Macbook Pro

What are the first applications you install on a brand new Mac?

That’s a question I didn’t have to ask myself until last month when my significant other had to start from scratch with a brand new Mac because backups are for the weak.

So I started to think about it: what would I do if I had to start from the ground?

After I replace Safari with Chrome, I’d install the first applications I can’t imagine living without: Alfred Textmate 2 and iTerm 2 in that order. Then, I’d be ready to setup everything I need for productivity, tech stuff, writing, and entertainment**.

Whether you are a new Mac user lost in the App store or an experimented user looking for inspiration, that list was crafted for you with much love. And my favorite text editor.

Productivity

Airmail

Airmail

Let’s be honest. All mail clients suck, and Apple built in Mail.app is no exception. Some of them, like the good old Mutt suck less, and Airmail is one of them.

Airmail is a fast, multiple accounts email client. It provides a handy replacement to Mac OS default Mail.app when it starts crashing and get sluggish because you’ve decided to keep a decade of email.

Like any modern email client, Airmail natively supports Gmail, Yahoo!, iCloud, Microsoft Exchange, Outlook, or iMap. And if you’re still stuck in the 90’s, no problem: you can use AOL or POP3.

Airmail provides a great community supported plugin integration, including a fast to setup PGP integration.

The plus: Airmail supports Spamsieve natively so you control your Antispam, not let it control you.

The cons: Airmail does not support text only email.

Price: 9,00 €, available on the Mac App Store.

Alfred

Alfred

Alfred is a keyboard based application launcher, multi platform search wrapper.

Since I met Vero at LeWeb 2009, I’ve been an avid Alfred user, having it replacing all my Mac OS X built in applications. The little application launcher quickly became the center of my engineering productivity which improved as it was growing up.

Price: 15,00€, with a free limited edition, not available on the Mac App Store.

F.Lux

f.lux

F.Lux helps your brain awaken in the morning and go to sleep when it’s time to shutdown by changing your screen colour temperature according to the time of the day.

No magic here, only science. At dawn, the light colour is colder, and your brain is wired to understand it’s time to wake up. At sunset, the light is much warmer, which is a sign it’s time to go to bed. F.Lux simply tricks your brain into knowing what time is it since your screen usually provides a colder light.

Price: free, not available on the Mac App Store.

NVAlt 2

nvalt

Notational Velocity Alt 2 is a simple keyboard controlled note taking app. It provides basic feature like spell checking, URL recognition, basic search, online synchronisation and encryption. And that’s all you need.

I use Notational Velocity to store everything I need to keep at hand, from basic code snippets to meeting memo I need to keep for later. It’s small, lightweight, less obtrusive than a post it application and won’t let countless text files on my Desktop as I used to do when writing everything in a text editor.

Price: free, not available on the Mac App Store.

Simplemind

Simple Mind

Simple Mind is a lightweight mind mapping application for Mac OS.

Mind mapping is a productivity technique where you connect your ideas to build a clear thought diagram. Each idea might have different development and mapping them might help you to order every option of a complex process.

I picked up Simple Mind over every other mind mapping software because it’s simple and available on iOS as well, which makes it perfect for people like me.

Cons: poor keyboard navigation support.

Price: 29,00€, with a free limited edition, available on the Mac App Store.

Spamsieve

Spamsieve is a powerful anti spam software for Mac. It plugs on most email client on the market, analyses email you get and learns from your habits.

Despite looking expensive for “such a simple feature” Spamsieve is worth your money. Once trained, it’s accurate enough to avoid you losing several minutes a day selecting all your email and clicking “mark as spam” when your email provider failed at doing it.

Price: 30,00€ with a 1 month trial period, not available on the Mac App Store.

Spectacle

Spectacles

Spectacle is an app that allows you to move and resize your windows using simple keyboard shortcuts. You can split your screen in 2 or 4, having your browser on the top left, your text editor on the top right, and whatever you want at the bottom, as soon as your screen is big enough to keep it readable.

Before I switched to Mac, I spent 10 years running Linux on my desktop, doing everything from the keyboard. Using a mouse based operating system was extremely frustrating as I felt I was wasting 5 of my fingers to do something I used to manage with 1 or 2. Spectacle brought me back to that good old time, for the better of my productivity.

Price: free, not available on the Mac App Store.

The Unarchiver

unarchiver

The Unarchiver is a great replacement for Mac built in Archive Utility App. It supports most of the existing archive format including the old ARJ. The Unarchiver is a bridge between the Mac and Windows world where most people use 7ZIP for archiving.

Price: free, available on the Mac App Store.

Tech

Dash

dash

Dash is an awesome documentation browser and code snippets manager. It comes with more than 150 built in API documentation you can download and browse offline.

