This list doesn’t include built in Mac apps that come preinstalled with OS X Mountain Lion that I regularly use. Those include Mail.app, Safari, iChat, iTunes, and iCal.
My Current Dock
By way of preview, here’s my current dock (as of 2012-12-27). Click to embiggen:
Here we go with the list. From left to right.
- Free, Download link
As a web designer, it’s important to test the sites I create in multiple browsers. As well, I use Chrome to do all my Google related activities – Google+, Google Docs (now Drive), etc. I like to know when Google is tracking my activities and by limiting it to a specific browser I can know what’s going to be dumped into the Googleplex.
- $79.99, OmniFocus – The Omni Group
OmniFocus is the app I use to dump all my bigger personal to dos, project ideas, blog post ideas, client work next steps, etc. When I have to stop and think “What should I do next?”, OmniFocus is the app I turn to.
Be sure to check out David Sparks’ OmniFocus screencasts which are a great primer on how to get started with OmniFocus.
Day One is a journaling app. It’s not for publishing out to the web or sharing what you write. It’s main purpose is to write things down and record memories. You can attach photos and other details such as weather, time of day, location information but other than that you’re writing in a beautifully designed program that then backups and syncs to iCloud or Dropbox.
I don’t use it on my Mac as often as I use the iOS version, but it’s nice to be able to quickly fire it up and record a few thoughts.
- $9.99, Reeder in the Mac App Store
Reeder is what I use to manage and read all the RSS subscriptions I keep up with. It’s linked to my Google Reader account so my unread items are synced between my iMac, MacBook Air and my iPhone.
It’s a beautiful looking app and just works great. The ability to quickly send articles out to different services such as Pinboard, Evernote, Instapaper and many others makes it easy to take your data wherever you want to.
Tweetbot for Mac
- $19.99, Tweetbot for Twitter
I tried to use Twitter’s free Mac App but it’s awful once you’ve used Tweetbot for Mac. More so because I’m so used to their iPhone/iPod touch and iPad editions. Syncing your read tweets, mute filters and saved searches via iCloud is great. Plenty of great little graphical touches in the user interface make it a joy to use something that’s really just sharing 140 characters of text.
Wedge for Mac
- Free while in beta, wedge.natestedman.com
Wedge is a App.net client for the Mac. I haven’t settled on whether I’m going to commit or not to App.net by buying apps. If I do, it’ll likely be Netbot for iPhone or iPad or possibly Felix for App.net on both iPhone and iPad.
- Free, Download from Skype.com
Only there because I use it to occasionally chat with family that are overseas and as a podcaster I use it to have conversations with other nerds which are recorded for others to listen to later.
I use Logic Express but it’s actually now Logic Pro 9 that’s available. I use it exclusively for editing and producing the aforementioned podcasts. I would say I know enough to be dangerous. But it’s a very powerful app for recording, editing and producing audio. And at $199 it’s a steal if you need something better than GarageBand ($14.99 in the Mac App Store or included on all new Macs) for producing audio.
Lightroom (Formerly Aperture in my dock)
This is on my MacBook Air and not on my iMac right now, but I thought it worth mentioning.
I recently made the switch from Aperture to Lightroom 4. And while it’s still early days (as of this writing in Dec, 2012) I’m really loving the workflow Lightroom provides. The performance is night and day compared to Aperture – Lightroom is so quick and fluid in handling the large RAW images my Nikon D80 throws at it.
The love/hate relationship with Photoshop runs deep. It’s expensive, bloated and has way too many options, buttons and widgets for what most web designers actually use it for – and yet it’s the defacto standard because of all of the above. I’ve been experimenting with using Pixelmator ($29.99) but it’s not quite there in terms of replacing the full functionality of Photoshop – particularly if you exchange documents with other designers.
- Free, brettterpstra.com
It took me awhile to understand how and why I’d want to use nvALT, and I won’t pretend to compltely get it yet either. How I use it is that it’s setup to watch a folder in my Dropbox account. All that it’s in that folder is a bunch of text (.txt) files. Each time I have a meeting, phone call, or idea dump I write a new subject line in nvALT which creates a new text file and then start typing.
Sounds simple, right?
Screencast coming later which will explain it easier than writing about it.
