I work in front of a computer for 10 – 12 hours per day, and having a productive environment on my Mac is vital to my mental health. Utilities provide a productive system to get work done; here are 5 Mac utilities that rock my world.


I work in front of a computer for 10 – 12 hours per day, and having a productive environment on my Mac is vital to my mental health. I don’t always use the Mac for my work, but I use it more than others since it’s sitting on my desk with a big Cinema Display. The Mac is a productive system on its own, but gets even better with some utilities I use that helps make it more so. Here are 5 Mac utilities that rock my world.

Cinch. That 24-inch Cinema Display gives me a lot of screen real estate, and putting it to best use is helped by Cinch. Cinch enables some windows management that mimics the Aero Drag features in Windows 7. I can drag a window to the top of the screen and it instantly goes full-screen; dragging it back down returns it to the original size. Particularly helpful is the ability to drag windows to the left and right screen border, which makes the window instantly size to half the screen. It’s a great way to put two windows — equally sized — side by side for working back and forth. $7.

Xmarks. I use many different computers — both Macs and Windows — and keeping my browser bookmarks in sync across them all is crucial for my work. I also use Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Google Chrome to further complicate this process. The Xmarks utilities are available on every one of these browsers for both Windows and Macs, and keep all of my bookmarks and site passwords synced across them all. I never have to think about this, it just works. Free.

SnagIt. I am constantly capturing images off my screen for my work. I take snaps of program windows to share, images on a web page and full desktop images. I have to resize these images to fit the particular need, and annotate them occasionally. SnagIt is a great method to do all of the above, and it has become a big part of my work day. I shot a video of SnagIt in action if you’re curious. It’s in beta so is free for now.

SoundSource. Simple utilities are often the best, and that fits SoundSource. Anyone who often switches audio sources appreciates when that is simple. SoundSource sits in the system tray and through a drop-down menu makes it one-click easy to change input/output audio sources and set the volume level. Input/output and system audio levels can be controlled independently through SoundSource. Free.

SugarSync. The cloud service SugarSync is not a utility per se, but the Mac program functions like one in the background and keeps all my files backed up. It also keeps them synchronized to other computers I use, and it does so silently and without fail. Through the iPad app I can use SugarSync to access all of my Mac’s files on the slate. Free and paid versions, depending on storage requirements.

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  1. Jose Cruz Rodriguez Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    The trouble with Xmarks is that your bookmarks are kept on their system and evidently examined, because Xmarks also offers a “most bookmarked” service and doubtless also use bookmarking data for other purposes like identifying targets for various sorts of marketing and surveillance. I have no desire for others to examine my bookmarks and draw conclusions from them.

    1. A valid concern, but one I don’t share. The convenience is worth it to me.

      1. Well, I share it, so I am glad I read Jose’s comment.

      2. I share that concern, too, Oliver; I’m working on scratching that itch now. I should have a public beta of what I’ve been calling ‘Concord’ in a couple of weeks or so; exports/imports using local disc, ftp or rsync, and exported bookmarks are encrypted… so even if you do put your export in a public place, it should be reasonably safe from prying eyes.

        Troublingly, when I clicked the XMarks link, I discovered that I was logged in, as user ‘juszz’ who’d been a member since 25 July 2009…. on a private system that I had never used to create an account on…. drive-by site attack, anybody?

  2. How would you compare SugarSync with DropBox?

    I use DropBox and have never heard much of SugarSync.

    1. nevermind. I spoke before I reading up on it myself.


  3. The “system tray”?

    1. System menu. I switch systems so often I get terminology mixed up. :)

  4. Thanks James. Cinch is the only one I didn’t know about. Looks great. That may solve one of my issues – going from a 24″ external display on Macbook, and yanking out the mini-displayport, the apps are all off the screen. Guessing this is a quick way to resize the appropriately to the Macbook’s 13″ 1280×800 display?

  5. What about quicksilver or launchbar? My hands rarely leave the keyboard with quicksilver loaded.

  6. I like the idea of Sound Source, unfortunately I did some googling and found out that it can’t be done on a windows vista system, due to some “restricted APIs.”

    I’m truly sad right now, which means I must post the mandatory sad face. :(

  7. Or, instead of using SoundSource on a Mac, you could press the Option key when clicking on the Sound Volume adjuster in the menu bar, and you’ll have the same access.

    1. The hidden options and menus in OS X are amazing. Always good to be reminded that many menus or icons have some “options” when you hit the option key. Good tip (although it’s one I’d known about and forgotten in every day use).

  8. cmd + shift + 4 on a mac makes a nice png screenshot as well.

  9. BetterTouchTool has the same ‘particularly useful’ resizing features as Cinch as well as expanding you multi-touch trackpad /magic mouse capabilities :)

  10. You have a stupid justification for every criticism about your abject ignorance.

    “I get my terminology mixed up”

    “I knew about it but forgot it”

    HA HA HA.

    You are a laughable aging doofus/clown with a dimwitted online “column”.

    1. At least JK has an online column… you, however…

      Jeez… some people…

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