scrivener

My Must Have Mac Apps for 2017

Acknowledgements to the list-makers, whose work I enjoy so much. The structure of this list based on John Vorhees work for Mac Stories

This year I’ve dug myself deeper and deeper into the Apple universe, a Mac and a Mac Mini and even using a MacBook Pro for work (not the sturdy Windows 10 workhorse) coupled with an iPad, iPhone and now even an iWatch. It hasn’t been without problems. iCloud syncing and security is a bit of a disaster, but yes, I’m in.

So, I’m always looking for apps that work as seamlessly as possible between the Mac and the IOS version, using some sort of cloud application in the background and all of that is getting better. Most of the time now I can rely on the thing to be backed up, for the version I open on the iPad really to be the version I was working on last night on the Mac.

I’ve mostly used Vorhee’s categories for my app list, except I deleted his podcast and communications categories. I’ve kept these:

  • Writing
  • Reading and research
  • Images and Video
  • Utilities
  • Task management and planning

Writing

iA Writer

For the last couple of years I’ve been using a text editor called Ulysses but then it went to a ridiculous subscription model and I moved to iA Writer (you can read about that move here) I won’t repeat my earlier blog post on why iA Writer works for me, but you can read that post yourself here Enough to say, that iA Writer does the distraction free thing really well, for a fair price. And, yeah, I wrote this on iA Writer and just ‘shared’ into WordPress.

iA Writer
iA Writer

OneNote

My work in a school is dominated by Microsoft: the Office suite, Outlook, Word, PowerPoint. Of the MS world, OneNote stands out as an organising and note-taking tool for me, and with OneNote Classroom Notebooks, it’s a pretty potent teaching tool as well with increasing power that’s been in the Windows version, coming to the Mac as well.

OneNote
OneNote

Scrivener

I sometimes feel that I should like Scrivener more than I actually do. I do like it, especially for longer-form writing, and especially for output to ePub or a range of other formats. It got a pretty big upgrade this year and looks better than ever; it’s just that, writing poetry a lot, I’m just as happy working in iA Writer most of the time.

Scrivener
Scrivener

Reading and Research

Feedly is my go-to RSS Reader, and one of the apps I open on my iPad every morning (just after the email, and right before Tweetbot)

I also like Pocket as a place to store articles I want to get to later on; it’s pretty amazing how beautiful the articles look, and how quickly they format, in this tool. It has an off-line mode too for those plane trips.

Evernote is also a tool I’ve used for a long time. I’ve got over 6k notes there now: snippets, recipes, book reviews, modem manuals. I keep thinking it’s something I could do without, but it isn’t. It’s like the bottom drawer of my desk; I just stick stuff in there when I don’t know what else to do with them.

For real ‘reading’ I use the standard Kindle App.

Pocket
Pocket

Images and Video

I take a lot of photos. While I wasn’t happy to subscribe to a text editor (see my Goodbye Ulysses post) I do subscribe to the Adobe Creative Suite; notably the Photoshop, Lightroom bundle. I was very sceptical about the new more online-orientated Lightroom CC product, but it syncs beautifully and is getting more and more tools.

Lightroom CC
Lightroom CC

I’ve also had a good look at a photo editor called Luminar, and particularly the new 2018 version. It’s $99AUD and has some impressive filters and effects and is getting better and better, updating fast. If I drop Photoshop it might be for this. I’ve tried, and beein unimpressed by Pixemalator and Snapseed on the Mac (though they both seem nicer on IOS) Luminar are saying an image organising tool is coming in 2018. I used to use Picasa for that, and miss a tool that can scroll effortlessly through thumbnails on the computer; maybe I should look at Adobe Bridge again?

Luminar
Luminar

I don’t do much with video, so I’m happy with iMovie and a little video converter called Video Monkey which quickly takes the .mov files out of my Olympus Pen and turns them into usable .mp4s.

Utilities

I use Alfred literally every time I’m on the Mac, to search, to launch programs and to skip to the next track on iTunes. If you’re keyboard orientated, like I am, it’s a real boon. (I should say at this point that I always use an external mechanical keyboard on my Macs. So much so that, whenever I have to type something in class on the Macbook keyboard, and the students can see how many mistakes I make on that terrible keyboard, it’s always worth a laugh.

Alfred
Alfred

For smaller, more specific, very targeted tasks I love Name Changer, which does the obvious, itsyCal, a little calendar that sits in your top menu bar, and LastPass for a password manager and Type it 4 Me, a great little productivity tool that replaced Text Expander for me when it too headed down the subscription model. With Type it 4 Me, I have a list of keyboard shorcuts xdate gives me the date, for example: 23/12/2017 and those snipppets are synced in the backgrouond so they’re always up to date on all my machines. The thing with keyboard shortcuts is that you dont’ want to have to re-learn them too often.

Type it 4 Me
Type it 4 Me

I don’t used backup software since I moved to OneDrive. I’m now that confident that it’s backing up my files in my personal cloud. I used Super Duper for a while but it seemed to become increasingly complex (have a go at backing up some folders rather than all, if you have half a day to spare!) I also use Dropbox for sharing files that I’m wanting to access and share currently.