- $9.99, Byword in the Mac App Store
For longer form writing and when I’m tired of TextMate, I use Byword. I have a copy on my iPhone, Byword for iOS ($2.99 for iPhone/iPad), and it syncs via Dropbox. Clean, simple and quick text editor that supports Markdown and getting out of my way if I want to write.
- $52, macromates.com
My default code and text editor for a couple of years now. It hasn’t changed in the same amount of time. It’s getting quite long in the tooth and version 2 is slow in coming, but TextMate persists as being the quick, easy editor that I go to for my text editor.
- $33.99, Transmit in the Mac App Store
Transmit is the best FTP / SFTP client on the Mac. FTP is what I use to upload/download files to a web server. Proper version control geeks look away now I often edit, after backing files up locally, right on the server and Transmit allows me to easily find and use files on the various web servers my clients have their sites on. Ok nerds, you can look now. The main feature missing is some sort of bookmark/favourite syncing that got axed when Apple ditched MobileMe.
Adding in iCloud syncing will probably come in the next version of Transmit – but that’ll also require them to switch it to a Mac App Store version. Transmit now supports syncing favorites via Dropbox.
Coda 2 came out in May, 2012 and has the main feature I’m missing from Transmit – iCloud favourite syncing. It sounds silly but having your favourites synced is important when sometimes a month or two goes by without accessing a site on one of my computers. Update the password on my MacBook Air and don’t do it on my iMac – then I can’t remember what the new password is.
There’s a quick screencast and overview video that a friend and I did on the first day that Coda 2 came out with to give a somewhat geeky view of how Coda 2 works.
Final Cut Pro X
Final Cut Pro is Apple’s flagship video editing software that is the professional/prosumer step up from iMovie.
There’s been a lot written about Apple’s decision to completely change the user interface for Final Cut Pro in version X. Personally, as someone who uses it for fun and a little bit of professional work, I love the new interface. It took me awhile to learn my way around the new interface and there’s certainly parts of it that are more difficult to get things done. But the area of editing that I spend the most time on – finding clips, editing them and lining up a story with video – goes so much faster and easier in version X that was worth the purchase price alone.
Another candidate for a dedicated recommend page and screencast(s).
- $49.99, Motion in the Mac App Store
I haven’t used this much with version 5 that came out shortly after Final Cut Pro X. But it’s a great motion graphics editor/producer and at $49.99 you can’t beat the price. If you’ve ever wanted to play around with titling and motion graphics in video, it’s worth picking it up to play with.
Gradient is for web developers and designers who need to quickly and easily create colour gradients for websites. It does exactly what it says on the tin in a quick and easy to use app that’s really well designed.
The only knock against buying it is that it is a single serving app. Either you love it for that reason or you think it’s terrible when other apps do X, Y or Z in addition to making gradients. Apps such as the aforementioned Coda 2 are building in tools such as this so why buy a dedicated app?
I still like it for creating something quick just to experiment with a design in the browser.
Which brings me to…
I suck at picking colours for a design. I’m colour blind and as a result I feel quite insecure when it comes to picking colours. ColorSchemer Studio, despite having one of the more 90’s style app names, is great for being able to pick a colour and then find a bunch of options for colours that go with it. High contrast, low contrast, angled accents, blended splits, fade to black, monochromatic, and many more schemes that ColorScheme Studio generates based on your original colour.
Apple Remote Desktop
I went a bit out of order so that the two colour related apps could be in line with each other. Perhaps I should change my dock order?
There’s probably cheaper or better VNC remote desktop apps out there – but Apple’s Remote Desktop is the one I’ve used for years. I help manage a small office of 6 Macs and Remote Desktop allows me to quickly install apps, software updates and other maintenance from the comfort of my desk (lazy).
I picked up Remote Desktop when the Mac App Store first came out and there was (and continues to be) a lot of consternation about what Apple might allow apps to do – and more importantly, not do as they contineu their lockdown of Mac OS X. I figured that since Apple made Remote Desktop, it would be the one app to be able to access as much as possible if and when the rules change for apps on OS X.
MacBook Air Dock
I have a few different apps in my dock on my MacBook Air. First, the screenshot as of 2012-07-16:
- $14.99, Pixelmator in the Mac App Store
A great alternative to the expensive and prone to crashing Photoshop. At $15 you really can’t go wrong with having a light-weight image editor in your app directory even if you do use Photoshop for heavy lifting. It won’t replace Photoshop for the power user/designer, but for 90% of what most of us do in Photoshop it works fine.