My Mac Apps of the Year

With a hat tip to Gabe Weatherhead at MacDrifter who put together his list of favourite Mac applications for 2017, I am following suit.

Third party apps are what make a platform great. Despite the macOS ecosystem perhaps not being as vibrant as it once was, it is still served by a wonderful cohort of professional and hard-working developers. Even though I’ve bought their apps, I sometimes feel I owe them more because using their software is what makes using my Mac both fun and productive.

There’s a long tail of apps I use beyond those included in this list. Yet these I have detailed below are those I used extensively in 2017 and that I value and enjoy. These are the apps that I would most miss if they suddenly went away.

1Password for Families

Online security is no joke. It’s easy to dismiss password hygiene as tin-foil hat material, but when you think how much of our lives are conducted online, I don’t want a veneer of security — I want an ironclad guarantee. 1Password guarantees I can have unique complex passwords for every site that I maintain an account. I have no idea what any of these passwords are. But I do know my password to unlock 1Password. After that, it’s nothing but ⌘-\ to long me in anywhere.

1Password for Families | US$4.99 per month

OmniFocus

I’ve waxed lyrical about OmniFocus before. Without this app there is no way I would be able to keep all my balls in the air. As much as parts of its design frustrate me, and the pace of its development is glacial, it works. Every day it delivers value by making my life easier. There are sexier to-do apps out there, but OmniFocus is rock solid.

OmniFocus Pro | US$79.99

Launchbar

My wife doesn’t have Launchbar installed on her MacBook. So when I try to use it, I feel lost. After years of use Launchbar feels an extension of the operating system and is completely engrained in my muscle memory. I switched to Launchbar years ago after Quicksilver became unstable and I’ve stayed ever since. I know others swear by Alfred, but I’m definitely a Launchbar guy.

Launchbar | US$29

Bear

I love this app even though I do have to work hard to find a truly worthwhile use for it. I definitely underuse Bear, but I really like it. For the emotional response, I’m keeping it in my list. But there is still a nagging feeling that between Apple Notes, Ulysses and DevonThink Pro, I really shouldn’t need this app. But it is really nice.

Bear | US$14.99 per year

Ulysses

My key authoring application in which I write blog posts, work reports and other bits and pieces. For report writing as part of my day job Ulysses has this year supplanted Scrivener. For my blogging, Ulysses has withstood challenges from Bear and MarsEdit. It is a wonderful writing app and I enjoy that I have access to it through my Setapp subscription. If I didn’t have Setapp, I would subscribe to Ulysses directly without a moment’s hesitation.

Ulysses | AU$54.99 per year

DEVONthink Pro

The archive. The place I keep all my reference, research and archival material. I don’t use it for all that it can do; for instance I don’t create documents in DEVONthink despite it having the ability to do so. But for archiving, storing and searching, nothing beats it.

DEVONthink Pro | AU$104.13

StockMarketEye

This is a cross-platform Java app, so it’s ugly as sin. It’s also about the only share market application available for Mac. Fortunately it works well and gives me all the information I need to track my portfolio.

StockMarketEye | US$99.95

Reeder

I have never given up on RSS, even through the dark days after the Google Reader shutdown. I love the independent web and follow a range of sites religiously. On the Mac Reeder is the best way to do this.

Reeder | US$9.99

PDF Expert

PDF Expert has replaced Preview for PDF viewing and editing. Preview’s editing toolbars have always been inscrutable to me whereas PDF Expert makes sense. The bugginess that was introduced to the PDF engine in MacOS Sierra was the final nail in the coffin and ensured my switch to PDF Expert.

PDF Expert | US$65.99

BusyCal

While the native Mac calendar app has improved, I still prefer having more power and flexibility to manage my calendars. While Fantastical always gets the glory as the sexy third party calendar option, BusyCal blends in and does the job quietly and effectively. I use this app daily. Its ability to save and restore different calendar sets give me helpful insights into my scheduled life.

BusyCal | US$49.99

Podcast Addiction

I listen to a lot of podcasts. I’ve been listening to podcasts for more than 10 years, way before they were mainstream. I used to load podcasts onto my work-supplied IBM ThinkPad1 and drive to work with it open on the passenger seat, playing podcasts. This was before I owned an iPod, let alone an iPhone. I think I may have been listening to Adam Curry at the time – there weren’t that many podcasts out there, and his was one of the first.

