My 2023 Digital Life in Practice – Part 2: Tools & Apps

A few weeks ago, I posted about my long-developed productivity habits and promised additional posts about the tools I’ve been using to get there. The note-taking app Obsidian is the center of my productivity workflow, which I’ll detail in future posts. I look forward to walking through my Daily and Weekly notes, favorite plug-ins, and more.

This post focuses on the other tools I’ve discovered and adopted in the past two months since losing my day job and moving my life over to a personal laptop.

Over the 8 years I was employed, I got used to using the computer I was provided to do tasks requiring a full browser that I couldn’t do as quickly from my personal iPhone or iPad. We were allowed to use the company’s devices for some personal use as long as we followed strict policies for privacy and security. That’s what drew me to Obsidian in the first place. It’s just plain Markdown files stored locally, with nothing in the cloud.

The first order of business was purchasing a personal laptop, something I hadn’t done in over ten years!

I went to Best Buy and purchased a laptop running Windows…Are you kidding? Of course not.

I went to an Apple Store and purchased a 14” M1 Pro. This is the 2021 version, not the brand-new model released three weeks after my purchase. If there is a next time, I hope my employer has the courtesy of timing bad news around Apple hardware announcements.

I have no regrets. I love this machine. It’s the perfect size and speed, and I love using iCloud and MacOS to their fullest.

Here are the top apps, utilities, and services that have become central to my “new normal” daily flow of learning, reflection, and job hunting that I never used on my corporate-limited, locked-down work laptop.

Thank you to folks on Mastodon, as that’s where I learned about many of these.





I used a PWA for Gmail on the work laptop as our work accounts did not have IMAP enabled, making it impossible to use 3rd party email clients. A good email app means I can process my inbox quickly multiple times a day without taking my hands off the keyboard. On my new laptop, I briefly tried the native Mac email client with my personal Gmail account and hated it. Too slow and inconsistent. Mimestream is light, fast, and while in its current beta – free.


I schedule nearly everything. If I don’t set a time/date to get something done, it’s unlikely it will happen. I prefer to schedule conversations. Random conversations are great, but they also break focus. If I can schedule a conversation, all the better. A good calendar app is essential. Fantastical is the best there is. For ~$60/year you get every possible feature you’d ever want in a calendar application. I was not allowed to use any apps that required authorizing to Google at work and this is one I missed terribly. It’s even better than I remembered.

Here’s a tiny fraction of its features that I love:

  • Mac, iOS, iPad versions with widgets and great notifications
  • Supports iCal and Google (and others, but those are the two I care about)
  • Calendar Sets – you can set the arrangement you need with a keystroke or on a schedule. For example, I have my “working set” which is my personal calendar + my family shared calendar. And then I have an “Eric & me” set that is my husband and my calendar for when I have to schedule his time. Likewise for my mother’s calendar that I also manage as I make her doctor’s appointments. The calendar sets can be changed manually, or set on a time, location, or to correspond with an iOS or MacOS Focus.
  • Menu Bar will show you next meeting time and quick access drop down
  • Natural language events – so type “Meet with Barbara next tuesday at 5 at Starbucks” and it will know exactly what to do.
  • Extremely flexible notifications, including time to leave alerts for those rare times appointments are away from home and there’s an address entered

CleanShot 2023 03 03 at 16 22 51 2x


I first mentioned 1Password here on my blog in 2007 as one of my favorite apps. Here it is again. The only approved password manager for work was LastPass. That was absolutely not going to be an option to consider personally. I had all my personal passwords in my iCloud keychain because I accessed those sites from my iPad where my default browser is Safari. I tried using Safari as my default browser on my new Mac for a while and didn’t enjoy it. I still prefer Chrome. I considered Bitwarden and 1Password. As much as I love that Bitwarden is open source, I decided on 1Password because it will be easier to support other family members using it, and the family pricing is a good deal for a good product. I think either would be fine and better than LastPass. It’s a low bar.

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Launchers put everything at your fingertips instead of poking around folders and menus. I was looking forward to using Alfred with Powerpack to replace MacOS Spotlight. And then I caught the buzz about Raycast and forgot about Alfred.

