What I use and why

Thinking about Kevin Kelly’s book “What Technology Wants” encouraged me to consider the tools I use. What’s redundant? What tools can I do without? Am I ready for the technopocalypse? Will I need to learn to write with MY HAND again?

More than almost everyone I know, I’m a try-er and join-er. If there’s a ‘beta invite’ sign-up form, I’ll sign-up. At every point in my computer-life history, I’ve used the most up-to-the-minute services and websites if they help me do what I want to do. That also means that I’m forever canceling and culling my subscriptions to these sites and ‘Here’s our new features’ emails. Deleting old accounts, erasing my usage history, and obliterating my connections to things I don’t use is a weekly affair.

Right now, I’m using what I want, what I need, and what I can put up with. A hard balance. I’m always interested in the solutions other people find to their problems, so I thought I’d join that conversation by posting what I use, what I use it for, and why. You can spend a lifetime finding the right tool for the job. That journey has required a great deal of experimentation over the years.

Enough intro, here’s the list:

Temporal & Task-based

  • The Past: Evernote: Documents that I did not create, but want to remember. Tax stuff, recipes, documents I may want to search for later.
  • The Present: nvAlt: Snippets of text useful for a task right now. Code snippets, cheat sheets & backups in plaintext. It’s great for composing HTML in Textile, Markdown, or just simple plantext. Syncs with Simplenote (and Dropbox).
  • The Future: Omnifocus: Stuff to do. & task planning.
  • Right now (realtime collaboration): Google Docs: Text to share and collaborate on. Freaking crazy that you can watch every letter typed by your cohorts.
  • Text editing on my computer in a non-plaintext programming language: Textmate or Coda.

Files & Their Transmission

  • CloudAppCloud.ly: Files to share (under 25mb). Here’s how to share: select a file (or files): Mash ctrl+option+command+8. The URL is copied. boom.
  • There’s a great widget for Dropbox. Click and hold a file, and drag it to the widget. Done.
  • Filedropper: 5gb at a time. Free.
  • If I’m hoping to receive a file, I tell folks to use Sendspace. It’s gramma easy.
  • Backup: Web services are backed up with Backupify, Files on my computer with Dropbox & Crashplan.
  • Long-term file collaboration: Dropbox again. Super magical. I was the 7,000th user and I wish I was their first so I didn’t have to go so long without it. 🙂
  • Moving stuff around (FTP/S3/SSH): Transmit.
  • Images / Screenshots: Skitch. Option + Command + / for an easy cross-hairs screenshot uploaded to my own server and copied to my clipboard.

put.io%20%7C%20online%20storage%20re-imaginedRetrieving/Streaming Files (Movies, Music, Media)

  • Netflix
  • Put.io: Downloading as a service. I used to use a self-hosted version of TorrentBox.
  • Rdio: Beautiful music streaming site. 80% of the music I listen to is on there. Also, Last.fm + Peel (downloads MP3s from music blogs).
  • Yubnub has a great google mp3 search operator.

Moving around my Mac / The Web / Email

  • Sparrow%20LogoAlfred is great for quickly getting to a file, folder, web search (especially with Yubnub) integration, and it’s fast. It’s Quicksilver, but faster.
  • Switching between tabs in Chrome/Firefox: command 1, 2, 3 etc. When Firefox 1.0 came out I was way pleased with myself when I figured this out.
  • Yubnub. With Yubnub, the web is at your fingertips. Read about it here. The way I have it setup currently enables me to do something like “Find synonyms of a word” by typing “y thes hidden” in my browser. Here’s some other commands.
  • Email client: Sparrow. (Works great with Gmail). There’s even shortcuts! Faster mail processing with vmail, but I like the GUI of Sparrow. Other’s I’ve tried: Postbox, Mail, MailPlane, Eudora, Thunderbird.

Status Bar


I used to be all crazy about this space: with Istat menus installed I had the CPU temperature, fan speed, download speed, and all sorts of other crap. I’ve reduced the clutter.

Now I have (from left) Adium (all-in-one-IM), Dropbox, BetterTouchTool (endlessly customizable Magic Mouse shortcuts), Little Snitch (for monitoring what my computer says to other servers), and TotalFinder. That little wormhole is iTeleport connect (for accessing my computer from elsewhere). The cloud icon represents the already-mentioned ‘Cloud App’ and the steaming Coffee Cup is Caffeine which keeps my display from going to sleep. If it’s full, the screen stays on. The scissors are Jumpcut, which keeps track of the last 10 or so items I add to my clipboard (accessible by shortcut, as are all things worthwhile).

Bonus hot tip! Application shortcuts from Finder! Select an Application you open files in often, and drag it up here. Pictured: Textmate, Quicktime, Terminal, Skitch, VLC, Mail, Secret, iTerm:


If you enjoyed this, throw me your favorites…

(I’ll probably update this next week)

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