Essential Mavericks Apps

Essential Mavericks Apps

In the near future I'll be transitioning from Apple's OS X Mountain Lion to Mavericks. Every year, in the months before an operating system update, I attempt to pare my apps down to just those essential applications that I find indispensable. My housekeeping for this update is already complete. Here's my 'Essential Mavericks Apps' list.

Essential Mavericks Apps for Words

  • Calibre
  • Clyppan
  • iBooks
  • iBooks Author (32)1
  • Kaleidoscope
  • Liquid
  • Marked
  • Pages
  • PDFpenPro
  • PopChar
  • Scapple
  • Scrivener (32)
  • Sigil
  • Smultron
  • TextExpander
  • TextSoap
  • TypeMetal
  • Ulysses III

Essential Mavericks Apps for Images

  • Aperture
  • Color Schemer Studio (32)
  • Ember
  • Fontcase
  • Graphic Converter
  • Keynote
  • Logoist
  • Napkin
  • OmniGraffle Professional
  • Pixelmator
  • Pochade
  • Sketch
  • VueScan
  • xScope

Essential Mavericks Apps for Data

  • Calca
  • Contacts
  • DropDMG
  • Entropy
  • Espionage
  • Export Address Book
  • iCloud Keychain
  • InfoClick (32)
  • MacFamilyTree
  • Mactracker
  • Numbers
  • PCalc (32)
  • Sequel Pro
  • Soulver

Essential Mavericks Apps for Scheduling

  • 2Do
  • BusyCal
  • Fantastical

Essential Mavericks Apps for Audio

  • Audio Hijack Pro (32)
  • iTunes
  • Triumph
  • TwistedWave

Essential Mavericks Apps for Video

  • iMovie
  • QuickTime Player
  • ScreenFlow
  • Smart Converter Pro
  • Toast (32)

Essential Mavericks Apps for the Web

  • 1Password
  • Dropbox (32)
  • Mail
  • MailMate (32)
  • Maps
  • Messages
  • ReadKit
  • Safari
  • Skype (32)
  • SpamSieve
  • Transmit
  • Tweetbot

Essential Mavericks Apps for Backup

  • BackBlaze
  • Carbon Copy Cloner
  • Time Machine

Essential Mavericks Utility Apps

  • Alfred
  • AppDelete
  • Bartender
  • Default Folder X
  • Moom
  • Name Mangler
  • Pastebot Sync
  • PopClip
  • Printopia

Q: Have you changed any of the apps you recommended for OS X Mountain Lion?
A: I'm always dismayed by the number of changes I make to my workflow from year to year. In previous years many readers told me that dropping Adobe's Creative Suite and then Microsoft's Office apps were noteworthy changes. I wonder if dropping most Google apps and services will be perceived as a similar milestone? I've switched from Gmail to FastMail. I've replaced Google Chrome with Safari. Google Earth has given way to OS X's Maps. I'm searching with Siri or even Bing rather than Google. I've been similarly brutal with Google's iOS apps. I'll undoubtedly be asked, "Why have you gone negative on Google?" My bottom line is that, from my vantage, Google has become greedier, less friendly (killing services) and possibly even a little sinister. I favour Apple's customer/client paradigms over those of Google. My application developer bias is probably obvious, I prefer small(er), OS X and iOS Indie developers; a software development paradigm obscurely akin to the organic family farm versus the industrial food corporation archetype.

As usual, there are dozens of previously purchased apps that I'm no longer using. Many of the changes are related to my still evolving adoption of plain text for a lot of what I do.

Q: That's quite a long list, which apps do you use most often?
A: My almost always open apps are:

Caution: Although these are the apps I intend to use, a few may not be Mavericks compatible immediately after the Mavericks launch.

  1. (32) highlights 32 Bit apps, the vast majority of my essential Mavericks apps are 64 Bit.

Ulysses III App and Marked App


Ulysses III app and Marked app are a beguiling, best-in-class combination. Ulysses III has quickly become my OS X markdown editor of choice, but, it's new and, unsurprisingly, has not been problem free. Marked app is the best markdown previewer. It feels like both applications were custom engineered just for me; they weren't, of course, but I'll bet you'll feel that way too.

