So, I got an unexpected refund from the Student Loan Company (bonus!) recently and spent it on one of the new MacBook Airs. It’s a beautiful machine. Apple seem to have fixed the keyboard issues they were having a little while ago, it’s lightning quick, and the screen is gorgeous.
I’ve not had a Mac for a few years now, relying on my work-supplied Windows laptop, and a Chromebook for other personal bits and pieces. I must admit, I didn’t think I had missed it much – but I’ve found myself realising that, actually, I had just learned to put up with a load of frustrations!
So what software did I put on this thing?
Browsers – it comes with Safari as default, but I added Chrome and Edge. I’m logged into Safari with my personal Gmail account and use that for day to day browsing. Chrome I use with a G-Suite account, to keep that tidy and in one place, and Edge I use for an Office 365 account for the school I help govern. I know there are many ways to create standalone apps from websites, which is an alternative way to keep all these account separate, but I’m happy with this solution.
From the Mac App store I installed some stuff I bought years ago, but are still perfectly good for my needs:
- BBEdit – I use the free version of this veteran Mac app as a simple text editor
- Pixelmator Classic – good enough for the image editing I do, although there is a new, Pro, version out
- Evernote – still the best way to capture notes of all kinds, I’ve tried others, like OneNote, Bear and Notion but keep coming back to this.
- Omnioutliner – not something I use a lot, but sometimes using an outliner to plan thoughts is a really helpful method, and I’ve not come across a better tool that Omnioutliner.
Stuff I installed from the web:
- Transmit – a great, easy to use FTP client. Mostly used to help managed websites
- Zoom – well, duh
- Microsoft Office – I don’t actually use it that much these days – Google Docs does the business most of the time, but occasionally the MS suite cannot be avoided so it helps having it on here. Also it comes with Teams, so…
- NetNewsWire – previously, I used Reeder for my RSS aggregation (yes! I still do that!) but on this Mac I went ‘back’ to NNW. I put ‘back’ in quotes because it’s an entirely new, open source application these days. It works great.
I also took out a subscription to SetApp, which gives access to a whole host of useful Mac apps for a tenner a month:
- Bartender – helps keep my menu bar tidy. Inessential but nice.
- Capto – a fairly easy to use screen recording app. Screenflow used to be my default choice in this space on the Mac, but as this was included in SetApp’s bundle it saved me money to use this
- CleanMyMac X – tidies up the crud that builds up on any computer over time
- Cleanshot X – an improvement on the default screen grabbing tool
- Gifox – makes simple animated GIFs
- Marked – takes documents written in Markdown and exports them to various formats. Useful when it is needed, which isn’t all that often
- MarsEdit – the grandaddy of desktop blog editing apps, every post I write starts off here
- MindNode – mindmapping tool that’s a joy to use
- Paste – a clipboard manager. If you’ve never used one before, you don’t know what you are missing. Keeps a record of everything you copy, so you can paste it at any time in the future
- PDFpen – for wrangling with PDFs
- Prizmo – turns scanned documents into editable text (OCR type stuff)
- Rocket Typist – like Paste, a tool you don’t know you need until you try it, then you can’t live without it. This allows you to set system wide shortcuts that automatically expand short snippets of text into longer ones. My personal favourite app in this space is TextExpander, but this works well and doesn’t cost me any more money.
- Ulysses – an app for composing longer form writing projects. It uses markdown and presents a pretty minimalist writing experience. This is an app I felt I ought to download but haven’t actually used for anything yet.
I also invested in an Anker USB hub thing, to make up for the lack of ports on the laptop. It’s an elegant design and seems to work very well.