On walkabout in life and technology

Change Is Good - New Applications Replacing Old Ones

There is some amazing independent software out there for the Mac. And I use a lot of it. I realized today, while fixing a problem on my wife’s laptop, that I have pretty much replaced many older products with new ones on my computer over the last year or so, yet she still uses all the old stuff.

Change is good for me. I love using new products that improve my productivity, work better or look better. I love trying new products to see if they can replace the ones I am currently using.

But many computer users prefer the familiar and the traditional. Good for them, let them keep running Windows XP and Office XP and Norton AntiVirus! But they are missing out.

Here are some of the product switches I have made over the last few years:

  • NetNewsWire → Reeder: NetNewsWire was the first indie application I ever purchased for the Mac, and was my RSS reader of choice until Reeder made it across to the Mac. I just love the look and feel of it.
  • QuickSilver → Alfred: I seem to have used QuickSilver for ever, but as it languished without update, I guess I just got used to time when it did not work. I had tried LaunchBar back in the day, but had always gone back to QuickSilver. But now Alfred and it’s Powerpack do the same job, better and prettier.
  • MS Office → iWork/Scrivener: As MS Office got slower and slower and more and more bloated, it became harder and harder to use. Even though iWork is old, it’s still faster to load, easier to use and I think Keynote is by far the best presentation tool ever. I have also moved most of my long-form writing from MS Word to Scrivener, and find myself actually enjoying writing documentation - weird for a programmer!
  • CSSEdit/Espresso → Coda 2: I used to code static web sites in BBEdit and used CSSEdit to build the CSS files. I still think CSSEdit was one of the best indie products ever made, but it was merged into Espresso, which I never fell in love with. I tried Coda 1 for a while, but it too did not stick. Coda 2, on the other had, is brilliant, and I do all my static and Wordpress work in it now.
  • BusyCal → Fantastical: I hated iCal when I moved to the Mac and fortunately, BusyCal did the trick. It was one of the first applications I installed. But these days, the best calendar application is Fantastical, it sits there on my menubar (not hidden by Bartender) and allows me to quickly add events in plain english, or see my schedule at a glance. Just great. BusyCal is no longer installed.
  • Quickbooks → Billings: I used to use QuickBooks for billing, because my accountant likes the file format. But the product is absolutely awful. Billings, on the other had, just works, sits in the menu bar for timing my work and produces great invoices.
  • Yojimbo → 1Password: My “store everything” application has been Yojimbo since the day it came out. Everything went in there, serial numbers, passwords, bank accounts, key documents, etc. I tried Evernote, but could never get comfortable with it. But the last few years, 1Password has taken over the management of passwords, key numbers (like credit card numbers and passport numbers) and serial numbers. And it’s integration into Safari and Alfred make it even better than ever.
  • TaskPaper → VoodooPad: I used to use TaskPaper formatted documents for project information, with heaps of these text files all over the place. Now each project has it’s own Wiki thanks to VoodooPad. All project contacts, logins, names, addresses and core information is stored in one structured file and in one application for each project.
  • MarsEdit → Byword: The move to a baked blog using Octopress and Markdown also meant that my favorite blog writing tool, MarsEdit, fell by the wayside. Enter Byword stage left, a pretty, minimalist writing application that works great with Markdown. I also use Marked for preview instead of MarsEdit’s preview window.
  • Plain Text → nvAlt: My non-project notes have always been a mess. I started using TextExpander macros to name the files so at least I could guess what they meant, but placing them in the file system was always a problem. With nvAlt, all non-project notes have a place on my system, easily found, still in Markdown, shared using Dropbox so I can work on them on the iPad, and easily archived using Hazel rules.
  • TextMate → Sublime Text 2: I’m still not comfortable with this change, it’s new. I love, love, love TextMate, it’s the best editor for programming and I have been using it for years. The TextMate 2 alpha is pretty good, but not there yet. So I’m trying Sublime Text 2 out. So far, it’s OK, but I’m not loving it. I’m not sure of it’s muscle memory, the look or the way it works. If Sublime Text does not work out, maybe I’ll try Chocolat next.
  • Twitterrific → Tweetbot: This happened today, after years and years of having Twitterrific on my dock, Tweetbot, the best iOS twitter app by far, has now come to Mac and made it on the dock. Its still an alpha release, so it’s buggy as heck and not recommended to non-techies. But it looks great displaying multiple timelines on its own desktop.

I have also added new workflows enabled by new amazing tools, such as:

And some products have remained the constant, like:

  • BBEdit has always been my go-to text editor for any non-standard file work, scratch notes and script editing. This be my hammer tool.
  • Transmit is still the best safety-net FTP client around.
  • OmniFocus manages all my tasks.
  • OmniGraffle handles all my diagramming.
  • iLife does the same as it always did.
  • Aperture still manages my photography hobby.
  • Adobe’s Creative Suite still handles the majority of my image work, even though I often use Acorn or Pixelmator for quick tasks.

With the current mix of new and old, I find myself more productive and a happier computer user. And the best part about this is that indie developers are working on both improving the current flock of products and are creating many new, exciting and better things. It’s a great time to be an early adopter in software.