Cheap (or Free) Thrills for Mac Users

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #343

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the phrase “cheap thrills,” I think of the best album ever by Big Brother and the Holding Company (featuring Janis Joplin).

That’s not what today’s column is about. Rather, I’d like to introduce you to not one, not two, but three awesome free or inexpensive Mac apps I use every day to be more productive.

MenuMate: Your Menubar Wherever You Click

I prefer using two monitors but doing so creates a minor issue: My dual displays measure nearly 4,000 pixels across—1,440 for the MacBook Pro and 2,540 for my main (27-inch) display—so the mouse pointer can be far, far away from the menu bar…

That’s why I love MenuMate ($4.99 in the Mac App Store) by Alice Dev Team. It’s a one-trick pony, but its one cool trick: MenuMate summons the whole menu bar of the active application with a keyboard shortcut, placing it directly beneath the mouse pointer anywhere onscreen.

And, because my Logitech MX Master mouse offers programmable buttons, I’ve assigned one to MenuMate’s keyboard shortcut, so I can I press that button and the menu bar appears under my cursor instantly.

MenuMate in action whilst using Safari.
MenuMate in action whilst using Safari.

MenuMate saves me time and effort every day. If instant access to the menu bar anywhere on the screen(s) sounds like a good thing to you, believe me, it is, and well worth the five bucks.

Zonebox: A Free To Do List with a Pomodoro Timer

Zonebox by Median Tech (free in the Mac App Store) helps me do two things I do all day, every day—maintain a checklist of tasks and set a timer for 25-minute work sessions (the Pomodoro technique).  I love it because it’s not only a great Pomodoro timer, it is also where I keep my daily task list. And I especially love the way it displays the time remaining in a session with both a progress bar and a numerical display.

I love Zonebox's pair of elapsed time indicators.
I love Zonebox’s pair of elapsed time indicators.

I’ve used dozens of different timers—physical devices as well as Mac and iPhone apps—for my 25-minute Pomodoro sessions, and Zonebox is still my favorite. And, for what it’s worth, it wasn’t free when I got it. I paid either $0.99 or $4.99 for it and thought it was a bargain. Now that it’s free… well…

Desktop Quote: Inspiration on your Desktop

And finally, because I truly believe in the power of positive thought, I like to read inspiring quotes during the course of the day. So, I love Desktop Quote by South Pole Software ($0.99 in the Mac App Store) and run it on all my Macs.

It’s another great one-trick pony; its trick is to display an inspirational quote on top of your desktop wallpaper in your choice of color, style, font, and size. And, of course, it can change the quote as frequently (or infrequently) as you specify.

Desktop Quote in action on my desktop along with its Preferences window.
Desktop Quote in action on my desktop along with its Preferences window.

It includes its own quotes, but I’ve been clipping inspirational quotes for years, so I followed the easy instructions and made my own featuring fifty fantastic (at least in my opinion) quotes that inspire me.

I call the collection Quotable Quotes for Productive People; you’re welcome to download it for free.

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