Productivity

This post is about the kind of productivity gains that I use every day without thinking. They've become so entangled into how I use a Mac that I don't consider the to be separate from OSX. Whenever I start a new contract with new equipment I feel like a fish out of water, clunkily moving and cursing the unintuitive nature of the default interface. I'm hoping I can give you some insight into how you can improve your productivity and maybe you can do the same for me.

Alfred

I'm lost without Alfred. Hitting alt+space and typing what I want is like breathing air. Alfred is a simple app launcher on the surface but it has depth. I commonly use it as a calculator, the bonus is that the result of your query is automatically copied to the clipboard. I use this all the time when converting fixed visual designs into responsive web designs.

Alfred is completely customisable, you can write or download a ton of varied extensions although to be honest I haven't found many that are intuitive for me to type. Suggestions are welcome. You can also hook up your own custom keywords that output to a web search. Here's a sweet colour swatch tip from Jon Gold that really kickstarted my interest in customising Alfred further.

TextExpander

I'm a bit of a slow starter on TextExpander. It's an amazingly simple but incredibly deep app that turns a small amount of key presses into a lot of characters. You can also set it up to paste from the clipboard or place the cursor in a custom position. I'm nowhere near how I imagine a power user would use it but I do use it a ton for:

  • eml -> Primary email address
  • hhome -> Street address
  • ppost -> Post code
  • mmob -> Mobile number

There are a few libraries you can download. Accented words and auto correction make you look less like a barbarian. The HTML and CSS libraries are extremely useful. Instead of opening and closing HTML tags you simple write a comma and the tag letters and TextExpander creates both opening and closing tags and moves your cursor in-between. Typing ,p would create paragraph tags. Typing ,a would create anchor tags, complete with the href attribute, waiting for you to paste a URL. I prefer having this system wide functionality instead of tying it to a specific program because it means I can use the muscle memory in any text area. I'm using the HTML snippets to write this post in my CMS right now!

Another great feature of TextExpander is it syncs using Dropbox. When your contracting and moving to different environments often, it's a life saver! Worth it.

Find more TextExpander snippets from Brett Terpstra and Merlin Mann.

BetterTouchTool

BetterTouchTool is awesome. It allows you to create your own gesture-activated actions for your Trackpad and Magic Mouse. It has a huge array of triggers with actions as varied as moving windows around, triggering system wide actions, and specific keyboard shortcuts. I use the tiptap gestures to snap windows to one half of the screen. When I'm using multiple screens I use sideways swipes to shift windows from one screen to another.

I've also set up Mission Control and Individual App Expose on the Magic Mouse using two finger swipes. They mimic the Trackpad gestures closely so they don't require me to switch to a different mindset when I move between the two.

I used to use a three finger upward swipe on the Trackpad to trigger CMD+W, which would allow me to close the currently open tab really quickly. I much prefer triggering Mission Control™ using that gesture and the odd time I accidentally triggered it annoyed me enough.