10 years, 11 months ago

My Personal Toolbox

I wrote about my conversion to a Mac back in November of 2010 from my sad, pathetic existence on a Windows-based machine. I’m on my second MacBook — a MacBook Air — and I couldn’t be happier. I wanted to share some of the tools I use on a regular basis with some repeated content from that original post.


My philosophy is to use native applications as much as possible before going and purchasing something else. Its not that the ~$25 for a random app is going to set me back. But after a while, it could be “death by a thousand cuts” with all the nifty, shiny apps that are available for this platform. Also, I DO NOT run VMs with native Windows applications. I’m fortunate that all my work for the last 3 years affords me this opportunity. The only time I use VMs is if I’m running a server-side stack of software from my company which is rare.

For mail, I use Mail. I’ve been successful linking this to my corporate, personal, and where necessary, client’s email systems. For me, it works just fine. I have a few rules setup to process routine email traffic. I think I have one or two with AppleScript wired in. But that is about it. I also use the native Calendar app linked to all my calendars as well as native Contacts and Reminders. The Reminders app is for critical, location-based (e.g., pick up prescription when I leave my house) reminders.

For a browser, I’ve floated between Safari, Chrome, and Firefox. Honestly, I’ve found Firefox to be the most stable and functional in recent weeks — especially working with Trello. I know the Peacekeeper benchmarks say Chrome is the best. But there are a few quirks and such with Chrome that just drive me nuts and so I find myself back to the tried-and-true Firefox.

For Twitter, I use Twitter’s client. I’ve tried using Hootsuite and Twitter through the browser but its just too much information to have 4 panels of tweets flying by throughout the day.

For clipping and a digital filing cabinet, its Evernote. Period. While I think the Mac app could have a more Mac-like user interface, this is the the application for clpping, archiving, and for a short time, a task management system with its new Reminder function. I’m not convinced I need the premium features. But that is OK, I’ll pay for them anyway. That is how much I like this app.

For my daily work, its MS Office. And only because I live in a Windows-world and iWork doesn’t have the best compatibility with Office documents in certain contexts. MS Office continues to be a bloated application. I would much rather use 80-90% of the functionality in a less featured Pages than 5% of the functionality in Word. If I know I’m the only person editing a particular document, I will use iWork. In recent days I’ve returned to using Scrivener for writing raw content where possible (including my blog posts). This is mostly because of its detachment from the final published form (e.g., Word, PDF, eBook).

For diagramming and such, I use OmniGraffle. Its probably not as functional as Visio. But at this point I don’t know the difference and its working just fine. In those weird situations where I need to create project plans, I do have a copy of OmniPlan. But I try to avoid that activity as much as possible and in the end I would be OK with the copy of OmniOutliner to create the work breakdown structure (WBS) my PMs want to see.

Personal task management has fallen to Personal Kanban and Trello in recent days. I was formally using GTD and settled on the always awesome OmniFocus. But I gave Personal Kanban (PK) a try with Trello and its seems to work better for me now. The idea of visualizing the workflow and limited work-in-progress — two of PK’s key tenants — seem to resonate well with me. I did try PK with Evernote which seemed to work structurally but didn’t have the left-to-right flow. Yeah, its a small, UI thing, but I went back to Trello after setting up Evernote. It was that important. (ps – I’m back with OmniFocus).

Regardless of your platform, what are the key apps you are using to get your job done?

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