Beam Me Into 2013
January 9, 2013 3:59 PM   Subscribe

What new tools, apps, or environmental changes have you started using in the last few years that have improved your life the most (or at least made it less worse)?

Recently, I took to wondering if some new hotness has replaced Quicksilver, which has grown slow and very, very crashy. It turns out yes! And its name is Alfred. Apparently it's been the new hotness so long that it doesn't even qualify as the new hotness anymore! But since 43folders stopped being a blog about the shiny, my knowledge of what tools are the most awesomest has basically stopped dead.

This led me to wonder what else I've completely missed the boat on in the last few years, since I'm in a good quiet spell for upgrading and trying new things.

So please: Clue me in. What indispensable pieces of software or hardware have you purchased or downloaded lo these past five years? What's the best thing I should be using that I'm not because I just didn't know about it?

For compatibility purposes: I am a Mac Mountain Lion and iPhone 4S user with a Nexus 7 tablet. For functional purposes: I'm a freelancer and writer. I have kids. I'm a lousy housekeeper. I'm still using mostly the same old stuff since 2007: Google Reader, Adium, Scrivener. I use a mashup of Google Calendars and iCal for scheduling. I do task management on paper.

posted by Andrhia to Technology (25 answers total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 4:06 PM on January 9, 2013

I like Jing for screenshots, Dropbox for online storage/sharing, LastPass for passwords, TeamViewer for online screen sharing, Logmein for remote access, Google Docs for document sharing/collaboration, Skype for calling/messaging, and CrashPlan for online backup.
posted by Dansaman at 4:21 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a writer. Hardware and software... I have two things that changed my writing life.

Alphasmart Neo2. Incredible. Looks hilariously old-fashioned and worthless. Is in fact the best possible writing tool I can imagine. Just you, a few lines of black text on a green display, and no distractions. I regularly sit down to write "just a few hundred words before dinner" and find myself coming up for air a few thousand words later. It's just incredibly freeing. This tool made me realize what "less is more" really means.

Strict Pomodoro. Lock out web browsing when you should be editing with timed breaks. Disclaimer: I have no idea whether it works on Macs, I have never used one. I would assume that if you can run Chrome you can run this. Can macs run Chrome? I've no idea.
posted by Sternmeyer at 4:27 PM on January 9, 2013 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Some software & web things that have changed my approach in the last 5 to 6 years:
  • rdio for streaming music (both on desktop machines and my phone & Nexus 7)
  • Git & GitHub (for writing as well as code - a friend of mine uses it for his Scrivener stuff, for what that's worth)
  • ack
  • f.lux for making the monitor less awful at night (well, I use a Linux thing called Redshift, but the basic idea is what's important)
  • Feedr synched to Google Reader on my Android devices (not flashy, but works pretty well for reading a bunch of blogs on the tablet)
  • Adblock Plus is hardly new, but installing it everywhere I work has done a lot for my sanity.
I don't currently use but might try Todo.txt one of these days, since I keep a text file of todo items.
posted by brennen at 4:36 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Evernote for clipping, sharing, storage (combined with dropbox), notetaking, research and now recipies. Syncs between all devices.
posted by Kerasia at 4:44 PM on January 9, 2013

Best answer: I use NValt on the desktop and WriteUp on my iPhone for notes, synced through Dropbox. This is a really strong combo. WriteUp does not support the tags that NValt does (it doesn't destroy them either, though).


When you say you use a "mashup" of Apple's calendar and gCal, you know you can get your gCal inside Apple's Calendar, right?

On that note, I use an app-store app called Blotter, which displays my week's schedule on the desktop. It could be improved a little, but I'm a fan.

I transitioned to using Apple's standalone trackpad when I upgraded to 10.8, and I use a little app called BetterTouchTool, which lets me define gestural shortcuts. Three-finger click in my browser is "open in new tab in background". Three-finger swipe left/right in my browser is "next/prev tab." Really cool. It actually works with some other mouse-like input devices as well.

My wife and I both use iPhones, and having a grocery-list app is surprisingly handy. I've been using Grocery Gadget, but kinda want to switch to AnyList.

I've found that iCloud, despite it's problems, is a benefit.
posted by adamrice at 5:10 PM on January 9, 2013

Spotify changed my life.
posted by jeffamaphone at 6:10 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

You don't know it yet, but for task management you want Remember the Milk.
posted by aheckler at 6:12 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Tools I use throughout every day:

*** Simplenote (iphone) and Notational Velocity Alt (mac) for amazing synchronized note-taking and lists. I also use Listary on the iphone which syncs with both and makes my lists even better.

TripIt and Flight Track Pro for organizing travel plans
TweetBot for twitter
I like Launchbar better than Alfred.
posted by kdern at 6:47 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Around for a while, but I love Markdown. I like the Mou app for editing Markdown.

IFTTT is awesome.

I like Downcast for listening to podcasts on my IOS device.

Reeder is good for reading your Google Reader on Mac or IOS device.

Launchbar has a great clipboard utility. Copy ten items, paste them back in another window one by one. Great for me as a web developer, but maybe good for you too.

Songza is great for music.
posted by backwards guitar at 7:10 PM on January 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

It's very simple, but I find to be very useful, saving a few clicks and a few seconds, here and there throughout the day.

hmmm, there seems to be some oddness with their website right now. I get a page saying that the Mac version is waiting for AppStore approval, which coincides with the "error messages" I was getting at boot up since late December. But just in the last few days I've been using the app with no troubles, and thought it had automagically updated... not sure what the deal is.

Not the best way to introduce an app, but I *do* think it's worth looking into.
posted by segatakai at 7:44 PM on January 9, 2013

I don't currently use but might try Todo.txt one of these days, since I keep a text file of todo items

Slightly tangential, but I've been becoming fond of emacs' org-mode lately.
posted by hattifattener at 8:15 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I can't imagine how people live without YubNub. It's a customisable command line for the web, so if you type in 'gim robots', you go to a Google Image Search for 'robots'. You can make commands and add them to the database instantly, and make them as simple or as complex as you want. Money converstion on the fly: 'xe -amount 500 -from USD -to GBP'.

The only trouble is, the server can sometimes be slow or down - there's a mirror up here.

I've had it jacked into my URL bar for years now and it makes everything so much more efficient, I'm baffled it isn't more popular, or that someone hasn't copied the idea yet.
posted by Senza Volto at 9:22 PM on January 9, 2013

I find Astrid very useful. I use it as a pretty simple to-do app, but it has lots of advanced features.
posted by neushoorn at 12:10 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Senza Volto reminded me of two more:

Quix - bookmarks on steroids.

DuckDuckGo is a search engine with some great features, and a bang syntax that makes it even more useful.
posted by backwards guitar at 3:37 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you want a site to replace 43folders in suggesting tools, I suggest One Thing Well, Minimal Mac, and The Setup.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 5:15 AM on January 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Since you mentioned environmental changes: Turned off the overhead fluorescent lights in my office, and brought in a couple of desk lamps. MASSIVELY better environment for my mood.
posted by jbickers at 6:38 AM on January 10, 2013 [2 favorites] is a fantastic bookmark manager with literally every feature I can think of wanting. When I first started using it, it was missing a few but he added them (alias so bookmark can be found under multiple hierical folders and automatic weekly backup emailed)
posted by Sophont at 8:16 AM on January 10, 2013

I'm kind of nuts about loading everything into "the cloud". iCloud or whatever. The idea that I don't have to worry about important papers, or my books, or movies or music, that it can all live in the ether really appeals to me.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:38 AM on January 10, 2013

Best answer: My SodaStream changed my life. I now drink enough water and am no longer dehydrated, which was apparently contributing to a whole host of issues.

Similarly, if you live in a place with cold, dry winters, get a humidifier for your bedroom. I had no idea that it would fix weird stuffiness, sore throats, and general morning 'ughness'. I swear I've been sick less too, though that's probably not empirically true.

I also joined a gym that I LOVE, and spent money on a personal trainer for a long time. Expensive, yes. But it's dramatically changed my everyday life and I've finally made a habit of regular and intense exercise. Life changing.
posted by barnone at 10:52 AM on January 11, 2013

Best answer: I really like CloudApp for seamless uploads of screenshots, files, and iTunes tracks.

Also for Google Reader on your Nexus 7, take a look at Press.
posted by cybertaur1 at 11:11 AM on January 11, 2013

Do you follow lifehacker? All they do is answer this question. It's wonderful.
posted by Tall Telephone Pea at 7:35 PM on January 11, 2013

Oh, and a clipboard manager and a text expansion app has saved me thousands of hours at work, where I'm frequently copying and pasting multiple sections of text, or writing the same phrases or same email responses over and over again.

I have Mountain Lion and use ClipMenu and TypeIt4Me. Heard of 'em on Lifehacker.
posted by Tall Telephone Pea at 7:48 PM on January 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow, a lot of these look really amazing! I am particularly impressed with f.lux, which has already made a noticeable difference in how quickly I fall asleep at night. Amazing.

Also looking forward to trying Strict Pomodoro, the reader suggestions, and you've all made me realize I need to update my backup strategy.

I already do use Dropbox, TripIt, and sometimes Evernote, so maybe I'm not as far behind as I thought. ^_^

Interesting the calendaring suggestions, and it'll take me a while to sift through. Right now I mainly use iCal which syncs nicely between my computers and my phone, but I get a lot of invitation to meetings in Gmail that wind up in Google Calendar, so I have that syncing into iCal, too. It's all mostly peachy, except that once in a while, I wind up with multiple copies of the same event. Especially repeating events, like birthdays or filing estimated taxes. Super annoying.

On LifeHacker: Yeah, I used to subscribe, but 99% of what they post has nothing of interest to me, and for me, wading through that volume of content to find the couple of rare gems is not an efficient use of time.
posted by Andrhia at 8:39 AM on January 12, 2013

You have a Pinboard account, right? It's not really new and it's not really hot, but it's really, really cool.

You can hook it up to other services (like Instapaper), get a bookmarklet and start bookmarking stuff that you want to look at later. Tag your bookmarks, make notes, and it will even archive everything (within limits) for you.

But my favorite thing about it is subscriptions. Basically you can subscribe to a list of tags that you like, and ANYBODY else on Pinboard who saves something publicly with tag, it will show up on your subs page. There are lot of smart alecks and deep obsessives using Pinboard so when they pin something with a tag I like, it's usually brilliant. I've found some real internet gems this way.
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:42 PM on February 22, 2013

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