Essential Mojave Apps

macOS Mojave dark mode image
macOS Mojave dark mode image

New year, new version of macOS, new ‘Essential Mojave Apps’ list for 2018–2019:

Essential Mojave Apps from Identified Developers

Essential Mojave Apps from the Mac App Store

and here are my

Most Frequently Used Essential Mojave Apps:

Most frequently used essential Mojave apps

Changes for 2018—2019 (most applications are still being optimized for Mojave)

Decades ago, most of my applications came from Adobe, Apple and Microsoft. Today, I’m a big fan of macOS native apps from smaller, indie developers. Every year, I replace a few of my ‘Essential’ applications. This year, there were more than a few changes.

Easy end-to-end encryption attracted me to Canary Mail, but I soon discovered Canary clears my inbox quicker than other email clients.

Cardhop is a vast improvement over Apple’s Contacts.

I have two browsers in my applications’ folder (Firefox and Safari). I almost always use Safari, but I use Choosy to quickly switch to Firefox when a video is giving Safari trouble.

I do almost all of my writing with BBEdit, but sometimes I’m lazy. Highland 2 is for those days when I crave keyboard shortcuts for markdown.

NordVPN because it’s 2018.

Pixelmator Pro is my goto option when I’m too lazy to look up how to do something with Affinity Photo.

TaskPaper hasn’t had much love recently. Things 3 just keeps getting better.

I’d like to thank all the dedicated macOS developers who make my time at the computer easy and fun.

Essential Mojave Apps Update 20180726

Every year, when Apple updates macOS, I thoroughly review all of the apps I’m using. This year, shortly after I published ‘Essential Mojave Apps’, I made a couple of last minute purchases:

Bear

MindNode

Outlinely

There’s something compelling about Bear. Sure, it’s gorgeous, but it’s also eminently useable and useful. Isn’t that the definition of great design?

A previously purchased mind mapping application sat unused in my applications folder. I started using MindNode immediately. To my great surprise, I’m not just an outlining guy, the colourful map helps. My imagination engine is gleeful.

When my outliner glitched with the beta of Mojave, I discovered Outlinely. I like it, a lot. There’s loads of potential here.

The Perfect Markdown App

Perfect Markdown App snippet - BBEdit
Perfect Markdown App snippet – BBEdit

Have you invested valuable time testing markdown editors? Of course you have, web authors are predisposed to an endemic syndrome, we’re always looking for the perfect markdown app.

My markdown writing finalists are:

and my favourite helper apps are:

Perfection

Q: Does the perfect markdown app exist?
A: No, not yet, creating the perfect, stand-alone markdown application is close to impossible. Unfortunately, even the most promising markdown applications share the same problem; many people are accustomed to using Microsoft Word and Pages. The marketplace for a specialized, MacOS, plain text editor is still relatively small. The upshot is that a few apps have moved into their twilight, where development languishes. Only healthy app sales justify ongoing development and contrary to myth most developers aren’t wealthy.

I’m consistently drawn to beautiful, MacOS native apps, but, when forced to choose, reliability trumps beauty. After compromising a little on beauty and in-built, keyboard shortcuts, I’ve chosen a very reliable plain text editor and I’ve paired it with a helper that gets me very close to markdown perfection.

BBEdit + Marked 2 = near Perfect Markdown App

Ask yourself, “What would happen if I combined BBEdit, the leading MacOS plain text editor, with Marked 2, the leading MacOS markdown previewer?” In my case, doing so always puts a refreshing, big smile on my face.

BBEdit icon

BBEdit

BBEdit has always had a dedicated MacOS following. It has been actively developed since 1993 and “It (still) doesn’t suck”. Quoting Bare Bones website, “BBEdit is the leading professional HTML and text editor for macOS. This award-winning product has been crafted to serve the needs of writers, Web authors and software developers, and provides an abundance of features for editing, searching, and manipulation of text.”

BBEdit’s preferences are a thing of beauty, you can customize almost everything. After choosing your favourite font, font size and colour scheme, position an ideally-sized scratchpad window. Save by choosing ‘Save Default Text Window’ (under the Window menu item). Later, you can refine all of your settings until you have a workspace that suits you perfectly. If you’re anything like me, it won’t be long before you begin to appreciate BBEdit’s best-of-class features.

