Mac OS X Productivity Series: Part Two

This is the second (and final) part in-depth series on how to get the best out of both the in-built features and the applications available in OS X, to take your productivity to the next level.

Part One delved inside QuickSilver and Spotlight, while Part Two gets inside Applications and Spaces.

In this article I’m going to briefly show how I use Spaces & Expose along with a multitude of Applications to help stay productive.

Applications – Productivity Boosters

Apple has a truly amazing operating system in OS X but it’s the wealth of fantastic apps that makes it the perfect combination of brains and beauty. There are numerous applications that can help you work faster and efficiently, however these are my personal favorites.

  • Concentrate – This is an app I’ve recently started using and it’s been fantastic value for money. It helps eliminate distractions and lets you concentrate on the task at hand. I personally use 4 main actions: Write, Design, Build & Admin. Each of these has a small set of tasks it performs to help me accomplish the goal. Once I click ‘Concentrate’, it performs the tasks and allows me to get working and stay focused. It can also block sites, open sites/documents and even change your iChat status.
  • Taskpaper – After longing for a super simple, ‘get your stuff done’ to-do list app, I knew my search was over once I found TaskPaper. No bloated complex software, just a fast, simple app that makes sure I keep up to date with my tasks.
  • Default Folder X - This really speeds up navigation through file dialogs. You setup default folders for any of your apps and is an incredible time saver. It allows me to locate frequently used folders without cluttering my sidebars or finder windows. It also has great favorite and history features with folders.
  • Text Expander – The ultimate keystroke saver. It enables you to setup system-wide text shortcuts that when typed expand to the full text provided. For instance when I type notAv, Text Expander inputs my paragraph giving a polite ‘I’m not available’ when I can’t take on further work. It’s also insanely useful for auto-correcting common misspelled words!
  • Fluid – Along with Quicksilver this is quite possibly the most useful app any Mac owner could have. It lets you create a Site Specific Browser (SSB) out of any website or web application, effectively turning your favorite web apps into desktop apps. I use it to run Google Reader, Google Apps Email, Mockflow (Wireframing), Flickr and Curdbee (Invoicing).
  • Shovebox – Is my other ‘brain’. It catches all those little scraps of information that I can’t act on at the time but would rather not forget. It sits up in the menubar and you can drag in text, images, URLs, and more. It really means spending less time processing and more time actually working on the things that matter.
  • Gmail Notifier & Growl = Email Heaven. I use Notifier and Growl together so my email notifications are not only efficient but stylish. I can even open messages in my browser straight from the notification. Sweet.
  • Photoshop Batching – This is particularly helpful as a blogger, as I run several blogs, all requiring images at various sizes. I have a batch command setup that sizes the image (along with other adjustments such as sharpness and DPI) to the required size. It saves at most a minute, but when this is multiplied over the course of a week, it soon adds up!
  • BackDrop – A super useful utility which allows you to fill your screen with a giant blank window. Either with a solid color or a custom image. This allows me to focus on a few windows at a time, or on just one by choosing a window from Expose. It also means I can take screenshots of one or many windows without having to clean up my desktop!
  • ClipMenu – This is a fantastic little app which I only installed a few days ago. It’s one of the best clipboard managers for Mac OS X. You can record 8 clipboard types, from plain text to images.
  • Service Scrubber – One of the most underestimated features of a Mac is the services menu. It’s very powerful and can aid in your productivity, unfortunately it can also become pretty cluttered. Service scrubber lets me restructure it, change keyboard shortcuts and enable and disable services. Which all means this menu actually becomes useful again.
  • Hazel – This is a nifty ‘housekeeper’ for OS X. With Hazel I have created rules that automatically keep my files (and especially my download folder) organised. It processes and organises certain file types into their specified folders, cleans up after deleted apps, gets rid of incomplete or duplicate downloads and also works with Automator and Applescript. You can basically tweak it to suit your own needs and requirements.
  • Skitch – Who doesn’t love skitch?! It’s a fantastic app that i use regularly with collaborators on projects to give/get instant feedback. While I use Notable with clients, Skitch is perfect for collaboration.
  • Choosy – I’ve only just started using Choosy, which is a browser picker. I usually have Chrome, Firefox and Safari open for various tasks throughout the day and when I click on a link, Choosy pops up a simple chooser and I can select the browser I want. It can be tweaked to suit your needs and is a snip at $12.
  • Caffeine – Injects your mac with a boost to stop your screen saver and sleep from kicking in. I use this mostly when I’m having Skype calls as it can become tiresome to keep kicking your Mac out of it’s beauty sleep!
  • Timeout – As small business owners it’s easy to get so caught up in our business that we forget to take care of ourselves. Timeout controls your screen and stops you from working and makes you take a break. It’s an essential app for a workaholic like myself!

For further Productivity apps check out:

Spaces & Exposé

Using Spaces and Exposé seem to divide many Mac users, some swear by them while others don’t go near them. For the last few months I’ve slowly been incorporating Spaces into my workflow and have found a few tips along the way.

I’ve personally found that by categorising apps into different spaces, I’m more likely to work on one specific task at a time, which has led to greater productivity.

  • Collect all windows in one Space – When you are in the birds-eye view of Spaces (F8 by default) press the ‘C’ button to collect all open windows into a single space with a nice effect. And if you hold down shift when you hit the ‘C’ key, it will happen in slow motion.
  • Moving Between Spaces – You can press Ctrl + Arrow key to move between Spaces, however I find it easier to press Ctrl + # key. For example Ctrl + 2 would move to to Space 2.
  • Hyperspaces – Hyperspaces adds the missing key feature – customized backgrounds in each space.
  • Warp - Warp lets you change spaces by dragging your mouse across a screen edge into the new space, as well as showing a preview of the new space before it switches.

For further Spaces related resources, check out:

That covers my Spaces, Exposé and Applications tips, but are there any I’m missing or that you personally use? I would love to hear your feedback on this.

Image Credit

3 Comments

  1. SaraKate says:

    Great article, Grace. I’m going to look into a couple of those apps you mentioned. I’ve been a Mac user for about 5 years now, but still haven’t done anything with Spaces and Expose. I’ll definitely be trying those out when working on projects, though. Thanks for the brief and simple explanations. :)

  2. Nik says:

    Thank you! Definitely trying out few of those applications!
    Parth Three?

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