What’s in the dock?

Following my post on OS X uninstallers, Matt asked about what applications are in the dock in my screen shot. So here’s a quick run down of the extra apps I’ve got in the dock, plus what’s loaded and showing in the menu bar.

What_s What

The Dock (from left to right)

Path Finder – I use this instead of the default Mac OS X Finder for most of my file management on the Mac, mainly because I can open it with two panes visible and drag & drop between them, but it’s got a whole host of other file management goodies besides.

OtherInbox/Fluid – OtherInbox is great for managing my mail and an absolute must in the fight against spam (I wrote a separate post about it). Here I’ve got the web interface to it bundled as an application using Fluid, so I can quickly launch straight into it from the Dock.

NetNewsWire – the best way to keep on top of all those RSS news feeds. I’m a bit of a news junkie (hmmm, might even post about what feeds I follow at some point), and NetNewsWire makes it easy to get my daily fix, oh and it’s free.

Microsoft Messenger – After moving to the Mac I still had a lot of friends using Messenger, and the Microsoft client gave me the best compatibility even though it lacks some of the features of it’s Windows counterpart (like audio & video in the personal version). I do like Adium as an IM client, but for some reason keep going back to Messenger. Old habits die hard!

VMware Fusion – If there’s one indispensable app on my Mac, this is it. It’s neck and neck with Parallels when it comes to running Windows on your Mac, and I typically run three Windows VMs side by side during my working day. VMware has been rock solid and we use it at work so I can move VMs between machines if need be.

1Password – I keep all my logins. passwords and secure notes such as software licenses in 1Password. Browser integration makes it a snip to quickly and safely log in to web sites, plus with the iPhone app I’ve got all my passwords safely backed up on the phone.

Pages 09 – This was my first choice for word processing on the Mac, although I had to add MS Word later.

Word 2008 – I bought MS Office 2008 for the Mac simply because so many of my colleagues use Word on their Windows machines and this gave me the best compatibility for sharing those docs.

Excel 2008 – Not much of a number cruncher but have written a couple of complex spreadsheets in Excel 2007 for Windows which I use weekly and Numbers 09 had a few issues handling them, so Excel 09 was the natural choice. Even so, there’s still a couple of compatibility issues between Excel 07 and Excel 2008 – ahem, thank you Microsoft.

EyeTV – how else to get my daily fix of pulp TV without leaving my Mac? Bought an Elgato EyeTV Hybrid and this is the software that came with it. Works brilliantly and dead easy to use.

Spotify – The revolutionary music streaming service that everyone’s talking about. A good range of music to suit all tastes, and relatively unobtrusive adverts for the free service.

Last but not least, there’s an icon in the dock that lets me quickly connect to my Mac Mini (standard built-in OS X screen sharing stuff).

The Menu Bar (left to right)

Skitch – Superb for capturing screen shots and then editing/annotating them. All the text and arrows in the screen shot at the start of this post were done using Skitch. It also lets you easily upload and share the fruits of your labours.

Evernote – Great dumping ground for all those notes I would otherwise be scribbling on bits of paper, plus I can sync my notes between computers, and with an iPhone version I can sync notes to that too.

DropBox – Another great way to share files between computers, and even with friends. 2Gb of online storage for free!

OpenDNS Updater – I’m a great fan of the OpenDNS service, keeping me safe from dubious websites, phishing attacks etc. I even wrote a blog post about it a couple of months ago. The OpenDNS updater is a free little app that syncs your IP details with the OpenDNS service.

GMail Notifier – A handy way to keep tabs on new Google mail. This was Google’s own version, but I’ve since switched to the leaner GMail Notifr app.

Yahoo Widgets – A hangover from my Windows days, thousands of widgets to put on your desktop, and I like the fact that you can change the transparency of any widget.  I know OS X has the Dashboard for widgets, and with a little hack you can put Widgets on your desktop, so it’s horses for courses. (To be fair, I think Yahoo Widgets are on the way out as there’s fewer and fewer new widgets appearing these days).

Smart Reporter – A little menu bar app that monitors the SMART status of your drives – green is good. I’ve got four drives in this Mac Pro, so any early warning of an impending failure is a plus.

Mozy – Online backup tool (this is me and my backup paranoia again). Mozy offers a good balance of functionality and cost (just $4.95 a month for unlimited storage).

Little Snitch – I was actually quite happy with the built-in OS X firewall, but I got Little Snitch as part of a MacUpdate Promo Bundle. I installed it and found that it’s nice to have that little extra bit of control and information about what your firewall is up to.

iStat Menus – An assortment of useful menu bar indicators for various aspects of your system. Here I’m using the memory meter to keep an eye on how much of my 12Gb has been gobbled up by my VMware virtual machines.

MobileMe – Apple’s online service needs no introduction. I keep this in the menu bar simply to give me quick access to go and check up on it or force a quick sync.

