Mac apps I can't live without

“When it comes to utilities and applications for my Mac, I must admit I’m a bit of a whore.”

I’ll date lots of them, and toss them aside just as quickly as I come across them. But there are some that just seem to stick around. I absolutely love them, and can’t imagine my Mac-using life without them. Here is part one of my list of OS X apps I love:

Default Folder XDefault Folder
The definitive “must-have” app for Mac users since the mid 90s, Default Folder X is what the Mac’s Save & Open dialog boxes should be. Default Folder X offers custom keyboard shortcuts put your favorite and recent folders at your fingertips. Pop-up menus let you navigate your folders and open Finder windows. It also remembers what folder you were last in, and where you were in the list of files contained in that folder. Default Folder X costs just $34.95, and well worth it!

I used Dropbox for a few years, but after reaching the 18GB limit of free space, account security issues that seemed to keep popping up, intermittent sync speed issues, and the fact that the Dropbox app update system only seems to work half of the time, I decided to give Copy a try.

Copy is a service provided by Barracuda Networks, the network security experts. Copy works almost exactly the same way Dropbox does, but you start with 15GB of free space (instead of Dropbox’s tiny 2GB) and there’s no limit on the amount of free space you can earn via referrals.

They also offer something unique for users who share files with each other. Rather than 200MB file counting against both users’ storage limit, Copy splits the file space between the two users – so each of you only has 100MB counted against their limit.

I love text-replacement capability. And even though it’s built-in to OS X, it’s quite limited. aText takes it much further with the ability to work in any program, and giving you the ability to fully customize your text-replacements with not only text, but images, Applescripts & shell scripts as well. There are other text-replacement utilities out there, but in my opinion they’re either too bloated, or too expensive. aText is only $5 from the Mac App Store.

I reviewed Pixa early last year and loved it! If you have large collections of images for each client, or folders full of free images you’ve downloaded, it can be a real chore to find the perfect one for the design piece you’re working on. You could try to organize them in iPhoto, but let’s be honest; iPhoto ain’t that great for that. When I reviewed Pixa, I called it the most useful design-related app I’ve installed in over a year. That’s probably still the case. Organizing, keywording, searching and opening/placing images with Pixa couldn’t be easier. Pixa costs $30 and is available in the Mac App Store.

I love the function key features built-in to all Apple keyboards. The ability to control volume, Mission Control, brightness, etc. is awesome. But sometimes I want to assign other functions to those F-Keys when I’m using InDesign or Photoshop. You can check out my review of Palua here. Palua allows you to keep those built-in functions in some apps, and switch the F-keys to user-assignable in other apps. And it does it automatically. When I’m in the Finder or web browser, F7-F12 still control audio functions, but when I switch to Photoshop, Palua turns those functions off and allows me to assign other things to those keys via Photoshop’s F-Key preferences. Palua costs just 99¢ from the Mac App Store.

Worth mentioning:

Voila is my go-to app for capturing, editing and organizing screenshots and quick desktop videos. You can read my review of Voila here. Voila is $29.99, and $19.99 for students.

I can’t say enough about this little OS X Finder add-on. If you want to customize your Finder windows, this the app to start with – especially since it’s free!

If your menubar icons are cluttering up your screen, and you don’t like the seemingly random order they appear, Bartender is the app for you. It’s quite simply the only app that works as advertised. Bartender is only $15, a small price to pay for your sanity!

Keep an eye out for part two of the list of Mac OS X apps I can’t live without.