to the next level

I’m notorious for spending hours upon hours on the computer.  And as with the rest of my life, I want to make that time as efficient as possible.  This post is going to detail some of the programs and settings I use on my Mac in order to boost productivity.

1. Quicksilver

My favorite application launcher.  Quicksilver is essential to me because I love keyboard shortcuts and commands, as this allows me to keep my dock minimalist as well as reducing clutter.  I’ve got Quicksilver set up so that I press Command – Space to bring up the window above.  I wanted to use Quicksilver strictly for my most accessed programs and folders, so I only utilize a custom Catalog:

So basically, when I know I want to open up iTunes, I press Command-Space to bring up the Quicksilver window, and start typing i-T-u-n-e-s.  Because I’m not searching through hundreds of items in the catalog, I really only press Command-Space and then i.  iCal and iWannaSleep show up secondary because they aren’t opened as often.

Finally, Quicksilver also has all of my Firefox bookmarks cataloged.  In my first example, using Gmail, I just hit Command-Space and start typing G-m-a-i-l until it comes up (similar to iTunes, it’s the first because it’s the most used application starting with G).

Most people don’t understand Quicksilver or see the point, but I’ve yet to find someone that can move around the computer as quickly as I can.  There’s also a ton of other things you can do with the program, but those functions suit me the best.

2. Spaces

I played around with Spaces a few months after picking up my Mac and it’s become such an essential part of navigating my computer.  I have a 4 x 2 set up, with applications designated for individual Spaces.  The configuration is:

  1. Firefox
  2. iTunes
  3. Mac The Ripper/Powerpoint/Evernote/Transmission
  4. VLC
  5. Word/Excel
  6. Undesignated
  7. Undesignated
  8. Undesignated

Instead of minimizing windows, I keep every window opened in their respective Spaces.  For example, when I listen to music while surfing the web, I open Firefox via Quicksilver (it opens in Space 1) and open iTunes via Quicksilver (it opens in Space 2).

As a note, I can open any Space-designated application regardless of what Space I’m in.  For example, if I use Quicksilver in Space 8 to open iTunes (which is a Space 2 designated program), when iTunes opens it will automatically move me over to Space 2 and leave whatever I was doing in Space 8.

If I want to drag Space-designated programs into other Spaces, I just hold the click and hold on the top of the window and then use my command for changing Spaces (for me, this is Command – # of the Space you want to move to).  This comes in handy when you have PowerPoint and Word designated in two different Spaces but would rather have them side by side for a particular project (or any other combination of applications).

3. DropBox

I can’t recommend the free service DropBox enough.  For signing up, you get 2GB storage space that syncs across multiple platforms.  I keep a variety of files on there, but its especially key for school documents.

What’s great about this is that I keep all of my lecture notes, PowerPoint files, memos, etc. in my DropBox folder, and then I can access it from whatever computer I’m on.  You also can share folders with others, as shown by the folder with people in it (above, shown on RLST 110).  This means collaboration and sharing files is easy and you don’t need to send another email when a new file is created or revised.

Paired with the iPhone app and web interface, DropBox allows users to access their files from anywhere.  Who needs a flashdrive when you can have all your files stored online (and for free)?

4. Evernote

A buddy of mine put me onto Evernote as I was looking for a good program to keep notes.  I had a tried a few of them, and also kept a Moleskine, but nothing really captured and made what I was trying to do any easier.  I read a lot of articles online with recommendations, product reviews, etc. that I want to keep but not necessarily bookmark in my browser.  I also wanted a place to archive some emails without using GMail’s star system.

Here’s an example of how I use it.  I saw this Intelligentsia mug that I liked, but wasn’t really serious on purchasing.  I made a note of it in Evernote, and can reference it from the “What Ifs” folder when I’m looking through things I need to buy or for gift ideas.

Evernote also has a Firefox plug-in which makes things even easier.  All I do is press the little elephant button next to the home icon on my browser, and Evernote makes a note out of whatever page you were on.

And again, similar to DropBox, Evernote also has a fantastic website and iPhone app so you can access your notes on the go or from any computer.
As far as other programs, here’s a quick list of recommended apps (beyond the obvious):

  1. AppCleaner – gets rid of applications and associated files much better than just uninstalling or deleting them.
  2. GMail Notifr – not Notifier, Notifr.  Checks Gmail quicker than the Google branded version, looks good in the menubar.
  3. iTunesMenu – control some aspects of iTunes in the menubar, and utilizes Growl alerts.
  4. iWannaSleep – sleep timer for your computer to shutdown.  I use it when playing movies before going to bed so that DVD title menu music doesn’t play for 7 hours.
  5. MacTheRipper – my favorite tool for archiving DVDs.  Others prefer Handbrake, but I like the fact it makes a straight copy for archival purposes.

I hope you learned a thing or two from this and maybe even implement some of these strategies.  With more and more time spent on the computer by people in general, I think we owe it to ourselves to make that experience as quick and efficient as possible.  Any questions or thoughts – leave a comment!

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One response to “to the next level

  1. My alternative on Ubuntu is Gnome Do. It functions a lot like Quicksilver. My mum uses Launchy for Windows XP.

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