Mac App Store Favorites

App Store Favorites: Productivity

"Productivity" is one of the biggest—and best—software categories in the Mac App Store. But we think the twelve apps below—which range from general-purpose time-savers such as Alfred and MenuPop to sui generis specialists such as Vitamin-R—are definitely worth a look.

Alfred 0.8

Launchers range from basic (Spotlight) to powerful and complex (apps like Butler, Launchbar, and Quicksilver). If you want one that can do more than Spotlight, but isn’t as complex as those others, Alfred ( ) could be it. As with those other launchers, you invoke Alfred with a keyboard shortcut, then type a few letters into the resulting text box. Alfred returns a list of apps (or files) whose names match that string. You select the one you want and press Return, and it opens. In addition to applications and files, Alfred can locate and open Mail messages, Address Book contacts, iCal calendar entries, Safari bookmarks, and more; you can also use it to initiate Web searches and some system actions (such as starting the screensaver). Alfred itself is free, but an $19 Powerpack add-on provides more functionality, including a clipboard manager and an iTunes controller.—Dan Miller
free; Powerpack, $19; Running with Crayons

Art Text 2.2

Art Text ( ) lets you quickly switch from boring Helvetica to something interesting, without the tedious editing steps that some other typography apps (including Adobe Illustrator) require. While Art Text would be good for graphics pros who only occasionally need to make custom lettering, it’s really for the rest of us who don’t need a full-on type program. For example, fonts are organized by categories—including Fun, Modern, and Traditional—so you don’t need to know the name of one to find it. Templates work the same way—you can choose a style you like visually. The program comes with plenty of templates, but also has tools for building your own. (And, no, we don’t know why Art Text is filed under Productivity instead of Graphics & Design in the App Store—but it is.)—John Brandon
$20; Belight Software

Desktop Curtain 2.1

Desktop Curtain
If you want to hide what’s on your Mac’s screen—to give a presentation, to take a screenshot, or just to focus on one app at a time—Desktop Curtain ( ) offers a nicely flexible solution. With it, you can specify the backdrop (image or solid color). You can also customize the way it displays (as a normal window, desktop cover, or traditional desktop background) and how it works with Exposé and Spaces. But what really makes Desktop Curtain special is its simplicity: You can hide your desktop instantly via the Dock, the menu bar, or a keyboard shortcut.—Dan Frakes
$2; Many Tricks

DropCopy 1.68

DropCopy ( ) is a nifty utility that simplifies the sending of files to and from Macs on your local network. When launched, DropCopy displays a small drop zone (on your desktop or floating on top of other windows). When you drag a file or folder onto it, a menu pops up showing the names of other users on your local network who are running the program. Release the file(s) on another user’s name and, after the recipient gives approval, the files are copied to their system (in whatever folder the user has designated). You can also copy files to destinations outside your local network (by providing the IP address) and to SFTP servers. It’s a lot simpler than standard OS X file sharing.—Kirk McElhearn
free for up to three computers; Pro version that runs on up to ten devices sharing one Apple ID, $10; unlimited site license, $25; 10base-t interactive

Evernote 1.4.7

Evernote ( ) is a catch-all app: With it, you can capture all kinds of information—including plain-text notes, Web pages, PDFs, and uploaded audio or video—which you can then tag, sort, and search. In addition to the Mac app, there are Web, Windows, iPhone, Palm, Windows Mobile, and BlackBerry clients. Evernote’s coolest trick is recognizing the text in images: Take a photo of a document, a prescription label, a book cover, or the like, and once the image is uploaded to Evernote’s servers, the text in the image will be fully searchable.—Jeffery Battersby
free; Evernote

Fresh 1.2.1

It isn’t hard to find recently used documents and programs: You’ll find lists of them in the Apple menu and the File menus of most apps. But because these menus are tucked away, many Mac users ignore them. Ironic Software’s Fresh ( ) makes recent items more accessible and lets you do more with them. When you switch to Fresh, two large, horizontal green bars appear on screen. In the bar on top, Fresh shows recently used items. In the bar below, you can permanently park items you use a lot. You can open an item in either bar by double-clicking on it. If you hold the cursor over an item’s name, Fresh will display its full path. Drag an item to another folder to move it, or drag it to another volume to copy it; Control-click the item, and you can do even more.—Dan Frakes
$6; Ironic Software

Fresh shows you both recently used files and apps and files, folders, and apps you park in it permanently.

