easier and more productive?
I haven’t forgotten the Windoz people; stay tuned for a future post running down the best work productivity apps for Windows.