Dr. Mac's 3 Must-Have Utilities For Mac OS X

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #110


Someone recently asked me about my “must-have” applications for Mac OS X Yosemite and I realized most of them are utilities, not applications. What’s the difference? In my mind, an application (aka “program” or “app”) mimics something from the real world. For example, a word processor mimics a pen, typewriter, and/or paste-up board; a spreadsheet mimics an accountant’s ledger pad; and a calculator app mimics, well, a handheld calculator.

A utility, on the other hand, does something exclusive to a computer with no real world counterpart. For example, Default Folder X from St. Clair Software adds features and shortcuts to Open and Save dialogs (to make opening and saving files faster and easier).

So here are three utilities I use many times every day to save me time, keystrokes, or both. Since I feel more productive when my fingers are on the keyboard, all three utilities include lots of keyboard functionality you won’t find in OS X.

LaunchBar seems similar to OS X Yosemite’s Spotlight at first glance, but it’s much more powerful and configurable. Like Spotlight, just type a few characters and a list of files appears almost instantly. But only LaunchBar lets you do much more with items in that list, such as copying, moving, renaming, and compressing files or folders, controlling most of iTunes, and instant web searches, all without touching the mouse or trackpad.

LaunchBar’s contextual menu (right) offers options for the selected item.

And LaunchBar learns what you search for most frequently and often predicts what you’re looking for before you’ve typed more than one or two characters. In the figure above, I typed “AA” and the first item in the list is Adobe Audition (highlighted). There is no occurrence of “AA” in the app’s name, but since I’ve used LaunchBar to open it several times in the past few weeks, it made an educated guess that Adobe Audition was what I was looking for. And, at least this time, it was right!

Next: My Favorite Feature

Page 2 - My Favorite Feature


Perhaps my favorite feature is Clipboard History, which preserves up to 100 items I’ve cut or copied to OS X’s single-item clipboard. Better still, unlike the OS X clipboard, which is vaporized when you shut down, reboot, or experience a crash or kernel panic, LaunchBar’s Clipboard History survives across restarts and crashes, which is just freakin’ awesome.

LaunchBar provides fast, easy access to the last 100 items I’ve copied or cut.

TextExpander does just what its name implies – it inserts words, sentences, or paragraphs when you type the associated abbreviation.

For example, when I type, “bltv,” TextExpander replaces it with, “The BobLeVitus.TV Show,” saving me 16 keystrokes. Or, if I type “blc,” TextExpander replaces it with my email address (bob@boblevitus.com), which saves me 15 keystrokes. I have dozens of these and they add up to a lot of time saved every day.

When I type “preq,” TextExpander replaces it with this lengthy product request message (right)

TextExpander can also replace thousands of common typos on the fly. So when I accidentally type, “taht” or “iPhnone”  TextExpander types the proper words and does it so quickly that if you blink you’ll miss it.

Last but not least, Keyboard Maestro lets me create “macros” that I can execute with a single keystroke or mouse click. If that sounds like the late, lamented QuicKeys to some of you old-timers out there, you’re absolutely right. Since QuicKeys demise a few years back, Keyboard Maestro has been my go-to utility for launching apps from the keyboard, manipulating window sizes and positions, adding keyboard shortcuts where none exist, and clicking buttons without touching a mouse or trackpad.

These are just a few of the Keyboard Maestro macros I use to save time and keystrokes

So there you have it… this trio of powerful yet inexpensive utilities has saved me literally hundreds of hours and millions of keystrokes over the years. Now think about all the time you could be saving and download the free trial versions of all three and start saving tons of time and keystrokes yourself.


LaunchBar 6. $29. Objective Development

Keyboard Maestro. $36. Stairways Software

Text Expander. $34.95. Smile Software

And that’s all he wrote…