Creative Productivity: Essential Mac Apps for the Modern Creative

In my journey with The RareViz flywheel of easy productivity, I’ve long been committed to refining my processes and maximizing freedom time. Sadly, many in creative professions have come to believe that the process must be grueling, hard, and devoid of continuous improvement (Every project being a heavy lift of creative expression). Such an approach fuels the prevalent issues of anxiety, overwork, and burnout.

The RareViz flywheel of easy productivity is inspired by the work of Jim Collins.
The RareViz flywheel of easy productivity is inspired by the work of Jim Collins.

Yet, in my two-decade-long adventure in the creative realm, I’ve developed an appreciation for dependable processes. They not only offer value to my clients but also ensure I have freedom and balance.

Crucial to my workflow optimization are applications that enable me to do more with less effort. Today, I’ll share some tools that have become indispensable in my daily routine as a creative studio owner.

Keyboard Maestro: Mac Automation Supreme

At first glance, Keyboard Maestro might seem daunting. It’s an extensive application that taps into the depths of the Mac OS, morphing it into an automation juggernaut. But what I truly love about Keyboard Maestro is its intuitive building block system. This design allows you to automate almost any Mac task, turning repetitive chores into streamlined workflows.

The foundation of Keyboard Maestro is straightforward:

  1. Create a new macro within a group.
  2. Combine blocks of functionalities to design a macro.
  3. Activate this macro through various triggers.

For instance, let’s consider a basic macro:

A very simple keyboard maestro macro remapping a hotkey to another.
A very simple keyboard maestro macro remapping a hotkey to another.

Here, we reconfigure the hotkey from control command up arrow to shift command up arrow. This ensures consistent functionality across different Mac apps, preventing confusion due to varying keyboard shortcuts.

Common Use Cases:

  1. Synchronizing keyboard shortcuts across different apps.
  2. Running a ‘morning reset’ macro that shuts down inactive apps and repositions active windows.
  3. Having a ready library of Unicode symbols.
  4. Applying text transformations: title case, all caps, or lowercase.
  5. Setting up application palettes for seldom-used apps.

If you’re new to Keyboard Maestro, start small. The Keyboard Maestro forum is a goldmine where enthusiasts share solutions to even the most obscure problems.

SuperWhisper: Seamless Thought-to-Text Conversion

A screenshot of the settings of SuperWhisper.
A screenshot of the settings of SuperWhisper.

SuperWhisper is a recent yet pivotal addition to my toolkit. This inconspicuous Mac app, which rests in your menu bar, is powered by OpenAI’s Whisper model. It flawlessly transcribes text at remarkable speeds, even understanding my Danish accent with precision.

From crafting client emails to generating prompts and penning articles, SuperWhisper has significantly enhanced my productivity in 2023. Its basic version is free, which meets most of my needs. However, for multilingual support, there’s a premium version available.

I eagerly anticipate further improvements and features, especially to smoothen out minor quirks in the app’s functionality.

See full overview here

RayCast

The default window when triggering Raycast.
The default window when triggering Raycast.

RayCast is a stellar spotlight replacement for Mac OS. I had previously used Alfred, and it revolutionized how I worked with my Mac. But as other productivity apps, like Keyboard Maestro, began to absorb some functionalities I loved in Alfred, I transitioned to RayCast. It’s swift, lightweight, and feels highly reliable. I mostly use it for searching files, launching apps, the built-in calculator, and the emoji finder, which is superior to Mac OS’s default. With its diverse plugins and extensions, RayCast also offers intriguing AI capabilities, which I’ve yet to delve into. Check it out!

TickTick

Tick Tick is a great task manager that works well cross-platform, but the calendar function leaves a lot to be desired.
Tick Tick is a great task manager that works well cross-platform, but the calendar function leaves a lot to be desired.

For years, TickTick has been my preferred task manager across iOS and macOS. Surprisingly affordable, yet it’s one of the most comprehensive task managers out there. I leverage TickTick as an idea reservoir for potential tasks, always mindful that time and energy have their limits. [cortex link]

The advantage of this approach is the compact view of potential tasks. Typical usages include adding tasks via Siri integration on iOS, moving tasks to “today” or “this week” views. However, TickTick has its limitations: its calendar views can be glitchy and unattractive. Despite these quirks, it excels in its primary function. The markdown functionality for task descriptions, enabling almost limitless task nesting, deserves a special mention.

Eagle

Eagle is an amazing minimal visual database app.
Eagle is an amazing minimal visual database app.

Eagle is a hidden gem for curating a local visual database on your Mac, akin to Pinterest but with added functionality and local. This robust app handles images, 3D models, videos, and more. Though there are concerns about its ongoing maintenance, its current version is indispensable.

I frequently use the Chrome plugin to drag visuals directly into my database, which retains crucial metadata. Eagle’s built-in color search is awesome for branding projects, allowing for rapid identification of unique color combinations. It’s also handy for accessing thumbnails of frequently used mock-ups to swiftly locate the corresponding large PSD files.

BusyCal

One of the best or the best calendar replacement for Mac.
One of the best or the best calendar replacement for Mac.

BusyCal stands out as a robust calendar app for Mac, with impressive cross-platform capabilities. Its customizability, particularly with fonts and interface elements, is commendable. Notifications are reliable, and the app harmonizes well with Keyboard Maestro, especially for viewing 1-5 days in a week.

I’ve recently begun exploring time-blocking within BusyCal, an approach still under evaluation. Routine time-blocking provides clarity on available time for tasks, assisting in prioritization.

Fantastical on Mac is another option, albeit with a heftier subscription fee. In contrast, BusyCal offers excellent value with a one-time payment.

Conclusion

Introducing new apps into your workflow requires a thoughtful process. Without caution, one could easily become overwhelmed. But the apps I’ve outlined have endured rigorous use and testing (barring Super Whisper, the newcomer), cementing their place as essential in enhancing creative productivity. Investing time in these tools is certainly worthwhile.

Your thoughts? Any critical tools in your workflow I should know about? I’m keen to hear your recommendations in the comments below.