Literature and Latte's $15 Scapple is a unique amalgamation of productivity tools from the folks who brought us the amazing Scrivener () writing app. The developers describe Scapple as a freeform, nonlinear, mind-mapping text editor—unlike most mind-mapping software, there’s no suggested hierarchy and no set system for capturing ideas.
The app starts you off with a blank canvas. Double-click anywhere to add a new note. To connect notes, just drag and drop one onto the other. If you change your mind, you can repeat that process to disconnect the two notes. The default connection is a simple dotted line, but if you’d rather have a directional arrow, hold down the Option key as you drag and drop. If you’d rather the arrow point the other way, instead hold Command+Option. If you prefer an arrow that points both ways, hold down Shift+Command.
Chris has covered technology and media since the latter days of the Reagan Administration. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, he's a professional musician in the San Francisco Bay Area. More by Christopher Breen
Many Mac users whose relationship with the Mac predates Mac OS X retain an affection for macro utilities—applications that let you string together a series of actions, and summon those macros with a click or a key press to automate repetitive tasks. Chief among them was QuicKeys, an application passed from company to company before finally coming to rest (and currently in deep hibernation) with Startly Technologies.
With the decline of QuicKeys and the arrival of new users who are generally unaware of utilities of its ilk, macro utilities seem to have dropped off the radar during the past few years. And that’s regrettable, particularly when one as useful, powerful, and affordable as Keyboard Maestro 6 ($36; $18 for upgrades) exists.
Chris Barylick is an Apple-Certified Macintosh Technician living in the San Francisco Bay Area. In his 25 years of tinkering with Macs, he has accidentally lit two (and counting) hard drives on fire. He also wouldn't mind being Gonzo the Muppet when he finally grows up. More by Chris Barylick
It pays to know what’s going on inside your Mac, whether you’re watching your free memory or monitoring hardware. To that end, almost no piece of software does what Bjango’s $16 iStat Menus 4.05 achieves, offering full monitoring of your system’s CPU, RAM, and disk usage; network activity; component temperatures; fan speeds; Bluetooth functionality; and international dates and times. If you crave useful, at-a-glance information about your Mac’s components, iStat Menus puts that data right in your menu bar.
Over the years, iStat Menus has had a few radical transformations, growing beyond its origins as a freeware System Preferences pane to become a full-fledged application—but it has grown up gracefully. You can customize the application, which now resides in your menu bar, to display information about the specific components you’d like to watch. On my 2011 13-inch MacBook Pro, I prefer to display the Battery, Network, Hard Drive, RAM, and CPU modules on display. Dragging the desired components into place is easy enough.
Dan writes about OS X, iOS, troubleshooting, utilities, and cool apps, and he covers hardware, mobile and AV gear, input devices, and accessories. He's been writing about tech since 1994, and he's also published software, worked in IT, and been a policy analyst. More by Dan Frakes
App.net (ADN) is a relatively new online service that many people think of as just an alternative to Twitter: a place to post short messages and to read the messages of people you follow. But App.net also offers a number of other services, including group chat rooms and—my favorite—a place to store and share files.
Specifically, every paid App.net account starts out with 10GB of space, with a file-size limit of 100MB, while free accounts get 500MB of storage with a file-size limit of 10MB. Paid members can increase their total storage through new-member referrals. (Speaking of which, if you’re not using App.net yet, and you’d like to give it a try, you can get a free account using this link.)
App.net’s file storage is designed to be app-neutral—you can access and manage your storage from any app or service that uses the App.net File API, including Web apps and any App.net clients that support the feature. The most common use of this storage, so far, is for sharing files—photos, videos, PDFs, you name it—with other people. Many ADN clients include features for uploading files and then linking to them from within messages posted to the service, but you can use your ADN storage to share files anywhere: email, IM, and even on other social-media services such as Facebook or Twitter.
Serenity has been writing and talking and tinkering with Apple products since she was old enough to double-click. In her spare time, she sketches, writes, acts, sings, and wears an assortment of hats. More by Serenity Caldwell
Writing a script is fun. Formatting a script? Less so. Many an idea can be paused or squashed entirely when you’re focused on making sure your character headers are properly centered. Film industry favorite Final Draft attempts to automate many of these hassles, but the program is still somewhat chaotic for those looking to simply write.
Roman has covered technology since the early 1990s. His career started at MacUser, and he's worked for MacAddict, Mac|Life, TechTV, PC/Computing, and Windows NT Systems. More by Roman Loyola
Jörg Jacobsen’s $5 Eye-Friendly (Mac App Store link) is the third resolution-switching utility for the Retina MacBook Pro that I’ve looked at, after Pupil () and QuickRes (). In my quest to find the ideal resolution-switching app for my Retina MacBook Pro, is the third app the charm?
Like the other two apps, Eye-Friendly appears only in the menu bar. When you want to change your display’s resolution, you click the Eye-Friendly icon and mouse over your display (the menu lists your laptop’s built-in display, as well as any external displays); a submenu appears with available resolutions. Resolutions that look the best on that display are denoted with an Eye-Friendly icon; choose the desired resolution to switch to it. If you use only the best-looking resolutions, the Eye-Friendly Modes Only option configures the app to show only those resolutions.
Lex uses a MacBook Pro, an iPhone 5, an iPad mini, a Kindle 3, a TiVo HD, and a treadmill desk, and loves them all. His latest book, a children's book parody for adults, is called "The Kid in the Crib." Lex lives in New Jersey with his wife and three young kids. More by Lex Friedman
While I often set timers with Siri on my iPhone, doing so means I need another Siri command or series of swipes and taps to check the timer’s progress. When I’m at my desk working, I prefer a simple onscreen timer. Whimsicalifornia's $3 Timebar (Mac App Store link) is a nifty timer app that lives in your menu bar. Actually, lives isn’t quite the right word: Timebar consumes your menu bar—but in a good way.
To use Timebar, you simply click the Timebar icon in your menu bar (it’s the one that looks like a stopwatch, which makes it easy to confuse with the Time Machine icon), and then you drag a slider to set the length of your timer. Click Start, and the background of your Mac’s menu bar turns blue, fading from right to left until the timer hits zero—much like any standard progress bar. When the timer runs out, you’re alerted with a dialog box and, optionally, a sound.