Home Inventory 2.1

If you care about your stuff, Home Inventory ( ) can help you catalog it. It gives you a place to list your possessions and record their makes, models, and serial numbers; you can also attach photographs, date-stamped notes, receipts, files, and warranty information. It comes with six built-in reports, including a coverage analysis (to spot gaps in your insurance policies) and a moving list (to make sure everything gets from one home to the next). You can also create reports of your own.—Stuart Gripman
$10; Binary Formations

LittleSnapper 1.5.1

Little Snapper
LittleSnapper ( ) picks up where Mac OS X’s built-in screen-capture tools leave off. With it, you can take better screenshots, archive them, and upload them to the Web. As with other screenshot tools, LittleSnapper can capture the whole screen or just a specific window or area; it can also take timed shots and capture entire Web pages. It includes basic editing tools for cropping, highlighting, blurring, and annotating, as well as tools for tagging, rating, and otherwise classifying screenshots.—Aayush Arya
$25; Realmac Software

MenuPop 1.01

If you’ve got a large display—or multiple displays—the menu bar may be a bit difficult to get to. MenuPop ( ) fixes that by putting the menu bar’s menus right under your mouse cursor in hierarchical form; you then make the menu bar appear via a keyboard shortcut. You can choose to show keyboard shortcuts for commands, change the menu font size, and display alternate menu commands that normally require a modifier key.—Dan Frakes
$5; Binary Bakery Software

Soulver 2.0.2

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the only differences among the various calculator programs for Mac OS X are in the mathematical functions they offer and the layout of their buttons. Soulver ( ) gives the lie to that assumption. Although it lets you input traditional mathematical equations—365 x 24 x 60, say—Soulver also allows you to use something approaching natural language. For example, if you’re trying to figure out the price of a $199 product that’s on sale for 15 percent off, you can just type 15% off $199; to convert currency, you can type $50 in Yen. To convert time, type 5 minutes 18 seconds in seconds. A handy Total display shows the sum of all the current window’s answers. Soulver also allows you to create temporary variables (x=73) and insert data from editable tables of stocks, currencies, and permanent variables. In other words, Soulver is anything but just another calculator.—Dan Frakes
$25; Acqualia Software

TypeIt4Me 5.0

TypeIt4Me ( ) is one of many utilities, like TextExpander and Typinator, that let you assign shortcut keys to bits of text that you type all the time—your phone number or e-mail address, for example. When you type the shortcut, TypeIt4Me inserts the text (which the program refers to as a clipping). Clippings can contain plain or rich text, as well as images; and you can configure clippings to include things like dates or the current contents of OS X’s Clipboard. TypeIt4Me has its own autocorrect tool, which is available in any app you can insert a clipping into; the utility also has something called AutoCue, which lets you insert pauses into snippets so that you can type in variable text. TypeIt4Me has been around for a very long time, and with reason: It’s a really useful tool that does exactly what it promises to.—Kirk McElhearn
$20; Ettore Software

Vitamin-R 1.18

Vitamin-R ( ) works on the assumption that procrastination results from a combination of vague goals and limited focus. To remedy that, you tell the app what you want to do with a specific slice of time—Write a review of Vitamin-R, say. Next, you set the amount of time you want to spend on the task. Then you get to work. As you do so, Vitamin-R’s menu item displays a small timer; it warns you (with the sound of a ticking clock or a voice stating how much time you have left) when the end of allotted time is near. When time runs out, you can stop, continue, or rate your focus for the current session. If you find yourself wandering from task to browser to Twitter to iChat and back, Vitamin-R will help stop your wandering.—Jeffery Battersby
$20; Frank Reiff

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