Inspired by the Enough podcast and Minimal Mac site, both by Patrick Rhone, I’ve been thinking about how little software I’d need to do all the things I need to, both for work and leisure purposes. I’ve been patiently waiting on the new Macbook Air refresh, as I’m looking to replace my 15″ 2008 Macbook Pro. I’ve still not decided if I’m going 11″ or 13″, although the latter is looking more likely. The base SSD size is 128GB for the current models. That doesn’t seem very big, but I think I could easily get away with it, and have plenty to spare. In fact, I’m sure the 11″ 64GB model would be fine too. So what would I install? Read on…
First up, without a doubt, would be Google Chrome, my browser of choice. I made the move to Chrome a couple of years ago from Firefox and it has went from strength to strength. Firefox was way too slow and clunky back then, and I really don’t miss it at all. I’ve never liked Safari either, I did try it for a while, but found it’s features too limited. Chrome is fast, extensible and fits perfectly into my workflow.
So that’s the browser sorted, what about email? I’m a Gmail user, and the web client is excellent, but it’s nice to have a dedicated desktop application. Sticking to a minimal “one thing well” theme, my client of choice is Sparrow. I’ve been using this since the beta, and I love it, it gets better with every update. Mail.app, Thunderbird and Outlook are all too heavy and they don’t play particularly nicely with Gmail for my liking.
1Password would be next. I use strong passwords generated and stored by 1Password, without it I’d never remember how to login to most sites, as each password is different. Really couldn’t get anything done without this most excellent piece of software, well worth the investment, which at $39.99 is nothing compared to the added security it gives you.
Next up is a fairly new app for me, but one that has completely changed the way I use my Mac in the short time since I installed it. Step up Alfred! Kind of a hard app to describe, as it does so much, but it’s a productivity app/launcher which has turned me into a serious keyboard ninja. With the paid-for Powerpack, it’s an incredibly powerful and extensible piece of kit. An absolute must have. Already I’m finding it odd when I work on machines where it is not installed.
I’m a big Twitter user (I’m @grapefruitmoon), but I’m not keen on their web interface. So Twitter for Mac would go on too. I’ve tried a few client apps, but I like the simplicity of this one. Others such as Tweetdeck are too busy for my liking, just too much going on.
Dropbox is another must have. The ability to sync my documents across all machines and also be able to access them online is essential, and Dropbox does this perfectly. I don’t use a great deal of the storage space available, but Selective Sync lets me choose exactly what folders I can sync to each machine, meaning I can save a bit of space if required.
For note-taking, my go-to app has been Evernote, but recently I’ve started experimenting with Simplenote and Notational Velocity. I like the simple text-based format of the latter, very simple to use and importantly, very easy to get data in and out. I still like Evernote and use it for PDFs, links and image-based notes. But the issue with getting data out is one that bothers me somewhat, I’m really not a fan of proprietary formats. I’m not overly impressed with their iOS apps either, editing text based notes is not as simple as it should be. Simplenote on the other hand is perfect for this. Anyway, for the time being, I’d be installing both.
One of my most favourite Mac apps is Scrivener. For me, this is the best writing tool out there. It’s not the kind of app I usually take to, given that it is extremely feature-heavy, but it makes writing, in it’s many forms, an enjoyable experience. The ability to sync via Dropbox makes it a surefire winner.
OK, music and media next. With such a small storage capacity, I’m not looking to keep any music, photos or video locally. So Home Sharing via iTunes is a given. When I’m not on my local wireless network, I’d use StreamToMe to get back to my media server. And I’ve recently subscribed to Spotify Premium for streaming. I like Spotify, but I really want to love it; however, the glaring holes in the catalogue frustrate the hell out of me.
So that’s pretty much it, that’s essentially what I would need. For full on work purposes, I would really need VMWare Fusion, as I mainly work with MS SQL Server, but that’s not reasonable for a laptop with little storage. I’d consider installing the various flavours of Navicat for connecting to remote SQL Server, mySQL and PostgreSQL instances.
Other apps I’d consider: Writeroom (nice distraction-free writing app, although not an essential if I’ve got Scrivener), MacJournal (good journalling app, but could use Simplenote or Evernote for the same purpose) and Skype. I don’t particularly like Skype, but it’s probably the most widely used VOIP and chat app available.
Compiling this list has made me realise just how little space and processing power I actually require these days. I’m conscious that I’m running a way over-powered Mac Pro at the moment, and I really don’t need that much kit. When Lion is released, I’m going to experiment with using a Mac Mini as my main desktop. I’ve already gone from a two monitor set up to one (24″), and I’m not missing the second one at all. Streamlining and minimalism is the way to go!