One-Platform Wonders: Apps That Keep Us Dual-Booting

In a world where HTML5 is supposed to be the Great Unifier, we still have to deal with apps that only work (or work better on) on one platform over another. These are the can't-live-without apps that keep us running multiple machines or virtual machine instances until the software developers get their act together.

Here's a brief list of the apps that keep my office a heterogeneous environment, patiently waiting for the day when I can dump one platform or the other.

If Windows Won't Come to the Mountain Lion…

Currently, most of my day-to-day writing is on OS X, and it's because of one app: iA Writer.

IA Writer is a text editor. And guess what? That's it. No fancy formatting, no snazzy interface, just a simple white interface on which you can do what you need to do: Write.

If you are fluent in markdown-language tags, you can put emphasis on text or create headings and lists, but for the most part, iA Writer just gets the heck out of your way and lets you get your ideas out of your head.

Especially appreciated is the Focus mode, which grays out the rest of the document and keeps the sentence that you're writing in regular black text. This keeps my attention on the words that I am pushing out at that moment. It also helps keep my eyes from wandering around the screen.

There's a decent spell-check, and you can export documents into HTML or RTF formats. I also like that the application connects to iCloud.

As I have mentioned before, I try to adhere to the whole Getting Things Done method in my professional and personal lives, and for that OmniFocus has been a pretty good application.

This isn't a cheap application, either on OS X or on iOS, but it's definitely worth it if you use Getting Things Done or want to. I actually started using the app on iOS first, and knowing that Omnifocus was on the Mac was a small but significant entry in the pro column when I was deciding to buy a Mac last year.

Getting Things Done calls for dumping all of your ideas and tasks into one repository first and prioritizing and planning second. (The rule of thumb is, if it's something you can't do in two minutes, write it down.) By capturing the task and getting it off your mental plate, you really can let a lot of stress go. OmniFocus works perfectly within this capture-and-review framework, which I am vastly oversimplifying here.

There's a lot of overlap in the capturing functions with Evernote, especially if you use the tricks outlined by David Sparks in his OmniFocus Ninja screencasts. Where OmniFocus really shines, though, is in organizing tasks for completion.

You can see your work in the default views of OmniFocus, or customize the views to get them exactly the way you want, both on the iPad and the Mac.

Given that I'm doing most of my writing and the administrative work on the Mac, it only makes sense that I am doing a lot of my research on the Mac as well. For that I use Reeder, a newsreader app that works exclusively in the Apple product pantheon.

There are a lot of good newsreaders out there, and most do a good job. But the one function of Reeder that I find indispensable is the sharing function. With one click, I can send any article I find to Twitter, Evernote, OmniFocus, or Pocket - among many others. If I were not a feature-hound, I would almost say there were too many services to link to, but that's just crazy talk.

It's not perfect. Recent updates to Mountain Lion's Twitter service means that Reeder now uses the Twitter pop-up that iOS uses. That's a pain, because it was kind of nice to find an article, use Reeder to construct a quick Tweet and then copy and paste the whole passage (link and all) into HootSuite for scheduling. Now the link is embedded, and only shows after you've actually tweeted. So, to schedule, I have to cut and paste the article's information into HootSuite.

For all of that, these tools are very much ones I cannot live without on the Mac.

Windows On The World

There aren't really a lot of apps that exist solely on Windows that I can't find an equivalent for on the Mac. In fact, of the two platforms, Windows' days are numbered in my office. Currently, there are only two software reasons why I keep a Windows machine going.

Before all the Apple kids get on me for not using the Parallels virtualization client, let me interject I do indeed use it, but the memory management in OS X is such that my system slows to a crawl when the guest Windows system is running. So, for now, a dedicated machine.

The first application I need Windows for is Intuit's Quicken. Not just any Quicken, mind you, but Quicken Home and Business. Intuit decided a while ago not to support specialized OS X versions of Quicken, like H&B. Execs instead opted to release just a simplified Quicken Essentials for Mac. Which, as a business owner, does me little good.

I could, if I really wanted, move to Quickbooks for Mac, but Quickbooks for home expenditures is like using a nuclear bomb to weed your garden. And Mint, which became the online version of Quicken after Intuit acquired it, is even weaker than Quicken Essentials for Mac.

Techsmith's Camtasia Studio is an application that I don't use very often, but when I do screencast work for clients, I have found it's the best tool for me.

Like Quicken, Techsmith made a Mac version, and it does a decent job, but it's not as feature-rich as the original Camtasia. This one might be Techsmith's fault, but it could also be my own entrenched methodologies refusing to adapt.

It's kind of curious to me that both of the apps on my Windows list actually have Mac versions, but they have limited features compared to their Windows counterparts.

Intuit's belief that Mac users don't do business is just silly. And given that so much graphics work happens on Macs, it seems odd that Techsmith would send in a weak contender.

Whatever the reason, these are the apps that keep me hanging on to two operating systems. At least for now.

Image Coutesy of Shutterstock