Apr 25

Clean machine

apple, apps, laptop, mac
5:33pm on Monday 25th April, 2011

It is gospel in the web development biz that a new job means a new laptop, and I spent a happy hour or two downloading and configuring software on my shiny new MacBook Pro this week. Part-way through the process, I realised just how heavily skewed towards productivity my choices have become.

There are some apps I need to work

Of course there is a bare minimum of necessary software that I can’t work without; as a web designer, that means somewhere to code web pages and browsers to look at them.

  • Aptana Studio: I started using Aptana when it was first released, and I’ve stuck with it ever since. The Eclipse-based plugin architecture was useful when I was writing PHP, and I still find its Project Explorer, colour coding and validation extremely helpful.
  • Firefox, Chrome: With Safari already installed, all I need to install is Firefox (and Firebug) and Chrome. I hardly ever test in Opera any more (a combination of lack of users, and confidence in its rendering engine generally getting things right).
  • Adium: For intra-team/office communication over Jabber.
  • MacFusion: We develop on remote servers, so I need a means to mount those drives as local for working on.
  • MS Office: Bloated and horrible but necessary in a modern office. I tried relying on NeoOffice for a while, but it occasionally does funny things to people’s CVs so I switched back to Microsoft.
  • Remote Desktop Connection: No Parallels, so IE testing is performed via remote desktop. RDC now comes bundled with Office 11.

There are some apps I need to help me work

So that is what I need to actually get work done, but there are many little apps to truly make me productive.

  • Alfred: I loved QuickSilver, but it occasionally didn’t do what I expected and was much more complex than I had need of. So when an old friend launched her first app, I happily switched over and have been very happy with how Alfred performs.
  • Caffeine: Saving countless hours of nudging the mouse when the screen goes off during meetings…
  • Dropbox: I mostly find the cloud-sharing app Dropbox useful for throwing files in that I need to access from home or mobile, but it also came in handy when migrating between laptops; all my bookmarks, useful settings, bash profiles and the like made their way over to the new machine via the magic of Dropbox.
  • Fluid: I run my daily task app and system monitoring tools as standalone apps in Fluid.
  • Jumpcut: Being able to recall the last forty pieces of text from my copy+paste clipboard has had an enormous effect on my work speed, more than you might expect; Jumpcut was the first clipboard management app I found and I’ve been happy with it for years.
  • Visor: It’s not to everyone’s taste (especially anyone trying to work on my machine) but I much prefer to have Terminal accessible from any app or any Space on my Mac; this handy little app turns it into a pop-down console window akin to FPS game interfaces.
  • Wunderlist: It’s not perfect, but Wunderlist with its free native Mac, iPad and iPhone app versions is performing pretty well as my GTD/task management setup for the time being.

And there are some apps that make work bearable

For me, no clean install would be complete without some music-related bits and pieces, and of course a drip-feed from the social network du jour.

  • Last.fm: Online radio and iTunes scrobbling to my Last.fm profile.
  • Spotify: Free (although soon to be heavily restricted) music; there’s not much they don’t have.
  • Twitterific: I managed to kill Twitterific a few months ago on the old laptop, so it’s nice to have it back again. I tried the new Twitter app and couldn’t get on with it, and I’m still not sure I completely like the new version of Twitterific either since I can’t work out how to make it appear each time a new tweet is posted, but for now it will do.

And finally

One last tweak was necessary to finalise the new machine setup: replacing the default Mail.app icon with a UK version of the iconic stamp! I’m about as far from a royalist as you can get, but there’s something altogether wrong about a postage stamp without Her Maj on.

And that’s about it. You might have noticed that I’m missing a graphical app; I’ve always used Photoshop, but I’m debating whether to take this opportunity to switch to Fireworks. And no doubt I’ll end up with a few dozen scarcely used programs over the coming years, but for now these are my ‘clean machine’ go-to applications. If you have any suggestions or want to point out a glaring omission, comments are open.

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  1. Cebu Streets's Gravatar

    Cebu Streets at 4:12pm on 5th August, 2011 #

    Are the apps that you have installed was for free? I’ve heard that there are only a few apps for mac that is for free, that is why I am not using mac at all but install I installed the latest version of windows..

    But anyways, Have fun with your new macbook, hoping I can have one soon as well

  2. Ultra HD Flip Camcorder's Gravatar

    Ultra HD Flip Camcorder at 3:06am on 20th October, 2011 #

    Hi Matthew, first of all you’ve got an interesting blog. Keep it up.

    I have some Q&A about the Mac as I’m about to buy a new Apple Macbook Pro 17” - Intel Core i7 Quad Core 2.2GHz - February 2011 model.

    Anyway I extensively use Firefox on my marketing job, but found it to crash too frequently on Windows 7, Vista and slightly less on XP.

    Does it work fine on the Mac platform?

    You did surprise on NeoOffice doing funny things on people’s cv. Possibly is MS Office better?

    Anything I should be aware of before going the Mac route?

    Sorry to bother you but I’d rather have an unbiased opinion from a real experienced user, especially with your related job as a web dsigner.
    You would be the perfect candidate for such questions, I hope.

    Thanks in advance for your help.

  3. Matthew Pennell's Gravatar

    Matthew Pennell at 12:00pm on 20th October, 2011 #

    I’ve never had any problems running Firefox on Mac. It can occasionally get slow if you’ve had it open for days and run a few extensions, but nothing a restart can’t fix.

    The problem with NeoOffice is that the vast majority of people create their CVs using Word, and if they do any weird formatting or spacing it’s easy for NeoOffice to get it slightly wrong.

    Other than that, I’d wholeheartedly recommend choosing a Mac - every time I have to use a Windows machine now it feels horribly slow, clunky and badly designed.

  4. Ultra HD Flip Camcorder's Gravatar

    Ultra HD Flip Camcorder at 4:11pm on 20th October, 2011 #

    Thanks Matthew, I really appreciate your time to respond back.

    Hopefully I’ll be running on a Mac Pro Notebook in a few days time.
    I go tired of using the MS platforms, especially the latest ones like Vista and 7.
    They seem to be offered to the market without real testing—even for the simplest bugs.

  5. Mobile app's Gravatar

    Mobile app at 12:12pm on 23rd July, 2012 #

    Try “The Web Designer’s Idea” app, may be you will find it useful for you reason.