Category Archives: OS X

A List of Mac OS X Apps, Which I Currently Use

A List of Mac OS X Apps, Which I Currently Use

Ever since I wrote about my favorite iPhone apps (that one is in German) people asked me to write about my favorite Mac OS X apps. In this post now, part one, I will talk about tools and general purpose apps. Part two is going to be about development and design applications and will hopefully be online later this week.

Please note that all links to the Mac App Store are affiliate links. That means that, if you decide to buy one app, I will get 4% of the price. The price will, of course, stay the same for you. Since I currently do not have any kind of ads on Web Adventures, this will hopefully help me to pay for the domain and hosting. Links to apps that are not available in the Mac App Store are not affiliate links.

Keynote

App Icon: KeynoteKeynote is the presentation software from Apple. I find it way more intuitive than PowerPoint or the presentation app from OpenOffice/LibreOffice. It costs €15,99 at the Mac App Store.

Pages

App Icon: PagesSince most text documents I produce are either HTML, Markdown or LaTeX I use Pages not very often. However, when I have to use a word processor I, again, prefer Apples Pages over Word and OpenOffice/LibreOffice. Just like Keynote, Pages is €15,99 at the Mac App Store.

Numbers

App Icon: NumbersAs far as I know Numbers is not as powerful as Excel, but it is also a lot cheaper and easier to use and since I do not need to use spreadsheets very often I prefer easy and cheaper over powerful and expensive. Again, €15,99 at the Mac App Store.

Soulver

App Icon: SoulverIn contrast to word processing and spreadsheets I do use a calculator very often, therefore I prefer expensive and powerful over easy and cheap. But the good thing is that Soulver is also easy to use. You can buy Soulver for €9,99 from the Mac App Store.

Fantastical

App Icon: FantasticalOne of the most annoying things on a Mac is creating a new event. Even if you can navigate through the form with your keyword, it involves hundreds of presses of Tab. Fantastical has a one smart input field. For example, you can type “Tomorrow lunch with Daniela at Schwabl” and Fantastical fills out the fields for you. It also creates a monthly calendar for you and a list with your next appointments. The great thing about Fantastical is that uses the same calendar that iCal uses. Therefore you are able to use Fantastical alongside iCal and also everything else (e.g., iCloud or Google Calendar syncing) will work. Currently you can get it from the Mac App Store for √¢‚Äö¬¨7,99 (50% discount) and its totally worth it.
Screenshot Fantastical

Sonora

App Icon: SonoraSonora is a music player app. It is not an alternative or replacement for iTunes, it is only a music player. You can’t sync your iPhone, iPad or iPod with it, you can’t play movies or download apps. It plays music and it is much better at playing music than iTunes since it does not contain all the crap that is not required to play music. Also: the interface is really beautiful. Sonora costs √¢‚Äö¬¨7,99 at the Mac App Store.

Screenshot Sonora

Spotify

App Icon: SpotifyI think by now everyone should have heard of Spotify. Spotify is a music streaming service, where you pay 5 or 10 euros a month (if you choose to use it for free then you have to listen to advertisements) and can listen to as much music as you like. The OS X app from Spotify is ok, but often a pain in the ass. In my opinion the problem is that Spotify is mainly built like a desktop music player app, but since it provides access to an “unlimited” amount of music this does not work very good. However, Spotify still is a great web service and there it is no alternative to the OS X app. The app itself is free and there is also a free iPhone/iPad app.

Remoteless for Spotify

App Icon: Remoteless HelperApple offers an Remote app to remote control iTunes on your Mac from your iPhone. Remoteless does the same thing for the Spotify OS X app. The interface is ugly, but it works. You need to install the Remoteless Helper app on your Mac and then download Remoteless for Spotify from the App Store. The iPhone app costs €2,39, but the Mac app is free.

