is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
I upgraded all but one of my Macs to OS X El Capitan before realizing that it’s not compatible with the current version of St. Clair Software’s Default Folder X. Since then, I’ve been checking every day for news on a new release; I depend heavily on this utility’s augmentation of the operating system’s standard Open and Save dialog boxes to help me jump around various folders on my Mac instantly. Being without it felt like a painful handicap.
Thankfully, yesterday St. Clair released a beta version of Default Folder X 5.0, which the company describes as a “complete rewrite of Default Folder X from top to bottom.” It’s unclear if they’ll charge for such a major upgrade, but I’ll gladly pay if so. I can’t get by without it.
That got me thinking about the other must-have utilities that I can’t do without—“desert island utilities,” if you will. A few come to mind immediately:
Bartender is a clever tool that can roll up all of the icons that lodge themselves into your Mac’s Menu Bar under a single icon. It’s a great way of tucking away distracting access points to various apps without having to get rid of them entirely. If you’re the obsessive compulsive type, this is for you.
Cordless Dog’s Stay is super-handy for laptop users who plug into large monitors regularly—I have two that I prefer to use over my MacBook’s built-in screen. The app remembers the placement of all the windows in all of your apps and automatically restores them just the way you like them on each monitor. It’s truly essential if, like me, the way you work and what you work on is different when you’re sitting at your desk versus when you’re on the go.
A lot has been written about Smile Software’s TextExpander, and with good reason. It truly gives you super-powers at your keyboard by automatically converting simple typed shortcuts that you define into full words, sentences, even blocks of text. This is a truly robust piece of software that I feel confident will reward any user, regardless of what you use your Mac for. If you’re interested in learning how to maximize its power, I recommend Michael Cohen’s ebook “Take Control of TextExpander.”
Finally, there’s another utility called Handler that I cooked up a few years ago with my friend Scott Ostler that intercepts web links and email links and presents a quick, on-the-spot menu of apps that you can send each to. It looks like this:
This is perfect for me because I use at least two and usually all three of the major browsers each day, and want to be able to choose which of them to send links to on a case-by-case basis. I also use multiple email clients to support various email accounts, and being able to select which mail program to use with any given mail link is a huge help. Unfortunately, Scott and I have never been able to find the time to finish up the app for public consumption, but there is an alternative available called Choosy, though it’s long in the tooth and not as elegant as ours, if you ask me.+