About a month ago, I wrote a blog post describing the internal resources used by TeamsCode, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that organizes biannual programming contests in Washington and Oregon. Building off of this, I thought it’d be cool to share some of the tools I use on my own computer, at the very least so that I can look back on it in five years and see how things have changed. So without further ado, let’s start with the apps in my dock:
There’s a lot to break down here, but they can be roughly categorized into groups.
Web Browsers and General Apps
As on all Macs, we start with the Finder icon. Following that, I have the Grammarly desktop app, which I use whenever I need to check some text for grammar/writing style. These days, I only ever really use it to spellcheck my blog posts (the next time I use it will be for this post). Following that is Station, which essentially allows you to access various web apps within a single app. I use this as a unified place to access my Gmail accounts, Trello boards, and Slack channels. Lastly are Safari, Firefox, and Chrome. I pretty much only use Chrome, but if a site is acting weird on Chrome, I’ll often switch browsers to see if it’s a browser-specific issue or a problem with the site.
First off, we have Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code. I mainly used Visual Studio for my C# apps, and use VSCode very frequently for HTML/CSS/JS projects (including for this website). IntelliJ and PyCharm are used for Java and Python projects, respectively, and I’m currently trying out WebStorm as an alternative to VSCode for my upcoming Node.js project CodeJoust (all the JetBrains tools are free as a student). Next is Unity, which isn’t an IDE or text editor, but I use it in conjunction with Visual Studio to do game development. Sublime Text is useful to make quick edits to a file, and XCode is for publishing apps to the iOS app store, although I rarely use it to write code. And finally, I occasionally use Postman if I need to debug an API call.
This group is pretty self-explanatory. All students at Mercer Island High School get access to Microsoft Office, so I have the luxury of downloading these apps on my computer. I mainly use Word and every now and then use OneNote, PowerPoint, and Excel. I’ll probably start using Outlook more often once I enter college (my school email is provided through Outlook). Overall, MS Office combined with Google’s apps (Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc.) comprise most of my productivity tools.
The last group is mostly made up of the default macOS apps. I use Notes when I simply need to write something down and OneNote is too heavy-duty. Messages is linked with my phone number, so I can more easily respond to texts from my computer. I always have Terminal open with a tab for each of the projects I’m currently working on, making it quick and easy to run them locally, deal with version control, etc. The last two apps are Spotify and Preview. Spotify is pretty self-explanatory, and Preview actually isn’t saved to my dock, but I use it frequently; right now, I have open a PDF book that I’m slowly working my way through.
I also have a lot of apps in my menu bar. The primary four are pictured above; first is an app called Awareness, which sounds a bell after a set amount of time reminding you to take a break from your computer. I’ve set it up to sound every 20 minutes in an attempt to follow the 20-20-20 rule. The next two are Hotspot Shield and Hexatech, two VPNs that I use whenever I’m at school (for whatever reason, the guest wifi blocks search engines including Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc.). After the Wi-Fi and Volume icons is an app called Dozer, which helps keep your menu bar neat. Clicking on the Dozer icon reveals my other menu bar apps:
Starting from the left is Muzzle, which automatically turns on Do Not Disturb to silence notifications when screen sharing. Next is Spectacle, which allows you to use keyboard shortcuts to rearrange desktop windows. OneDrive is occasionally useful to manage my Office files, and the icon to the right of that is AirPlay, which I pretty much never use. After that is Fanny, which I find useful to keep track of my computer’s temperature and fan speed, especially when it starts to get very warm. The last two apps are BeardedSpice and f.lux; BeardedSpice allows you to use the Mac keyboard audio controls to play/pause audio/videos on YouTube and other websites, and f.lux adjusts the screen’s color and light display based on your sleeping schedule to make it easier on the eyes.
These are all the important apps on my computer. In a future blog post, I might also consider sharing the browser bookmarks and extensions that I find useful. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this blog post and discovered a new and helpful app!