My Mac Setup 2018: GUI Edition
We all have a process and a preference for how we do things. As with anything related to software development, opinions abound on all sides. I’m not saying that the applications I use in my day to day are what everyone should use. They’ve become daily uses for me, and I hope some of them might prove useful to you as well.
If you didn’t know before, you can use brew to manage a lot more than only CLI tools. Brew Cask will install a wide range of products that are available online. If an app is only available on the App Store, Mac App Store CLI. Mas is like brew, but for the App Store. You have to have downloaded the app once from the store, so it won’t work for the initial install. I find using brew to be faster than going to a site, downloading a tar, unpacking, and everything. Brew handles that for you, and the most important part, deletes it when you no longer want it on your machine.
I recently switched to Bear after having used Evernote for four years. For one, Bear is fast and looks fantastic, as one would expect since it is from a design company. It’s also inexpensive for a premium subscription ($14.99 per year), even though it has a full freemium model. The main thing free tier is missing is the ability to sync notes across devices and unlock more themes.
My blog uses Gatsby, a static site generator that can use Markdown to generate posts. Which Bear is compatible with rendering, unlike Evernote. Having the ability to keep post ideas, lists, notes, and articles all in one location is quite handy.
One of the most annoying parts of MacOS, to me at least, is window management, more like the lack thereof. Coming from Windows I'm used to the fancy drag to the side of the screen and the OS resizes the window to fit for me. I missed that when switching to Mac, and while Spectacle isn’t quite the same, it’s pretty damn close.
Spectacle works via keyboard shortcuts, which is nice if you spend a lot of time using one. Open source, and completely free. You can resize to fill the full screen, center a window, halves, thirds, quarters.
An annoying thing about MacOS is the tendency for windows to disappear or be offscreen when using external displays. Unplugging from many screens to work on a single display is generally fine. Plugging back into external displays often results in the application windows rearranging. First world problems, I know, but sometimes you want things to be how they were the last time you were using it. Stay “stores” your application windows for you, and will restore them. This way if you run into any of this window hiding BS, you can restore them without having to kill the application.
I’m likely not the only one, but I tend to turn the brightness way down on my screens, MacBook and secondary screens. I’ve had problems in the past with headaches due to a combination of bright screens and outdated glasses. Flux helps with eye strain and filtering of blue light that can keep our brains from becoming tired. This doesn’t work so well if you need to have color accuracy, but for the majority of my time, I have a slight yellow tinge to my display.
Oh, the mighty Pomodoro. I’ve gotten more done since adopting this technique than I could have hoped for. Granted some days it’s easier than others to focus on tasks. I find that breaking things up into 25 min blocks is great, and Tomighty helps out. With keyboard shortcuts and tracking how many I’ve completed. This is one of the first apps I install when setting up a new machine.
I find the default Mail app to be slow. A former co-worker showed me Airmail, and in the beginning, I didn’t want to try it due to it not being free. Being a broke college student at the time, I couldn't justify it. Yet, I don’t think I’ll ever go back. The ability to handle a significant amount of inboxes, smart folders, and automation rules to handle different types of mail, this client has everything I need in a sleek, fast package.
I use the free version but have considered getting a subscription. I write enough and forget how to spell enough to justify it. The better part of this app is the grammar enhancement.
When I first discovered Spotlight I couldn’t believe it. I can open applications without having to open the finder, or the dock, or an icon on the desktop. I started reading and hearing about Alfred in articles and podcasts, so I knew I had to give it a shot. The free version is very powerful, the ability to open applications and files, search Google (or your browser of choice) with customizable hotkeys and extensibility is pretty awesome. I stuck with the free version for a year before finally buying a license, workflows are what convinced me after reading about the devdocs integration. Now I have the ability to search the devdocs documentation from Alfred. I've barely scratched the surface of what this tool can do, and could likely write an entire post on it alone.