My 2020 Mac Setup

The mac apps and services I'm using in 2020. Updated 8 May 2020.

I switched to the Mac late in 2003. Prior to switching, I used BeOS and experimenting with linux in hopes of finding a stable and usable OS. Sadly, in recent years Apple has shipped buggier versions of macOS, but I still think it’s superior to the alternatives.

The Macintosh has always had more than it’s share of innovative and aesthetically pleasing software. Over the past decade and a half, the number of carefully crafted applications has exploded. Whether you’re new to the Mac or a seasoned power user, I think you’ll find several new gems that’ll help you be more productive and possibly happier.

I’ve listed most of the services, hardware, and software tools I use. Take special note of the ★ apps and services. I find them to be indispensable.

Useful Services

FastMail ★ If you care about your privacy: Use FastMail. If you want a fast modern web interface: Use FastMail. If you want to control your email instead of a corporation studying your email: Use FastMail. If you have your own domain(s), use FastMail to power their email. I’ve used FastMail for years and they’re one of the oldest email providers. Disclaimer: The link above is an affiliate link.

Hover If you have your own domain(s) or are thinking of getting one, use Hover. They treat their customers well. They have a beautiful interface and useful documentation. I’ve used Hover for years and it’d take a lot to get me to switch. Disclaimer: The link above is an affiliate link.

Learn Enough LE is a series of books and courses designed for you to Learn Enough technical skills “to be dangerous.” I used LE to learn the Ruby on Rails framework back with LE was just a guide to Rails. Now I’m back to refresh and expand my skills. LE features several free tutorials and Michael Hartl & Nick Merwin even have a Scholarship program.

netlify ★ There are many ways to host a website online. Netlify just happens to be one of the fastest ways to build fast websites.

github Github is the granddaddy of git repo hosting and fortunately the service has only gotten better since Microsoft purchased the company.

heroku A free cloud application platform that makes it easy to deploy and scale applications.

Slack One of the most well known online workspaces for remote teams and a great tool.

Zapier Zapier is a powerful automation platform that allows you to automate interactions between many apps and services.

Instapaper I’ve used Instapaper to control tabs from multiplying like rabbits. Instapaper makes it easy to save articles for reading later so you don’t get derailed at work. When you use Instapaper you always have something interesting to read; it can get overwhelming if you save significantly more articles than you actually read.

The Hardware

I typically work in front of a GeekDesk with a pair of 27” monitors mounted to a pair of these AmazonBasics monitor arms.

My current Machine is a 15” 2013 retina MBP. The computer is a little long in the teeth and my fingers are crossed 🤞 that Apple will introduce ARM-powered laptops soon. My previous Macs were a 13” MBA, 24” iMac, and 12” G4 PowerBook.

Tools that make me more productive

nvUltra ★ nvUltra is currently in closed beta and is the spiritual successor of Notational Velocity. nvUltra provides nearly instanteous search and creation of notes in Markdown, guaranteeing you will never lose access to your notes. I use nvUltra to record everything that isn’t a password or task.

Alfred ★ Alfred is a powerful and lightening fast tool that “boosts your efficiency with hotkeys, keywords, text expansion and more.” I use Alfred over Apple’s Spotlight and snippet exapanders like Text Expander. I love this tool and use countless times a day.

Omnifocus ★ Everything I need to do goes into Omnifocus (Mac & iPhone). Omnifocus keeps track of my life so I don’t have to.

1Password ★★ You use a unique password for all of your accounts, right? If you answered yes, there’s a good chance to use 1Password. If not, you should. There is no better way to securely sync and store your passwords across all of your devices.

Soulver ★★ Soulver is one of my hands down favorite apps. I use Soulver almost daily to work through any ideas that involve math. Check out the examples on Soulver’s website.

AnyList I’ve used AnyList for my grocery and errand lists for a long time. It has a beautiful interface and the basic app is free.

