Useful Mac tidbits for lazy geeks

I've been lying around for a few days with some crud. Nothing exciting. I was pretty sure I was dying from the Avian flu, but I haven't died yet. I listened to a lot of podcasts, and so I ended up spending a lot of money on new apps and a lot of time and making them do cool stuff. Mac Power Users specifically costs me money almost every time I listen to it.

I used to use my iPad for nearly everything, but I find the Mini is less suited for productivity and I have a 13-inch MacBook Air I'm using much more than I ever used my MacBook Pro. I love the Mini, don't get me wrong. I can't bear to be separated from it for long. But the Air is like a regular-sized iPad with a keyboard and more power, plus I've been doing some freelance work that requires a lot of complicated text manipulation involving Word and macros. I've decided that Airs are the ultimate in awesomeness.

Anyway, the point is, I didn't buy Mac apps for a long time because I used my iPad so much, but now I am. Here are some goodies I love lately:

  • BusyCal: This is discounted until April 30, so if you're at all interested, pay attention. I like this app because

    • It integrates Reminders, including carrying undone ones forward automatically
    • It lets you tag both Reminders and events and save them as smart searches much like iTunes, which is very handy for me because I can tag everything to do with my hospital job, freelance editing job, and various writing gigs as "Work" and see at a glance what stuff I need to be doing to make money
    • You can put cool graphics and sticky notes in it. They jack up your calendar view on iOS so I got tired of this fairly quickly, but it was fun at first
  • Alfred 2: This is for keyboard aficionados. I hate using my mouse. This app with the optional Powerpack cuts way down on my need to. Even without the Powerpack it's extremely useful, but with it you can totally geek out. You can e-mail people, open files, move files, and launch apps, but that's just the beginning. Yesterday I created a custom search so that when I have an article name on my clipboard, I can type "opt-space" (to launch Alfred) and then type "pm cmd-V" and Safari searches PubMed for the thing I pasted. This saves, like, MICROSECONDS, people.

  • TextExpander: Again: save on effort. Cast aside the idea that this app simply expands your address and e-mail signatures, because it's gone way past that. It now has all kinds of tricky little bits of code you can put in your snippets. It's fun to make your own, but other people have done a lot of work, so you can snag their snippets.

    • David Sparks, who literally wrote the book on Markdown, has snippets on his site for download. They're for stuff other than Markdown, but as a devotee of Markdown, I actually get warm fuzzies from these snippets.
    • And then there's Brett Terpstra, who wrote...everything, I mean I have a nerd crush on the guy, who has snippets that work on iOS, handily, because not all of the fancy bits of code work on iOS.
  • Hazel: Hazel allows deep and ongoing laziness and also effortless organization. Like Bartleby the Scrivener, I believe that the easiest way is always the best way, so I bought Hazel a long time ago. She's come a long way. Stuff Hazel does for me:

    • Trashes the screenshots that litter my desktop after a day
    • Files all my bills automatically into Dropbox folder by utility and year (after I scan them with my ScanSnap and use TextExpander snippets to name them by my own convention in like a nanosecond)
    • Trashes any duplicate file on my desktop
    • Opens my mail downloads folder when it gets more than 20 things clogging it up so I can clean it out manually

That's a good start. I didn't buy all this stuff at once or I'd be broke. Some stuff I bought a long time ago and just found uses for recently, but having done so, I find it REALLY USEFUL. So there you are: a list for the lazy.