I use Dash on a daily basis to browse documentations of my most used software like ElasticSearch, Ansible or Mysql, but also my favorite programming languages. It has an integration support with most text editors of the market, including Textmate, and even Alfred! (requires Alfred Powerpack though)

Price: 25,00€ with a free limited edition, available on the Mac App Store.

Github Desktop

github desktop

Github Desktop is an awesome, free application to manage Git(hub) depots. If you’re like me, you’re probably managing dozens of git depots, with lots of people pushing code, a gazillon branches and it’s sometimes hard to find your way into all that mess.

Even though I use command line all the day, I rely on Github Desktop when I need to walk through all my branches or read an insanely huge pull request. Github Desktop provides a much more readable user interface than simply running git diff in my terminal or checking github / gitlab interface.

Price: free, not available on the Mac App Store.

iTerm 2

iTerm2

iTerm2 is a comprehensive, multi tab, multi pane terminal application for Mac OS.

It’s often hard to remember that Mac OX is an UNIX based operating system, and not the worst. iTerm2 is a good reminder of Mac OS UNIX ancestry, as it provides one of the best terminal application I’ve used in more than 20 years.

iTerm2 provides rich profiles configuration, complex window split you can save from one session to another, all fullscreen. I’ve configured 2 different setup: the first one when I work on my laptop alone provides 4 terminals in full screen. The second one provides 9 terms for when I plug my laptop to a huge screen at home or at work. I’ve also a visor view where I put my IRC client I access using SSH so I have it whatever the virtual desktop I work on, without it being obtrusive.

Price: free, not available on the Mac App Store.

Textmate 2

textmate 2

Textmate is a 13 years old text editor that had its 15 minutes of fame in the early days of Ruby on Rails. It was also the reason why I decided to switch to Mac OS after spending 10 years running Linux on my desktop. Despite a strong competition from Sublimetext, I still consider Textmate as the most powerful and useable text editor on Mac OS if not in the world.

Textmate provides a smart set of keyboard shortcuts as well as a strong plugin environment that makes it fit for almost any task. You can use it to code, edit text, blog connecting it to your favourite tool API, or as a task manager.

After being considered an abandonware, Textmate came back as version 2 with a community driven development under GPL v3.

Price: free, not available on the Mac App Store.

Writing and editing

Ulysses III

Ulysses III

Ulysses III is a great editor for anyone who wants to write. It’s the best thing I’ve found between a traditional text editor like Textmate 2, Office and dedicated tools like Scrivener, for better or worse.

Pros: Markdown / Textile / whatever markup you want, a nice theme catalogue, tagging, associating pictures or notes to your pages, multiple folders, no need to save or lose your production and iCloud sync.

Cons: a single file database that might get all your writing corrupted at once, a proprietary format, some functional limitations like no template and not as simple as it is when you’re working on large documents.

Price: 39,99 €, available on the Mac App Store.

Pixelmator

Pixelmator

Pixelmator is an image editor, just like Photoshop but without all the bloat and expensive license.

Pixelmator provides most feature you would expect from that kind of tools: layers, filters, various forms, smart selection, photo editing… everything in a Photoshop like interface you can use fullscreen and even on multiple screens.

Price: 29,99€, available on the Mac App Store.

Skitch

Skitch

Skitch is a screenshot manager which is not part of the Evernote suite. It provides every feature you’d expect from such an application like annotations, crop, blur… It lets you export your screenshot in various formats (png, jpeg, pdf…) and upload them on your Evernote account, even though you don’t need one to use it.

Price: free, available on the Mac App Store.

Entertainment

Boom2

Boom2

Boom 2 is an amplifier / equalizer for Mac OS primarily designed to enhance your laptop speaker. And trust me the result is incredible. Boom provides many built in presets you’ll find on any equalizer application but the most interesting part is how it calibrates according to your hardware for the best possible experience.

My biggest problem was that I don’t carry my sound system all over the house so listening to music on my Macbook Pro was a real pain. I decided to give Boom a try after Chris Messina posted a tweet about it and wasn’t disappointed.

Price: 10,99€, with a free limited edition, available on the Mac App Store.

Calibre

Calibre

Calibre is a multi platform ebook library manager. It connects to your favourite e-reader and allows you to upload / download your ebooks, convert them to almost any format, annotate / rank them and even build your own ebooks from your latest text.

If you’re an avid reader just like me as well as a Kindle user, you probably don’t get all your books from Amazon. Most things I read are not available there so I have to get them from other providers. Calibre naturally became the center of my ebooks collection even though the UI needs some rework.

Note: the French versions of the books are my kids 😉.

Price: free, not available on the Mac App Store.

That’s all folks! I’ll soon provide you with a comprehensive list of my favourite iOS applications, most of them being the same as what I’ve described here, as well as some Chrome extensions I love. For me, it’s time to get some rest, see ya!

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