Raycast is incredible. And free for personal use. The UI is easy and so powerful. There are Raycast extensions for almost everything you can think of, including one I constantly use to add quick items to Obsidian without switching to the app.

Here are just a few of the many ways I use it beyond just searching and launching apps:

  • Calculator – way more than simple math calculations. It can parse “32% of 45,000.” It can do conversations of currency, such as “$500 in GBP”, or time such as “3 pm eastern in Germany.” Hit return to copy the result to the clipboard.
  • Clipboard – Speaking of the clipboard, you can select a command to see the Clipboard history and select a previously saved entry. I use this all the time. You can also select a command to edit the clipboard and paste it formatted or plain in the active application.
  • Snippets – similar to TextExpander to paste repetitive text, except no separate cost and entirely local, so more secure. In addition to some easy shortcuts to paste in my address or a link to my resume, I have some fun ones saved that help with my Obsidian workflow. I’ll save that for a future post.

It would be easier to list what it doesn’t do than itemize all the different apps and commands it does work with. There’s an active developer community constantly adding new extensions.

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CleanShot X

I take a lot of screenshots for my personal documentation and notes, as well as to share with others. At work, we had SnagIt. To buy it for my use would be $63 for many features I rarely use. Instead, I spent $29 and got a powerful app in CleanShot X—more features than what’s built-in to MacOS but fast and light.

  • Self-timer to take a screenshot of a menu that would otherwise disappear
  • Scrolling capture to get long pages or windows
  • Nice UI for annotation

CleanShot 2023 03 04 at 17 19 56 2x


While Fantastical now has a scheduling feature, I prefer to use Calendly to share a calendar link with others. I’m doing the $10 month-to-month plan as my needs may change once I’m employed again. For now, this is an essential tool to help schedule “coffee” chats and other conversations that have made my non-working time bearable. I can’t stand the constant back and forth of “how about Tuesday at 3?” “What time zone?” So often, when you figure it out, the time slot is no longer available.

Why I like Calendly:

  • The UI is simple, and a Google Meet link is automatically added. Zoom is something I’m not ready to start paying for.
  • It’s easy for others to reschedule/cancel the meetings they scheduled.
  • It’s popular, so when others are using Calendly too, and I click their link, it will automatically show me if I’m available at a selected time without my manually comparing it to my calendar in a separate window.

CleanShot 2023 03 05 at 13 07 34 2x


In November 2022, I set my Twitter profile to private and haven’t glanced back. In the process, I rediscovered how much I love RSS to consume precisely the content I want on the schedule I set. I now despise manipulative, algorithm-driven feeds which inevitably lead to doom scrolling, bias, and misinformation. I log into Facebook maybe 1-2x a week. I’m on LinkedIn daily, but I know that will change as soon as I land a new role.

I used to love Google Reader for RSS. When it died, I moved to Feedly, which larger sat ignored for the last few years. As I phased out Twitter, I looked at Feedly again and decided I no longer liked it. Too heavily slanted toward its AI and business features.

After playing around with several different apps and services, including NetNewsWire and others, I ultimately settled on Inoreader because:

  • It’s cheaper than Feedly for similar use cases
  • Great Chrome extension for detecting and adding new feeds
  • Syncs with YouTube subscriptions
  • Unlimited feeds (not that I ever got close to Feedly’s maximum, it just bugged me that there was a maximum)
  • Automatic de-duplication of articles within folders and other filtering rules

I prefer to read RSS with Unread on my iPhone, a simple, beautiful UI that syncs with my Inoreader account.

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My last post highlighted that I follow the PARA organization method throughout all my apps and services. Rather than hoarding “maybe I’ll need this again one day, so I better save it” links into Obsidian, I collect them to Raindrop. Like with the password manager, this allows me to have different default browsers on devices without losing anything.

What’s cool about Raindrop?

  • Integrations through IFTTT for easy collection from other apps and services. For example, when I bookmark a Medium article, it automatically saves in Raindrop.
  • It flags duplicates and broken links
  • Powerful search
  • Automated backups

CleanShot 2023 03 05 at 15 27 20 2x

What am I missing? What are your favorite Mac get-it-done apps and utilities?


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