Software I Like
This is not a “Uses” page, even though I do use most of these apps. If you’re looking for my terminal emulator of choice, or the Sublime theme I sue everyday, go check out my actual Uses page.
This page is simply a collection of what I consider to be well-crafted software. I don’t have a particularly high bar for what constitutes “good”, and the qualities I care about are but a few.
Reliability, because unexpected crashes are bad.
Purpose, because there’s too much software out there that does nothing useful.
Speed is a feature, and it’s probably the most important one. You’ll find almost no Electron apps here.
The combination of these three usually takes the form of a pretty small app. Made to do one thing, and to do it well. They also tend to be as free from cloud dependencies as possible, because latency is not a bottleneck that can ever truly be optimised away.
Currently, most of these are consumer/prosumer tools, I might add a “computer nerd” section to this page someday.
A simple window manager.
People love complaining about the Mac’s lack of window management, but Rectangle literally exists. It’s free and does what I needed it to do.
CTRL + ⌥ + key to snap windows wherever you want to, near-complete customisation provided in Preferences.
Dim your screen beyond the standard brightness.
Sometimes I work in the dark, and light mode apps are way too bright to use. Quickshade adds a layer of (adjustable) opaqueness to your screen that cuts down on glare that’s still too bright on the lowest brightness setting.
Insanely great window management
Trackpads are great, I can no longer go back to using a mouse after living with the Mac’s gestures and excellent touch sensitivity. Swish gives you the ability to throw windows around from the trackpad instead of the keyboard, because why not?
Autocomplete for your terminal.
The terminal is fun, as long as you don’t have to memorise too many directory structures, or command flags. Fish does most of that work by remembering previous commands and auto-completing filesystem routes. It’s also fully scriptable, but I haven’t really used that part of it’s feature set.
An open-source screen recorder.
It does everything I need a screen recorder to do (which isn’t all that much apart from being able to record specific sections of the screen). And you can export the videos as any of the popular formats (I stick to
.gif files are so much larger).
Manila is a Finder extension that lets you change the colors of your folders from the context menu.
I have way too many projects in my Documents folder, being able to color folders according to their contents is useful in ways that I didn’t think I’d realise. For example, marking completed projects with green folders, and expired ones as red.
Once installed, using Manila is dead simple. Right click on one or more folders whose color you want to change, go to the Color menu, and pick a color.
The nicest screenshot tool I’ve ever used.
The Mac’s default screenshots are great, Shottr is just better. Below are just half the features it has, every one of them is actually useful.
My personal favourite is the ability to hover over any pixel in the image and hit
Tab to copy the color’s RGB code to your clipboard.
Oh, and it’s also free.
Open source password manager.
I’ve heard good things about Buttercup and Secrets, but haven’t ever felt the need to switch away from Bitwarden. I measure an app’s security capabilities by “years in service”. It also provides unlimited passwords and cloud syncing on the Free tier.
Minimal clipboard history manager.
Free, open source, lightweight, simple UI; all that good stuff.
Universal clipboard manager for Mac, iPhone and iPad.
In case you wanted to have one universal clipboard for all your Mac devices so you don’t have to keep sending yourself links on a personal Telegram channel or something.
Image compression, complete control.
Web-based, but local-first image compression app. Single-image and manual settings. You can control the level of compression while previewing how that affects quality, convert betweeen formats, and resize too.
Bulk compression and optimisation for images.
Drag-and-drop files, and set global compression options. Handles all the popular formats, and does it well.
By default ImageOptim is very cautious and exactly preserves image quality, but if you allow it to change the quality — even only a little — it will be free to use much more aggressive optimizations that give the biggest results.
Yes, I couldn’t think of a better category name.
But I think the browser is it’s own special thing, along with everything that works with the web as the primary medium.
It’s been my default browser for the past year.
Yes, it’s Chromium-based, but it’s not as resource-hungry as Chrome is. Yes, it has a sidebar instead of horizontal tabs, but that can be a good thing. And there’s just so many QoL improvements that I can’t do without now.
Renaming a tab: You double click on the tab name, and start typing in a new one, simple as.
Separate your accounts: You can set up separate Spaces to have different Google accounts logged in. I used to have a separate space for college stuff. I have one for working on projects, and one for open-ended browsing.
Pin tabs: You can kinda do this on other browsers, but Arc seems do it better by ensuring that they load instantly whenever you open them. My current pins include Spotify, Github, Telegram, Are.na, and a localhost tab where I test my apps.
Control media playback: There are two kinda of mini-players in Arc. The first is the classic picture-in-picture that hovers atop your desktop when you switch away from an in-progress Youtube video. But it also has another one that shows up in the sidebar whenever a tab is playing audio, great for controlling Spotify.
Independent DIY search engine that focuses on non-commercial content.
It’s not one of those fancy LLM-based search interfaces, this an actual, honest-to-goodness, search engine. It has indexed a numch of small, relatively obscure sites, thus stepping in where Google and SEO failed.
SiteSucker is a Macintosh application that automatically downloads websites from the Internet.
Just enter a URL (Uniform Resource Locator), press return, and SiteSucker can download an entire website. This includes webpages, images, files, style sheets, etc. The works.
