The best productivity apps for Mac

A Quora user asked for the best productivity apps for Mac OS. Here’s my answer:

There are of course the big productivity suites like OmniFocus and Things but I want to focus on the small helpers that save me several hours per week.

BetterTouchTool

My number one pick is BetterTouchTool. It’s a small, free application that lets you map actions to various forms of input. Some of the trackpad shortcuts I use all the time:

  • Three finger swipe down → Minimize window to dock
  • Four finger tap → Close Window below cursor
  • Four finger click → ⌘W (Close tab/window)
  • Three finger click → Middle click (lets you open links in a new tab)

You can also define application specific shortcuts:

Chrome

  • Five finger click → ⌘⇧T (reopen closed tab)
  • Three finger swipe left → ^Page down (switch to the tab on the right)
  • Three finger swipe right → ^Page up (switch to the tab on the left)

OmniFocus

  • Three finger swipe right → ⌘⇧R (mark as reviewed)
  • Three finger swipe left → ⌘K (update view, i.e. remove tasks that no longer belong into the current perspective)

You see the pattern. The tab switching is something I add to every app I’m using on a regular basis. Similar to going back and forth in history (Finder, Spotify, …).

You can also trigger actions from the keyboard, a normal and a magic mouse, an apple remote, Leap and from the BTT iOS app.

Hazel

Hazel is another tool I’m using on a daily basis. Well, I’m not actively using it. It’s running in the background doing its fantastic job.

Hazel asks you for folders to monitor. You can then define rules to apply on the files in this folder.

Some examples of my Hazel rules:

Download

  • Archive old files
  • Rename and move PDFs from my banks, phone companies, … into the corresponding folders
  • Move files downloaded from Facebook to a special folder

Scan Inbox

(This is the folder in which my ScanSnap document scanner dumps all the PDFs it creates.)

  • Add date and time (extracted from the document)
  • Move bills to a special folder
  • Move processed files (scans that got a date and a description) to a special folder

Desktop

  • Move Screenshots to a special folder

Screenshots

  • Move everything that’s not a screenshot but ends up here back to the Desktop

Alfred

Alfred is a launcher that you invoke with a keyboard shortcut. It can do many helpful things like find files, eject volumes, quit programs. It also lets you define search engines so you don’t have to open/navigate to your browser to start your search.

You can define complex actions, called workflows, or download shared ones. My favorite one searches LEO (one of the best German English/French/Spanish/Chinese/… dictionaries) and shows the results in Alfred.