The best apps, most awesome keyboard shortcuts and coolest hidden features of Mac OS

Just a list of my favourite Mac OSX stuff that I use regularly to improve productivity or just make things easier.

Screenshot functionality

There’s more than one way to capture screenshots in MacOS using keyboard shortcuts, and it’s often quicker to use some screenshot features than it is to save the image and edit it afterwards. Here's the lot:

  • ⌘ + ⇧ + 3: Capture entire screen & save
  • ⌘ + ctrl + ⇧ + 3: Capture entire screen & copy to the clipboard
  • ⌘ + ⇧ + 4: Capture selected area & save
  • ⌘ + ctrl + ⇧ + 4: Capture selected area & copy to the clipboard
  • ⌘ + ⇧ + 4 then Space: Capture a window & save
  • ⌘ + ctrl + ⇧ + 4 then Space: Capture a window & copy to the clipboard

Dictation

I'm not sure why Apple don't make a bigger deal about dictation, as it's pretty awesome and built right into OSX, activated simply with a double tap of the ‘fn’ key.

It works damn well too. I don’t use it a huge amount, as I’m often working in cafés and quite frankly don’t want to look like a weirdo, but it’s great for typing up ideas at home quickly.

Turn off the screen quickly

Press ⇧ + ctrl + power to quickly dim the display to minimum. I use this constantly when I’m nipping away from my computer and don’t want to waste the battery or have prying eyes look in.

(Edit Nov 2016) Ulysses

iA Writer used to be my go-to for writing, especially in markdown, and I originally said iA was my favourite of this list. But I'm sorry to say iA; Ulysses has surpassed you.

I was reluctant to download this app initially and chose iA over it as the cost is pretty steep (35 quid!) but it's hands down the best writing experience on Mac.

Where iA is clean and simple, Ulysses is clean and simple 2.0 - adding features you'll come to love. Some of my favourites include;

  • ability to check all markdown syntax with a quick shortcut
  • goals! you can add a 'goal' of word/character count etc and it is displayed in a sidebar in a great format
  • libraries,comments, notes, tags!

It costs a lot more than most basic text editors, but if you spend a lot of time writing on your Mac, Ulysses is without a doubt worth every penny.

iA Writer

iA Writer is essentially a stripped down word processor aimed at people who write for the web.

iA Writer supports Markdown and does an excellent job of making it as easy as possible to edit, and you can export to a ton of formats as well as just ‘copy to HTML’. It’s clean formatting ensures you can drop an article into any CMS with ease.

The best part about iA writer though is its distraction free interface, and the fact that it syncs with iCloud and allows for handoff between other iOS devices; something which I have used more and more recently to pick up where I left off on my iPhone.

Evernote

Evernote is completely essential to me, and I store almost everything in it, from documents for meetings to the last gas bill or important receipt I got. If you’re not using Evernote already, it does take a bit of getting used to, but stick with it and eventually all your documents will be within easy reach at all times.

Sign up for the pro version (excellent value IMO) to enable ‘document searching’ - literally letting you search within uploaded word, PDF, and even handwritten notes!

ClipMenu

ClipMenu is a free clipboard manager for Mac OSX that stores the last 20 things you copied, then allows you to re-copy them right from the menu bar. It’s such a great time saver especially when editing data from a bunch of sources.

There are plenty of alternatives on the app store, but you should download ClipMenu because it’s free.

Things

I’ll start off by saying that yes, Things costs a bomb, especially for a Todo app. It’s 40 quid (yep!) on Mac OS, and you then have to buy it again on iOS - adding another £7.99 for iPhone and £7.99 for iPad!!

But it’s a bit more than just a todo app, and can be used for project management too, and it’s just really well made and an absolute pleasure to use. I’ve tried a hell of a lot of productivity apps (including Omnifocus) and Things has been consistently the best Todo app out there.

Due to the high price, it’s not for everyone though. I’d say if you don’t really need the project management side of things from a todo app, then you’d do fine with Wanderlist, Todoist or just simply Apple Reminders. But Things is the one for me.

Tweetbot

By this point you may think I have an affinity for expensive apps, and Tweetbot won’t convince you otherwise. At £7.99 you might wonder why anyone would buy Tweetbot, especially considering the iOS version is another £3.99 - but it’s simply the best Twitter app you can use on any platform, including Windows and Android.

