My Favorite Mac Apps of 2016

My Favorite Mac Apps of 2016
December 17, 2016 Weixiangz

There have been many transformations every year on how I approach my MacBook Pro, mainly due to ever changing new obsessions that would last for a few weeks. However, this year there has been two factors that changed the way I approach how I use my MacBook Pro. The first being the introduction of ADHD into my life by ways of formal diagnosis. Since now that I’ve been diagnosed, and therefore more aware of how my mind operates I’ve set out new ways counter some of the inabilities that a person without ADHD would have to worry about. Secondly, a new change in my academic career from biochemistry to computer science. Now, not only does this change the way I study, but it also changed the way I use my computer. A year ago I was doing an all digital lives style, this semester, however, I’ve gone back to paper and pencil implementation as well as using my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil. As the year comes to an end, here are my top apps for the Mac that I’ve used.

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Omnifocus

My life is a mess; my short term memory is so bad that I’ve asked myself many times whether I have Alzheimer or not. Not to be offensive or anything, one of the symptoms of ADHD is that we have atrocious short term memories. However, also due to my curiosity (as well as ADHD), I’ve always looked for a way to make my life easier, particularly in respect to bettering my no longer using my short term memory, rather exporting everything into an external structure. Omnifocus is a very expensive app, but the price matches the function. Without this app, I would’ve been looking at subscription-based apps like Todoist or Wunderlist, which cost the same amount as Omnifocus, only I have to pay that price each year

Omnifocus (40 bucks) uses a very familiar system of Getting Things Done, where the philosophy is to empty your mind into an external source and thus allowing your mind to do more important functions such as thinking and creativity. Omnifocus is a to-do list app that not only allows you to have a simple list of things to do, but it also gives you control of putting them into projects, and even what types of projects. You can also have repeat alerts that are highly customizable, which is useful when you have bills to pay or weekly repeats of homework. It also has location awareness features (called Context) that allow you to set location-based alerts. Lastly, its iOS counterparts are also top notch; sadly the downside is that you’ll need to purchase a version for the iOS as well which would be available for both iPad and iPhone.

I’ve tried a lot of to-do list apps this year and the last, and Omnifocus has been the one to stay so far. For more review on OmniFocus, I’ve written an extensive use of it here.

Secondary Alternatives: Todoist, Wunderlist, 2Do, Bullet Journal

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1Password

As the son of immigrants, not only does it mean that I have to translate a lot of documents for my parents, but also means I have to organize their lives for them. While they are self-sustainable without my help for many of their lives, as their child I’ve put it as my obligation to make their lives as easy as possible, and continually try my best to simplify their ways around this country. The most recent example being last night when my father asked me how to fix his iPhone 6 when the auto update feature of the phone finished updating his phone. I Facetimed my mother’s phone and guided him through the setup process of new updates, and when the phone asked me to enter his Apple ID, I had to switch to my 1Password app and tell him to type in the password. It’s so simple, but it made him really happy.

1Password (65 bucks) is a password manager; it’s an expensive app on the Mac as well, however, for the security and the functionality of it, it’s worth the price. It syncs across all iOS devices, and it even has a Safari extension that makes it easy to access every time. I have my personal accounts on there from credit card logins to my social security card, and I can trust them due to their commitment to privacy as well as their long-standing commitment to making you safe. You can also attach photos them as well, for example, if you forgot your credit card, you can open the app and see the image of the credit card. Apps like this should never be free, remember when an app is free, it means that you’re the merchandise. I would not trust Google with this form of information; I would, however, trust 1Password’s team, as well as Apple.

Secondary Alternatives: Paper and pencil, in a safe deposit box…..

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Apple Notes

Not ganna lie, Apple has stepped up their game this year with their notes app for MacOS Sierra. Before this year, I’ve been a heavy Evernote Premium user, and I was paying 60 dollars a year for the premium features. However, Evernote was a sinking ship for a recent example a few days ago. They were going to update their privacy agreement stating that they can have employees to look through your notes personally. Sure you may say Google does that as well, but with robots that categorize everything in your life, however, Evernote does this to all of their users rather than the free users. Not the point.