On the desktop there are two Yahoo Widgets visible. The one on the right is the standard Yahoo Weather Widget that comes bundled with the app. You can see it here at around 50% transparency so it blends into the background. The one on the left is something called Neon Gauges which will give you a graphic representation of various aspects of your system. Here I’ve used circles to indicate CPU and disk usage and have blended them in with the shapes on the background wallpaper.

There you go, a lightning tour of what’s on my OS X desktop. Obviously I’ve done the rebuild since taking that snapshot, but I still use most of those apps, so hope this gives people a few ideas. This has given me a few ideas for other posts I might do in the future, like:

  • What news feeds I’ve got in NetNewsWire
  • What’s on my iPhone
  • A sum up of what’s in (and around) my Mac Pro
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Mail – Let me introduce you to my significant ‘Other’

OtherInbox

OtherInbox

I am NOT organized. No matter how much I try to fool myself that I am, I’m not. I have little bursts of being organized, but the effort usually wears me out quite quickly and I lapse into my old ways of never really quite having a handle on what’s going on. So for me, email was a mixed blessing. It started all those years ago with a single Hotmail account and then my free ISP POP3 account. Before long I had three more Hotmail accounts, an Inbox.com account, a Gmail account, two Yahoo accounts, an Orange account, an O2 account, and many more besides. I then hit on the idea of registering my own email forwarding domain that would allow me up to 50 individual email addresses plus one ‘bucket’ address that would catch everything else.

For someone who has a tenuous grasp on being organized, this was a disaster in the making. The theory was that any time I wanted to register with a new site or service, I would first have to create an email address in my new domain for it, then use that. It sounded good but very soon I was using generic addresses like ‘shopping’ or ‘finance’. Added to that, spammers would send email to random names @ my domain and so my inbox filled up with messages to ‘shdsluyqwv’ and the like. I tried in vain to use Gmail as a conduit for all my mail, but there was no way around two major problems I faced.

  1. I had to dream up new addresses before registering with any new site.
  2. I had no idea who the good guys were, and who was playing fast and loose with the email address I’d given them.

Now I have tried my fair share of email clients and services, but these haven’t been much more than straws to a drowning man (drowning in email that is). At the last count, I have something around 15 ‘fixed’ email addresses and three email forwarding domains (each with the capability to use 50 unique email addresses). No way is that healthy!

I had all but resigned myself to the fact that email would always own me and not the other way around, but a month or so ago I was watching the Crunchies (courtesy of TechCrunch) and this guy was talking about a problem. More specifically my problem!

Joshua Baer

Joshua Baer

His name is Joshua Baer and he was describing OtherInbox. To me this was commonsense on a stick! All I had to do was sign up and choose a username and password, and that was pretty much it. No more dreaming up emails and pre-registering them so I could use them and throw them away if they got abused. No more trying to remember which generic addresses like ‘stuff’ applied to which sites. No more trying to figure out who was sharing my email addresses with guys selling little blue pills. OtherInbox already had it covered, but how?

Well the premise is simple, your OtherInbox username is combined with otherinbox.com to become your own personal email domain. So for example if you chose joesoap as your username, your email domain would be joesoap.otherinbox.com. After that you can use any prefix your imagination can come up with and use it to register with sites and services on the web. So I could use ‘Amazon@joesoap.otherinbox.com’ to register with Amazon.com, and ‘poorfools@joesoap.otherinbox.com’ to register with the 10 Downing Street website, and so on. There’s no limit to the number of addresses you can create, you use names that make sense to you, and best of all you don’t need to set anything up in advance, you just dream them up and use them when you need them.

Then every time an email is sent to one of the names you’ve created, it’s put in a folder of the same name in your OtherInbox

Tame your email

Tame your email

mailbox. It does all the organizing for you, you don’t need to create rules to move messages into folders, it’s automatic.So that’s problem number #1 fixed, but what about spam? Well if I start to receive emails offering me university degrees or inexpensive medication in my ‘poorfools@joesoap.otherinbox.com’ mailbox, then I know exactly who has given away my email address. In addition to that, if the spam becomes too bad I can simply ‘block’ the ‘poorfools@joesoap.otherinbox.com’ mailbox. Job done!

If all this sounds too good to be true, well it’s not. OtherInbox really have come up with the commonsense approach to organizing your use of email addresses for you, but… I have only scratched the surface of what it can do. It has a great interface, it’s free, you can set up automatic notifications, you can point it at an existing Gmail or IMAP inbox, you can set up RSS feeds off it, you can do all sorts of things. So if you want to get geeky with it and lick its face, then head over to OtherInbox and check out what they have to say, and watch the video (link at the end). Then stick your name on the waiting list for an invite, you won’t regret it. By the way, if you’re wondering how I got an invite, well I follow OtherInbox on Twitter and was lucky enough to be there when they offered out some invites, so if you follow them too you might get in the door early.

Me? Well for once I’m going to sit back and let the technology do the work for a while, because getting organized starts here and best of all I barely had to lift a finger. Then I’ll think about sending Josh a Christmas card in 2009 by way of thanks, after all – I am organized now.

Watch the Crunchies video about OtherInbox here.