It’s super quick and intuitive, and just feels right. You’ll know what I mean when you use it.

Reeder

Reeder is an RSS reader app that’s basically perfect. It looks great, it’s really fast, you can sync a bunch of accounts at the same time, swipe through posts and view the full articles right in the app really quickly.

I’ve taken to using this as part of my morning routine to get the news I’m really concerned with, and it syncs across my iPad and iPhone using my Feedly account. It just makes the news more personal and useful - you can waste a lot of time reading something like the Metro that’s not really going to improve your knowledge or life.

It’s £7.99, but trust me; worth every penny.

Battery Monitor

Battery Monitor is free and offers just a bit more useful information about your current battery life, such as battery health and time remaining of charge. Useful for those on the go or with older MacBooks. It has a cool little notification bar widget too.

Activate cool little OS hacks

Head to the console (called Terminal, built into your Mac) and type:

defaults write com.apple.finder _FXShowPosixPathInTitle -bool YES

This activates full folder paths in your finder window, much like Windows has, just something useful that should be part of the OS anyway.

Head to console and type:

defaults write com.apple.dock autohide-time-modifier -int 0.1

This will make the autohide function of the dock appear much faster. You’ll need to type ‘killall Dock’ afterwards just to refresh the dock. A timesaver for that irritating lag on the dock appearing when you’re in a fullscreen app.

Hold down ⇧ + alt whilst changing the volume on your Mac.

This will make the volume increment in quarters rather than a whole ‘pop’. Useful for when you’ve got headphones on.

Essential Browser Extensions for Digital Marketers

Here are my top picks for browser extensions for Google Chrome (many are available on Safari & Firefox too) that I use on a regular basis to help me with various tasks.

Pocket

Most of you are probably using this anyway, but I’ll start with the basics. Pocket is the fastest and most simple way to save articles for later. Visit the Pocket website and make an account, download the app on your phone and use the Chrome extension to save any article you want to read later. From there you can add to your Buffer. Simples.

Domain Hunter Plus

Domain Hunter Plus is a really quick way to see if any of the links on a page are broken. It’ll check them fast at the touch of a button and is great for broken link building campaigns, or just for website maintenance.

Measureit

Measureit is a super simple extension that measures the pixels on a page. Useful for measuring out widths of blog sections or sidebars etc for optimising images and other resources without needing to check CSS.

Google Tag Assistant

If you use Analytics you’ll want to get this. Tag Assistant is the quickest way to check if Analytics scripts have been added to a website and even gives you solutions if there are potential problems. Essential.

Quick Javascript Switcher

Does what it says on the tin really, just a button in your toolbar to switch Javascript off for the site you’re on. Yeah you can do it in the Chrome settings, but this is much faster. Great for SEO and when you’re trying to see which content is likely to get indexed (properly). Download Javascript Switcher.

Search and Replace

Search and replace is the browser equivalent of the tool commonly available on word processors. It does nothing else special and doesn’t need to. Useful for times when you are editing content directly in a CMS as most don’t have this feature.

Word Count

Word and Character Count Tool is again massively simple and lets you do a word and character count from the right click menu of selected text on a webpage. Great for checking word counts for articles and other pieces for SEO purposes.

Redirect Path

Redirect path is great for SEOs and just saves you from opening up Screaming Frog if you’re going to need to check to see if the page you’re viewing has a hideous amount of redirects.

Open SEO Stats

I’m not usually a fan of browser based on-page analysers, but this one is pretty damn good, and useful for those who are new to SEO as it gives you a really good overview of potential SEO issues of the current URL with one click. It also lists a whole bunch of stuff that you would usually have to go elsewhere to get like Alexa/Pagerank/Whois etc. Get Open SEO Stats here.

Anything I’ve missed off? If you use something regularly that I’ve not included then give me a shout.

Digital Marketing Tools I Use Daily

Here's a list of some digital tools I use on a pretty regular basis - a lot of which daily.

These tools are perfect for those who are in a position of managing a digital marketing strategy, whether that's at marketing manager level or agency side.

Even if you're not specifically a 'digital' manager, many of these tools are useful for running any marketing, especially if you're a new or small business.