I bought it because I wanted to browse throught Shalizi’s notebooks on the train. If you want it for the purposes of downloading a site and making a backup (maybe because Internet Archive isn’t the most dependable organisation), I recommend using Transmit to connect to Backblaze’s cheap cloud backup storage.
It even has a URL Constraint setting to download one section of a site, so I could download all of Cosma’s notebooks.
RSS reader for MacOS/iOS.
Probablt the oldest bit of software on this list, it first launched over a decade and it’s been fully open-source since 2018. Customizable, dependable, solid design. The epitome of “it just works”.
I made some themes for it, because the default ones aren’t that great.
a toolkit for assembling new worlds from the scraps of the old.
Pinterest, without the ads, and not limited to pictures. It’s the digital equivalent of a pinboard, where you can attach text, links, pictures or other boards.
I’m still on the free tier, I mostly use it to browse other poeple’s collections.
Upload, download, and manage files on tons of servers with an easy, familiar, and powerful UI.
Confession: I don’t know how to use FTP. Like, I could learn if I really needed to. But thanks to Transmit, I don’t have to. It provides a GUI to manage uploads to all sorts of different servers (I use Backblaze’s B2 storage myself).
The interface looks like this. It’s great.
But…, I actually recommend Forklift because it gives you a dual-pane interface for local files too, which is pretty handy. And if you prefer not to pay for software, there’s always CyberDuck and Marta.
“ForkLift’s App Delete module is quite accurate and therefore useful. I tried deleting several different apps and it accurately listed the associated files without also listing those that could break your system. You can deselect files as well, which is very nice for if you think you might re-install an app later on.” Some dude on Reddit
I spend far too much of my life entering ASCII characters into a screen.
It’s fast, ridiculously fast. It handles the Moby Dick workout without breaking a sweat. Heck, you could open three Moby Dick’s in there and it can’t tell the difference. This is all I want from a text editor, really.
But it’s also got the text editing essentials (syntax highlighting, multiple cursors, plug-ins). It even has a package manager, and fairly impressive array of themes.
I pay for this app, because syncing between iPhone and the Mac is too useful to go without. Also because I just like paying for good software.
The paid version also let’s me export notes as anything between an HTML file or JPEG, a bunch of themes, the app icons in the screenshot, and PDF and image OCR.
Sure, your notes aren’t “local”, but it’s a small price to pay for excellent sync and version conflicts (they never delete a conflicted version, you get to maange them manually), since you can always export them whenever you want.
Price: Free, and $29/year for sync, themes and image search.
Menu bar apps are great, slide-over apps just might be better.
SideNotes keeps your notes on the side of the screen. Appears when you click a little bar or move your cursor to the screen side. It costs like, $20, and is a one-time payment (my favourite kind of payment).
I use it to store links and text snippets and ideas that I wil triage later. I use a Telegram channel when I want to do this across devices, but when I know something will stay within my Mac environment I just create a new Sidenotes entry.
a virtual sheet of paper that lets you make notes anywhere and connect them.
Native app, so it runs really smoothly. Very intuitive interface, and has just the right number of features.
Not much stuff here, I do most of my work on paper and in code.
Virtual whiteboard for sketching hand-drawn diagrams.
Organize all your reference images in one place
I recently decided I should take image organisation more seriously, and I prefer local apps to something like Pinterest. Hence, Eagle.
Other stuff I couldn’t find a category for.
The fastest way to capture and structure your thoughts: through voice.
Hold record, say what you want, and release. Just like you’d expect from an outliner, create hierarchies and rearrange. Notes are auto-transcribed and searchable, but you can always play back the audio.
Automatically attach location to notes. Remember walks you took, and which places sparked what ideas.
It’s AGPLv3 open source and available on GitHub. Everything is local to your device. Transcription on iOS is native, and uses a local version of Vosk on Android.
Deserves to be way more popular than it is at the moment. Ridiculously good software, incredible interface concept.
It’s the only thing that I still use my iPad for, ever since I got a proper phone.
Again, I don’t actually use the app, I just think it’s really, really good software. I haven’t seen an Electron app this smooth before, and the plug-in system and file-over-app philosophy is really well done.
They have a way to render your entire vault as website that works impressively well. It’s called Publish.
An underrated part of Obsidian in it’s current form is it’s new Canvas layout.
By far the best-designed chat app. I’m not entirely sure how it can afford to keep providing all that it does for free, but it’s founder was a billionaire before he started this company so…I guess that helps.
Speaking of Telegram, I run a pretty cool micro-blogging platform on top of it.
Little Snitch Mini
Paying $15 a year gets you the Premium version and the ability to block connections, view server location data, and one year of connection history data.. If you really need more control, there’s the non-Mini version.
It gives your Mac screen rounded corners, that is all.
It’s one of those apps that literally do not matter in the grand scheme of things, but I’m happy someone took the time to create it. Most of my own projects are like this.
Typeface lets you explore all your installed and imported fonts with live customization of preview text and size.
I have a bunch of local fonts installed on my Mac (57 at last count), and Typeface lets me browse through them without having to actually import and previewing them in a webpage.