Calca ★ Calca is a different take on the calculator. It’s similar to Soulver but has it’s own approach. I really enjoy Calca too but I have encountered a few bugs over the years. And so I primarily use Soulver these days. Calca is also available for Windows unlike Soulver.

Papparazi “Paparazzi! is a small utility for macOS that makes screenshots of webpages” and I use it whenever I want to save a website to my swipe file or make sure a page doesn’t change or disappear while I’m working on a project. Paparazzi does an excellent job of converting even the largest webpages into PDFs.

Chatology I don’t use Chatology often, but I find it indispensible when I need to search through my Apple Messages history to confirm something someone said months ago.

Sound Source This Rogue Amoeba gives fine grained volume and eq control for every app running on your computer. It’s very handy.

Audio Hijack Another Rogue Amoeba app which lets you record any audio passing through your computer. Very useful in a variety of scenarios.

Fission I don’t edit audio often but when I do, this Rogue Amoeba app does the trick.

SizeUp ★ SizeUp makes rapidly resizing and positioning windows easy via memorable keyboard shortcuts.

Tools for Text & Code

iA Writer ★ Wonderful, clean, welcoming. iCloud syncing. iA has continued to elegantly expand iA Writer’s power without destroying it’s simplicity. Note: This site current looks very much like iA Writer because I couldn’t stand to see this text formatted any other way.

Sublime Text 3 After many years, I finally made the switch from Textmate 2 to Sublime Text. I’m not sure what took me so long. Perhaps not wanting to say goodbye to an old friend. I’m just scratching the surface of ST3, but I expect most users do. This is a powerful, highly extensible text editor.

Tools for protecting my data

SuperDuper I’ve used SuperDuper for years to make fully bootable backups of my hard drives. My backups were real handy when my iMac’s internal hard drive failed. I simply rebooted off of my external backup (hold Option key while rebooting) and I was back up and running like nothing happened.

Dropbox ★ Dropbox is a truly magical file syncing service and the first two gigs of storage are free. If you use more than one computer, Dropbox or one of their competitors will almost certainly make your life better.

Tools for everyone

Pixelmator Pixelmator is a powerful image editor in the vein of Photoshop, but costs one twentieth as much.

Acorn Flying Meat’s Acorn is another excellent, but more streamlined, image editor. I bounce back and force between Acorn and Pixelmator.

Tweetbot I prefer Tweetbot’s interface over Twitter’s official iOS app and I will avoid Twitter’s website as long as Twitter clients are permitted to exist.

Bartender ★ When you work on a laptop, it doesn’t take long for one’s menubar to be filled with icons. And when you’re back at your big screen, the long list of icons can be unwieldy. Bartender allows you to hide menubar icons, rearrange them, and more. I highly recommend this app.

ScreenFloat ★ I love this app. ScreenFloat allows you to take quickly screenshots (full or partial screen) that then over on the screen while you work. My most common use case is taking a screenshot of documentation or something I need to reference while writing. I love this app and hope it never goes away.

Fantastical Fantastical is a powerful, attractive, and easy to use calendar for iOS and Macs. Fantastical was a paid app for years, but recently released the existing features for free with a new subscription if you want the additional features they’ve developed.

Transmit Transmit 5 makes ftp’ing files fun, err well at least pleasant. It’s a polished app and with support for Amazon’s S3, I’ll be using it for a long time.

Tools for power users

Little Snitch ★ Useful for setting per app internet permissions.

VMware Fusion Useful for running multiple operating systems simultaneously.


DigitalColor Meter An OS X utility for measuring and displaying the color values of pixels on the screen. Located in /Applications/Utilities.

Wesnoth ★ An open source, polished, and sophisticated turn based strategy game reminiscent of the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Beamer I’ve used Beamer for years to stream to my Apple TV. It handles far more formats that QuickTime. Beamer also supports Chromecast.

Have I overlooked your favorite app? I’m always interested in a polished app that addresses a specific need. You can contact me @aaron_stroud on twitter.

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