To make writing/editing markdown with BBEdit even easier:

  • within BBEdit’s Completion preferences, check both ‘Insert matching delimiters while typing’ and ‘Surround selected text when typing matching delimiters’ which renders link and image-link creation easy-peasy
  • use Christopher Stone’s AppleScript to surround selected text with quotation marks and/or to add Asterixs for bold and/or italicized text
  • use TableFlip when you want to add a table.

Although BBEdit is continually updated, you will never feel like it’s a work in progress; it’s rock solid.

Marked 2 icon

Marked 2

One of Brett Terpstra’s many contribuions to the markdown ecosystem is his exceptionally useful Marked 2. Quoting the Marked 2 website, “Marked is a previewer for Markdown files. Use it with your favorite text editor and it updates every time you save. With robust features for previewing, reviewing and exporting beautiful documents, you can work in plain text while reveling in rich formatting”

Back in 2014, Macworld’s Dan Frakes wrote a review of Marked 2. Note that Marked 2 is now at v2.5.15, it’s better now than when Dan gave it a five mouse review.

My BBEdit + Marked Workflow:

  1. compose in BBEdit
  2. edit, formating with markdown, while previewing with Marked 2
  3. with Marked selected hold shift + command + c to copy HTML
  4. paste HTML into WordPress
  5. complete SEO and publish.

Conclusion

Words that spring to mind after writing numerous short articles with BBEdit and Marked 2:

  • easy
  • enjoyable
  • customizable
  • powerful
  • and very reliable.

If you’re searching for the perfect markdown editor, give BBEdit and Marked 2 a try, you won’t regret it.

Essential High Sierra Apps

MacOS High Sierra image
MacOS High Sierra image

A new public beta of MacOS (OS X) 10.13 High Sierra recently dropped and I was asked: Q: “Has your list of Essential High Sierra Apps changed from last year’s list of Essential Sierra Apps? A: “Yes, but, as always, the vast majority of my apps have not changed. I’m still Adobe app, Google app and Microsoft app free.”

This year’s highlighted change is minor, but exciting. I’m currently testing and enjoying a MacOS native, speedy, modern, open-source, plain text editor that is 100% written with Swift. CotEditor app is not as full featured as BBEdit, my choice last year, but it’s a sweet app that integrates perfectly with my MacOS app ecosystem. Usual settings: Toolbar and Tab Bar hidden, Status Bar limited to characters and words, font = Menlo Regular and Syntax style = Markdown. My recommendation, check out CotEditor right now. It’s free.

Here’s my app list for 2017–2018:

Essential High Sierra Apps from Identified Developers

Essential High Sierra Apps from the Mac App Store

and here are my

Most Frequently Used Essential High Sierra Apps:

Most frequently used essential High Sierra apps
Most frequently used essential High Sierra apps

Note: Applications and MacOS 10.13 beta are still being optimized.

High Sierra App Related Comments:

For anyone interested in markdown, my current workflow is:

  1. compose with CotEditor app
  2. preview markdown with Marked 2 app
  3. copy HTML source from Marked 2 app
  4. edit HTML, when necessary, with CotEditor app
  5. post HTML to WordPress.

It’s worth noting that Marked 2 app has survived my markdown journey from BBEdit to Byword to MultiMarkdown Composer to Texts to TypeMetal to Focused to Sublime Text to Atom to Ulysses back to BBEdit and, at least for now, to CotEditor. If you’ll forgive me a Nintendo Switch, ‘Zelda Breath of the Wild’ reference, Marked app is a diamond, not rock salt. Years ago, I decided to write and store my documents as plain text. Marked 2 app allows me to preview rich text no matter which plain text application has my attention. Brett Terpstra, Marked app’s developer, deserves a tip of the hat and your business. Thanks Brett!

FWIW, I won’t be paying to upgrade two of last year’s apps because I haven’t been using them. Great apps, but I no longer find them essential. I’ve removed them from this year’s list. Not naming the applications was not an oversight, it was a small courtesy to the devs.

Bottom line: The Apple MacOS iOS ecosystem can’t be beat and you can’t go wrong with any of my Essential MacOS High Sierra Apps.