There are many many more which I regularly use, but for more technical purposes. This list is just the ones you'll find useful in any position of marketing.

SEO Tools

Screaming Frog

Screaming Frog is the go-to SEO tool and allows you to quickly (mostly) crawl an entire website to determine on and off page website errors. It also allows you to check tons of stuff easily like canonical errors, redirect chains, insecure contnet, make XML sitemaps, and a ton more cool stuff like integrating with analytics. £99 for a year licence or you can go for the lite version which will crawl a substantial 500 URLs.

Download Screaming Frog

SEMRush

SEMRush is particularly awesome for its competitor and historical keyword research at the push of a button. It also tracks keyword positions daily and has a bunch of tools to show you things like on page suggestions for keyword optimisation and actually which keywords you should be targeting. It can get pretty pricey, although it is the best all round SEO solution in my opinion.

Get SEMRush

Link Building / PR

Linkody

Linkody is a great backlink monitoring tool which will monitor any new links to your website as well as being able to monitor any links you are expecting. Done some outreach/PR for a campaign lately? Put the domains you're expecting links from in Linkody and it'll let you know as soon as they are live. It's also really good value starting at about 6 quid a month. You'll want to set up competitor tracking so you can see potential link building opportunities or just spy on competitors in general.

Get Linkody

Google Alerts

Obvious one here, but Google alerts are still so valuable. They're free, and allow you to monitor mentions of your brand or main keywords on an as-it-happens basis. Probably advised not to set up alerts for popular keywords like 'Protein Shake' unless you want a million email alerts a day.

Set up Google Alerts here

Analytics

Google Analytics

Yes there are better solutions than Google Analytics out there, but they cost money, and Google Analytics doesn't (yet). Considering it is free, it's ridiculously useful and far easier to use than it first looks.

Sign up for Google Analytics here

Analytics Alerts

Still on Google Analytics here, but it's worth noting one of the most simple yet useful features: custom alerts. Head to Admin > Custom Alerts and set up email or SMS alerts for things like drop or rise in traffic on your website. Do some experimenting here as there are a ton of combinations you could use.

Analytics Dashboards

Another Google Analytics feature, and one that's massively convenient, especially if you've got someone to report to on a regular basis.

Dashboards allow you to create your own essentially custom dashboard views tailored to certain information or business goals. Or you could just take the lazy option like me and use some of the badass templates in the gallery.

Check out the Analytics templates

User Experience / Process Formation

Google Forms

It might seem like by this point I am sponsored by Google, but I can assure you I'm not, they just do a ton of awesome stuff. And that includes Google Forms.

It's basically a free, easy to use way to survey people. Just create the form in Google docs and it gives you a share link to send to people for them to fill out.

Most obviously you can survey your customers, but one thing I like to use Google forms for is creating internal processes. If there's a task that you repeat on a regular basis, can it be standardised and simplified by using Google forms? To make it one step easier, use Bitly to create a 'vanity URL' for the link to the form.

For example I recently created a form to capture all new client details that come from a sales team to a marketing team with a URL like bit.ly/easytoremember. It contained many questions similar to 'have you requested Analytics access to team@marketing.com?' which serves both as essential information for sales, and reassurance for marketing. And it took about 10 minutes to set up.

Well I hope that's useful for you! I'll keep adding to the list as new and other tools come to mind.

LG G4 Review

A worthy contender for best Android phone?

I've had the G3 for just under a year now, and have to say the experience with it has been excellent, especially considering the price. For me the G3 put LG in the spotlight for contender of best android flagship phone, and it was really the first LG phone that I'd even taken a moment to notice. The G3 stood out for its simplistic design and the fact that it managed to fit the huge screen into such a manageable device by using very thin bezels.

So does the G4 live up to the hype as its successor? And should you buy the phone if you are considering a new device or switching to Android? Let's find out.

I've littered this post with images from the camera rather than of the handset itself, because I think this feature deserves to be shown off, and quite frankly LG's official handset images are far better than mine.

The LG G4 camera handles low light night shots very well indeed. 

The LG G4 camera handles low light night shots very well indeed. 

Design/Hardware

I'll just start by saying one thing: the back of the phone comes off.

