Software "junkie" needs help

I don’t know you very well, but at the risk of having this sound like a 12 step group, I need to ask for a bit of advice.

I am one of the may who has recently migrated to the Mac after over 25 years on a PC. So far, I love the Mac! My only wish is that I would have made this move a long time ago.

When I lived in PC “land” I developed a strange kind of obsession with software. I loved getting new software! And I soon learned the work “UPGRADE”…and, well, the rest is history!

I shudder to think how much money I spent on software and upgrades over the years…not a pleasant thought! However my life has changed now. I am now a “Mac guy”…well, actually, a “Mac guy” NEWBIE!

There are certainly a lot of similarities between macOS and Windows…which makes adapting to the Mac far easier than it would have been without any previous experience. However there are still a lot of differences on the Mac too.

Notably, I am finding far more keyboard shortcuts than what I ever used on the PC. They were probably there on the PC too, but I never used them. I was more of a mouse guy and that worked fine for me.

In addition to the keyboard shortcuts, I am also finding a lot more software designed for automating various tasks on the Mac.

When I bought my Mac I made a promise to myself that I was NOT going to do the same thing with buying loads of programs I had no need for on my Mac as I had previously done on my PC. However the more I hear about these various automation programs, the more tempted I am to begin buying them…in spite of the fact that I don’t even know how to use this computer manually yet! It seems like I should probably figure out how this thing works before I start trying to automate workflows. Heck, I haven’t even established my workflows yet!

Okay, all of you more experienced Mac Power Users…tell me why I should or should not start out using programs like Alfred and Keyboard Maestro. I know they potentially have the power to streamline many manual tasks…but the question I don’t know the answer to yet is how many of those tasks are even tasks that I will need to perform.

I feel like I really need to slow down and focus on the “basics” for a while before getting this deep!

Thoughts??? Suggestions???

I think anyone who wants to go beyond the basics of their Mac ought to have Keyboard Maestro, and then one of either Alfred or LaunchBar.

You can hold off on other things like launchd, Hazel, and TextExpander until you run into some wall that is more easily scaled with them than one of the other two.

You’ve already “wasted" all those years on Windows, there’s no reason to cripple your Mac experience because of it!

(Sorry, this is sort of the opposite of what you asked for. I guess I’m the enabler here. Not the only one, I’m sure.)


Think you nailed it o the head to get the basics down, which are pretty easy on a Mac. Before investing time and money into programs you may or may not use; I would personally invest the time to understand what work you’re trying to accomplish. Then you can see if there is a fit for the software.

Good luck and welcome to the family lLOL


Learn what you can do with macOS alone first. (I always like David Pogue’s Missing Manual series.) Then you can test out one productivity app at a time (they all have trial versions) to see if they are worthwhile. To a certain extent you can do what Alfred does with Spotlight, what Hazel does with Automator, what TextExpander does with System Preferences->Keyboard->Text, so see those first.

Yeah, enough with the tinkering. Tinkering does not get the job done. You buy a Mac to do a job. It has to do it. If you feel it’s not doing the job fast enough, then get a software to do it.

Don’t get all software and then figure out what the software can do to get the job done.

A lot of simple tasks can be done with the Mac’s built in features. Use Time Machine for backups before exploring other options. You could use Keychain for password management but 1Password is so much better. My wife likes Snagit for screen captures, I just use Cmd-shift 4. Get up to speed on the Mac first. For people switching I recommend David Pogue’s book, Switching to the Mac. Sort of a Rosetta Stone for the two OSes.

Just to add that most Mac software has a trial or, in the case of Alfred, it’s free unless you needed to unlock the Power Pack. So, take your time and try them before deciding.

And, oh ya, there is also this thing called Setapp, which is a subscription model. You pay monthly and have access to tons of software mentioned here in MPU… so the other route is to try Setapp for a few months before deciding which software you used most and maybe go for the perpectual license route.


Hammerspoon is free and if you know or can learn how to program, it covers a lot of automation (e.g. watching folders, triggering scripts with keyboard shortcuts, creating entire layers of keyboard shortcuts, window management).

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Apart from “Gear Acquisition Syndrome” (or ‘software’ in this instance) you’ve not actually identified a problem you need a solution for yet. :wink:

I’d echo the previous suggestions: start off by identifying the problem then look for a solution to fit it. Having a solution that’s looking for a problem is likely to get very messy.

What is it you actually want your computer to do for you?

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Sometimes, the tinkering and just trying software is the fun, thus the “junkie” in his title. In that case, I think Setapp is his best bet.


Hazel & Alfred & Carbon Copy Clone are my absolutely must have apps and I purchase all their upgrades since they save me so much time.

