10  Desktop Apps


This list is neither exhaustive nor an endorsement/promise that these are the best and brightest tools out there to do whatever it is they do. They just happen to be the ones I use right now.

I don’t actually use a ton of different applications on my computer — web apps, and command-line tools can take you pretty far these days.

This is mainly a note to self regarding which homebrew casks (my preferred method of installation, see Section 5.1) I’ll want to line up first next time I have to set up a new laptop. So, here they are (in no particular order).


1Password icon.

If there’s one thing I can’t live without, it’s a password manager. For me, that password manager is 1Password. In addition to being a desktop app, it has browser extensions, and mobile versions — it can be pretty much wherever you wan t it to be. I’m a particularly big fan of the 1Password CLI, which integrates with the desktop application, and even has its own shell plugins that play nicely (read: enable easy, secure authentication) with other CLI tools (e.g. the GitHub CLI).


Alfred icon which is a magnifying glass resting on a bowler hat.

Hotkeys, keywords, text expansion, actions — when they say Alfred boosts your efficiency, they tell no lies. Yes, you have to pay for the Powerpack (which unlocks really handy features, including clipboard history and snippets), but it’s well worth it. As someone who doesn’t live in their terminal, Alfred is what keeps me from having to use my mouse, and I can’t really imagine going back to a Mac without it.


Arc icon.

Arc is a web browser. It’s beautiful, and ergonomic, and a boat-load of people have written about what they like about it (they initially did a limited, invite-only release, which always gets folks talking). I probably use only a small fraction of its features, but auto archive (your tabs get tidied up over time) was the big game changer for me.


Gitkraken icon.

As you might have guessed from the name, GitKraken is a Git client—basically, a pretty GUI for all your Git needs (though it has a terminal integrated as well). Before you protest that “real” developers™ don’t need some fancy interface, know that even Jenny Bryan recommends them in Happy Git with R. And, guess what? I just like the visuals. Plus, GitKraken has lovely integrations with all the Git providers (e.g. GitHub, and GitLab) that let you do things like see issues and work with pull requests.


iTerm2 icon.

Though I’ve been tilting in the direction of Warp of late, iTerm2 will always be my first macOS terminal-emulator love. While Warp has fun, modern-day enhancements (see the Warp section for deets), iTerm2 is not without its own set of handy features, and has very little bloat. Plus, it’s quite easy to customize (see Section 3.2), and has a huge user base to help you out with any problems you might encounter.


RStudio icon.

I can’t believe I almost forgot to add RStudio to this list, given I’m literally writing in it right now (Quarto—what I’m using to write this—has integrations with other IDEs, but RStudio is where I feel most “at home”). In the interest of full disclosure: I did work at RStudio (now Posit) for over 5½ years. But, like many an R user, RStudio’s open-source IDE has everything I want/need for happy data science. I don’t usually use homebrew to install it (I prefer the RStudio Dailies), but it seemed weird to leave it out.

VS Code [Insiders]

VS Code Insiders icon.

Everyone needs a work-horse code/text editor, and my weapon of choice happens to be VS Code. I’m not totally sure why I use the daily-build edition (VS Code Insiders), but I switched over to it at some point and haven’t had any problems. I’m not gonna bother with a sales pitch here. It’s just a really great tool with basically every integration you can imagine and support for every language under the sun (or at least the ones I’ve needed to use).


Warp icon.

Warp is “your terminal reimagined.” Like Arc, it has a ton of cool features, most of which I don’t actually use. I put AI Command Suggestions to use when I first installed it. I do so less now, partly because novelty (and need) wore off, but also because I created workflows (basically parameterized commands) for more complicated tasks. I still have iTerm2 (another macOS terminal emulator), but find myself using it less and less.


Zotero icon.

Zotero is a free, open-source reference manager. In addition to the desktop application, it has a browser extension (Zotero Connector) that lets me easily add and store web content (e.g. blog posts), which is a must if your citations (like mine) don’t consist solely of journal articles. There’s also a Better BibTex plugin for Zotero, which is fantastic if you use Markdown/LaTeX. Your Zotero library is even searchable in RStudio with the visual editor’s citation features.