The Macademic Ninja kit posted a while ago included TextExpander, LaunchBar, Hazel, 1Password and Dropbox. I still love and constantly use all of these small apps. But in the last 1.5 years five other apps have also become critical for freeing space for real work: DefaultFolderX, Fantastical, NValt, TaskPaper and Pomodoro.
- DefaultFolderX lets you assign OpenMeta tags while saving files. It is invaluable for managing reference files especially used in combination with Papers, DevonThink and/or Tags. It also has a shortcut to produce a list of folders which you’ve recently used. For example, you’ve started to work on a manuscript and created a Scrivener file in a specific folder for that project. Then you’ve created a figure in OmniGraffle or another program and want to save it in the same folder which you’ve just used. In DefaultFolderX it’s enough to press ⌥↓ to see this most recent folder. If you press ⌥↓ twice it will show you the prior folder etc.
- Fantastical is a ‘natural language’ calendar tool. It lets you add events without lifting your hands from the keyboard. It works as follows: you press ⌥Space to invoke Fantastical and type something like”next Wed noon new course w. Alex for 2 h /phone ↩” and press ⌥Space again. This adds an event “new course with Alex” at Nov 14, 2012 12:00-2:00 pm to the Phone meetings calendar. Compare this to switching to your Calendar app, turning to the next week, clicking on Wednesday noon, adjusting the duration, selecting the right calendar, etc. Using Fantastical means that I enter calendar events without being distracted from my main work.
- Pomodoro structures your work in uninterrupted 25-min slots, which is essential for writing and other tasks requiring full concentration. Pomodoro can also block your Skype and stop other distractions. Naturally, there is a convenient shortcut to start a pomodoro (for me ^⌥⌘↑). A recent update allows to choose a name for a pomodoro from open OmniFocus projects . Since pomodori slots can sync to a calendar I can easily see how much productive time you have spent on a project.
- NValt is a system for managing plain text notes such as writing snippets, meeting minutes, quotes or references. It’s lighting fast and makes it very easy to search for notes, especially if you follow a naming system, and it allows OpenMeta tagging (so that your notes will show in DevonThink or Tags alongside your reference files).
- TaskPaper is my favorite light app for lists which are moving too fast for OmniFocus, such as things to discuss with particular people or corrections to introduce in a manuscript. TaskPaper uses plaintext, but is a bit more structured than NValt so that you can assign items to ‘contexts’ and hierarchies, mark completed items as @done and archive them afterwards. TaskPaper also has a great quick entry shortcut ⌘⇧↩.