The best solutions are often the simplest. Time after time, Apple has unveiled revolutionary new input methods that seem obvious in retrospect but are ingenious in their simplicity; things like the mouse, the click wheel, and multitouch are so deceptively simple they have instantly changed the way we approach the respective interfaces they control, bringing faster and more efficient interactions with the various elements on the screen.
That’s precisely why menu bar apps are my favorite kind of utility. Over the years I’ve probably used hundreds of them, and as you can see in the screenshots below, there are no less than a dozen of them at the top of my screen at any given time (not counting the ones Apple lets me put there). Their beauty lies in their innate simplicity, putting important bits of information and controls in my line of sight and cutting down on the time I need to spend navigating complex interfaces.
Our iPhones have made it so we’re never more than a few seconds away from a weather forecast. Whether we’re querying Siri or glancing at a widget, there are myriad ways to quickly check the temperature and conditions around us.
But it’s different on OS X. Numerous apps that can turn our desktops into veritable weather stations, but the quickness of iOS is often lost under a mountain of features and statistics.
The human brain may be great at coming up with ideas, but it’s not always efficient at organizing such information in any meaningful way. That’s where a technique known as mind mapping comes into play, extracting information from your cranium and presenting it in a visual way that makes sense to others.
Despite a more limited feature set than rival Mac applications, MindNode Pro has long been one of the best and easiest ways to do just that. I’m happy to report its successor, MindNode 2 (Mac App Store link) has finally arrived on the scene, and it’s everything we could hope for—especially if you own the iOS version.
When a service you use has its own free software, why turn to a third party for an alternative? The folks at Tapbots continue to answer that question with each update to their Tweetbot client for Twitter, available both in iOS and OS X. Tweetbot provides a straightforward timeline view, threaded conversations appear with a double-click, and there’s no need to buy into each of Twitter’s sometimes dubious and sometimes useful innovations.
The latest OS X release, Tweetbot 2, is a welcome update with a more appealing design, but it still has some room to grow to feel polished and fully up to date. Given Tapbots’ ongoing development on both platforms, it’s easy to see where things are going, but they can’t get full marks for this version without further revisions.
Modern text editors are built on first impressions. Where the word processors of old inundated us with oodles of options that took months to master, today’s iOS-inspired versions dispense with the features and strip away the ribbons and bars to bring us the cleanest canvases imaginable. Lightweight and minimal, they do their best to emulate the classic pen-and-paper experience, removing nearly every bit of distractive clutter and noise to keep our eyes and brains focused on the task at hand.
Paragraphs (Mac App Store link) very much continues in this vein. One of the newest entries in an increasingly crowded field, the very plain text editor marries minimalism with meticulousness, carving out a very nice concept built around a a clean, smart workspace. Serious writers will undoubtedly be frustrated by the lack of features, but for notes and short blog entries, Paragraphs proves to be a worthy client.
I don’t use outlines often, but whenever I’m working on a book or a long article, I create an outline. I’ve long used The Omni Group’s OmniOutliner but I know I don’t need more than a fraction of the features that app offers. There are lots of other outliners available at much nicer prices, and Robin Schnaidt’s $9 OutlineEdit is an excellent choice for those who want to make outlines but don’t need all the power and complexity of other apps.
OutlineEdit offers all the usual features you’ll find in an outliner. It automatically assigns levels to texts you enter as you press the Tab key. You can fold items, hiding the sub-items of a top-level item, for example, to make your outline view less cluttered. And it lets you move items up and down in the outline, changing their positions, or promoting or demoting them. It also offers checkboxes that you can use to mark items as completed. I often use this feature when I’m writing a book or long-form article, as I don’t necessarily write in a linear manner.
Here’s some scary food for thought: Did you know one of the most commonly-used communication methods that everyone uses daily is actually one of the least safe?
Email is extremely convenient and ubiquitous across desktop, mobile, and web, but it was never designed with any real security—let alone privacy—in mind. This lack of protection also extends to the files we attach to those communiqués, a thorny predicament the folks at Kiev-based MacPaw have set out to resolve with Encrypto (Mac App Store link), an ingenious little Mac app.