Where the majority of manufacturers have swayed to producing flagship smartphones with enclosed batteries, LG have managed to stick with one of (in my opinion) the most valuable features of their phones. Or in fact any smartphone really. Having a removable back means you can change the battery of the phone if needed, as well as add micro SD storage. It's a real shame that the majority of manufacturers swing away from this, I wince every time my girlfriend says she's run out of storage space on her iPhone 6.

Of course this comes at a price of not having a metal design like other flagships such as HTC, Samsung and Apple, but the solid build and sleek looks of the G4 hold up well against the competition. I will say that this is quite a 'manly' looking phone in black, although the colour-ways like gold and white do change this.

Screen

The screen is 5.5inches of pure bliss. It's huge, it's bright, and the resolution is crazy (effectively 2k) the highest on any smartphone at the moment. LG have made huge improvements in the ability to view the screen in direct sunlight, and the G4 is great in this respect. If you leave auto brightness on, it has a kind of 'sunlight mode' where the contrast is really white and the text emphasised a lot, making it easy to read on when exposed to direct sunlight.

Close up shots are brilliant quality.

Close up shots are brilliant quality.

Software

When first using the phone after the G3, It's immediately apparent that the firmware of the G4 is designed with Material (Android Lollipop) in mind. It's sleek, boldly coloured and gives a great sensation that you can 'feel' every touch of the screen.

The software is also much faster than almost any non-stock Android phone I've used, and is etremely minimal. Everything from the keyboard to the settings menu has been redesigned with a material look.

That being said, I still much prefer the stock Android experience, and I think LG could benefit with just getting rid of their own efforts and concentrating on the hardware.

Performance

There's 3gb of ram on the phone, as well as a Snapdragon 301, which isn't as high as the latest Samsung handsets but is still a very high end processor.

The performance on the phone is excellent, and some of the added transitions made by LG as mentioned above make the phone just that extra bit sleek. App performance is some of the fastest I've seen on an Android device, and in general performance is very high. No complaints here.

Camera

Ok here's where it gets interesting. The camera on the G4 is absolutely incredible.

There's essentially full manual controls including focus (amazing for close up shots), as well as the ability to shoot in RAW format. The camera is 16 megapixels, nothing new, but the quality just blows anything else I've seen out of the competition.

All the images spread throughout this review are from the back camera, unedited, no filters etc. It even handles low light images with ease, and the flash is by far the most natural I've seen on a smartphone, producing images you actually want to share.

The only niggle is the same one that's been around forever on Android, and one thing I just can't believe no manufacturers have addressed, and that's the speed. The speed of the G4 camera is amazing, don't get me wrong, but it's still not as fast as the iPhone 6 Plus.

This relates directly to my point on software above - it would be amazing if LG could just bite the bullet with their own customisations of Android and put more effort into making simply the best phone for taking pictures. Android is great as it is, we don't need a new coloured menu or 'smart notice' features, just get the camera perfect.

Shots in the sun are of course excellent.

Shots in the sun are of course excellent.

Front Facing Camera

The front facing camera is 8 megapixels, which is pretty crazy. I thought I'd mention it, as the quality is definitely noticeable, particularly the wide angle of the front camera. If you're obsessed with selfies, this is something you'll love, although I didn't find it to be much of a deal breaker myself.

Stunning wide angle front-facing camera shots.

Stunning wide angle front-facing camera shots.

Battery Life

I've been very impressed with the battery life, easily getting a full day of use out the handset even with high brightness and using a bluetooth headset all day. And if you need assurance it'll last the entire day, just grab a spare battery off eBay and you're winning. There's nothing like saying 'I've still got 200% spare battery' with a smug face whilst all your friend's batteries die off around 7pm.

Should you buy it?

If you're considering the switch to Android and are looking for the best phone, the LG G4 is a very viable option. I would highly recommend it to anyone, particularly those who need all day battery life due to the removable back, or those with a keen interest in photography.

Source: http://www.lg.com/uk/mobile-phones/g4/gallery.jsp

Source: http://www.lg.com/uk/mobile-phones/g4/gallery.jsp

How Google Works Book Review

Plus some of my favourite quotes from the book

Although the title may suggest this is a book about how the Google search engine works, it is actually a book about business culture and how Google as a business operates. And it’s a really good one at that.

