Cam McVey: Web, Electronics, Music, Stuff

My plot of online goodness.

Category: Technology

Useful tools and apps

Picture of toolsI thought I’d write a quick post to talk about some of the wee tools and apps that I use pretty much every day to make life a little easier. Some were particularly useful in my transition from Windows to OS X. Hope you find this useful!

Alfred 2

Website: http://www.alfredapp.com/

This is a nice launcher app that you can quickly pop up, type anything, and it sort of knows what you’re getting at and gives you a quick list of files, apps, web seach, etc. to get the info you’re looking for. Saves a couple of keypresses when doing a new Google search.

Asepsis

Website: http://asepsis.binaryage.com/

When I first moved over to a Mac from Windows, I couldn’t believe OS X splatted these .DS_Store files in EVERY folder. What a pain! It took me about half a day to get sick of that, so I found Asepsis which cleverly deals with these files. Yay.

Caffeine

Website: http://lightheadsw.com/caffeine/

I hated the fact that the screensaver would kick in while watching videos (but appreciated it at other times). If you want to keep your screensaver but want more temporary control, Caffeine is for you.

CheatSheet

Website: http://www.cheatsheetapp.com/CheatSheet/

When moving from Windows to OS X, I struggled to get my head around the differences and conventions of keyboard shortcuts. CheatSheet is nice in that, when you’re in an app, holding down the CMD key will pop up a ‘cheat sheet’ of all available Keyboard Shortcuts available in that app.

ClipMenu

Website: http://www.clipmenu.com/

I’m a big user of clipboard apps — they are a time saver (and, occasionally a life saver) — so finding a good one was a priority. This was the best of the several I tried.

ColorSnapper

Website: http://colorsnapper.com/

Nice wee app that sits in your menu bar and can grab a colour from anywhere on the screen. When you click to select the colour, it sticks it in your clipboard ready to be pasted into whatever you’re working on.

Dotfiles

Website: https://github.com/cowboy/dotfiles

Cowboy, aka Ben Alman (of Grunt and others fame), created this as his personal bash environment setup, so it’s a nice way of setting up your prompt in Terminal and gives you some nice defaults, some useful aliases, and good integration with Git through a nifty prompt.

Eve

Website: http://www.hotkey-eve.com/

Eve is great for new OS X users that want to learn keyboard shortcuts because any time you use your mouse to select a menu item, Eve pops up to show you the shortcut you could have used. Forced myself to use it for two weeks before feeling like I could legitimately turn it off.

f.lux

Website: http://justgetflux.com/

Useful app that changes the tone of the colour of your screen after sunset. Warms up the colour tone to rest your eyes. Nice wee feature to temporarily disable which is useful when dealing with graphics/video production/manipulation.

KeyRemap4MacBook

Website: https://pqrs.org/macosx/keyremap4macbook/

Great app to help anyone transitioning from Windows (or anyone looking to customise their keyboad). Lets you reassign what a key does. Very stable and very configurable.

PCKeyboardHack

Website: https://pqrs.org/macosx/keyremap4macbook/pckeyboardhack.html.en

Sister app to KeyRemap4MacBook, I use this to remap my Caps Lock key to something more useful. I wrote about this.

Sequel Pro

Website: http://www.sequelpro.com/

Brilliant app used to manage a local (or remote) MySQL server. Really nice interface, powerful helper features to manipulate the data, including a nice query window with exporting of results.

Slate

Website: https://github.com/jigish/slate

If you need total control over your app windows including size, shape and location, and you have the time and drive to learn it, there’s nothing better out there.

SizeUp

Website: https://www.irradiatedsoftware.com/sizeup/

SizeUp is a nifty app that allows you to move and resize your app windows. Quick to learn and quite configurable. Great for overcoming the insanity that is OS X full size vs full screen. Full size doesn’t mean all–of–the–screen, and full screen means you–may–not–work–on–anything–else. Nonsense. SizeUp sorts this out.

TotalTerminal

Website: http://totalterminal.binaryage.com/

I use the terminal a lot (one of the reasons for moving to a Mac was to get a ‘real’ command line). TotalTerminal gives some nice configuration options and makes a terminal a shortcut away. Used many multiple times a day.

Doing something useful with your Caps Lock key (on a mac)

Ever not used your Caps Lock key? Yeah, me too — all the time. So, that’s a waste, right? Let’s do something about it.

Picture of a part of a mac keyboard, focussed on the CapsLock key

Mac Keyboard, CapsLock Key

My frustrations with Mac keyboards was something I wrote about in a previous blog post. I mentioned that I had remapped the Caps Lock key, so I thought I would expand on it a bit, in case it would be useful to you.

You’ll need to download two small (very useful) programs and configure some settings, but it’s easy and this will take maybe 10 minutes tops.

First download PCKeyboardHack and follow Steps 1, 2, and 3 detailed on that page. In step two, in the “Setting” tab, look for the entry for Caps Lock, click the little arrow to the left to open it up, and enter “110” in the keycode column. Close PCKeyboardHack.

Now download KeyRemap4MacBook and follow Steps 1, 2, and 3 on that page. After Step 3, in the “Change Key” tab, scroll down until you see the entry “For PC Users”. Open that entry up (click on the little arrow again) then open out the entry for “Change PC Application Key”. Now you can change the behaviour of the Caps Lock Key to any of these entries. I set mine to “Forward Delete” as I missed that functionality when moving from a PC keyboard. Once you’ve selected your chosen remapping, close KeyRemap4MacBook.

Well done, you just made that key more useful!