Around June, I went from Evernote Premium to Apple Notes. Apple Notes, it’s free, and it’s built into all Apple devices already. The note app wasn’t as good as it is now, however, in MacOS Sierra, it added a few new features that made it Evernote replacement worthy. You can now import and images to the notes, you can also collaborate with other people. However, the best part is that you can now set password protection to notes! After the import of over 300 notes from Evernote, I realized that the Notes could handle that amount quite well. It even allows for multilayered folders so you can have folders and categories.

Before my trip to Spain, I took a picture of my passport and stored it on my notes app. It’s now synced everywhere and protected by my finger prints. For a stock app, it’s I highly recommend it.

Secondary Alternatives: Google Keep, Google Docs, or OneNotes

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Duet Display

I love Duet Display (20 bucks), simply put it turns your iPad (or iPhone if you want to squint….) into an external monitor. Perfect for working in coffee shops or on the go, and it’s been optimized enough that it works well. No longer do I have to constantly switch between screens, or try to minimize a screen. It’s highly useful when watching a lecture on one screen and taking down notes on another. Certain apps restrict the minimizing feature of their app, for example, Xcode has to take up a certain amount of screen no matter how much you try to drag and turn it smaller. Xcode is a huge pain when you have a lecture on one side, and goes between even with cmd+tab.

It’s 20 bucks when I got it it was only ten bucks due to its opening sell. So far for the function of turning your iPad into an ultra portable external monitor, this is the best.

Secondary Alternatives: Astropad if you’re a designer, it turns iPad Pro and Apple Pencil into a Wacom tablet.

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MindNode

I try my best not to do work in my head, due to bad short term memory any thought that I would have meant that it only stays for about 5 seconds then it would disappear. MindNode (3o bucks) changes that for me, instead of thinking in my head it allows me to put ideas into a flowchart or mind map. For example, (on the image) this is the thinking process of coding the AI for connect 4 using a minimax algorithm.

It’s a very simple app as well. You start in the middle, and you push tab for a new subcategory and go on from there. It’s saved me many times in courses that require a constant abstraction. Mindnode uses iCloud as well, and it’s easily synced to the iPad or iPhone. I love MindNode and has been using it for years.

Secondary Alternatives: iThought, Omnigraffle if you wanna be crazy.

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Focus/SelfControl

Need to stop procrastinating on Tumblr or Imgur, yet don’t have the willpower to do so? Well, that’s a normal issue for people with ADHD. We require external structures rather than motivational powers. Thus anything that prevents us from doing it is better than will power. SelfControl(free) had saved me many times when I forgot to take my medication and need to focus. It’s an app that blocks your websites, and it’s completely free. You install it, add in the places that you don’t want access too, turn the desired time limit for it to a max of 24 hours, and start. Once you start, you can’t stop the app. Well, you think that you’re smart right and quit the app, right? Nope, wrong you can’t. What about force quitting the app, using Terminal, still nope. How about restarting? Naw, that doesn’t work either. You won’t be able to turn off the counter until the timer is finished, which is why they give a 24-hour timer as a max time allows.

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Okay, now if you’re someone like me and want the app to automatically start, then that’s where Focus (25 bucks) comes in. Focus isn’t free, but you can get three copies for 30 bucks so ask if your friends want to join in as well for three copies at ten a piece. Focus has a hard mode that you can turn on, and it also has a scheduler. The scheduler allows you to schedule times to activate Focus automatically, so if you’re like me and can’t turn on SelfControl, well simply set the scheduler to 6 am to 4 am Monday through Friday. Then activate hardcore mode so that you can’t turn it off, just like self-control. The only time that you can alter it is when it’s not turned on, thus for me would be between 4 to 6 am and on the weekends. Highly recommend this app.

Secondary Alternatives: Uhh….. not sure. Maybe tell your friend to change the password on your Facebook?


 

There’s a pattern in this list of best apps I’ve used this year, mainly that it’s used for increasing productivity and simplifying my life. That’s the main reason that I made this website; it’s for figuring out ways to supplement my cons by introducing some pros. ADHDers have a huge issue that a lot of the people who are affected by it doesn’t even know that they have it. ADHDers often leads to self-blame, social isolation, depression, and anxiety mainly due to the problem that they face when their love ones around them don’t understand. As for me, it’s also the year that clarified me on why I do the things I do. Why do I keep forgetting about things, why do I procrastinate so much, and why I impulse buy so many items then not use it after three days (looking at the Xbox One in my room). I hope this list of best apps would be of use to you, as it certainly has improved the way I work.