Getting the Most Out of OSX – 5 Apps for Every User

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Macintosh OSX is a great operating system for both everyday users and computer aficionados, and has a lot to offer, both in what is built in to the operating system, and in what is available for users from third-parties. For those of us that want even more functionality, here are 5 applications that can help make your OSX experience better.

1. Better Touch Tool

Better Touch Tool is a free utility for OSX 10.7 (Lion) and up. This app allows users to configure additional gestures for their MacBook trackpad, Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, and Apple Remote. It also allows for configuration of regular mice, and allows you to configure custom keyboard shortcuts.

Better Touch Tool's interface is a bit confusing at first, but the functionality it provides is well worth it.

Better Touch Tool’s interface is confusing at first, but the functionality it provides is well worth it.

Better Touch Tool (BTT) is an excellent add-on for power users, because it allows the easy mapping of frequently used applications to either the keyboard or the trackpad, and dramatically increases the functionality of Apple’s Magic Mouse, allowing for configuration far beyond that built in to OSX. For example, you could map the “Mail” application to CMD + SHIFT + M, allowing you to access it quickly and consistently. You can use it to create shortcuts that work both globally or only in certain applications. BTT also allows for Window Snapping (Which is present in Windows 7 and 8, but absent by default in OSX), which makes resizing windows much easier, especially if you’re working with more than one display.

Keyboard Shortcuts are easy to configure in BTT, and can help you be more productive.

Keyboard Shortcuts are easy to configure in BTT, and can help you be more productive.

If you’ve ever used a Magic Mouse, you’ve probably been frustrated with the lack of available options you have to configuring it. BTT adds the option to change all of the motion parameters (such as scroll speed and sensitivity), and allows you to configure additional gestures (such as pinch to zoom) using the multi-touch functionality of the mouse.

BTT has a lot of functionality, and because of this it comes with a pretty steep learning curve, but the added functionality that it provides is worth the time that is spent learning how to use it.

2. Fantastical

Fantastical’s ability to recognize text makes it quick and easy to add events to your calendar.

With the addition of iCloud, OSX is great at syncing your calendar across all of your devices. Unfortunately, the Calendar App built into OSX is a bit lackluster, and is cumbersome to use, especially if you want to add a lot of things to your calendar, and you want to do it quickly. Here’s where Fantastical comes in. Fantastical is a lightweight app that resides in your Menu Bar, and can be accessed quickly with a hotkey combination or by clicking the Menu Bar Icon. Fantastical features an excellent language engine, which recognizes what you type, and immediately converts it into the calendar. For example, if you wanted to add that you had a test next week, you could type “Test @ Location next Friday from 1 to 3“, and Fantastical will automatically add this event to your Calendar. This is especially useful if you use iCloud, as the events will automatically be synced with your mobile calendar. The language engine contained within Fantastical is adaptive, so it gets better at recognizing the way you type the more you use it. You can also use it to  construct reminders, and to invite others in your contacts automatically.

Unfortunately, Fantastical does come with a price tag of $20, but you can try it free for 14 days before you have to pay. It also has a companion app for iPhone that you can use in lieu of the Calendar app, but Fantastical can sync with the Calendar app as well.

3. Bartender

Many applications feature a Menu Bar icon, to allow for quick access to the app; however, if you have a lot of programs that have this feature, your menu bar can start to look a little bit cluttered. This is where Bartender comes in. Bartender keeps all of the functionality of the Menu Bar icons, but tucks them away into a single icon. To access them, simply click on the Bartender Icon, and then a separate bar will appear containing all of the apps that you’ve chosen to hide away using Bartender. Bartender also lets you rearrange non-system icons (which can be moved by clicking and dragging while holding the Command key), which is useful, as this is disabled by default.

Here's a menu bar without Bartender

Here’s a menu bar without Bartender…

And here's a menu bar with Bartender!

And here’s a menu bar with Bartender!

Bartender functions exactly like the OSX Menu Bar, so all hotkeys still work when accessing apps that have been tucked away into Bartender. You can also manually select the Menu Bar icon for Bartender, which is a nice feature, and allows users concerned with the appearance of the Menu Bar full access to its final iteration. You can also configure Bartender to show a hidden app after its been updated, so you always know what’s going on with your system.

Bartender comes with a price tag of $15, but users can give it a try for 4 weeks before they have to pay.

4. Yoink

You can change Yoink's location, but by default it appears on the right.

You can change Yoink’s location, but by default it appears on the right.

Regardless of which operating system you’re on, dragging and dropping with a trackpad has always been less than ideal, especially if you’re dragging a photo from one window to another. Yoink is basically a shelf in which to store objects you want to drag from one place to another. When you’re not moving something around, Yoink is invisible; when you pick something up, a small window appears on your screen, and you can drag items here for safekeeping. Once something is stored in Yoink, you’re able to use your trackpad as normal, until you retrieve the file from the Yoink shelf. Files can be stored independently or as a group, and Yoink makes moving bunches of files (for example: a photo album) quick and painless. Yoink is also useful for Photoshop users, as it allows for a place to store images that can be easily accessed when they’re needed.

Yoink is great for MacBook users, since dragging and dropping with a trackpad is such a pain. Yoink works across all of your workspaces, and is particularly useful when you’re dragging and dropping from one fullscreen app to another.

Yoink is available in the App Store, and will run you 5 dollars.

5. F.lux

F.lux is an app that changes the temperature (read, color) of your display based upon the time of day. Usually, your computer’s display is designed to look like daylight, which is really good for working during the day, but not so good for when you’re up late writing a paper or studying for a test. F.lux works by gradually yellowing the display as the sun sets, matching the color of the display to the time of day. F.lux is good for people who work on their computers late at night, as it eases the strain on your eyes, and helps keep the computer from keeping you awake.

F.lux is very customizable, and you can even tell it what time you go to bed, what time you wake up, and exactly how much you want the display to tint, and what time you want F.lux to kick in. You can even allow F.lux to access your rough location and automatically tint the display based on the sunset and sunrise.

F.lux allows you to customize everything, including when you want your display to change, and to what degree.

F.lux allows you to customize everything, including when you want your display to change, and to what degree.

F.lux starts automatically with you computer, and runs in the background, working automatically, so there’s not much you have to do after you install it. If you’re doing some color sensitive work (such as photo or video editing), you can easily disable F.lux, and re-enable it when you’re done.

F.lux does take a little bit of getting used to, and it isn’t for everyone, but it is free, so it’s definitely worth checking out.

One of the greatest things that OSX has to offer is its simplicity – it just works, without much needing to be done on the user end. If you’re looking to get the most out of your Mac, and you’re comfortable installing and configuring software on your own, the apps listed here are a great place to start.