Airfoil

App Icon: AirfoilFor some time now my speakers have been connected to my AirPort Express instead of my MacBook Pro. iTunes has the ability to stream to AirPort, but Spotify and Sonora do not (I think that changes with OS X 10.7 Mountain Lion). AirFoil allows you to stream the audio output of any app to one or more AirPort speakers. Airfoil costs $25 and is available at Rogue Amoeba.

Bowtie

App Icon: BowtieBowtie is a small app that allows you to display information, about the music you are currently listening to, on your desktop. Additionally you are able to control music playback using Bowtie. Supported music players are iTunes, Spotify, Sonora and Rdio and there are hundreds of different themes available to customize the appearance. Bowtie is free.

Bowtie Screenshot

Fluid

App Icon: FluidFluid is a tool that takes the URL of a website and generates an app. If your favorite web app does not have a native Mac app, this is a great way to improve the user experience of web apps. You are also able to enhance the user experience by applying user scripts. Fluid is available at the Mac App Store for €3,99.

Sparrow

App Icon: SparrowOne of the big problems of using a Gmail email address in Apples Mail.app is that some of the great features from Gmail are not available in Mail. I think the label concept is a lot better than folders, since it allows messages to have multiple labels instead of being in just one folder. Sparrow is a native interface for Gmail and it is functional and beautiful. I now use Sparrow for non Gmail addresses too. Sparrow costs €7,99 in the Mac App Store. There is also a free and ad-supported version called Sparrow Lite. Sparrow was bought by Google and will no longer be developed. You probably should not by it anymore.

TwitMax

App Icon: TwitMaxIf you are on Twitter (or Facebook) you know that it is often very time consuming. Whenever you want to share something but don’t want to be distracted by the stuff other people write, you should use TwitMax. It is great and free.

Reeder

App Icon: ReederReeder improved my experience of reading feeds by 100%. Just like Apple did with Lion (and Mountain Lion), Reeder incorporated concepts from iPhone and iPad into the OS X application. Reeder costs €3,99 in the Mac App Store.

Evernote

App Icon: EvernoteEvernote is probably the single most important web service I am using. I use it to write down notes in lectures, I plan projects in it, I use it to collect knowledge, inspiration and stuff I want to buy. The Evernote app for OS X is free and available in the Mac App Store.

Bitcasa

App Icon: BitcasaLast winter I won a free for life account from Bitcasa. That is great since Bitcasa offers unlimited storage. Unlinke Dropbox or similar services which synchronize files between computers, Bitcasa lets you stream your files. Currently the service is in its beta phase, afterwards it will cost $10 per month. You can download Bitcasa from the Bitcasa website.

Droplr

App Icon: DroplrDroplr is another great web service. Basically it is a small app that sits in your menu bar and you are able to drag files and links on it to share them with your friends. There is also a shortcut for taking and instantly uploading a screenshot. Droplr is free and available from the Mac App Store.

Things

App Icon: ThingsI have to admit, I suck at getting things done. Thankfully Things helps me with that. You can use it completely with your keyboard, without ever having to touch your mouse or trackpad, it looks great and it is fucking expensive. However, Things is a lot more than most common ToDo list apps, but nevertheless you probably have to be a total GTD nerd to spend €39,99 on a ToDo list app. You can buy and download it in the Mac App Store.

Yoink

App Icon: YoinkYoink is a small app that sits in the background and only becomes active when you start dragging files. In that case Yoink will popup either at the side or below your mouse pointer and you are able to drop the files in it. Later you can drag these files to whatever app or folder you want. This is especially helpful when you work with multiple spaces or fullscreen apps. Yoink costs €2,39 in the Mac App Store.

BetterTouchTool

App Icon: BetterTouchToolBetterTouchTool lets you define more gestures for your Trackpad, Magic Trackpad or Magic Mouse than the OS X operating system. You can also define specific gestures for specific apps. BetterTouchTool is free.