Live Preview of Markdown

The current crop of look-alike, dual-pane, dedicated markdown editors extol 'Live Preview' as their major feature. Live preview is a fast way to learn markdown syntax, but after a short learning curve, you'll discover that the built-in preview pane will become a tiresome distraction. I don't know about you, but I much prefer seeing a single version of my words when I'm composing new content, one nice panel is all I need. Fortunately, most editors will allow you to hide their live preview panel. That said, there's an even better option.

Ulysses III App

Ulysses III is the best looking plain text composition app I've ever seen. It's powerful, but it's still a very comfortable writing environment. Every time I launch Ulysses III app I discover something new. I've quickly learned that Ulysses app is much more than a pretty face:

  • one window
  • one document library
  • modern 64 Bit application
  • Retina Display enhanced
  • enhanced for OS X Mountain Lion
  • full iCloud integration
  • App Store 'Editor's Choice'

Marked App

Marked app is not an editor, rather it previews markdown. That said, it previews markdown better than any built-in preview panel, plus it has more advanced writer's tools than any other previewer. A few of its many features are:

  • a plethora of document stats
  • all kinds of export options
  • lots of themes/styles
  • modern 64 Bit app
  • Macworld Favorite Mac Gem 2012

As an added bonus, the Marked app works with other text editors you already own, including TextEdit that ships with OS X. Marked app offers you a consistent markdown preview, no matter which editor you happen to be using.

Note: Ulysses III app doesn't require the Marked app, but you'll be more productive and have a lot more fun if you use them together.

My Current Workflow:

  1. launch Ulysses app in the 'Editor Only' view
  2. begin entering and editing content
  3. from time to time, hit command + 9 to bring up the markup column
  4. content ready to publish? preview content with the Marked app and probably discover at least a few sentences that need further editing
  5. and finally, preview the actual HTML syntax in BBEdit before copying and pasting it into WordPress.

If you think my workflow has too many steps, try this instead: Launch Ulysses III app, create content, open in Marked, press shift + command + c and finally paste HTML into your website.


Marketers love to offer 'Good, Better and Best' purchasing options, so as a former marketer, here's my list:

and to complicate things even further, there's another horse in this race. At some point, in the not too distant future, Texts app may become the 'Best' choice.

If you hate making choices, order the Marked app and then, you can’t go wrong with either Ulysses, Byword or MultiMarkdown Composer.

Ulysses III App Problem

I was seduced by a fresh, very pretty face; specifically the Ulysses app’s UI. Then, suddenly, rudely, I was brought back to reality by my Ulysses III app problem. After successfully using Ulysses to write a blog post about markdown app housekeeping, I was in the midst of writing another post when I experienced a minor disaster. Here’s what happened: Ulysses III crashed and wouldn’t restart without crashing again and again and…

My problem began with a simple operator error. I pressed command + w intending to close the Marked app preview window, but instead closed the Ulysses window (I hadn’t recognized, that at some point, I’d made Ulysses the active window). There’s no ‘Undo’ for being a putz. 🙂 When I pressed command + q to quit Ulysses, the Apple crash reporter appeared. Ever since then, whenever I attempt to launch Ulysses, I’m locked into an Apple and/or The Soulmen crash reporting/crashing loop. So, my new Ulysses III app is temporarily out of action. In addition to completing the Ulysses in-app crash form, sometime yesterday afternoon, I also completed the feedback form at the Ulysses website. I haven’t, yet, had a response, which is completely understandable, because they’ve experienced a very successful App Store launch, so they’re busy. Their small team is getting lots and lots of feedback. I just hope I haven’t lost my documents which were stored locally, not in iCloud.

When it comes to OS X productivity, a ‘hot off the press’ app, loaded with the very latest whiz-bang features isn’t necessarily what you need. I learned that the hard way with Ulysses III.

In my housecleaning post, I mentioned that it was a little distressing for me to remove Byword from my applications folder. Well, Byword is back and, unsurprisingly, it’s performing reliably, as it always has.