HowGoogleWorks

I find business books tend to be a bit hit-and-miss; they are often either too ambitious to apply to your company, or just too corny to take seriously. But How Google Works gets it just right - providing insights on business practices used at Google as well as take-away examples which are easily relatable to any modern business.

“They are a new kind of animal, a type we call a ‘smart creative’, and they are the key to achieving success in the internet century.”

One of my favorite aspects of the book is the strong emphasis on how to treat employees right - particularly what Google like to call ‘smart creatives’ - the determined internet generation we find working in modern companies. There are many things I could relate back to from this, (although I wouldn’t say I’m as intelligent as some of Google’s product engineers) I understand that employees in modern companies must be treated differently to traditional companies; particularly when it comes to free reign and contribution. Your company must be rife with letting smart creative types have opportunity and choice, or they will quite frankly get bored and leave.

“Innovative people do not need to be told to do it. They need to be allowed to do it.” - Udi Manber

Which brings me on to my next point: innovation is a big focus of the book, and this is excellent. There are many practical examples of how to encourage innovation from employees in the workplace, something which we all know Google does extremely well.

“Giving the customer what he wants is less important than giving him what he doesn’t yet know he wants.”

The book also gives Eric Schmidt & Jonathan Rosenberg the opportunity to admit some of their mistakes, which are honest and funny, but fundamentally are learning tools.

How Google Works is a primer for any modern business looking to succeed - particularly in the technology sector - and whether you’re a manager or an employee, I highly recommend you read it.

Chromebooks: What are they and Who are they for?

As a Chromebook user for over two years I find it odd that there are still so many people unaware of what they actually are and what they do. People may have seen the television adverts, but are still unsure of whether they are ‘proper’ computers, or just think no one buys them and they are a passing fad.

But the fact remains that Chromebooks are stronger than ever, constantly in the top selling laptops categories on Amazon, and continuously becoming more popular within business and education.

So here’s my attempt at explaining the damn things, and hopefully if you’re thinking about buying one but are unsure - this will help you make the right choice either way.

What are Chromebooks?

Laptop computers running Chrome OS

The very basics here: an operating system (OS) is what allows a user to interact with a computer - the most popular of which being Mac OS and Windows. Chromebooks are running a relatively new operating system created by Google called Chrome OS.

Chrome OS is based on Google Chrome; the popular web browser you’re probably already familiar with. Yet Chrome is much more refined and lightweight than most operating systems - i.e. it doesn’t take a lot of computing power to run it.

In The Cloud

As mentioned, Chrome OS is based on the Google Chrome web browser, and therefore is designed to be connected to the internet at all times. You sign into a Chromebook using your Google account, and Google services like Gmail and Drive integrate naturally into the whole operating system.

This means the laptop itself doesn't have any programs installed on it, instead you use the same 'web apps' available to you on the Chrome web store.

People get confused about Chromebooks, thinking that without an internet connection they are useless, but that's simply not the case.

This doesn’t mean you can’t do stuff offline though. There are plenty of apps that automatically work well without an internet connection including documents, spreadsheets, Gmail offline, Wunderlist and more. You can also mark files in your Google Drive as ‘available offline’ so you can still access important PDFs or images for instance, just like on Drive on a mobile device.

This is an area where people get confused about Chromebooks, thinking that without an internet connection they are useless. That's simply not the case. And let's face it, these days how often do you really find yourself without an internet connection?

Cheap

Chromebooks are extremely affordable. In fact, I’ve seen Chromebooks for as little as £139 brand new, which is quite frankly ridiculously good value. The more expensive models tend to have larger and better screens, but even they are very affordable, often well under £300.

Fast

Because the Chrome operating system runs apps ‘in the cloud’ this makes it extremely fast in general, and most apps do not require much processing power - hence the amazing value for money and low price points of most the machines.

What’s more, the way the operating system is built means it only gets faster with time, automatically updating in the background regularly.

After two years of having my Samsung Chromebook, it has become considerably faster and more useful than when I got it. This is contrary to most operating systems that just seem to slow down over time with updates.

Virus Free & Secure

Because the operating system runs on cloud apps and nothing is ever really installed, you don't need to worry about viruses. Gmail also has a two step authentication security feature too, which means you have the option of enabling this to make your account extra secure.

