Turn any website into an app on your Mac

Fluid App logoAt FreeAssociates, we manage our projects with Basecamp, a wonderful, simple online system from 37Signals. I’m constantly closing the window — accidentally or through force of habit — then having to re-open it in my browser. I really just want it to act like an app on my Mac and function independently from my other web browsing.

Guess what? It can!

With Fluid, which was named a Macworld “Gem” for good reason, you can turn any website into a real application, running independently in its own separate window, with its own custom icon in your Dock. That’s how Basecamp now runs on my system. I’ve made one for Google Calendar, too, which is just like having it on my hard drive.

Such a simple, smart solution to an annoying problem — one I didn’t entirely realize I had!

(For you Windows users, you can try Google Chrome’s Application Shortcuts feature or Prism, which uses Firefox and is also available for Mac and Linux)

MsgFiler for Apple Mail

The productivity geek in me has surfaced again. I’m a guy who really doesn’t like using a mouse any more than I have to when I’m reading emails or navigating around my computer. I’m a long-time Quicksilver user, who switched to Launchbar about a year ago and never looked back. I just love the speed with which I can find things, open applications, email files to clients or move a file to another location on my computer. But the one thing Launchbar can’t deal with is Mail folders.

I have my email pretty organized — folders for each client, and a bunch of other folders as well. And dragging emails around with a mouse to file them is a pain. If you agree, then meet MsgFiler, a slick little plug-in for Mail.

With a single keystroke, you get a little pop-up window. Start typing the name of a folder — just a few letters — and it gives you a list of all the matches. Select one and bam! your email is moved right where you want it.

Adam Tow is the developer. Eight bucks is the price. Go get yourself a copy.

The calendar app that respects your mother

The calendar app that comes on the iPhone sucks. It’s fine for viewing what  you’ve got on your schedule, but its interface is pretty horrible for an Apple product. Entering a new event is an irritating sequence of taps and spins and “Where the hell is that field?” snarls and “Oops!” realizations.

When I heard about the calvetica calendar app for the iPhone, it sounded like exactly what I was looking for. I went to their page in the App Store, and read their feature list.  Shortly after “Lets you add events in just TWO TAPS,” the authors added: “Respects your mother.”  Nice.

But when you see the actual interface design, your immediate reaction is “Aaaahhh. So that’s how a calendar app is suppose to work!” Simple. Clean. Short learning curve. Utterly enjoyable to use. They’ve out-Appled Apple, and are a stellar example of what brilliant interface design can achieve: respect for my sanity, my time — and my mom.

I hope calvetica decides to make a desktop version. Meanwhile, their iPhone app will be waiting patiently at the top of my Home screen.

A note for Mac users

Notational Velocity iconI have been using a little piece of software that is mind-blowingly simple and easy, and because of that, has begun to make a big difference in how I work.

It’s called Notational Velocity. And it is — get this — FREE.

It’s elegant. Brilliantly simple.

I use Quicksilver, so I’ve assigned a keystroke that brings NV up instantly so it’s just there when I need it. If I didn’t do that, I would just keep it running in the background (which I do) and use Command-Tab to access it when I need it.

It takes notes. You type stuff into it. I use it to capture ideas, draft emails, make little text documents I want quick access to — say a list of things I need to add to over time, to take or transcribe or organize meeting notes, to jot something down I want to refer to later, etc etc.

Unlike most text editors, this thing thrives on little bits and pieces of stuff (think Post-Its). But it can also handle much longer text.

You don’t have to save things either. It remembers what you type without your doing anything at all.

It’s so simple you can’t believe nobody’s made something like this before.

Give it a try….for a while. It took me a few weeks before I “got” it.

Awesome little addition to my workflow.