Comment: One of the biggest advantages of composing with markdown syntax is that it’s plain text, so there’s no lock-in to a proprietary format like Microsoft Word. Ulysses app stores documents in a database, even when you save locally, i.e. not to iCloud. In a situation like the one I’m still experiencing, I can’t get at my, database-confined content because Ulysses won’t launch without crashing. Although Ulysses enables export to plain text, I didn’t do that before the first crash. If I had created my documents with Byword, Texts app, or almost any other plain text or markdown editor, I’d be able to open and edit my stuff with a different editor; as it is I’m stuck. I’m also wondering if the Ulysses database will increase backup times?

Correction (20130413): You can store local files in Ulysses, “…click plus sign in the left bottom corner and select “Add External Source”, then select “Edit…” in context menu for the created external source and select “Always assume Markdown syntax”. Tip via Fedor Sheremetyev, developer of Texts.

Ulysses III app is destined to become a stellar writing environment, but as my situation illustrates, there can be teething problems, even with the best apps. I’ll update this journal entry after I’ve heard from the Ulysses team.

Update (Support responds): The Soulmen Support folks responded about a day after I contacted them. Initially they suspected an Apple iCloud problem, but that definitely wasn’t it because my documents were stored locally. Next they asked me to send them a crash report and system information. Although I had previously filed a report, they couldn’t find it. Then the weekend arrived and support communication ceased. A forum post solved my problem. After three days, it was nice to see Ulysses launch successfully and reassuring to see that my content was still there. When Ulysses’ support’s communications resumed Monday, they echoed the forum post I discovered over the weekend; i.e. Use terminal to reset Ulysses III app’s settings to resolve the crashing problem. All communications from the Ulysses folks were courteous and focused on getting Ulysses running again. I suspect the app’s first update will correct the problem I experienced. Rest assured these folks are professionals and Ulysses III has tremendous potential. The first update v1.0.1 appears to have solved my problem.

Plain Text Markdown Housekeeping

The introduction of Ulysses III motivated me to do some serious plain text markdown housekeeping, by which I mean plain text app and markdown app housecleaning. I'll admit, I've been an app slut. I've been flirting with plain text editors and dedicated markdown apps for a couple of years. All of the apps had something good to offer, but not one was a perfect fit, until Ulysses 3.

Aside: My plain text related fickleness reminds me of my, long ago, lifeguard days, before I met my wife. 🙂

My OS X writing environment changed overnight. Ulysses app is meticulously crafted and superb; it's nearly perfect, for my needs, at v1 and has tremendous upside potential. The best review of Ulysses III I've seen, so far, was written by Matthew Guay at Update (20130503): Here’s another great review, this one was written by John Martellaro at The Mac Observer.

It was a fairly easy decision to remove most of my dedicated markdown apps. I found removing Byword difficult because it has served me very well and I have great respect for the app's developers. Update: I reinstalled Byword. (see below)

Reviewing my use of plain text editors prompted an entirely different thought process. I used BBEdit until TextMate appeared. I used TextMate until its development all but ceased. Recently, I've been having fun with Sublime Text, but:

  1. I don't write code (except markdown, HTML and CSS)
  2. I now prefer Ulysses app for markdown
  3. I always enjoyed creating HTML and editing long text documents with BBEdit
  4. I don't need a cross-platform app
  5. I am biased toward 'Mac-only' developers

I decided to return to BBEdit.

Summarizing, my plain text markdown housekeeping lead me to add:

to keep:

  • Byword (see Update below)
  • Texts app (an amazing app, early in its life cycle)

to remove:

  • FoldingText
  • MultiMarkdown Composer
  • Sublime Text
  • Taco HTML Edit
  • Textastic
  • Text Wrangler (upgrading to BBEdit)

and note that I had already removed:

  • Coda
  • Chocolat
  • iA Writer
  • Markdown Live (Life)
  • Markdown Pro
  • Mou
  • skEdit
  • TextMate
  • VoodooPad
  • WriteRoom

Update (20130411): Byword is back because of a Ulysses III app problem.

Drafts App

Drafts app icon

Drafts app is like a magical pencil for iOS (iPhone and iPad). It doesn’t draw, rather, it captures notes from your muse.

“A Short Pencil Is Better Than A Long Memory.”

An old aphorism states, “A short pencil is better than a long memory.” The secret to creativity is to capture your ideas, as quickly as possible, before they disappear into the ether. Once you’ve captured a great idea, getting a project started becomes much easier.

Q: When do you do your best visualizations?

