I’ve come to Mac development from a previous life as a journalist at the BBC and the Guardian. I did a lot of coding in newsrooms, building interactive stories and analysing data. I moved sideways into indie development for the Mac as I had to scratch an itch and build something different. Day to day I now work on Aura, an e-mail assistant for macOS – naturally it’s a menu bar Mac app.
What is your current laptop / desktop?
I use two Macs daily. The first, a 2016 Macbook Pro – the ‘Macbook Escape’ model with no touch bar. It’s been a fine development machine but I’ve had keyboard issues since day one, and even after two top cases replacements it’s still a mystery to see what happens when I hit the space bar. Could be one space, maybe two or (usually) nothing! Thus it spends most of its life docked to a couple of external monitors and keyboard.
The other Mac is a 2013 MBP, I use this as a testing machine so currently it’s running the Catalina beta. These Macbooks were some of the best laptops Apple has ever made, and I’m amazed how useful it is at six years old.
The new cheese grater Mac Pro is very tempting. I’m old fashioned and still love desktops so I’ll be fighting the urge to get one of these.
What menu bar apps do you use and why?
From left to right, I’m using Cardhop, which is a contact app from the guys at Flexibits. It’s got great natural language support. Contacts apps are usually identical and tedious to use but Flexibits have made the first contacts app that’s actually enjoyable. I love being able to quickly phone or FaceTime from my Mac without worrying about where my phone is.
Then I’ve got Fantastical. Again, superb natural language event parser and the menu bar app does almost everything I need from a calendar. I almost never need to open a full size calendar app.
SizeUp is a window manager that makes it trivial to quickly arrange windows. Handy when I have a lot of terminal windows open.
Aura is next along. Of course I wanted to build something that I wanted to use! But more practically, between my work, personal and a few other accounts I’ve got a number of Gmail accounts that I need quick access to and Aura makes that easier.
1Password has made my life much easier. I can’t imagine life without a password manager now. It’s so useful to hit a shortcut, find a login and be able to login all from a few keyboard strokes.
Is there a menu bar app that doesn’t exist yet and should be invented?
Yes! Kind of… it already exists. That would be Siri. I had such huge hopes for Siri on the Mac but instead it has barely changed since Sierra. I’d love Siri to gain support for typed interaction and Siri Shortcuts to make it more powerful and scriptable. Instead it’s just languished since it appeared on the Mac and Apple don’t seem to be interested in improving it, a huge missed opportunity in my view. Siri Shortcuts was rumored for Catalina this year, but it never appeared so I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed for next year.
Want to share your Mac menu bar? That would me great!