Then bartender, KM and popclip just makes your life so much easier…

My first Mac is an iMac 2011 which I am just now looking to replace. Since I didn’t know much about the way documents (or anything) got filed on a Mac, I have stuff all over the place that I’m trying to organize before I switch things over to the new iMac. I would advise you to get some kind of system in place for that first. That said, I love new apps. I get a weekly email from Two Dollar Tuesday, which I am definitely addicted to. “Well it’s only two bucks…,” she said. “What harm could that be…” she said!

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Learn to use your Mac well enough to know where the pain points are and what your real needs are. Keep your promise to yourself until you absolutely know what you need to fix.

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Absolutely what @tjluoma said. Myself I would add Ulysses. However TJ is exactly right. If you can have a Mac just let rip. I think Launchbar or Alfred are essential, Keyboard Maestro will do so much too. I have found, interestingly, that recently I have found a small set of Apps more than adequate and have stopped experimenting with ‘new’ apps and am spending more time on the powerful ones I have, DEVONthink, Keyboard Maestro, Ulysses and Launchbar: I also use LaTeX distributions though. Just let rip with the software though is my advice.

To jump onto these other comments I would recommend that you start a running list of things that you want to automate and then find software that fits your needs. I’d also recommend digging into some of the podcast episodes as well as posting here on the forum and if you need help in deciding what software is useful for what task or problem to solve.

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Very solid advice and I think that is exactly what I am going to do.

Aside from spending a bunch of unnecessary money, I would like to keep my system drive less cluttered as well. There is no need wasting a bunch of space with TM backups and CCC clones to back up programs I’m not even using.

Thanks to all of you for your suggestions.

I am kind of a “computer nerd” and like to just play with the computer even after my work is done. Set App sounds like it could be a way to play with several different apps when I am ready, although is it safe to download software from them? I have been warned not to download from anyone other than the App Store or the developers website in order to avoid malware.

Somehow I don’t think this is a so-called “download service”…but I would like to know more about it before trying it.

I really want to keep my system clean and uncluttered though. My Windows hard drive was filled with all kinds of crap that I rarely looked at. It takes up space on the system drive and on all of my backup drives as well…plus makes the backup process take longer.

One question I would like to ask is what you folks think about using Microsoft Office 365? I have used Office for Windows for as long as I’ve used a computer. I’m kinds bummed to lose Microsoft Access using a Mac.

I know I COULD run Windows in a VM, but when I left that platform I wanted to fully embrace the Mac environment and leave Windows behind!

Now, on the Mac platform, Pages, Numbers and Keynote are designed by Apple and more fully integrate with other Mac apps. On the other hand, I have been using Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook seemingly forever and I am very comfortable with them.

What are your thoughts?

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Don’t worry Stu…I have my share of G.A.S. as well, although since it is generally so expensive that limits me pretty well.

My cameras are both DSLRs…however they are very nice and should serve me well for a LONG time.

Eventually I will likely go mirrorless, but that’s not in the foreseeable future. I have a lot of nice Nikon glass that I don’t really want to replace or have to use adapters for…so I will ride my Nikon gear as far as I can!

Setapp is run by the guys who made CleanMyMac X and it is reputable. I don’t think there’s anything to worry about it.

There’s where you need CleanMyMac X, he he …

I love MS Office 365 for Mac. In fact, these are native apps made specifically for the Mac (I know, these are not the Microsoft of the 80s anymore). The icons, UI, etc are all beautiful in the Mac. In fact, I like how it dark mode in Office for Mac looked so much better than Dark Mode in Office Windows. And Office 365 is available from App Store if that’s what you are comfortable with.


Camera-wise, I’m in the same boat albeit in the Canon side. I’m not in a position to be replacing cameras at the moment however the recent releases of high resolution cameras & the development of the mirrorless market is certainly interesting. Currently keeping an eye on things for when finances allow. “We live in interesting times…” as they say.

You touched on running a VM for MS Office, perhaps macOS in a VM for tinkering would give you a space that could easily be torn down & rebuilt if “experiments” got out of hand. That would perhaps suite your requirement of keeping your “everyday” system tidier & clutter free. Plus, setting things up in a VM would count as tinkering so you get 2 tinkers for the price of one! :wink:
Is a 2nd hand old Mac-Mini to sit in the corner running headless as a sandbox worth considering?

Re: MS Access, have a search on here, I believe there’s already an extensive thread about MS Access alternatives. As @Topre pointed out, Office is now in the App Store. My other half runs it on her work Mac, aside from the absence of MS Access it seems just as good (or just as annoying) as it is on windows. :smile: