11 Most Used Tools Essential to my Work *UPDATED*

by Tobias van Schneider
first appeared ✍🏼
on my personal blog

Below you can find a list of my Top11 essential apps that you might have not heard about. I’m focusing on “lesser” known apps on purpose as there is no need to tell you that I use Spotify, Dropbox, Slack etc. (we all probably do)

DISCLAIMER: All of these apps are my personal recommendations based on what I use in my daily workflow and I’m not paid to endorse any of those. All these apps are mostly OSX (your Mac) but I’ve already published an article about my top iPhone apps for photo editing if you’re looking for mobile apps recommendations.

№ 1 — f.lux

F.lux is easily one of the best apps I ever downloaded. f.lux makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and as bright as possible during the day to compensate for the daylight. Trust me, use it for a couple days and then turn it off to see the difference, your eyes will thank you & you will sleep better at night.

For all designers out there: If you need color accuracy, you can temporarily turn f.lux off or tell the app that it should ignore certain apps. (such as Photoshop)

Download for Mac
→ Cost: FREE

№ 2 — Evernote

It took me a while to find the real value of Evernote but it slowly became an extension of my brain. I use it daily for taking notes, storing inspiration or even keeping track of random ToDos or travel plans.

It’s a must have and it just syncs beautifully across all devices such as my iPhone. If it’s not Evernote, you will probably use another note taking app, but there is no way around one if you want to keep your thoughts organized.

Download for Mac
→ Cost: FREE (with subscription model)

№ 3 — Little Snitch

If your privacy is worth anything, use Little Snitch. It’s the first app I install on any new Macbook I have. Essentially, as soon as you’re connected to the internet, any app can send whatever information the they want, where ever they want. Sometimes it makes sense, but in some cases it might not.

Little Snitch monitors incoming and outgoing connections of every app on your computer making sure apps are not “calling home” without your permission. Since using Little Snitch, I’m surprised by how many apps make connections all the time, without me even knowing it. Little Snitch simply protects your privacy.

Download for Mac
→ Cost: $35

№ 4 —Noiz.io

Noiz.io is a little tool that let’s you play relaxed ambient sounds, from rain to coffee house ambient sounds. It works like magic for your productivity and helps you to stay focused. I also highly recommend using it in combination with Spotify to produce some original and relaxed sounds.

You might also like to check out Noisli which is pretty much the same but runs in your browser if you’re not fancy installing an app for that.

Download for Mac
→ Cost: FREE

№ 5 — Headspace

Not really a Mac app but Headspace just has to be on this list. It has not only introduced me to meditation but also helped me create a habit of meditating every single day. Headspace had a huge impact on my overall health & well being.

If you struggle with depression, anxiety or just feeling stressed about work or private issues, this little app will give you the perfect guide to find your peace of mind. The starter content is free, so just try it out and see if you like it.

Download for iPhone
→ Cost: FREE (with Subscription model)

№ 6— Hemingway

A little app that helps me become a better writer. I use it every time I compose a new article. Hemingway encourages me to write simple, short & easy to understand with no fluffy words or buzzword bullshit.

You can try it for free on their website and see the benefits immediately. It’s pretty smart.

Try it now
→ Cost: FREE on web, $6.99 on Mac

№ 7— Pocket

Pocket is one of my most used apps, both on Mac and on my iPhone. Pocket is essentially a “Read Later” app. Every time I find an interesting article, or anything interesting online, I simply click the Pocket icon in my browser (there is a plugin for Safari or Chrome) and it saves it automatically to my Pocket.

It also means, articles I save on my computer, are automatically on my iPhone so I can read them later. I not only use Pocket for reading articles later, but also for doing research, especially on my Macbook. The Pocket Mac app has a powerful search which comes in handy when looking through my Read Later archive.

PS: Pocket is more than a Read Later app. The team puts a lot of effort into curating the best content from the web, so I use it as a regular articles discovery app as well.

Try it now
→ Cost: FREE (with optional subscription model)

№ 8— Momentum

Momentum is a personal dashboard for Chrome designed to eliminate distraction and provide inspiration, focus, and productivity.

It’s essentially a Chrome plugin that replaces your “New Tab” page whenever you open a new tab. I love looking at a new beautiful picture everyday, followed by an inspirational quote and the simple question of: “What is your main focus today?”. Momentum also supports a basic ToDo list feature.

Get your shit together and install it already
→ Cost: FREE

№ 9— Screenflick

Screenflick is one of those subtle apps that I always forget to mention, even though I use it a ton. On most of my projects where I collaborate with someone, especially across time zones I record quick screen recordings and share it with my team.

It’s a completely underestimated way of communicating and saves hundreds of emails or meetings. It’s simple: If you work on something, stop sending PDF decks or stupid long emails. Just record a quick 3–5min screen sharing session and people will love you.

PS: Screenflick has a couple more advanced features you might not need, so if you like to start simple, you can also use Quicktime (free on your Mac) to record screen captures.

Download Screenflick
→ Cost: $29

№ 10 — Mindmeister

Mindmeister is a web app for creating mind maps right in your browser. I use mind maps to paint the bigger picture of big projects which helps me to make sense of everything in the most easiest and fastest way possible. I’m a designer, I need to see things visually to make them easier to understand for me.

In addition, mind maps are amazing for quick brainstorm sessions. You can collaborate together on one mind map at the same time while keeping the big picture right in front of you. As I’m more the visual guy, creating a mind map helps me understand the big picture much easier than drafting a Google doc.

Get Mindmeister
→ Cost: FREE basic version, then paid

№ 11 — CloudApp

I first loved CloudApp, and I didn’t like it for a while, and then recently I fell in love with it again since they started focusing more on their product.

CloudApp essentially integrates with your default screenshot functionality on MacOSX. You take a screenshot, it automatically uploads that screenshot to the cloud and puts a link in your clipboard. As simple as that.

Dropbox supports this feature as well, but CloudApp adds a couple more features like annotations & a better viewer on top. It’s a must have app for sharing images quickly with your team.

Get CloudApp
→ Cost: FREE (with optional paid subscription)


What are yours?

Besides the apps I mentioned above, I of course use all the ones you probably already know, ranging from 1Password, Slack, Skype, Dropbox etc.

Also worth mentioning are:

Transmit — My favorite FTP app

Coda — My code editor app (for the not so hardcore web devs)

iTerm 2 — My default terminal replacement for MacOSX

Skitch — Awesome app for giving instant feedback to your team members

Keep on rocking,
Tobias


PS: I usually send out these articles via my personal email list right here. You can sign up anytime, I won’t spam, promise.

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Tobias is a Designer & Maker + Co-Founder of Semplice, a portfolio platform for designers. Also host of the show NTMY — Previously Art Director & Design Lead at Spotify & Board of Directors AIGA New York.

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