One of the many things that I’ve enjoyed since my switch to Mac is the Mac OS X menubar. The way that you can run little applications and with a simple glance be informed of their status is brilliant. The way Apple has built-in Menu thingys is great for first time users too. I’m going to walk you through my Menubar.
Starting on the left, we’ve got Dropbox. I did a post on this great tool a few months ago. Dropbox is a file synchronisation utility. What it does is it plops a folder in your Home folder called “Dropbox” (your home folder is the default location, this can be changed). Any files that you put in this special folder are synchronised (using Dropbox) to any other computers that you have connected to your Dropbox account and are accessible via a the Dropbox website. This is awsome for anyone that needs to be able to view and edit their files from multiple locations. Dropbox has two types of accounts; 2GB (free) and 50GB ($99/year) – more plans are coming soon.
Next up: Typinator. This is another app that does a great job at only being there when you need it. I found this through MacHeist and I’m so glad that I did. With this you make lists of abbreviations and then tell Typinator what it should convert those abbreviations to. For example, I have the abbreviation “s@” automatically convert to “firstname.lastname@example.org”. In addition to your own abbreviations Typinator has whole lists of built-in abbreviations like HTML snippets, FileMaker 9 functions, auto correct dictionaries for English, French and German. You can also download more lists from various places on the Internet. Typinator is $24 from the developers website.
Continuing in our procession of Menubar apps I present LittleSnapper (I’ve reviewed this too). LittleSnapper revolutionizes screenshots. The way that you use LittleSnapper is simple; you either have it in your Menubar or in your dock. I have it in my Menubar because I hate having too many things in my dock (8 apps is the most I’ve ever had). By either clicking on a button or using a keyboard shortcut. There are 3 different types of screenshot; Fullscreen (self-explanatory), Window (Capture only a specific window) and Area (use crosshairs). Another way that you can capture sites is using the Websnapper – the built in browser that allows you to capture entire webpages or just specific DOM elements. LittleSnapper sells for $39.
I really love Caffeine. This well named app is incredibly simple. You have a little coffee cup that is either empty or full. When the cup is full your screen won’t dim, Mac won’t sleep and your screensaver won’t kick in. When the cup is empty, everything is normal. This comes in handy when you’re watching Youtube videos and don’t want to have to keep moving your mouse to stop your Mac sleeping. You can also activate Caffeine for a specific amount of time if you know how long something will take (eg 15 minutes of rendering). Did I mention that this bundle of joy is free?
I think that every Mac should have a copy of Growl installed on it. GrowlTunes is a briliant notifier for when iTunes changes track. It displays a customisable growl notification that shows the song name, artist, album, cover art and more. It’s really simple and un obtrusive. GrowlTunes can be found in the extras folder of the Growl disk image, which is a free download from www.growl.info.
When it comes to clipboard management, Jumpcut wins hands down. By simply having a pair of scissors in my menu bar I have access to my last 50 copies and cuts. I can either just click on Jumpcut’s icon in the Menubar to see a list of my copies or use the keyboard command Control-Option-V to bring up a bezel to jump through everything. Just clicking on a copy pastes it into the currently selected textbox. Jumpcut is free and open-source.
I haven’t used Blitz that much but I expect that I will find where it fits in with my workflow soon. When you’re running lots of extra processes the amount of power that you can devote to a single app is quite low, potentially slowing down rendering a video or doing something else important. Blitz somehow shuts off the other processes and gives the app you specify your Mac’s full power! Blitz was part of the MacHeist loot. If you didn’t catch it there Blitz costs $17.
After that slew of “fun” apps lets take a look at some more informative tools. I use MenuMeters to monitor my download and upload speeds in an easy to view graph (it also monitors other things like CPU, Disk and Memory but I only use it for Internet speeds). MenuMeters is free.
I use the built-in battery monitor. I use to use SlimBatteryMonitor but it was taxing my 1GB of RAM too much for a small app – off with its head!
For CPU info and Time, I use iStat Menus. iStat Menus is a preference pane that can display anything from CPU & Memory to Date & Time and everything in between. The reason I use iStat Menus over MenuMeters for CPU is because I prefer the way that iStat displays information. When iStat is displaying CPU, it averages out the two cores and can either present info in graph, percentage or pie. With Time it shows it just like the normal clock, except when you click on the time you see a small calendar and a world clock. iStat Menus is another free app.
Oops! I almost forgot I Love Stars (see my review of this great app). I Love Stars (not pictured) is a Menubar app that displays clearly your rating of the current iTunes song. By simply clicking on a star you can change the rating of a song. If you hate to have unrated songs in your library (like yours truly) you can have it flash and play a sound when an unrated song is played. I Love Stars is yet another free app.
So that rounds up my Menubar. Whether you love it or hate it, Menubar apps are cool. If you haven’t tried them then you’ve been missing a lot.