Five Bucks or Less

I'm gonna riff on the latest Mac Power Users episode in which David and Katie talk about their favorite Mac apps that cost $5 or less. It's a fun idea, and there's a handful of things that I use daily that fall into this category, so off we go:

Menubar Utilities

  • Caffeine (free): Caffiene is pretty much my favorite. David talked about it in the show. It's free, and it sticks to the idea of doing one thing really well. It keeps your Mac from falling asleep. I use it during presentations, of when I'm doing a demo to a friend or colleague. Or when my wife is using my computer so I don't have to repeatedly type in my password when she gets distracted by the dog.
  • CloudApp (free): CloudApp started life as a URL shortener and image host for Twitter, but I use it for a lot more than that, especially with their menubar icon. It's cleaner than a lot of image-hosting sites. All I need to do is drop the image on the little cloud in my menubar, and it's uploaded. From there it's super-easy to get the URL to the image (hold ⌘ and click the uploaded filename in the menubar dropdown, and it copies the URL to the clipboard).
  • DropBox (free for 2 GB): I just pay for the 50 GB plan, because I use the hell out of it.
  • Watts ($6.95): I had to break the rules for Watts. I spent that $7 years ago, and while I balked at spending money for a battery monitor, every time I get a new computer or do an erase and install, I'm glad I have it. It gives me a really nice replacement to the Apple default battery indicator, and I have the option of using a vertical icon to take up less space in the menubar. Love it.
  • Jumpcut (free): I hope Jumpcut makes up for Watts breaking the rules. It calls itself "clipboard buffering", but I call it a clipboard history. Unlike other clipboard history apps, it only applies to text. But I live in text (router configs, switch configs, TextExpander snippets for circuit orders, etc.), so having access to past-copied text is pretty sweet. Admittedly, I've only had it installed for a week, so I'm not sure where it fits, but I'm enjoying it so far.
  • Growl ($1.99): This one is definitely for the nerds. Growl is a little utility to which other applications can send notifications, which Growl will then display. Here's an example where I uploaded an image to CloudApp. Coupled with Hardware Growler, Growl provides a needed system-wide notification for OS X.
    Of course, the inevitable question is, since Apple is adding system wide notifications to Mountain Lion, where will that put Growl? I don't know, and we'll have to wait and see. But such things haven't always meant the end of the world for other apps.
  • GeekTool (free): Another one for the nerds, if the name didn't make that clear. It'll be really interesting for some of you, and I've written about it in the past. It's pretty slick, letting you display stats, images, or arbitrary text directly on your desktop. I've used it for work by averaging network response times to our remote offices and for fun by keeping track of my beloved Orioles. It's way more powerful than just that, and people have done some awesome stuff with it.

Other Apps

  • White Noise ($4.99): When I need to put on blinders and focus on work, I turn to White Noise or August Ambience. Putting on headphones and tuning out the noise of the office or of wherever I'm working really helps me keep my mine from wandering off. They're both indispensable to me.
  • Marked ($3.99): Another one that David mentioned. I've managed to blank out any period of time that I wrote in Markdown without this app. Marked does a nice semi-live preview of any Markdown file on your filesystem. It lets me add a style for each site I publish to, so I can see what the article will look like on that site before it's published. It's wonderful (yes, this post was written using Marked).