Essential Sierra Apps

MacOS Sierra icon

Every year, with the arrival of a new version of MacOS (OS X), I’m asked questions similar to the following: Q: “Has your list of Essential Sierra Apps changed from last year’s list of Essential applications for El Capitan? A: “Of course my list has changed, I find new MacOS apps and new versions of familiar apps irresistible.”

Here’s my app list for 2016–2017:

Essential Sierra Apps from Identified Developers

Essential Sierra Apps from the Mac App Store

and here are my

Most Frequently Used Essential Sierra Apps:

Most frequently used essential Sierra apps
Most frequently used essential Sierra apps

Note: Applications are still being optimized for MacOS Sierra.

Mailmate app
Update (20160916): Well, that didn’t take long! Mailmate app has replaced Apple Mail as one of my top 10 ‘Essential Sierra Apps’.

Comments:

For the last couple of years I’ve boasted, “All of my MacOS apps are 64-bit”. Not anymore, I’ve reinstalled an old friend that remains, stubbornly, 32-bit. I’ve tested a number of 64-bit plain text editors, including Atom Editor, Sublime Text, TextMate, Smultron, Textastic and even Chocolat. Unfortunately, not one meets all of my criteria. BBEdit, my trustworthy, 32-bit buddy, has the correct mix of dependable MacOS-focused development, speedy friendly support, expert community and powerful features. Bluntly, BBEdit is a damned impressive, programable, plain text editor. In my opinion, it’s absolutely worth enjoying it today and waiting until Bare Bones (Rich, Jim, Steve, Patrick et al.) decides their 64-bit version of BBEdit is ready for release.

BBEdit, my trustworthy, 32-bit buddy, has the correct mix of dependable MacOS-focused development, speedy friendly support, expert community and powerful features. Bluntly, it’s a damned impressive, programable, plain text editor.

I’ve also made a u-turn with my markdown editor. BBEdit is nearly perfect for markdown, but, I’m lazy, I love Byword app’s shortcuts. My workflow is:

  1. compose everything with BBEdit
  2. edit markdown documents with Byword
  3. preview markdown with Marked 2 app
  4. copy HTML source from Marked
  5. edit HTML with BBEdit Scratchpad
  6. post HTML to WordPress.

Too many steps? Six steps may seem unnecessarily convoluted, but I’ve tested single-app composing/publishing solutions like Blogo, Desk and MarsEdit and found them lacking. I find the combination of BBEdit, Byword and Marked is far more versatile.

Do you suppose there’s any chance Bare Bones would add a markdown mode or even markdown shortcuts to BBEdit’s ‘Markup’ menu? I’m guessing my laziness and saving a step in my workflow will not make a compelling feature request. 🙂 That said, an ever increasing number of content creators are choosing markdown to format their documents. I wonder if BBEdit’s developers might be intrigued by how much money some markdown apps are earning? There’s not a dedicated markdown app on the market that has BBEdit’s power, but I do love those shortcuts.

I’ve started using Alfred’s clipboard and snippets features. Result: Two dedicated applications eliminated.

I’ve switched out my fairly-sophisticated ‘To Do’ app for TaskPaper. TaskPaper helps me create delightfully simple, plain text, to-do lists that I actually use.

I’m now using PDF Expert.

Texts App Review

Texts app icon

Texts App Introduction

Do you write with a markdown application? If not, does your reticence have anything to do with learning markdown syntax? What if you could instantly enjoy all the benefits of markdown without having to learn anything new? If you’ve followed my flighty journey with OS X markdown apps, you know that I’ve, mostly, been a Byword guy. That’s no longer the case, I’ve recently switched from Byword to Texts. This won’t be a Texts app review, in the traditional sense, it’s a feature overview.

All The Benefits Of Markdown
Without Having To Learn Anything New

My Texts app window is tack-sharp on my retina display. Unfortunately, my resized screen capture (below) doesn’t do the app justice. When you test the demo for yourself, you’ll dig the clean display.