Since that time, I’ve never given up my podcasts habit. In fact, it’s gotten worse. Overcast, my current podcast player of choice says that I’ve saved 197 hours with Smart Speed (a setting that eliminates small pauses within normal speech). That’s 8.2 days saved via a very small tweak. So how many days worth of my life have I dedicated to podcast listening? I am glad I can’t find out!

My podcast listening trends have changed over the years. I had a multi-year phase with Leo Laporte’s network, listening to MacBreak Weekly, The Daily Giz Wiz and This Week in Tech. Now I don’t listen to any of them. The ‘indi’ podcasts I replaced the Laporte shows with have now themselves grown to be pretty big businesses in their own right.

Listening to podcasts is really a continuation of something I have done since I was little. Since I was about 5 years old I have fallen asleep listening to spoken word. Initially it was books on tape. Then I spent years listening to Graham Mayberry’s show on Perth local radio. Then I graduated to falling asleep to BBC World Service. Listening to speech has been a huge part of my life, and now podcasts provide an awesome delivery method far better than radio or cassette tape!

My subscriptions today

My podcast subscriptions today are a straight representation of my interests. I have a lot of technology subscriptions, a few basketball ones, politics and world news and some light entertainment. Looking at the overall list, I’m not sure how I manage to listen to them all. But I carve out time. Mainly it’s when I’m driving or doing some menial task around the house.

On micro.blog I saw recently that others had shared their podcast lists, including:

In the spirit of participation, these are my current podcast subscriptions, broken down into genre:

Technology

  • Accidental Tech Podcast – The best podcast for Apple news and speculation.
  • Cortex – I listen just because I enjoy the banter and wonderful voices of CGP Gray and Myke Hurley.
  • Fundamentally Broken – a couple of dudes talk about tech and American life.
  • In Depth – Trialling this one, a couple of dudes talking Apple technology.
  • Mac Power Users – Not quite sure why I still persist with this; I never learn anything new and Katie Floyd’s really strong US accent is a struggle to listen to, but I haven’t unsubscribed yet.
  • Nerds on Draft – I skip the bit where they talk American beer, but I stay for the interesting take on technology. Is it just me who thinks that Gabe Weatherhead sounds like Kermit the Frog (no offence intended!)?
  • The Omni Show – Not sure this will stick around, as it is a podcast talking to employees at The Omni Group.
  • Release Notes – Two software developers talk about the business of software.
  • The Talk Show – John Gruber talks about Apple and other things.
  • Welcome to Macintosh – a produced podcast that details interesting historical facts about the Apple ecosystem.

News & Politics

  • From Our Own Correspondent – BBC journalists tell human stories of things they see while on assignment.
  • The Party Room – The best podcast about Australian politics.
  • Trace – much like Serial, this is delving into an unsolved murder in Australia.
  • The World of Business – Just not the same since Peter Day left/retired(?). I only stay subscribed in the hope of hearing his voice again.

Arts & Entertainment

  • 99% Invisible – Roman Mars has the greatest voice, and this show’s research into design and culture is amazing.
  • Back to Work – Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin dispense ‘wisdom’.
  • Hello Internet – Hilarious show that is hard to pigeonhole, but it’s the best ‘two dudes talking’ podcast out there.
  • Planet Money – Sometimes interesting takes on the world of finance and economics.
  • Reconcilable Differences – a couple of nerdy dudes have a general conversation.
  • Reply All – Some great journalism occurs here, covering the world of internet culture.
  • Revisionist History – Malcolm Gladwell delves into historical episodes and challenges assumptions.
  • The Unmade Podcast – A funny show featuring crazy ideas for podcasts that never get made.
  • You Need A Budget – A short one to keep me abreast of what’s going on the world of the SaaS app, You Need a Budget.

Sports

  • Aussie Hoopla – Features interviews with Australian basketballers.
  • The Bill Simmons Podcast – Not as good as it was years ago, as it has become too ‘Hollywood’ focused for my liking. I used to love it for the sports coverage.
  • The Dribble Podcast – My local news outlet has a weekly show with Greg Hire, a player for my team, the Perth Wildcats.
  • Ozhoops Radio – a rundown of results in the National Basketball League.
  • The Ringer NBA Show – A very annoying show with annoying hosts, but there is the occasional bit of good coverage.

  1. Yes, an IBM Thinkpad – even before Lenovo bought the brand and IBM got out of the hardware game. It was a long time ago.