BetterSnapTool

App Icon: BetterSnapToolBetterSnapTool allows you define keyboard shortcuts to move a window to a specific size and position. You can also drag a window into a snap area in order to resize the window to a specific size. However, I don’t use this feature, I have only activated keyboard shortcuts. It costs √¢‚Äö¬¨1,59 in the Mac App Store. Below are my current settings.
BetterSnapTool Settings

Divvy

App Icon: DivvyDivvy is very similar to BetterSnapTool. However, if you activate it you get a customizable grid that allows you to exactly position and resize the current window. If you are a window management nerd like me you have to have this app. Divvy costs €10,99 in the Mac App Store.

Alfred

App Icon: AlfredWhen Evernote is the most important web service for me, than Alfred is the most import local application for me. It allows you to open applications, navigate through your file system and execute commands using your keyboard. Alfred is extremely customizable. The basic version is free and available from the Mac App Store, the Powerpack with additional features costs €15.

Renamer

App Icon: RenamerIf you have a large amount of files you want to rename, you probably want to use Renamer. You can create filters, save them as presets and reuse them later. Renamer costs €15,99 in the Mac App Store.

Renamer Screenshot

TextExpander

App Icon: TextExpanderAnother super useful app. You can define shortcuts and as soon as you press the trigger (for example, Tab) it gets expanded. For example, “bw” becomes “Best Wishes” and so on. TextExpander is available from Smile for $34,95.

1Password

App Icon: 1PasswordGood passwords should be 15 characters or longer, a random mixture of characters, number and special symbols, lowercase and uppercase, no part of it should be in a dictionary, there should be no obvious replacements (like 3 instead of e) and, of course, you should only use each password for one service. Because it is impossible to remember hundreds of such passwords you need a tool like 1Password. You only remember your master password, which you use to unlock 1Password and 1Passwords fills out the login form for you. There are also apps for Windows, iPhone, iPad and Android. Dropbox can be used to synchronize your passwords between those devices. 1Password for OS X costs €27,99 in the Mac App Store.

Broomstick

App Icon: BroomstickI am obsessed with keeping my desktop, my dock and my menu bar clean. However, there are some applications that display a menu bar item but offer no possibility to hide it. For example, Dropbox is an extremely useful service, but I don’t need to know the status of the application every single second of the day. Broomstick allows you to remove applications from the menu bar. Broomstick is free and can be downloaded from Zibity.

Caffeine

App Icon: CaffeineDid you have ever read an article and suddenly the screen of your MacBook got darker? You have to move your hand to the mouse or Trackpad to brighten the screen again. Caffeine is a small tool that lets you define that the screen should not darken for X minutes. You can download it for free in the Mac App Store.

Growl

App Icon: GrowlGrowl provides notifications for OS X and it is currently kind of a default application. Nearly every other application supports Growl. I don’t know how useful it will be after Apple introduces its own Notification Center in OS X 10.7 Mountain Lion, but for the last five years it has been incredible useful. Growl costs √¢‚Äö¬¨1,59 in the Mac App Store.

AppCleaner

App Icon: AppCleanerAlthough uninstalling apps is much easier and painless on OS X than on Windows, most apps leave some traces on your system even after you deleted the app. AppCleaner removes these nasty files for you. It is free and available at FreeMacSoft.

LittleSnitch

App Icon: LittleSnitchLittleSnitch is a firewall for Mac OS X. However, it is focused on privacy instead of security. For example, you can use LittleSnitch to forbid an application to send usage statistics to Google Analytics. You can also use LittleSnitch to monitor your network connections. Little Snitch costs €29,95 and is available from Objective Development.

 

That’s it. Hopefully the list contains some applications that are useful to you. I would appreciate it if you would tell me in the comments if you decided to buy one of the apps mentioned in this article. If you have any suggestions of apps that I should try out, feel free to post them also in the comments.

