macOS setup & tools

Below you will find a list of tools I use on my Macbook. The list is inspired by a post of But I think they did miss some useful tools and they had others which I do not need. That’s why I created my own list (it is also very handy while setting up a new machine). 

Design & Prototyping

sip (free version): grab color of a specific pixel on screen. Also available for iOS. 

pixelmator (30 €): at work I work with Photoshop and . more often – Illustrator. At home this one is enough (Also available for iOS now). 

aurora HDR (99 €): create HDR images. Works much better than the free tools available

sketchup (free): to get my DIY projects planned, I use sketchup. The free version does it all. 

linotype fontexplorer X (free): quite old version of the current font management tool. Unfortunately it is not available online any longer.

sketch (99 €): the vector drawing tool with some plugins it is really useful – also for tinkering around with some animations or documentation work. Maybe there will be a better interaction flow tool sooner or later. 

Origami (free): easy to use prototyping app for macOS. Also used Framer or Kite – both not free to use, but also very good

Apple Keynote (free with your mac): can be used for simple animations and click dummies

textmate (free / open source (???)): best for coding. I am also using – aside from many others – atom and brackets, which are also free and very useful. 


locko (free): password vault – very handy. There is also an iOS-version available to sync data (deprecated now)

a better finder rename (20 €): rename files in nearly any way

alfred (free): start apps, look up stuff with a press of a button. The one and only launcher.

flux (free): adjust the white point of my screen if I have to work late. Unfortunately it does affect video playback in means of color irritations. My confit isn’t perfect yet. Still working on it.

iA Writer (10 €): my preferred writing environment to collect thoughts and cites – focus is king

key codes (free): check which key has which code or whether a keyboard key is pressed or released. Handy to create keyboard triggered interaction

things (50 €): to-do lists manager … syncs between versions for iPhone and iPad, which are separately available

timer-app (free): set a timer easily with just one drag. Very slick

Online & Communication

forklift (30 €): my access point to servers and remote systems FTP

brave (free): secure and free browser. Also available for iOS.

wire (free): secure and fast online conferencing. Unfortunately not a standard yet. 

dropbox (free): share files between devices – temporarily (registration needed)


handbrake (free / open source): convert videos and dvds to nearly any format 

vlc (free/donation): the movie player

mediathekview (free): german television “downloader” for their “Mediatheken”

plex media player (free): to view my movies from the mac mini server in a comfy way. registration needed

telemac (free): watch german telly online


keynote / numbers / pages (free): you all know these babies

libreoffice (free): in case there might be some files flying-in using standard office format

pocket (free): store online articles for later – read it on iOS or macOS or “windows” (registration needed)


little snitch (30 €): do not tell everything to everybody, thanks

iTerm (free): terminal replacement. Together with the fish command line a real good system tool

mactracker (free): sometimes some facts about the macs is needed, not very often though

onyx (free): set system parameters – but be careful

teamviewer (free version for private use): control my mums mac remotely

wifi signal (5 €): due to problems on my wifi connection at home, I tried to fix it with monitoring values and delays. 

keka (free): can also encrypt archives on creation. Very handy and more mac-like. Or winzip (30 €): yes, a win-prgram on a mac. Works pretty well and got from a bundle hunt buy. Nice to manage ZIP-files and password protected files. the unarchiver (free): dezip archives quickly 

EasyFind (free): find files and folders – also on external docs (which are not of my Spotlight library)

KeepingYouAwake (free): prevent mac from going to sleep temporarily (from 5 minutes to indefinitely). Like Caffeine, but more retina compatible. 


Desktop publishing the open way

One of my favorite apps at the moment is a free and open source desktop publishing tool: Scribus.

You can create template pages and even measured drawings of e.g. a floor plan. Only caveat: the GUI isn’t very Mac-like (it is based on the “Qt” framework) and even worth the behavior is sometimes a bit wired: selected text (looks like selected text) isn’t selected. But: it’s for free and maybe there will be an update soon (version I use: 1.3.9).

Best diary and notes iPhone app

Meemo: a good and free app for taking notes in categories and with a diary function. All notes are stamped by a date and time. Special feature is the backup function: the SQLite database can be converted to a CSV file using the Mac tool “SQL-” and thus be edited and analysed in more detail afterwards.

It is also a good tool to get some ideas sorted.

Getting Things Done

Um Projekte und “todo’s” zu organisieren ist heutzutage ein kleines Tool nötig. Es sei denn, man zieht die Zettelkasten-Variante vor. Falls nicht, gibt es zwei geniale digitale Alternativen:
1) für alle Mac-User: iGTD
2) für nahezu jede Plattform: TiddlyWiki

Die zweite Alternative hatte ich längere Zeit im Einsatz. Durch die Ausführung in einer HTML-Datei (inklusive CSS und jeder Menge JavaScript) gibt es ein paar Vorteile (beliebige Plattform, keine extra Applikation, sehr klein), aber eben auch Einschränkungen (keine Shortcuts, mangelnde Übersichtlichkeit). Deshalb bin ich mit iGTD für den Moment sehr zufrieden. Vor allem die Integration in den Workflow und das Betriebsystem ist Spitze. Und für mich als Shortcut-Fan sind die Tastenkürzel eine wahre Freude. TiddlyWiki verwende ich ab nun für die Verwaltung von Codeschnipseln.