For many people, their answer looks something like:

  • in the shower
  • when I first wake up
  • while I’m jogging
  • when I’m alone with nature

My iPhone is almost always nearby, so I can quickly capture moments of illumination with the Drafts app.

Drafts app screens

Plain text and markdown: That’s the ticket. 🙂 The Drafts app has become the starting point of my plain text, markdown workflow. My preference is to use it in landscape mode. I’ve set the apps appearance to a light yellow background and I use the FFTisa font. I’ve set my iPhone documents to automatically sync with the iPad version of Drafts. At my leisure, I’ll briefly edit my best concepts on the iPad before saving them to Dropbox. My best ideas then get fleshed out in Byword or FoldingText on my iMac. One of the beauties of plain text and markdown is that it’s straightforward to move documents between plain text apps.

  1. capture ideas with Drafts app for iPhone
  2. iPhone Drafts’ documents sync with the iPad version of Drafts
  3. edit concepts on the iPad
  4. save to Dropbox and
  5. flesh out the best project ideas with FoldingText and the best blog post concepts with Byword.

Draft’s output options are very impressive. I’ve output documents to Agenda, Byword, Day One, HTML, Mail, Markdown, Things and Tweetbot in addition to Dropbox.

Drafts app output

Drafts is a great value. Consider investing a couple of bucks so that you’re ready for your Eureka moment. You’ll be glad you did.

>> Visit Agile Tortoise, the developer, to learn more.

It takes a very clever developer to create a simple, straightforward app where everything works in an obvious way.

Tidy Your Menu Bar

Mac Bartender icon

Have you noticed that the number of useful Mac OS X menu bar apps is mushrooming? For example, are you using Cobook and Fantastical? If your answer was “yes”, I’m betting that, like me, you’re making use of a growing list of impressive menu bar apps. Are those apps gobbling up your menu bar real estate and threatening to run into the ‘Help’ menus? Mine were, until I discovered the Bartender app. Is it time for you to tidy your menu bar?

>> check out the Bartender app

Essential Mountain Lion Apps

Mountain Lion

Every time Apple introduces a new version of OS X, I whittle my applications folder down to just the essentials. Here’s my Essential Mountain Lion Apps list:

64 bit apps for OS X 10.8 (I’ve added links for the apps I use every day.)

32 bit apps for OS X 10.8

Once again this year I’ve removed dozens of applications, a few will eventually be reinstalled, but most of the apps I’ve uninstalled will never return. Interestingly, my Essential Mountain Lion Apps list has gotten shorter, but my Mac App Store list of ‘Purchases’ is constantly growing; which only makes sense if you realize I’m including the long list of apps that still feature grey ‘INSTALL’ buttons. OK, I’m clearly a sucker for a deal. 🙂 Remember when purchasing a new application meant a trip to the store and an outlay of hundreds or even thousands of dollars? Speaking of expensive applications, you’ll notice that Adobe Design Suite Premium and Microsoft Office have not reappeared on my list; they’ve been gone for years.

20120819 => “Go further”: An online contact found my “apps I use everyday” links, useful, but asked me to “go further and list the five apps you use the most”.

Top five, most used, essential mountain lion apps:

  1. Google Chrome
  2. 1Password
  3. Reeder
  4. Clyppan
  5. Byword, but FoldingText is already a contender

Note: About a month ago, my list would have started with Safari and a month from now, it could be Safari again. Both browsers are fast, but Chrome’s extensions are increasingly compelling. These days, I very rarely use Firefox. OmniWeb and Opera aren’t even installed.

FYI, here’s last years Best Lion Apps list for reference and here’s my Snow Leopard list.

Note: I’ve taken a little flack for including VirusBarrier in my list of ‘Essential Mountain Lion Apps’. Although it’s absolutely true that my fellow Mac users and I have had very little reason to be concerned about malware in the past, times are changing. Apple is selling more Macs and, unfortunately, sooner or later, our Macs will be targeted regularly. In March 2012 around 700,000 Macs, worldwide, were infected by Flashback and I’m convinced, that attack was just a wakeup call. Thus far, I’ve found VirusBarrier has been a “set it and forget it” anti-malware solution. It runs all the time and I haven’t noticed any downside to the real-time protection it delivers.