Tweetbot for Mac →

Mark Jardine:

Tweetbot for Mac is finally available! However it may not be quite as you had hoped. Developing for the Mac is no easy task, especially a full-featured Twitter client. However, we’ve gotten to a point where while not complete, it is useable. We’ve decided to release it as a public alpha to a) motivate us to finish faster, and b) get feedback to help us build the best Mac incarnation of Tweetbot we can make. You can love it or hate it, but rest assured it will only get much much better from here.

Finally.

Automatically reconnect to VPN when disconnected

Since Austria introduced data retention some months ago I always try to be connected with the VPN of my university. Therefore, I use the VPN tool, built into Mac OS X Lion. However, whenever I restart my notebook or even if I only close it for some seconds, OS X looses the connection and I have to manually activate it again.

Today it bothered me enough that I started to search if there is a way to automatically reconnect to a VPN when the connection is lost. On Ask Different I found a small AppleScript which does exactly what I want.

First of all you need to open AppleScript Editor (you can find it in the /Applications/Utilities directory or simply open it using Spotlight) and paste the following script:

on idle
	tell application "System Events"
		tell current location of network preferences
			set myConnection to the service "TU Wien VPN"
			if myConnection is not null then
				if current configuration of myConnection is not connected then
					connect myConnection
				end if
			end if
		end tell
		return 30
	end tell
end idle

There is one variable you have to change and one you can change. First of all you need to change TU Wien VPN (line 4) to the name of your VPN connection. And you can change the interval the scripts waits until it checks again if the connection is lost. I configured the script to wait 30 seconds, but you can change the value if you want (line 11).

AppleScript Editor with VPN Reconnect Script

Next you need to save the script as application. You can do this by in the Save As dialog where you also have to set the option that the script stays open. Save the script somewhere where you can find it again. I choose the /Applications folder.

AppleScript Editor Save As Dialog for VPN Reconnect Script

Find the newly created application in Finder, right-click it and select Show Package Contents. Navigate in the Contents folder and open Info.plist in some text editor (right click, Open With, Other). For example, you could use TextEdit. Scroll down to the bottom of the file and before the last insert:

<key>LSUIElement</key>
<true/>
VPN Reconnect Script Info.plist File

You can now start the script with a double click. If you want to automatically start the script every time you start your Mac you can add it to the startup items. To do this open the System Preferences, select your user and click on Login Items. You can add the script by clicking on the plus button.

Source: Ask Different user iskra

HP Color LaserJet CP1215 and Mac OS X 10.7 (Update: 10.8 Mountain Lion)

In 2009 I got a HP Color LaserJet CP1215. Unfortunately this printer is not compatible with OS X. Three years ago I managed to install the printer by using open source tools and drivers. However, since I got a new MacBook Pro I needed to reinstall the printer and, of course, some things changed.

In order to remember the stuff I just did I will now shortly describe the process. However, I will not provide support if you struggle installing the printer.

If you upgraded to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and your printer stopped working please see the update at the end of this article.

  1. You need GCC to compile C code. In my opinion the best way to get GCC is to install Xcode from the Mac App Store. In Xcode you have to install the Command Line Tools (Preferences > Downloads > Components).
  2. You also need Homebrew to install some libraries.
  3. Open a Terminal window and install wget and gnu-sed.
    $ brew install wget
    $ brew install gnu-sed
  4. Download and install Ghostscript, Foomatic RIP and HIPJS for Mac OS X.
  5. Terminal:
    $ wget -O foo2zjs.tar.gz http://foo2zjs.rkkda.com/foo2zjs.tar.gz
    $ tar zxf foo2zjs.tar.gz
    $ cd foo2zjs
    $ make
    $ ./getweb 1215
    $ sudo make install
    $ sudo make cups
    $ cupsctl WebInterface=yes
  6. Open the CUPS web interface: http://localhost:631
  7. Add a printer by clicking on Adding Printers and Classes and then Add Printer. Enter your Mac OS X user name (must be an administrator) and your password.
  8. Select the printer (I connected the printer to my AirPort Express and it showed up in the list automatically) and click the submit button.
  9. Enter a name and description and submit the form again.
  10. Select HP
  11. Select HP Color LaserJet CP1215 Foomatic/foo2hp (en)
  12. Click on Add Printer
  13. Set Color Mode to Color and Bits Per Plane to 2 Bits Per Plane. Submit.
  14. Done.

