Four Essential Productivity Apps I Couldn’t Live Without

I recently ordered a new MacBook Pro. It has been two years or so since I have bought a new computer, and I figured it was about time. Apple makes it really easy to upgrade. You simply connect your old computer to the new one and it copies everything over. It couldn’t be easier.

Close Up of Tools on a Tool Belt - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/DNY59, Image #2124951

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/DNY59

However, this time, I decided that I am not going to do that. Over the years my computer has become filled with “preference” and “application support files” that are no longer necessary. For the sake of improved performance, I decided that this time I would install everything from scratch.

This has made me carefully think through what I am actually using. I try a lot of software, but I really have a suite of applications that I rely on. In fact, I have four software applications that serve as the foundation for everything else. These are the apps I will install first. (In fact, I am not sure I could even function without them!)

  1. 1Password. This is the program I use to store all of my passwords. 1Password has my Web logins email accounts, identities (one for office, home, etc.), software licenses, and a digital wallet with all my credit card info. Before 1Password, I had this information stored in a variety of places. Now it is all safe and secure, tucked into one encrypted vault. With a keystroke, I can enter this information automatically when I need it. It also auto-generates very strong passwords.
  2. iKey. I hate using the mouse. It sounds trivial, but you waste a lot of time moving your hand back and forth from your keyboard to your mouse. iKey is a keyboard macro program. I can load or goto specific programs with a single keystroke. For example, to get to Apple Mail, I press Shift-Alt-?-M. To get to HootSuite, I press Shift-Alt-?-H. I launch all my major programs with similar keystroke combinations. I never even think about them now.
  3. Typinator. This is also a huge timesaver. Typinator is a text expander. You type an abbreviation, and it replaces it with a word, a phrase, HTML code, or an entire block of text. It also autocorrects common misspellings in any application. For example, if I type “.emw” (without the quotes), it replaces the text with my work email address. If I type “.emp,” it replaces the text with my personal email address. I also use it to type in entire HTML or PHP statements with abbreviations. This way I don’t have to remember the correct syntax.
  4. LaunchBar. This is also a keyboard driven utility that provides near instant access to applications, documents, contacts and calendars, bookmarks, iTune tracks, and everything else. In my opinion, LaunchBar is what Spotlight should have been. If I want to lookup someone’s phone number, I just press Ctrl-Space to invoke the program, type the first few letters of their name, and ba-bam: their contact info is at my finger tips. I can even use this to launch apps I don’t use very often or goto specific web sites.

I also intend to install all my major applications from scratch, including Microsoft Office, iWork, Adobe Creative Suite, etc. Thankfully, all my software license numbers are in 1Password. It should just be a matter of downloading the app again and entering the license number. I will then copy over all my documents from my backup disk.

Question: What are the software apps you can’t live without? If you are on Windows, have you found equivalent applications?
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