Home, Home + Office, Technology

Apps I love for my Mac!

For my (Andy) day job, I work as a product manager for a software company.   Everything I do is on a computer.  We use tools like Jira and Confluence, Microsoft 365, Webex… if you know these programs you know what I am talking about.  Recently my father moved to a MacBook Air and was having a hard time adjusting from Windows 10.  To help him, I wrote up a summer of my favorite apps, why I like them and how I use them.  I thought was good information and wanted to share it to anyone else who would be interested.

Email:

Spark

Works on both your Mac and your iPhone.  You can sync as many different emails as you want to your account, you can have them color coded and they can come from almost any source (gmail, exchange, imap, etc…).  What I like most about it is the swipe features can be customized to how you use your email and its simple and clean to look at it.  Its not like outlook with thousands of options.  All the features are still there, but they are not all displayed at the same time making the display cluttered.  It is also great when getting a new device.  As long as your information is synced to the cloud, when you add your iCloud or gmail email, it will restore all your other email accounts.  This is great for me since I have quite a few websites all with their own email domains and all based on IMAP.  Setting those up is quite tedious at times and this removes all that pain.

Quite note: For my corporate email, it is based in Microsoft 365. While Spark I believe can work with it, I keep them separate in Outlook. At the end of the work day, its not distracting when I want to focus on other things (like this blog!).  It also keeps my data separate and reduces overlap or sending a work email from a personal account accidentally.

Calendar:

My main personal email and therefor calendar is gmail.  I don’t use google.com to access them, I use spark for email, and apple calendar for calendar. But its all syncing to the google cloud.  I do this because they are easier to share with others and more compatible with apps across any device (Apple, Android, Windows etc).  I typically have the calendar app open in full screen mode once screen to the right.  That way its only a swipe away to see it full screen, but not cluttering up my screen with one more window.

Productivity:

Things 3

This is a to do list manager.  Its has tons of positive reviews online, but helps you create lists and manage them tocompletion. You can create projects for each section of your work, then divide lists into sections.  I included a screenshot of mine below.  I have already completed 3 things form “today” and only two more things to go based on my plans across all projects.

Its also great to jot down quick things to remember for later then categorize.  That is what the “inbox” is for.

There is a cost for the web and mobile app separately.  However, if it reminds me to complete tasks fast and get paid faster and helps me complete more overall, well worth the cost.

There is a free option that is similar called Asana.  It is a great product, made by on of the first Facebook and google engineers.  Is works very similar to Things, my only and largest complaint about it is the mobile app.  It has one, but is much harder to use and doesn’t seem as “quick”.  But it much better for teams of people and its free… so a good choice if you need something.  I have used the tool since it was in beta.  Its grown a lot and I really enjoy it.

Cloud Storage:

This is a never ending battle, but currently I have all my pictures/videos backed up to iCloud and Flickr.  I am paying for 200G on iCloud to store them all.  I use to have all my documents there, but it got to full and the next tier up was $10/m for 1T.  To much.  So I have moved all documents over to Amazon Drive.  Its is currently $60/y for 1T.  They just cancelled their unlimited plan. 🙁

This allows easy syncing of all my files to any computer I want, but also acts as my back up.  I don’t have a hard drive back, only my files being backed up online.  I think this is enough because hard drives are pretty stable overall these days, and all software can be re-downloaded again fairly easily.

Other apps:

Snagit: best screen shot app.  Expensive, but for what I do, I use it daily. (And quite a bit for this post too.)

Apple Notes: Its my mains source of notes.  Folders are important to keep things organized.  Search is great when looking for things.

1Password: password management.  Its an old-school software purchase, but couldn’t live with out it.  It stores any and every kind of password you have.  It also has tools to capture password as you type them in to remember them.  It can suggest complex passwords for you and more.  I have it on my Mac and phone and use it all the time.

I use to have all my passwords buried in a innocent looking note.  There was no password protection on them it was fine until I got into more advanced programs and really wanted protection.

BetterSnapTool: this is one thing Windows has built in Mac doesn’t, but this app fixes that problem. 🙂

VPN: I use one while ever on a wifi other than my own home one. This allows you to safely connect to public networks and encrypt your traffic so it can’t be monitored.  There are thousands of options but the one I use is PrivateInternetAccess.  This will be important to have once the congress bill that allows your ISP to sell your usage history.  This will prevent them from tracking it. You can also install their iPhone app to use a VPN on your phone.