Update August 26th, 2012: OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion

When I upgraded to OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, the printer stopped working. However, I could easily resolve this by repeating steps 4 and 5. I did not uninstall anything, I simply downloaded the latest version of Ghostscript, Foomatic RIP, HIPJS and foo2zjs.

Quickly convert SVG graphics into PNG images

Sometimes I use icons from The Noun Project in layouts, documents or presentations. You can only download the icons in SVG format which is great because you can scale them as you like. However you need to convert them into another format before you can use them. Since even Photoshop is not able to open SVG files I always need to start Illustrator to convert them into PNG. I thought there must be a better solution.

Once again help is provided by the Terminal. First you need LibRsvg, which is easy to install if you have Mac OS X and Homebrew already installed:

brew install librsvg
Update 29th of July:
At least since version 2.36.1 the name of the command is now rsvg-convert instead of rsvg. I update the article to reflect this change. However, if you want to continue to use rsvg (since it is shorter) you can create a symlink:

ln -s /usr/local/bin/rsvg-convert /usr/local/bin/rsvg
Update 9th of November:
You know have to use the parameter -o to specify the output PNG file. I updated the article to reflect that. Thanks Tim.

Now you can use the rsvg command line tool. For example, to convert noun_project_836.svg into a PNG file with 200px width you can do:

rsvg-convert -w 200 noun_project_836.svg -o noun_project_836.png

You can also provide the required height of the output image:

rsvg-convert -h 200 noun_project_836.svg -o noun_project_836.png

As long as you only provide width or height the other dimension will be scaled accordingly. If you provide both width and height the resulting image will have exactly the given dimensions:

rsvg-convert -w 200 -h 200 noun_project_836.svg -o noun_project_836.png

That’s it. Super simple SVG to PNG conversion.

Spotify Mediathek

Sonora Mediathek

Ich liebe Spotify. Meiner Meinung nach macht Spotify Musik hören besser. Allerdings nur in dem Sinn, dass ich jederzeit (fast) jede Musik hören kann. Ich kann aus einer beinahe unendlich großen Menge aus guten und schlechten Songs auswählen. Allerdings ist beinahe unendlich ziemlich groß und ein normales Menschenleben ist viel zu kurz um beinahe unendlich viel Musik zu hören. Als es Spotify noch nicht gab, habe ich Stunden damit verbracht durch die Cover-Ansicht von iTunes zu scrollen. Ich stöberte durch meine virtuelle Plattensammlung und wenn ich auf ein Album oder einen Song Lust hatte dann zog ich ihn in eine Playlist. Der Unterschied zwischen iTunes und Spotify ist, in iTunes muss ich vorher nicht wissen was ich hören möchte. Ich kann mich inspirieren lassen.

Wenn ich jetzt, da ich eigentlich fast nur noch über Spotify Musik höre, so darüber nachdenke wie gut iTunes eigentlich ist, muss man natürlich aufpassen, dass da nicht zu viel Nostalgie ins Spiel kommt. iTunes hat seine Nachteile. iTunes hat viele Nachteile. Es braucht ewig zum starten (das trifft allerdings auch auf Spotify zu), es ist oft langsam, es versucht viel zu vieles zu tun. Es kann zum Beispiel passieren, das die Musik ruckelt, wenn man ein iPhone synchronisiert. Es nervt, das mir ständig Apps angezeigt werden, die ich aktualisieren sollte. Eigentlich will ich iTunes gar nicht zurück, aber ich wünsche mir, das Spotify ein bisschen mehr wie Sonora ist.