Best Mac Clipboard Manager

Clyppan icon

Q: There are dozens of clipboard managers, so, is there really such a thing as the best Mac clipboard manager?
A: Clearly, we’re all different, so, your workflow will determine which clipboard manager will best suit your needs. I recently discovered a clipboard manager that fits my workflow perfectly. More about that later, let’s start at the beginning…

Q: What’s a clipboard manager?
A: A clipboard manager stores the data you ‘Copy’ and ‘Cut’ instead of just overwriting the previously saved clipboard item. If you’ve ever copied something, then copied something new and only then discovered that you needed, but lost your first clip, you’ll understand why a clipboard manager can be a time saver.

If you’re not already using a clipboard manager, what’s holding you back? Almost all clipboard managers will massively improve your ‘Copy’, ‘Cut’ and ‘Paste’ workflow. I’ve paid for most of the Mac clipboard managers. Some were used for a very short period of time, while others served me well for years. My most recent favourites have been iClip, iClipboard, PTHPasteboard Pro and now something new (see below). I set PTHPasteboard Pro, and previously the other two, to magically show my clipboard data whenever I pushed my cursor to the right of my screen. It’s worth mentioning that iClip looked like it had been abandoned, for years, but, recently, it has made a comeback. In my opinion, both iClip and iClipboard spend to much time looking pretty, while PTHPasteboard Pro focuses on functionality and gets almost everything right.

Recently, in preparation for the release of Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, I’ve been reviewing all of the apps I use. I decided to have a look around to see if there was a 64 bit, 10.8-ready, clipboard manager that might suit me better than PTHPasteboard Pro, but I really didn’t expect to find anything. Interestingly, I discovered a very impressive, actively-developed app called Clyppan that, for whatever reason, I hadn’t happened upon previously.

“Clyppan is designed to be sleek, simple, elegant and get out of your way.”

Clyppan window

The combination of Byword, in full-screen mode and Clyppan makes me smile. I set Clyppan to launch at login and to always paste plain text. I love Clyppan’s keyboard shortcuts:

Global (available everywhere)

  • ⇧⌘C — Hide/show Clyppan
  • ⇧⌘V — Rapid paste

and when Clyppan is active

  • 1–9 — Paste favorite and hide Clyppan
  • ⌘1 — Switch to “All”
  • ⌘2 — Switch to “Favorites”
  • ⌘3 — Switch to “Most Used”
  • F — Toggle clipping as a favorite
  • ⌘L — Show current clipping
  • Space — Hide/show the Quick preview window
  • ⌥⌘F — Search
  • ↩ — Paste the selected and hide Clyppan.
  • ⇧↩ — Put the selected item on the clipboard, ready to be pasted, but do not hide Clyppan.
  • ⌫ — Delete selected clipping
  • ⌘, — Preferences
  • ⌘Q — Quit Clyppan

Note: Clyppan is intended for cutting, copying and pasting text, it doesn’t handle graphics and other data types. For my workflow, Clyppan is the best Mac clipboard manager.

Clyppan was selling for $2.99 at the time this post was written (20120724).

>> Check out Clyppan here

Dynamik Home Business Website Bliss

Dynamik Theme for Genesis Framework

Anyone who manages their own home business website will question my title for this post, because, as we all know, every website is capable of creating an occasional headache. That said, three straightforward steps will enable you to experience home business website bliss, or something very close to it.

Background: I’m a big fan of simple solutions, but a home business website also requires a lot of flexibility, top-notch security and it needs to exhibit more than a little elegance. When my WordPress adventure began, I chose an attractive, free theme that I later discovered contained malicious PHP code; not a good thing. My first WordPress premium theme was Frugal, which eventually became Catalyst. Although I was thrilled with the flexibility that Catalyst’s child theme, Dynamik, offered, I ended up switching to the Genesis Framework. I made the switch because of rave reviews by a couple of business owners I respect and because of comments made by high-profile gurus Matt Mullenweg, Mark Jaquith and Jay Baer. Recently Eric Hamm, the brilliant developer of Catalyst, released the Dynamik theme for the Genesis Framework. Dynamik and Genesis: Two of my favourite WordPress things, together at last. Dynamik is a website tweakers paradise, but more about Dynamik a little later… first, let’s get back to the three straightforward steps to home business website bliss:

