Great software is so good that it’s easy to forget that you even use it and it’s hard to live without. Here is what I install as soon as I get a new computer or phone.
Most of this is Mac or iPhone software, but a few work on PC as well.
#f.lux LCD screens have a lot of blue light that wakes you up and keeps you awake late at night. f.lux (Mac/PC/Linux) is a free program that changes the color temperature of your monitor at night and makes it easier to fall asleep. If you don’t believe me wait until the sun is down and then install this program. Watch as your monitor gets slightly more orange and feel yourself get tired.
Progressive Alarm Clock
In general I hate alarm clocks. Since I normally wake up at the first noise my phone makes, a blaring chorus needlessly startles me and stresses me out.
Progressive Alarm Clock (iPhone) lets you set bells to start quiet and gradually get louder and louder until you finally wake up. The bells are far enough apart that you can actuallyenjoy lying in bed for a few minutes listening to them instead of jumping up to turn off the alarm.
#You Need a Budget You Need A Budget (Mac/PC) is budgeting and cashflow management software. No other program I have tried imports data from all my banks, lets me use envelope accounting, and lets me project cashflow into the future. This program saves me lots of money.
How I use it:
- I keep exact budgets for expected expenses like rent and utilities.
- I keep low budgets for unhealthy snacks and coffee. I blow past these budgets every month, but it serves as a reminder that I want to spend money in more meaningful ways.
- In general I budget based on life goals and name my budgets to remind me of those goals. Examples: “meals with friends,” “educated and well read,” “good food in my body,” “get outside,” “strong and fit,” “gifts for friends”, “well dressed man,” and “helping others (charity).” These budget titles are dorky but they remind me of why I am spending money and make me comfortable with it. They force me to think about if the expense is really working toward the intention of the money.
nvAlt (Mac) is simple and free note taking app with formatting on your Mac. The best feature is that you hit Command-L to search, type the name of a note you want to find, and if it doesn’t exist you create it immediately by hitting enter.
I keep all my notes in a folder called “Notes” in my Dropbox account and can view and edit them on my phone using PlainText 2 (iPhone).
#Dropbox It goes without saying and you probably already have it, but Dropbox (Mac/PC) is by far the easiest way to sync files between computers. I opt for the pro account ($9.99/month for 100GB) and keep all my pictures, notes, and documents in there for immediate backup whenever they are changed or added to my computer.
Some good uses:
- Folders called “Interesting to Read” and “Interesting to Watch” where I save documents and movies from my home computer to watch later on my iPad or work computer during commutes.
- A folder called “Files to Print” where save PDFs of anything that needs to be printed and access it from FedEx office or a friend’s computer.
Dropbox is worth it for the backup alone, for sharing large files with friends, or for syncronizing files between computers.
I keep my core set of files (and a lot of pictures!) under 100GB so I can get this seamless backup. It’s not much of a sacrifice.
SuperDuper makes a full bootable backup of your hard drive onto an external disk. This is invaluable when a hard drive fails. It’s fast, easy to use, and worth paying full price to get incremental backups instead of doing the full disk over and over.
BackBlaze makes another full disk copy remotely to servers somewhere else on the planet. It’s only $5/month.
The full Mac paranoid backup plan is: DropBox to sync and version files over the intenet, Time Machine (Mac, free) for local backups and accidentally deleting single files, Super Duper for bootable clones, and BackBlaze for when your house burns down. It’s not as much work as it sounds: all of these are automated for me.
I type the same things a lot. Text Expander (Mac, $35) lets me automate that extra typing with keyboard shortcuts. In the past two years it’s saved me a full day of typing.
How I use it:
- Typing “myphone” autocompletes to my phone number.
- Typing “myaddr” autocompletes to my mailing address.
- Typing “dsyd” auto completes to the SQL statement
ds = “2014-03-01”with whatever day yesterday was inside the quotes.
- Typing “ds5day” does the same thing:
ds <= “2014-03-01” and ds >= “2013-02-25”, but automated for the last five days.
- Typing “ds5day” does the same thing:
It’s easy to come up with a bunch of other shortcuts like this so you can save your hands for more important things.
#Adobe Lightroom I don’t have enough time to mess around with editing pictures in Photoshop. Adobe Lightroom (Mac/PC, about $110) makes it easy to import, cull, edit, manage, and publish photos from a Mac or PC. You can generally get Lightroom a little cheaper from Amazon than directly from Adobe’s website.
- Textmate is my favorite coding text editor.
- Byword is my favorite writing environment.
- iTerm is my favorite terminal.
That’s it. Someday I’ll add to this list, but for now I only want to recommend the software I absolutely install first on every computer I use.