Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Power-user replacements for OS X apps

I've noticed that the longer I use OS X the more replacements I'm finding for Apple's built-in applications. Apple focuses heavily on design and aesthetics, which means their apps often lack power-user features. Here's my list:

  • Safari: replaced by Chrome which feels snappier to me; also keeping each tab in its own process means this browser crashes/hangs far less than any others I've used
  • MobileMe: replaced by iDisk with Dropbox and contact syncing using Google Contacts (which can be synced via a setting in the OS X address book). I also sync calendars between my phone and desktop using Google Sync.
  • Time Machine: replaced with CrashPlan - backs up my data to the cloud and to a local hard drive, and lets me back up multiple drives; I find the UI much easier to deal with than Time Machine which tries too hard too look cool. I used to use JungleDisk but the S3 storage got to be expensive. CrashPlan
    is pretty cheap.
  • Date/Time menubar widget: iStat Menus has a super sweet, very customizable clock widget. I like being able to get a quick look at a calendar while I'm in other apps.
  • Stickies: Replaced by Evernote so I always have my notes ready across all devices. Jehan Alvani suggests Yojimbo.
  • TextEdit: Jehan suggests replacing it with TextWrangler or BBEdit.
  • iCal: Replaced by a Fluid single-site browser running Google Calendar
  • Mail: Replaced by Mailplane; same concept as my iCal replacement but Mailplane gives you some nice OS X integrations with Gmail as well as the ability to switch between gmail accounts. Mark Sim suggested Postbox.
  • Spaces: Mark also suggests replacing this with Hyperspaces which looks really cool. I've never been able to get into using Spaces and this might be why.
  • Terminal: Replaced by Iterm2. It has many nice features but being able to use apple-number keys to switch tabs is killer.
  • iTunes: Partially replaced by Pandora. I hardly ever listen to songs in my collection anymore.
  • iChat: I haven't tried it yet, but many people told me via Twitter that Adium is a very good replacement
  • QuickTime: Chris Ensey suggests VLC as a replacement (probably because it handles more formats)
  • Apple-Tab: Kyle Oba suggested Witch as a replacement; I'll be checking this out for sure.
  • Keychain: I keep everything sensitive in 1Password which syncs pretty decently via Dropbox. Avdi Grimm and Ben Hamill both swear by LastPass which looks much more cloud-oriented, so if I didn't have so much data in 1Password already I would definitely try them out.
  • Preview: Paul Capestany recommends Skim for reading PDFs and ebooks and taking notes.
Here are a couple of other apps I use that replace or enhance features of OS X itself:
  • SizeUp: for moving windows around rapidly
  • Alfred: super powerful way to do web searches, launch applications, and do simple calculations

UPDATE: follow some further discussion over at Hacker News

28 comments:

Scott said...

Feedly is the bomb for reading RSS feeds. It makes RSS beautiful.

I prefer Divvy for window management. It's slick and lets you define custom shortcuts mapped to custom layouts, which I found really helpful once I discovered how I consistently want my windows arranged.

Luigi said...

I too prefer Divvy to SizeUp.

Also for notes, I use Notational Velocity (Alt) synced to SimpleNote.

heide simonis extended edition said...

If you don't need all the functionality of Alfred (or just don't like the style) you could always use Search-It (http://www.fluxforge.com/search-it/).

It's ultra light weight (doesn't do app launching - ideal for me as I do this with Apple's spotlight) and supports the most common search engines + lets you search and play from the iTunes library without switching to iTunes.

Michael said...

I really like NetNewsWire for RSS feeds and such. Really simple and easy to use.

Mike
@mike_gauthier

Damien said...

I use TimeMachine but also have several additional backups, including one to an NAS and an online backup service; I've been using BackBlaze but am changing over to using Crashplan too because of the additional backup options.

Apreche said...

OSX Replaced by Linux/Windows.

Vincent van Wylick said...

I use Choosy for exactly this purpose, but unfortunately only restricted to browsers. It acts as the default browser and allows you to open the page in the browser or your choice or, if you have multiple browsers running, the one which currently uses the least CPU. Works great and cheap as far as I can remember.

(I'm not affiliated with the company, so I didn't link to it. Just search for choosy app)

Daniel Hepper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel Hepper said...

I found that MPlayer OSX Extended offers better performance than VLC (http://www.mplayerosx.ch)

Chris said...

Question: do you not find MailPlane or the Fluid app for your calendar too modal? Why not live in tabs on Chrome instead?

gchappi said...

I use Zooom2 (which is ~similar to SizeUp). And wouldn't want to miss it.

teste said...

great list, a suggestion is sparrow (http://sparrowmailapp.com/)

Sa said...

One great app similar to DropBox I'm actually pleased with is Libox, free, unlimited, unaltered file sharing but lacks the cloud backup feature because of the way it works (distributed), that's also the reason why it's free and unlimited. This can be used to sync computers just as DropBox. Great app anyway.

Mike Subelsky said...

Thanks everyone for these suggestions - I'm already planning a follow-up post to cover what you've written and what the hackernews folks have written.

Chris, I can't quite explain it, but I'm sort of fetishistic about my browser tabs. I only want tabs open for stuff I'm working on or consulting. It just mentally makes more sense to me to put always-on sites that I treat like apps in their own app windows.

Jim said...

Path Finder by Cocoatech is a great replacement for Finder

iscsi said...

Movist is awesome replacement of VLC

phill said...

I second Sparrow Mail App. I've totally stopped using Mailplane. The thing I really can't stand about using Gmail with Mailplane or Chrome is the constant logging in when switching accounts.

id said...

I am discovering a lot of Mac App alternatives ( most of them free ) in here http://clevermac.com

jmlacroix said...

I love Ecoute App (http://ecouteapp.com) to play music from my iTunes library without having to open the cpu intensive / memory hungry iTunes app.

Velicus said...

I can tell you why I switched from Chrome tabs to Mailplane. I have a personal Gmail account and a Google Apps account. I use them both daily, but all my other Googling is done using my personal account (docs, search history etc.). Mailplane lets me have both accounts open while always using my personal Google account logged in for all my Chrome browsing.

That, and the "do not disturb" feature.

Mike said...

Perian is a great alternative to installing VLC. It basically adds support for all the daily video formats to be played natively by QuickTime.

Wavedeform said...

I prefer Simplenote to Evernote. They are both cloud-based, but because Simplenote just does text, it's faster.

medwezys said...

Chrome does not run a process per tab, it runs process per website, which means if you have several tabs opened for the same domain name, all of these are sandboxed together rather than each tab. Anyway, the list is quite impressive :)

Ari Tjahjawandita said...

Totally agree with @iscsi. Movist is a better replacement for QuickTime X compare to vlc.

IMHO, TextWrangler and BBEdit is not a suitable replacement for TextEdit. They are better for plaint text editing. Bean is a better replacement for TextEdit. What I really like from Bean is it supports application's service to add document selection from another app into current Bean's document.

Ariel Di Stefano said...

We've developed a OSX Clipboard Replacement: Social Clipboard. You can handle up to 100 copied items and share them via Twitter or Facebook. Also you can upload anything copied to DropBox.
Download at: http://www.socialclipboard.com

Marc said...

I use Papers to keep track of anything PDF, including ebooks, presentations, articles worth saving, etc.

kidbrax said...

Lastpass will import your data from 1password. Also for mail, you should check out http://sparrowmailapp.com/

J.B. Flores said...

I recently discovered mixtab, a very nice RSS reader.!!!

@jbmunson