  1. Choose to host your own WordPress blog
  2. Order the Genesis Framework from StudioPress
  3. Order the Dynamik theme for Genesis

Dynamik theme for Genesis Framework

Millions and millions of people, worldwide, use WordPress, the WordPress developer community is huge and help is really easy to find. Genesis has quickly become “the industry standard of design frameworks”, it’s secure and SEO friendly. The Dynamik child theme for Genesis completes the WordPress puzzle. Dynamik offers maximum flexibility to folks, like me, who want to tweak their website’s design, but who do not posses CSS expertise. The following short video will give you a glimpse of the options Dynamik brings to the Genesis party.

>> check out the excellent Dynamik for Genesis website

Tip: When you visit the Dynamik website be sure to click the ‘Features’ tab.

VirusBarrier Antivirus Mac

VirusBarrier icon

VirusBarrier window

Q: VirusBarrier Antivirus Mac? What happened to Bitdefender? I purchased Bitdefender Antivirus Mac eleven days ago and posted about it just a couple of days ago; so, why am I writing about Intego VirusBarrier today?
A: With Bitdefender, a full-system malware scan takes forever and although that’s understandable once, I didn’t anticipate having to do the whole thing again a week later. Yes, I had clicked the preference to NOT rescan already scanned files, but it did it anyway. I suppose I could have scheduled full-system scans overnight, when I wasn’t using my Mac, or perhaps, Bitdefender support might have been helpful, but I decided to test VirusBarrier because I liked their pitch:

“You chose a Mac for a reason. So why choose security software from a Windows vendor? We are Mac experts creating products exclusively for Mac. …While makers of Windows antivirus have recently entered the Mac market, only Intego has been protecting Macs exclusively since 1997.”

  • easy to install, set up and use
  • fully optimized for OS X 10.7 (Lion)
  • won’t slow your Mac
  • doesn’t need to be deactivated when installing new apps
  • free 30-day trial

So far, so good, the initial full-system scan was much faster than Bitdefender was.

>> Learn more about VirusBarrier Antivirus Mac

Comment: I’m still hoping to find something as close to “set it and forget it” as possible. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Update (20120424): Things I’m liking about VirusBarrier:

  • it apparently offered protection from the Flashback/Flashfake Trojan long before the story broke
  • it’s a modern 64 bit app
  • real time, always-on, proactive, malware protection
  • useful network tools are built into the app
  • funky looking, but very functional, instrument panel, user interface
  • the app icon
  • Intego’s website
  • and most importantly, I haven’t noticed any obvious slowdown as a result of the real time protection.

Update (20120425): I completed an Intego support request and was both surprised and delighted when I received a thorough response less than an hour later.

Update (20120427): VirusBarrier X6 is excellent, Intego Security Barrier isn’t. Because I was so impressed with VirusBarrier X6, I decided to upgrade to Security Barrier. I was charged $49.95 even though the cost difference between the two programs is actually $30. Intego sales explained that this was because I was upgrading and to be fair to Intego, the upgrade added one year to my subscription. So, what did I get for $49.95?

Other than VirusBarrier, the only Security Barrier app I’m actually using is Personal Backup and it’s a nice program, but it isn’t worth $49.95. I’ve scheduled a nightly clone of my startup disk.

I tested FileGuard and was not at all impressed:

  • garish low resolution graphics
  • a bright red warning that “Your subscription expired” which I gather is a ‘cosmetic’ bug that will be removed in a future update
  • the app lost track of my safes when I placed them in my documents folder
  • right clicking on the desktop shortcut offered a ‘Settings’ option, but failed to launch FileGuard and FileGuard’s settings when clicked.

I deleted FileGuard and I’m now using the excellent DropDMG to create my encrypted disk images. FYI, I’ve also used Knox and Espionage, but I find DropDMG serves many different purposes. I’ve added my encrypted disk images to my VirusBarrier X6 list of trusted files so that they’re not scanned.

Gmail does a great job filtering spam, so I didn’t need and don’t use Personal Antispam.

My kids are grown, so I didn’t find Content Barrier useful either.

My recommendation is to stick with VirusBarrier, which is excellent.