As we explore this whole area of enhanced productivity in either or both our personal and business lives while using our Macs its apparent that even the simple things count but often in a big way. In this article I’m going to briefly look at a number of very good utilities that make us not only more productive but allow us to work with our Macs in a more pleasant fashion. These little apps, so to speak, allow us to work both more efficiently and effectively. I see them, in many ways, as not only standing on their own two feet but they work synergistically with each other and our complete Mac environment. For the purposes of this article I’m going to specifically look at Mac apps but a couple of them also sync with their IOS counterparts.
Being productive really is in the way you work and then how you use tools to support that work. Some tools can be very rich or powerful and enhance our overall productivity significantly with the benefit of making our lives easier. Working fast and harder doesn’t necessarily mean you’re productive. It might mean you’re just working fast and harder but its what you accomplish or do that’s important at the end of the day.
So simple tools that enhance a productive work style are just as beneficial as the power houses we might employ. They can let us flow more easily from one task to the next or keep things out of our way as we move through the trees so to speak to see the forest. However, these tools have to be good otherwise they’ll just get in your way and impede your flow. No, the tools have to be good to enhance your flow. I like tools that not are not only easily accessible but provide synergy. The tools I’m going to present to you do just that. They range from just making the most basic rapidly available to you to getting things out of your way.
This idea of these basic or simple little tools that I use constantly hadn’t, in anyway, struck me as part of productivity. I was inspired through a query that led me to think about an application I use that provides a very distraction free way of writing a Gmail email without going into your inbox or Gmail in any fashion. I put it forward for consideration and will talk about this application but as I thought about these kinds of applications I began viewing them in a slightly different light. I had always seen them as making my Mac experience more enjoyable and as enablers of simple functions like quickly jotting down a note regarding an important reference number to….. I had not viewed them though as part of my flow or anyone’s flow in enabling productivity. However, they most certainly are in some ways clearing things out of your way so you can work more easily to serving up something quickly without searching or fussing around for what you need. These apps are just there ready to be called on at any time and require no effort to learn or call upon them. Yet, as I think about it, the results are significant. They’re really your little helpers in your overall process.
Primarily Menubar Applications
All these applications except one I’m going to present to you sit in the menubar. That makes them available no matter what you’re doing or what desktop your in. They’re there at the click of a mouse or a keyboard shortcut.
You’re probably thinking that sounds like quite a busy menubar if there’s a pile of applications sitting there along with your primary menubar applications. It is but I have a solution for that or should I say our Bartender has a solution for that.
Bartender is one of those extremely useful utilities that helps you manage your Mac’s workspace more efficiently. If you do decide menubar apps are valuable then Bartender is so worth it. Bartender provides two important benefits:
- it saves on screen real estate which is critically important if you’re running something like an 11 or 13 inch Macbook
- plus it declutters your screen
Bartender’s ultimate value comes in reducing distraction by ensuring that what you need is served up in the most logical of fashion. Bartender adds a sub menubar below the main menu bar. With it you can move menubar items into this submenu. I tend to move my least frequently accessed items into Bartender’s submenu and keep my most frequently access menubar items in the main menubar. To reduce visual distraction you can hide the submenu bar and invoke it by either using a hotkey shortcut or clicking on Bartender in the menubar. This is an application I could not live without on either my MacBook Air or desktop machine. It does empower productivity.
Another extremely handy menu bar app is NotesTab Pro. It‘s basically just a Notes application but its probably the best Notes application I’ve ever used. It syncs super fast with its IOS cousins which is nice. The beauty of this Notes application is that since it sits in the menubar it is always available in any workspace immediately at the click of the mouse or a hotkey command.
How often has someone wanted to relay something to you on the phone, out of the blue, such as a reference number only to put you in a scramble mode looking for something to jot that information down on. Notestab takes care of that as it is instantly available. I presents nicely and stores all your Notes over time in basically a searchable database. I find that if the information is really important though to something I’m doing and requires long term storage I’ll uses Apple’s Services and send the information off to DEVONthink a powerful information management or knowledge management system. Although DEVONthink has its own quick notes system I sometimes just create the Note in Notestab. I might actually, using OSX’s Services want to send the Note to DEVONthink and to Omnifocus as a task to be followed up on. Again, its about productivity and synergy and this approach works very well.
When the clipboard came a long with the Mac it was somewhat revolutionary for the day. Now of course you don’t even give it a second thought. Its one pitfall is that it only can store one copy and paste action. However, there are many multiple clipboard apps of which I’ve tried many and one of my favourites is iClipboard. Once again, this is another menubar app so it comes with all the advantages of a menubar app. I think its one of the best of the clipboard tools.
Iclipboard is very visual in its aestheatic. There are actually three ways to get at your clips and that’s through the menubar, a routine they call Blaster and a side window popup. I’m as likely to use either Blaster or the menubar though to get at my clips. This clipboard manager is loaded with functionality so its worth reviewing the link to their site I’ve provided. I do though use Launchbars clipboard frequently and also Keyboard Maestro’s as the mood moves me.
One of my favourite utilities and the handiest is PopClip. This little utility is also accessible from the menu bar however, unlike the other apps it works much like the popup you get in IOS to copy and paste information. However, this utility goes way beyond the cut and paste functionality, which by the way would be added to you clipboard manager, through extensions. There are a great variety of extensions and they allow you to shorten URL’s once highlighted, look up a word in the dictionary to sending text to Omnifocus and so much more. You go to their extensions manager page and browse the extensions available and just simply add them. Its actually quite amazing what this app does and I highly recommend this one.
This menubar app provides you with an easy to use, frictionless interface to do your Gmail mail. You can, like the others, just click it in the munubar or use Hotkeys to access your inbox or go straight to a compose screen and write an email. The latter reduces any distraction you might have by seeing your inbox and loosing your thought.
If you want to work in a full Gmail interface you can if you buy the pro version. To switch to the full Gmail interface but within Mailtab for Gmail you just click a small icon and it will expand to resemble the web interface. Again, this is just an easy fast method of getting to your mail anywhere you happen to be on any desktop on your Mac.
Many other Great Utilities
There are many other utilities that are simple in function for the Mac but provide a tremendous amount of easy to access functionality. Just to list off a few more that you might want to consider and that I highly recommend are:
- Fantastical a menubar calendar that really for some is not just a small app but their full Calendar. For others they use it in conjunction with Apple‘s Calendar or BusyCal.
- Evernote Quick Note a menubar app to take Quicknotes for Evernote users.
- SpellCatcher an extremely useful background app that’s functions take place either automatically, from a dropdown in the munubar or from Hotkeys to invoke say check spelling of this section or the entire document. This is a mature product with a lot of features that not only checks your spelling in any application but will capatilize the words at the beginning of a sentence and capture every keystroke you type should a crash happen and what you’ve written was not saved.
So That’s It for my List of Goodies
So that’s not anywhere near a comprehensive list of all the available simple utilities that provides to the Mac user an array of functionalities to enhance not only your productivity but just your simple enjoyment of using your Mac. Used synergistically or in conjunction with your prime productivity enabling apps these utilities assist greatly in your overall workflow process. In the end, you’ll find yourself getting things done much easier. They’re all very easy to learn and use. In a nutshell they create synergy and flow, ease of access to either get information in or out and around and they help reduce distraction that takes you away from what you want to do due to their ease of use. I’d try them all out as none are expensive and I’m pretty sure at the end of day you’ll be glad you did.