The Acer Chromebook CB3-111 and the Samsung Chromebook Series 3, both 11.6 inch screens

The Acer Chromebook CB3-111 and the Samsung Chromebook Series 3, both 11.6 inch screens

What are their ideal uses?

As a second computer

Because of their low price points Chromebooks are an excellent option for a secondary device that’s extremely portable. In fact, most the 11.6 inch models are the same weight as a small Macbook Air, making them very easy to carry around. They are also just built very well - you’re not going to get an all aluminium construction for £200, but you will get a laptop that’s sturdy and feels great to use. I have no worries when putting my Chromebook in a bag without a case, and it has held up well so far.

For everyday use

Chromebooks are great for everyday tasks like taking notes, browsing the web, writing emails, social media and writing documents.

I find a strong point for Chrome OS is its simplicity; the lack of a cumbersome operating system with many programmes installed with associated updates in the way (particularly if you’re a Windows user) means you can grab a Chromebook and get stuff done with little distraction. There’s no Java updates popping up every 5 minutes, just a bunch of apps that launch when you press the button.

Who are they for?

Education

Chromebooks are becoming increasingly popular with educational systems in the US with many school districts rolling out a Chrome OS device to each student. And they make perfect sense for education.

Each student can log in with their Gmail account saving slow IT admin, and the devices can be wiped (powerwashed) and used good as new when they are finished for the year.

Collaboration options through Google Education allows students to work with peers and their teachers on projects, get reactive, quick feedback, keep up to date with school news, calendars and more. Not to mention the costs of the devices are so low that insurance is also more affordable.

Work

As mentioned above, Chromebooks make a great second computer, and this is certainly the case for using Chrome OS in the workplace. Inexpensive and very portable makes them great for catching up on email and typing up documents and notes whilst out the office, and using Google Apps for Work is a hassle free solution for IT user management.

The less IT savvy

Because of the simplicity of the operating system - no messing about installing programmes, needing updates, constantly responding to system pop-ups etc - Chromebooks are perfect for the less IT savvy. They run very well and require almost no maintenance or set up at all.

Perhaps this may be an elderly relative who just wants to browse the web and catch up on Facebook; a Chrome device is the perfect solution with a price they will agree on.

Everyone

It sounds corny, but the advert ‘For Everyone’ that Google are pushing is kind of true.

These machines aren’t trying to promote status over others, they aren’t trying to be the fastest or look the best, they are simply trying to give everyone something to learn, search, play and collaborate with; and the price point means this is achievable.

What are they not good for?

Power users

Of course, Chromebooks are not good for users that require a lot of processing power or need to install large pieces of specialist software.

You’re not about to go and make a movie, design award winning graphics or create a musical masterpiece with a Chromebook. Those tasks are reserved for devices that cost over 4x the price of these.

Your main device

I’m going to go ahead and say that if you are a working professional you probably won’t want to use a Chromebook as your main computer. The people mentioned previously can get all their work done fine on a Chromebook, but if you’re a career type, there will eventually be a point where you’ll need Windows or Mac OS to sort something out.

A perfect example is when I need to format something using company styles and fonts for a client. My Chromebook simply cannot handle this. I can draft out work absolutely fine, but when I need to format it properly and turn it into a presentable PDF, I’ve got to use my Windows machine.

Microsoft dependents

This is an obvious one, but I’ll mention it. If you absolutely must use Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook etc, then a Chromebook isn’t for you. Yes you can now fully edit Microsoft Office files on Google Drive, but there are still formatting issues here and there that may be a problem.

Those who don’t like change

This is more of a mention for those who are buying for others - a Chromebook is not a device for people who aren’t inquisitive when it comes to technology. You’ll have encountered these people in the past; they see a software update with new features as a bad thing, because it changes what they already know and means they have to learn more to use it. Don’t go there.

So that about wraps it up, and I hope it's been useful. You can probably tell I'm slightly biased towards these machines, but I do beleive this is the way computers should be built - to get better with time not worse.

I'd love to hear your experiences with Chromebooks and Chrome OS, hate it or like it, give me a shout on Twitter or join the unnoficial Chromebook Community on Google Plus.

All Chromebooks are adorned with Google's Chrome logo 

All Chromebooks are adorned with Google's Chrome logo