Mac Software & Workflow Tools for Academics, Writers, and other Procrastinators

This morning I sat stuck in the London Underground for about 90 minutes. I was listening to the Mac Power User Podcast – their “workflows” podcasts are great. Anyway, it got me thinking about the tools that I’ve wasted hours on over the years. I jotted down a little list on my iPhone as I waited for my train to start moving again.  Here is that list.

To save you some time, I am only including my tried-and-true favorites. These are tools and software applications I use effortlessly every day, without even thinking about  it.  I am intentionally not including links to any of these apps; if I did, I would be tempting you to read about each, try each one out, and not spend any time writing.  But I did decide to share my list, because I always wish people would share their work processes.  This list reveals a bit about my own academic/writing workflow, and gives props to some of the developers who have made damn good products.


  1. Scrivener
  2. Taskpaper (synced to iPhone with
  3. Writeroom
  4. Textmate


  1. Omnigraffle
  2. Mindmanager
  3. Omnioutliner

*Utilities I couldn’t live without

  1. Textexpander
  2. Clips
  3. and most of all, Quicksilver. I am nearly certain that I truly could not live without Quicksilver.
  4. Dropbox (ditto)

*Data storage

  1. Devonthink
  2. Evernote
  3. Notational Velocity (synced to iPhone with


  1. Sente
  2. Papers
  3. PASW Statistics (used to be called SPSS)
  4. ISI Web of Knowledge

*Time managers

  1. Time Out break reminder software
  2. Apimac timer (for timing myself while writing – or using the Pomodoro Technique)!
  3. A little clip-on digital kitchen clock and a pad of paper where I write what I’m working on RIGHT NOW and the time I start and end
  4. RescueTime

*Excel functions for data analysis

  1. Pivot tables
  2. Conditional formatting
  3. Vlookup

*writing support resources

  1. Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing podcast
  2. Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die web tool
  3. Gina Hiatt’s Academic Writing Club
  4. Howard Becker’s Writing for Social Scientists
    • Hi Luis! Glad your found this post. Mindmapping rocks. Do you use Mindmanager? I also wish we had bumped into each other while I was teaching at the LSE, especially because I was dying to do some work with the Ludic Group! Maybe someday. We do have a lot of shared interests around Design Thinking, Innovation, etc. 🙂 Please keep in touch.

  1. Really useful, thank you. Upped my confidence my dissertation might get written without the teeth-pulling…

  2. One disadvantage with Textmate is it doesn’t seem to be being updated. An alternative is BBEdit or the free TextWrangler.

    Another app in the Data Storage field, which I think is potentially even better than Evernote or DevonThink (primarily because it is simpler than both of them) is Yojimbo.
    All three are by BareBones Software (no commission involved, unfortunately)