Essential Mac Setup

I am a productivity nerd. More so related to using tools than actually being good at it myself, but I am working on that as well. When it comes to using tools, I don’t want them to get in my way. I rather try to question on how I do things and if I can make them faster.

Aletsch, Wallis, Switzerland (2021)
Aletsch, Wallis, Switzerland (2021)

Requirements

The requirements are quite easy.

  • Tools should not get in my way but rather help me solve a task.
  • I want to keyboard control things, using the mouse is slower.

What about Windows?

That is an excellent question. Let’s be honest, I tried. About five years ago, I switched from Mac to Windows, and the biggest reason was the hardware. The keyboard as the main input device was driving me nuts. At the end I never reached the same efficiency I had on Mac. Also for me doing software development as well, Windows always felt clunky to me.

After all, there always were issues sorting out the last 5–10% for a great workflow. After four years, I decided to try using Mac again, Apple also has improved their keyboard since then. It took 3 days and I was 100% back on Mac, and again with a higher productivity compare to my Windows setup.

So here it is, many of the tools I use for a fast workflow.

The tools which make me more productive

  • Hyperkey: Enable a whole new layer of shortcuts.
  • Raycast: Connect your tools and take your daily workflow to the next level.
  • Moom: Window management.
  • Amphetamine: Don’t let your Mac fall asleep.
  • Bartender: Take control of your menu bar.
  • HazeOver: Less distractions.
  • DropOver: Easier file management.
  • AirServer: Stream your iPad to your Mac!
  • CleanShot X: Capture your Mac’s screen like a pro.
  • Color Slurp: The best Mac color picker in the universe!
  • Notion: Stores all your things in a structured way.
  • Bear: Markdown based note taking.

Hyperkey

I am a shortcut geek, and often have issues finding available shortcut combinations. This is where the Hyper Key is coming in.

Hyper Key is exchanging your Caps Lock (Which you probably don’t use anyway) with usually Shift+[Control]+[Alt]+[Command]. This results in a whole new layer of shortcuts being available by pressing just one button.

Examples

  • [Hyper Key] + [P] opens ColorSlurp (Color Picker)
  • [Hyper Key] + [M] opens Moom (Window Manager)
  • [Hyper Key] + [C] opens Amphetamine (C for Caffeine, the tool I used before, Amphetamine is just better)

Or in iTerm:

  • [Hyper Key] + [Arrow Keys] to move around panes.
  • [Hyper Key] + [Shift] + [Arrow Keys ] to add panes in that direction.

www.hyperkey.app

Raycast

Connect your tools and take your daily workflow to the next level.

If I would recommend one tool, then it is a substitute for spotlight to not just have another application launcher but also integrate into a lot of your workflows.

Alfred has been my swiss army knife for productivity for years, but much of it stopped working with macOS Monterey as many workflows were based on an older version of Python. Raycast substituted most of the missing workflows right away.

www.raycast.com

Moom

Window management at your fingertips! You can resize windows preconfigured for various scenarios you want to cover and totally on the fly on the specific situation.

With Moom, you can configure all sorts of presets you can then quickly select — or you can go into custom mode and select the area you want the window to appear in. Of course, you can do this using shortcuts as well. Having split windows since Mac OS Monterey is available solves a different case. While Monterey offers you to have windows divided in full screen like you might be used from an iPad, Moom moves them around and offers all the features, not in full-screen mode. Especially in a multi-monitor setup, I find this much more convenient. I see the benefits of using both and use Moom and the Mac Split View side by side without any issues.

www.manytricks.com/moom

Amphetamine

Keep awake your Mac! It is excellent for long-lasting processes you don’t want to stop having your Mac falling asleep. It is also fantastic for any presentation you might have.

I have used Caffeine before, but actually, Amphetamine is even better. You can configure shortcuts to start a new Amphetamine session or stop it.

apps.apple.com/de/app/amphetamine/id937984704

DropOver

In case you move around files a lot, this is your tool!

DropOver is like a visual file clipboard; you can drop (and add) files into and drop all of them to other places. This has certainly not had as much impact on my workflow as other suggestions in this list, but I am still happy to have it at times.

www.dropoverapp.com

Bartender

Take control of your menu bar!

I hate being distracted when trying to concentrate on a particular task. Bartender helps reduce these distractions by making the menu bar icons optional. You can show the stuff you need, show icons if they change, or hide them entirely. I have used Bartender since version 1, and it keeps getting better with each version.

www.macbartender.com

HazeOver

Having a two monitor setup and trying to remove distractions, I found HazeOver which does a great job on shading unused windows.

www.hazeover.com

AirServer

Use your tablet on your Mac!

With AirServer I can stream my iPad’s Screen to a window on my Mac and can use that in screen sharing sessions to sketch ideas. I regularly use that for sketching ideas for a GUI or for explaining complex relations of data.

www.airserver.com

CleanShot X

Capture your Mac’s screen like a pro.

This is by far the best screenshot app for Mac. You get different storage options, can screenshot static shots and video as well as scrolling websites. The annotation features of CleanShot I use on a daily base, obviously all triggered by their Shortcuts. It is awesome!

www.cleanshot.com

Color Slurp

The best Mac color picker in the universe!

At least it might be the best color picker I could find. I have stored the usual colors in the palette for quick access, but using it fully keyboard driven (besides choosing the place to measure) is a little tricky. Space for improvement, but still better than all the others I have tried.

www.colorslurp.com

Notion

Store all your things in a structured way.

In short: Notion is a kind of Wiki but based on databases or page collections and page attributes, so you can sort out any filtering and dynamic views to cover loads of different use cases. This is just a simple listing for now of what I store on Notion:

  • Second Brain: This is the most significant part for me. Second Brain is a whole other topic, but I have all the information I might be looking for searchable and available across all platforms.
  • Personal projects: Related tasks, notes, status, and links.
  • Business: We started using Notion for Accounto. It is a massive deal as compared to Confluence, which we used before, Notion is much more database-driven, and you can sort out any dynamic page.

www.notion.so

Bear

Markdown based note taking.

I use bear mostly for writing text or taking quick notes. While Notion is great for structuring data, bear I use a lot more for writing tasks which is much easier and faster.

www.bear.app




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