My (Mostly) Digital Toolbox

Over the years I’ve established a standard set of apps and tools I always have available. Here is a list of what I use and happily recommend.

Software Development

  • Vim

I’m a proud Vim addict. I’ve been using it for several years. My .vimrc file has several hundred lines of config and includes numerous plugins.

Every once in a while I try out a new editor but every time I come back. Vim is just too ingrained in my muscle memory.

Right now I’m using Macvim but I’m keeping an eye on Neovim. An active community has risen around it and they seem to be determined to modernize many areas of the Vim sourcecode as well as adding many long standing feature requests.

  • Tmux

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Tmux. My first few tries at using it went poorly, mostly around Vim keybindings getting screwed up and weird copy/paste support.

In the last couple months though I’ve tried it once again and am really digging it. This time it feels different. The way copy & paste works has finally “clicked” and I’ve found a few settings and plugins that make it much more pleasant to use (e.g. Vim Tmux Navigator and Tmux Plugin Manager.

  • iTerm

My terminal of choice for years. It has a few nice things like split panes and color themes. I’ve used it so long I’ve nearly forgotten why I switched to it in the first place.

  • Homebrew

Indispensable. One of the first couple things I install on a new Mac. I can’t live without it these days. It is almost always the first place I look when I want to install a new utility.

Organization

  • Evernote

My love for Evernote has waned in recent years as new features are added I don’t care much about and weird bugs and crashes. I’d love to see a really beautiful, minimalist interface that has beautiful typography and simple file support. Maybe one day. That said, it is still a great place to store files and notes and have it accessible anywhere.

  • Google Docs

Who needs Microsoft Office anymore when you have this? Plus the multi editor support is fantastic. I regularly have my entire team all typing in a single document/spreadsheet.

  • Google Hangouts

I use this every day. At my office I began to rely on this so much that I disconnected my physical desk phone. Google Hangouts is better in nearly every way.

  • Omnifocus

The 800lb gorilla of task managers. I honestly don’t know how I managed to keep track of everything before this. While pricey, if you’re going to use it I’d absolutely recommend it. I’ve tried dozens of task managers and this is the best.

  • BusyCal

Both Outlook and Apple Calendar are terrible. I’d use the Google Calendar interface if I could but unfortunately I’m stuck with Exchange. So that leaves BusyCal. It handles Exchange and Google Calendar very very well. It may not have the beautiful interface of Fantastical 2 but it’s reliable and has all the features I need (like availability checking).

  • Dropbox

I mostly use Dropbox without even realizing it as many of the apps I have sync settings and whatnot between my Macbooks and iPhone/iPad.

  • You Need a Budget

Until the last year my wife and I were “casual budgeters”. We’d log into Mint periodically and check the balance and how much we had spent in different categories, cutting back if necessary. But we didn’t really budget. But YNAB changed that. My wife and I decided to start being more intentional with our finances and it has since paid off. It takes some effort but now we have a better idea where our money goes and are saving more than we previously had done.

  • 1Password

The best password manager around. I used LastPass for a long time and it was functional but at the time was pretty ugly and had poor mobile support. 1Password is a much better all around.

  • MindNode

For the occasional planning/brainstorming session.

  • Lightroom

Lightroom doesn’t get used as often as it once did but it is still loved nevertheless. It is a great all around photo manager and editor. The one problem that has popped up in recent years is its lack of syncing to other devices without exporting the photos manually to something like Dropbox. Now that Google Photos is out, I’m looking at setting up some kind of semi-automated process for exporting there so I can always have access to my photos.

  • Pen & Paper

A couple years ago I was all digital, all the time. But I’ve found I really like writing with a nice pen and notebook. It has a nice tactile feel that I don’t get from a computer and is often far, far quicker to use.

Automation

  • TextExpander

TextExpander is very handy. I have snippets that I use every day. Things like team member emails, markdown links, and common phrases. It really saves me a lot of time.

  • Keyboard Maestro

Similar to TextExpander, it does a few nice things. I have a shortcut to make whatever text is in the clipboard into plain text and a few automated reminders that go off throughout the day (e.g. to stretch and go to a recurring meeting).

  • Alfred

I barely use the Dock, Launchpad, or Finder to launch things any more because of Alfred. Plus I am always checking word spellings, looking up definitions, and doing simple math with it.

Utilities

  • Dash

For all your programming documentation needs. I have it hooked into Alfred so I can type lodash omit, hit enter, and it’ll open the app right to the documentation for that method.

  • Crashplan

Letting a hard drive fail without a backup is a mistake you only make only once. Crashplan is an online backup solution that is easy, cheap, and offsite. You know, in case there is a fire or flood. It has saved my bacon numerous times. Do yourself a favor and sign up.

  • Authy

You can’t be too careful online this days. With news of new hacks happening every day, it seems smart to enable two factor authentication on anything you can. Authy is a great place to centralize that.

  • Bartender

As you can tell from this post, I have a lot installed on my Mac. Many of those apps like to install icons in the menu bar which result in a cluttered interface where I can’t see everything I need. Bartender allows you to hide those icon and place them in a popup menu.