Task Management and Planning

Task management is probably the place where I’ve spent the most money, taking a close look at Things, Wunderlist and ToDo before settling for 2DO which suits me very well.

2Do syncs seamlessly across my devices and is customisable enough to have projects, task lists and sub-projects. Importantly, for me, it follows the Getting Things Done paradigm created by David Allen, or at least follows it well enough for me.

2Do
2Do

For planning, and communicating, using concepts, I use MindNode, a concept mapping tool …iStat Mini, a compact way to keep an eye on your CPU, memory pressure, battery, disk usage and network activity.

And, if I want to do a proper email, not just a couple of lines composed in Inbox, I use Airmail email client.

Thanks for listening, and thanks to John for the inspiration.
Happy New Year.

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The Tools I Use

Inspired by Darcy Moore’s round-up of tools he used this year on a regular basis, I thought it’s been a while since I wrote about the software and hardware I’ve been getting the most value from this year. Lots of similarities with his list, and some differences and lots of changes since I last did a list like this.

OneNote and Evernote

I can never really finally decide between these two great note-taking tools. Evernote is friendlier but OneNote is so tightly integrated into the Microsoft Office ecosystem that you can’t ignore it. Basically I use OneNote as my main teaching tool and meeting notes tool and Evernote as my collection of random snippets, how to guides, instructions, manual and web links etc. The nicest thing about Evernote is how beautifully it works on my iPhone, my iPad, my iMac and my notebook PC

Ulysses and Scrivener

For writing articles, blog posts, poems and just notes I’ve moved to Ulysses on the MAC and to it’s IOS counterpart Daedalus Text Editor on the iPad and iPhone. It’s one of the nicest iterations of that minimalist writing interface that is so popular these days and I’ve moved from iWriter and WriteRoom this year, which I both like. Please note, the new version of Writer (Writer Pro) is terrible and a rip-off at $20. I also like SimpleNote a lot, for putting some text somewhere and being able to work with it in multiple places.

Twitter

As for many teachers Twitter is my de-facto personal learning network. It use TweetBot on the iPad and generally check Twitter twice a day and email useful links around; to Evernote or to …

Pocket

Pocket is a fantastic off-site reading app. I save interesting articles to Pocket to read later, on any platform.

WordPress

I moved this blog from Blogger to WordPress a while ago and haven’t regretted making that change. The ads can be a bit annoying, but you get what you pay for I guess.

Diigo

I’ve been putting my bookmarks in Diigo for years. When I get a new computer, or change computers, I just login and they’re there. The tags are the things that make it work. I often use tags or specific lists to share with students. Here’s an example of a list, for my Literature class.

Feedly

Though I use Mr Reeder on the iPad mostly, all my RSS feeds are now powered by Feedly. Some folk say that Twitter has replaced RSS, but I still find the ability to subscribe to blogs and pages invaluable. For example, I can’t imagine how I’d cope with keeping up to date with my students who are blogging if I had to go in and check all those blogs individually.

Dropbox

I’ve used this for syncing my stuff between work and home for ages, but this year I set up a shared folder for my students to upload their essays and writing practice as they were mostly scanned and too big to email. It worked a treat.

Skydrive

This is Microsoft’s Dropbox, and getting better. I migrated all my PC files to Skydrive so I can access them from the Mac at home. It’s not failsafe yet, but has improved a lot.

GoogleDocs

Lots of teachers at my school are getting excited about Google Docs and I’ve used it for student and teacher surveys, for student group work annotating key passages and for collaborating with other teachers on joint presentations. It still feels a bit clunky to write in a Google Doc, but I can’t imagine where this will be in three years time.

Text Expander

This little text utility has saved me heaps of time. For example I type /lacg and out pops Learning and Curriculum Group. Multiply that saving a zillion times!

GoodReads

I keep my reading list on GoodReads and encourage my Literature students and writing students to do the same. I’ve vacillated between this and Shelfari over the years so I guess it mostly depends on where your friend are. I think they’re both owned by Amazon now.

Schoology

We don’t have an official LMS at school and use blogs and wikis extensively. Last year I had a look at Edmodo for a while but this year I’m going to try Schoology as the learning ‘hub’ for my class and see how that works. Will keep you updated.

Chrome

My favourite browser, especially with the number of great extensions like Evernote clipper, LastPass (password manager), Pocket, Readability,

Things

Things has replaced all my old to-do apps this year. It looks and works great on Macs and IOS but not on Windows. I used TaskPaper and liked it a lot but the lack of reminders finished that for me in the end.

Filemaker Pro

I’ve been using this database for years, sometimes for keeping track of student record keeping, my own writing or wine collection (!) or just a Christmas card list. It’s more powerful than any of those purposes but that’s okay; I’ve invested so much time in learning how to use it, I’m not going to stop now.

Day One

About eighteen months ago I started keeping a daily journal in Day One, available on Mac, iPad, and iPhone. It’s a great little app with photo, location and weather data built in and it’s helped me write and reflect every day.

What are your favourite tools? I wonder how different this list will look this time next year?