Ping, ping, ping. Software should stay out of the way so I can get stuff done.

I have trouble focusing on certain types of work and need to turn notifications off and use alarms and timers to stay on task. I’ve written about my constant pursuit of focus. To give you an idea of how obsessive I am about this, take a look at what my desktop looks like. The desktop wallpaper is by Hector Simpson.

These are some of the apps I use to put the blinders on. (Last updated Aug 8, 2019)


The free Atom Editor from Github is my code editor. I use it for writing this blog with Markdown.

I’ve used Notational Velocity as my dashed notes book for years, and now use nvALT, the improved evolution of this minimalist note taking app. I usually use it to jot down thoughts I want to recall later, typically when I’m in a meeting. I love this tool because it’s a minimal text editor with virtually no interface–the flow from launch to search/open or create/edit is a seamless text-only experience and supports Multi Markdown.

iA Writer
I love the simplicity of the iA Writer, which has replaced word processor style text editors for my longer form and formatted writing. It supports Markdown, organization with tags, and provides a clutter-free experience in fullscreen mode. Works great to keep your docs in sync when using iCloud. See also OmmWriter.

I use Mailplane so I never have to have a Gmail window open in a browser tab. I can turn notifications on and off, switch between email accounts, and drag and drop attachments into messages. Best of all, it feels more like a single-purpose mail app than a web app.


Quicksilver was my launcher for years. Alfred has replaced it. Minimal and there when I need it, and does much more than I expect it to.

There are plenty of text expanders out there to choose from and I’ve used great ones. A few years ago I settled on Dash and it’s been helping out with every day tasks like inserting dates, wrapping text with markdown or hugo syntax, dummy text/greeking, inserting special characters that I never remember shortcuts for like the € symbol, and inserting canned text.

I was a power user of Evernote since its launch. But in an attempt to simplify and downsize my spending, I ported all of my notes to Apple Notes, which was a simpler task than I thought it’d be. Now I maintain my daily task list (using the Checklist feature) and write all of my notes in the Apple app, and they’re all kept in sync via iCloud for access via desktop or iOS device.

This is an unobtrusive Pomodoro timer that sits in the menubar so you can set it when you start a task. The Pomodoro Technique uses 25 minute increments for focusing on tasks.

Magnet or Divvy
I’m a single-application mode Mac user. I often use Cmd-Opt-Click to view apps in single app mode, so when I do, I like to position app windows front and center, or sometimes pinned to one side or expanded to full screen. Magnet lets me click Ctrl-Option-C to do this in a split second.

Default Folder
When I save something, I usually want to quickly navigate to my most recent, most used, or favorite locations. This utility makes it a piece of cake.

It makes me happy to see nothing on my desktop. Unclutter tucks away my desktop files into a drawer that I can access with a 2-finger downward swipe gesture at the top of my screen. It can holds frequently accessed files, a multi-clip clipboard, and a scratchpad for notes.