macbook air

I’m going to geek it out a bit today. A few of my friends have asked me what tools and applications I use for getting things done and to be productive. I use quite a bit. But the first thing I usually say is that there are several principles you have to understand when you use computer applications:

1) Computer Applications are supposed to help you, they are not supposed to complicate your life. So the first rule in choosing applications is this: simplify.

2) Applications suggest a particular workflow (a way of doing things). Try that workflow. It is supposed to be intuitive and so easy to slide into. If it’s not, don’t waste your time. Just stop using the application. Don’t let it rule your life.

3. Do not buy the app immediately. There is a reason for the 14 day or 30 day trial. Use it extensively. If it helps you become more productive by at least 50%, then buy the product. Otherwise, just uninstall.

So here are the apps I use:

Stock apps for Macbook Pro

Address Book
Repository of all contacts. Synchronized with Google. Synchronized with my Android phone. Oh, I’m now using the new Zopo ZP988, which is octa-core (for comparison, the Xiaomi 3, which is hitting Manila stores now, is just quad core. And I got it really cheap here in Shenzhen. 🙂 Ditching Samsung for now.

I used to just use GCal exclusively, since my office uses GCal to keep our calendars in place, but I’ve found the new Mac Calendar beautiful and easy to work with.

Other Apps (all the ones without Links are from the Mac App Store):

I think Evernote is a nerd dream come alive. This is my go to application of choice. I have everything here. I use it as a repository of all references (receipts, manuals, reading materials, email trails, etc), and used Things as my To Do List, but the lack of Android support for Things was just a bummer.

So now, I am using ToDoist as my to do app. I can’t say enough good things about it. You should try it. And the best thing about it is that it works well here in China!

Clearly for Evernote
Because I do a lot of work in Evernote, I use Clearly to clip all things from the web to read later. Because of that, I don’t need Read Later or even the Safari plugin that allows you to read stuff offline.

Currency Converter
Because I’m in China, I need to have a Currency Converter that automatically pulls out the latest rates from the internet, since I deal with several currencies. I use one that resides on my Mac Dashboard.


I use an old version of Hazel for Mac that works like a charm and in the background. It automatically transfers , deletes the trash when it reaches a certain size or after a certain number of days, etc.


Ever since my mac crashed some years back and I couldn’t use my Timeline backup because my hard drive self-destructed, I’ve stopped using Timeline and just used online storage. I have to say though that Dropbox is the best of them. It’s just a bummer that Dropbox has been banned here in China!

I also use iStat Menus, time my work on Tomato Timer (to do the Pomodoro Technique) and Klok, make my presentations on Keynote (Powerpoint.Must.Die!!), and clean my mac using iBoostUp.

Ever since I arrived here, I’ve stopped using the following apps that don’t work in China:

YNAB – I was an advocate of You Need A Budget for sometime, but I’ve been asking for multi-currency support for awhile in anticipation of my transfer to China, but nothing came out of it. And since Dropbox doesn’t work here, I also can’t sync my laptop to my phone. I now use Moneywell for our household budget. I was pleasantly surprised that multi-currency is not an issue, in fact, it is one of its core features! It doesn’t sync with my phone, but my workaround has been to list our household expenses in my android’s calendar app as an event (I use the really cool Cal app of

Please share your own apps in the comments section. Would love to know what you use so I can test drive them and maybe use them myself!

[by Eric Santillan]

eric santillanAbout Eric Santillan
AngPeregrino lives with his wife in Shenzhen, China. He is currently on sabbatical to think about his next big step, knowing that he’s in a country of mind boggling opportunities. Before that, he was a management consultant specializing in sustainable business, competitiveness and culture management; and did counselling. He remains to be a writer for The Mindanao Current, and a retreat giver.

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