Texts app window

Texts App Features Overview

Texts app:

  • displays rich text while you’re writing, but automatically stores your document as markdown-formatted, plain text
  • displays bold & italicized text, headings, bulleted lists, ordered lists, quotations, images, links, tables, code, math formulae, footnotes, bibliography and citations, as rich text
  • dynamically zooms in and zooms out for easy reading on any screen
  • has multiple display themes you can customize
  • seems to work nicely with PopClip, TextExpander and Moom
  • has a spell checking option
  • moves paragraphs, up, down and sideways with ease
  • makes it very easy to create tables
  • has an option to display word or character counts
  • easily copies selected text as HTML or plain text
  • separates your content from its formatting
  • makes it easy to create well-structured documents
  • automatically saves documents as plain text with an .md file extension, or whichever extension you prefer
  • uses Pandoc, not MultiMarkdown for document conversion
  • exports clean HTML5, ePub, PDF or Word (DOCX)
  • has sophisticated file export templates
  • saves to local mac folders or iCloud drive
  • doesn’t attempt to be a file management application
  • doesn’t attempt to be a one-stop blog editor/publisher
  • has a tiny footprint (3.8 MB, not including Pandoc)
  • has a very responsive developer

Using Texts app is effortless, there’s no syntax to remember and when you save, your document is automatically stored in a plain text, file format that will be accessible, anytime, even many years from now, no matter which text editor your using at that time. Background: It wasn’t too long ago that I experienced a mini-nightmare trying to access some very old WordPerfect files. That’s one reason I love plain text.

My Texts App Configuration

I’ve configured Texts to:

  • disable hard wrapping of lines within paragraphs (save documents without line breaks inside paragraphs)
  • use ATX style headings (#, ##, ###, ####)
  • use a .txt extension instead of the default .md extension.

I almost always use the ‘Dark’ theme.

Blogging with Texts App

As you, probably, know Markdown-formatted plain text is often used to create blog posts, like this one. Blogo, Desk, MarsEdit and other apps attempt to do-it-all (writing and online publishing). My web host blocks access to xmlrpc.php for security reasons. Even though it’s easy to override that xmlrpc.php security option with a short .htaccess entry, I’ve chosen not to do it. My understanding is that access to xmlrpc.php is a requirement for most, if not all, of the do-it-all apps. Texts fits my simple blogging workflow perfectly:

  1. write and edit my journal entry with Texts app
  2. select text
  3. copy as HTML
  4. paste into WordPress
  5. play with SEO fields in WordPress and publish.

Byword Comment

How is any of this different than Byword?” I love Byword, but after I experienced Texts’ straightforward table creation and live preview of images, I was hooked.

Texts App Conclusion and Download

Occasionally, an Indie developer creates a gem that a lot of end users miss. I’ve concluded Texts deserves a little more love than it’s had thus far. Texts is a simple-to-use, but surprisingly powerful application; it could easily become your most used writing app. Although it may, or may not, fit your workflow, my recommendation is to give Texts an opportunity to impress. There’s a free trial, so download Texts app now. I know you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

If Texts elegant, minimalist approach doesn’t suit you, you might want to have a look at Ulysses.

I haven’t used Windows for years, but, if you do, Texts app is also available for Windows.

Essential El Capitan Apps

Mac OS X El Capitan icon

Which OS X applications are you using? Occasionally, I discover a useful, new app by checking out what other people are using. Once a year I publish a list of the applications I find essential. I was recently asked: Q: “Have your Essential El Capitan apps changed from last year's list of Essential Yosemite Apps? A: Unsurprisingly, yes, I enjoy reviewing updates to my runner-up apps and checking out new stuff. The biggest change this year is the addition of Affinity's professional graphic design applications. Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo are powerful, but straightforward and affordable. Another significant change from last year is that I'm now using many of Apple's supplied OS X apps and no longer feel the need to use BusyCal, BusyContacts, Calcbot, Fantastical, Google Chrome and MailMate.

Essential El Capitan Apps from Identified Developers

Essential El Capitan Apps from the Mac App Store

I haven’t linked to the following applications because you can easily chase them down in the Mac App Store:

  • Affinity Designer
  • Affinity Photo
  • Caffeine
  • Chronicle
  • Day One
  • Deckset
  • Ember 20151209 – replaced by Pixave
  • ForkLift
  • InfoClick
  • iThoughtsX
  • Kaleidoscope
  • Logoist
  • Napkin
  • PDFpenPro 20151112 – replaced by PDF Expert
  • Pixave
  • PopClip
  • Reeder
  • Sip
  • Timeless
  • Twitter
  • Ultra Character Map
  • Ulysses 20151030 – replaced by Texts
  • WiFi Explorer
  • xScope
  • Yoink

and here are my

Most frquently used essential El Capitan apps

Most Frequently Used Essential El Capitan Apps:

Observations:

  1. Safari for El Capitan is excellent, my experimentation with Google Chrome is over, for now
  2. I'm delighted I no longer deal with Microsoft Office and Adobe's apps, including Flash. I've also dumped Java
  3. All of my apps have been 64 bit for over a year
  4. I still find myself wishing BBEdit was 64 bit.

Here’s my MacOS Sierra update.

Essential Yosemite Apps

Mac OS X Yosemite

Do you think it’s potentially helpful, to review lists of OS X applications that other folks are using? I do. I check out a lot of apps, but I can’t possibly test them all. I enjoy reviewing other people’s lists hoping to discover useful apps that just might become one of my Essential Yosemite Apps.

I’ve changed a number of my apps since last year’s Essential Mavericks Apps list. Having previously abandoned Adobe, Google and Microsoft applications, you won’t find any similar paradigm shifts this year. So, without any explanation as to why I’ve chosen them, here are my Essential Yosemite Apps:

Essential Yosemite Apps from an Identified Developer

I’ll be adding:

to my list when Audio Hijack Pro is updated to 64 bit.

Essential Yosemite Apps from the Mac App Store

I haven’t linked to the following applications because you can easily chase them down in the Mac App Store:

  • Affinity Designer
  • Byword
  • Caffeine
  • Calcbot
  • Chronicle
  • Deckset
  • Ember
  • Entropy
  • Fantastical
  • ForkLift
  • iThoughtsX
  • Kaleidoscope
  • Liquid
  • Logoist
  • PDFpenPro
  • Pixelmator
  • PopClip
  • Reeder
  • Sip
  • Twitter
  • TypeMetal
  • Ultra Character Map
  • WiFi Explorer
  • World Clock
  • xScope
  • Yoink

and here are my

Most Frequently Used Essential Yosemite Applications:

Observations:

  1. For the first time this year, all of my apps are 64 bit
  2. I haven’t missed Google Chrome, Safari for Yosemite is excellent
  3. I’m still delighted I no longer have to deal with Microsoft Office
  4. I’ve gotten used to working without Adobe’s apps.

Big Problem with Markdown Apps

There’s a big problem with Markdown apps. 🙂

Q: What’s the problem?
A: It’s much too easy to switch to the latest, greatest, OS X distraction-free, text editor. This one is prettier. That one makes it easier to write and blog. The monster advantage of plain text is that you’re not locked into a specific application. Unfortunately, that can also be a curse.

Surely, that’s only a problem if you’re an app developer? Well, no, it can also be surprisingly distracting, if you’re easily seduced by new, competing applications.

It’s no secret that Byword app is currently my favourite markdown editor. That said, I recently had a look at Desk app and then Typed. The Typed app got my attention.

Typed app icon

  • Typed is a pretty application – gorgeous, minimalist and completely at home on Yosemite
  • there’s no window clutter, controls (writing view, preview and sharing) only appear when you mouse over the left margin
  • the typography on my 13” MacBook Pro Retina Display makes composing for the web as sublime an experience as writing can be
  • there are plenty of font options and sizes, but I wish Typed and all editors offered font scaling/zoom (bigger/smaller)
  • I prefer the ivory background and it’s oversized, colourful cursor (you also have a choice of white/light and black/dark backgrounds)
  • word count is nicely placed at the top right
  • extensive keyboard shortcuts are easy to remember
  • the autosave implementation is reassuring
  • Zen Mode surprised me, because the music didn’t distract me, as I feared it might
  • HTML preview and HTML export couldn’t be easier
  • I even like the app icon.

Comment: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Let’s just say, there are significant similarities between Typed and Byword.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
– Charles Caleb Colton

While trialling Typed, I experienced a few hangs, after cutting and pasting. I also saw considerable markdown-display funkiness. To be fair, Typed is a v1.0, I know Realmac Software will get it sorted. Based on their team’s history the fixes are likely to happen in the near future.

Typed has potential, but I’m sticking with Byword, at least for now. Byword is currently ahead of Typed in both functionality and stability. In fact, Byword is so good, you really have to wonder why I keep trying out all the new stuff?

Update: I just read and enjoyed David Sparks post about Byword and Typed. David is clearly much less fickle than I am, but he arrived at the same conclusion I did. We both love Byword! In my case, the only question is, “Will the love affair last?”

Back with Byword

I was recently asked, “Which OS X markdown application are you using these days?” I answered, “I’m back with Byword.” My response prompted the anticipated question, “Why?”

About two and a half years ago, I wrote a post I titled, ‘Markdown: Why Byword App?’ Since then I’ve tested almost every new markdown app. The markdown apps that have most impressed me are:

  1. Byword
  2. Texts
  3. Ulysses III
  4. MultiMarkdown Composer
  5. Sublime Text with the MarkdownEditing package

Each application’s website adequately highlights the apps benefits, so I won’t do a comparison here, but this is why I favour Byword App:

  • creating and editing is straightforward
  • it has great markdown support
  • the widely-copied, light theme is easy on my eyes
  • there’s no interface ‘chrome’ to get in my way
  • it works well with Marked 2 (I use an Alfred workflow to preview in Marked)
  • I prefer managing my files in the Finder, not a database
  • the Universal iPad/iPhone app is excellent
  • iCloud and Dropbox support is flawless
  • blog publishing is available, although I haven’t used it yet (I have paid for it on my Mac and plan to test it soon).

Have a look at the ‘Byword MultiMarkdown Guide’ for an excellent overview.

TypeMetal

TypeMetal icon

What is TypeMetal?

TypeMetal is a potentially transformative, OS X, writing application, designed from the ground up to make HTML creation and editing easy. OK, STOP, stop right now, stop picturing pages full of meticulously indented, angle brackets. Starting today, you can write styled text and TypeMetal will automatically create sophisticated, modern HTML for your blog, website or eBook.

Background: Type metal is an alloy used in mechanical typesetting, best known for printing clear, easy to read, text. I'm guessing that's where the TypeMetal app got it's name.

About that TypeMetal icon

Did you notice the metallic angle brackets, glowing digital display and high-tech pen in TypeMetal's icon? I like it.

Plain Text, Markdown and HTML Preview

Plain text, markdown and markdown/HTML previewing apps have become a significant software niche for both OS X and iOS. I clearly recall the first time I saw an ad for a plain text editor. It was decades ago in Macworld. I was immediately intrigued, but, I quickly concluded that writing HTML wasn't for me. Over the years, plain text editing evolved, but not enough to get me interested in writing HTML. Decades after seeing the ad for BBEdit, I adopted John Gruber's markdown to help me create HTML. My favourite markdown apps are Byword, Marked and Ulysses III.

HTML Editing Modernized

Troy Stephens, the developer of TypeMetal, wondered, "Why are we still writing HTML by hand, or writing things other than HTML to get an HTML result… ?… I wanted to be able to write and edit content with the intuitive ease of a conventional word processing UI, while having my cake too and producing elegant, minimal, standards-compliant HTML that conforms exactly to the element usage conventions I want."

Fortunately for us Troy had:

  • decades of programming experience and
  • a deep knowledge of OS X’s application frameworks, having spent nine-years with Apple’s AppKit team.

Background: The AppKit is a set of classes, first developed by NeXT Computer, and today by Apple, for rapidly developing applications.

TypeMetal Demo

I briefly pondered writing a TypeMetal review, but quickly decided that this application is so straightforward and self-evident, that my review would slow down your app auditioning process. I think it's best to jump right in, the way I did.

Just Write – TypeMetal Magically Creates HTML

FYI, I was hooked after I downloaded the TypeMetal demo, played with a couple of list commands (command ] and command \) and clicked the Source Loupe button. Thereafter, I imported some HTML and was blown away by TypeMetal's editing prowess.

TypeMetal Gains Ground

There's absolutely no doubt that I'll be spending more and more time creating and editing HTML directly with TypeMetal.