My Handy Tool Exploration Journey

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Leveraging the recent holiday break, I took the opportunity to tidy up a list of Mac software, websites, and daily life gadgets that I’ve found particularly useful over the past year. I’ve always valued simplicity, ease of use, and beauty in my tools, hoping to provide some guidance when you face similar dilemmas in choice.

Mac Software

This year, I didn’t venture into new software territories as much as refining and optimizing my current toolkit for a more comfortable usage experience. I aimed to avoid duplicating tools with similar functionalities, keeping to the principle of simplicity and beauty. Here are some of the Mac applications I’ve favored this year. If you’re into experimenting with new tools, you might find some of these worth downloading and trying out.

Favorites of the Year

  1. MiaoYan: A simple and easy-to-use native Markdown note application I developed 3 years ago, continuously updated throughout its use.
  2. ChatGPT Desktop: A desktop version of the official GPT webpage, packaged using my own Pake, with injected styles and scripts for enhanced usability, invoked through shortcuts for daily use.
  3. MessAuto: A handy tool for receiving SMS verification codes on your phone and automatically filling them in on your Mac, solving the hassle of manually typing them from your phone.
  4. Alacritty: A command-line terminal written in Rust. I’ve previously discussed improving the “fastest terminal in the west” in a blog post, highlighting its speed, simplicity, and beauty.
  5. Top Calendar: A menu bar calendar app that shows the calendar, holidays, lunar calendar, and upcoming schedules, all in a beautiful interface.
  6. Shottr: A screenshot tool I absolutely love. Many of the screenshots I share are captured with it, supporting scrolling screenshots, annotations, and more.
  7. Raycast: An incredibly useful and powerful global search tool. If you’re still using Alfred, I highly recommend giving this a try. Its plugin system can also replace many other applications you might be using.
  8. Bob: A handy translation tool configured with OpenAI’s services, offering one-click word translation, shortcut-invoked translations, and comparisons of multiple translation results.
  9. uPic: A super convenient image upload tool that supports custom upload services through FaaS or direct use of cloud providers’ OSS services, allowing for easy upload and immediate use.

Input/Output Tools

  1. MindNode: A tool for creating visually appealing mind maps, which I’ve been using for nearly 8 years, ideal for brainstorming and quick thinking.
  2. NetNewsWire: An RSS subscription software, my main source for news and technical articles, providing a streamlined reading experience.
  3. Things: A simple and clean to-do software, its simplicity actually helps to focus more on the tasks at hand.
  4. Revezone: Lately, Excalidraw has been incredibly helpful for quickly producing product prototypes for team collaboration. Revezone supports excellent Chinese fonts and multi-tab usage, addressing the limitations of single instances.
  5. VSCode: Still my most-used code editor, capable of opening and editing virtually any codebase, combining aesthetics with functionality.
  6. WebStorm: Used for project-specific development. I’ve previously written about its virtues in “You’re Still Using WebStorm?”, especially praising its git comparison features, stability, and unmatched usability.
  7. Spotify: My go-to multi-device music streaming service, previously recommended for its simplicity and rich music library.
  8. Mail, yes, the default Apple Mail app, can be easily configured for a cleaner interface, allowing for a more efficient email management experience.

Efficiency Tools

  1. Edge Browser: I have a love-hate relationship with this browser. I tried Arc but found it somewhat complex, barely lasting a week. The primary reason I stick with Edge is its vertical tab bar and impressive performance speed. I’ve written about my browser journey in 2023 in this blog post, My 2023 Browser Odyssey, for reference.
  2. Thorium Browser: Since Edge isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, I discovered this super-fast browser mid-year that allows for considerable customization. I switch to it from time to time, and who knows, it might one day replace Edge entirely.
  3. ScreenFlow: My go-to software for screen recording and video editing. It’s a durable piece of software that’s both simple and powerful. I primarily use it for product demos and speeding up videos.
  4. TotalFinder: A powerful Finder alternative that brings a Chrome-like multi-tab experience to Finder while maintaining a familiar look and adding several useful features, such as cut and paste.
  5. App Cleaner & Uninstaller: A software uninstallation tool essential for someone who frequently tests new software. This tool performs clean uninstalls with an attractive interface and useful features.
  6. Stash: A tool for bypassing internet censorship. Its multi-platform support, especially for Apple TV, mobile phones, and computers, means I don’t have to fuss with settings. Plus, the developer is continuously updating it, which is great.
  7. Dozer: Helps hide unnecessary app icons from the top menu bar. As someone with OCD, I only allow essential software icons to be visible.
  8. Input Source Pro: A tool developed by a friend for automatically switching input methods. It’s been very reliable and has saved me a lot of time.
  9. Drop: A color picker tool, especially useful during UI development when you’re looking to match a visually appealing color palette by examining the colors used in well-designed software.
  10. DMG Canvas: A tool for editing and creating dmg packages for Mac development. It’s straightforward and easy to use.

Tool Websites

This time, I’ve selected a batch of my frequently used websites for learning, audio-visual content, tools, and resources from nearly 50 articles published in Trend Weekly in 2023.

Learning Resources

  1. Language Reactor: A fantastic tool for learning English pronunciation through enjoying foreign films and TV shows, making language learning enjoyable and effective.
  2. YouGlish: Uses YouTube to improve your English pronunciation, showing how real people use English in various contexts.
  3. Periodic Table PRO: A high-aesthetic must-have for chemistry enthusiasts, visualizing the periodic table in an engaging way.
  4. Dribbble: I generally browse this site to view impressive designer works, enhancing my aesthetic sense.
  5. Meiye: A design content recommendation platform that, compared to Dribbble, is more localized and rich in design-related learning materials.
  6. Supercreative: A collection of a thousand inspirational websites. When you’re out of ideas, this is a good place to explore.
  7. MuscleWiki: A muscle workout website that clearly shows how to exercise specific body parts.
  8. every-programmer-should-know: A curated collection of technical topics every software developer should know, including computer science, algorithms and data structures, distributed systems, regex, security, usability, code design, and engineering philosophy. It’s suitable for those who love to delve into details.


  1. SkylineWebcams: A platform sharing real-time HD webcam footage from around the world, allowing you to see the Western Wall in Jerusalem, eruptions of Mount Etna, elephants at a watering hole in South Africa, and even the street view outside a nightclub on Koh Samui.
  2. EarthCam: Offers real-time views of cityscapes, architecture, and even live broadcasts from zoos and aquariums worldwide. You can even watch eggs hatch into chicks shared by some users.
  3. City Walks: A website for virtual city tours, providing real-time views of streetscapes from around the globe, giving a better sense of local atmospheres and scenery.
  4. NASA Eyes: An impressive 3D space visualization tool that lets you experience the earth, planets, satellites’ orbits, and positions in real-time. For space enthusiasts, it’s a great tool to explore the solar system and the universe.
  5. Radio Garden: Navigate through different countries and cities’ high-quality broadcasts using a 3D visualization of the globe, discovering a wide variety of niche foreign music styles.
  6. Music For Programming: A collection of music selected to help reduce distractions and enhance focus during programming, providing a bit of a flow-state magic.

Tool Category

  1. Shots: A screenshot generation tool I really like, capable of creating beautiful screenshots with various style backgrounds.
  2. Upscayl: An AI-powered image upscaling tool that also offers a desktop client, making it super convenient and easy to use.
  3. AllinOneTools: A single tool for converting between various file formats, including images, PDFs, videos, and webpages.
  4. IT Tools: A comprehensive online toolbox for developers, akin to a Swiss Army knife for engineers.
  5. WakaTime: A time, type, and project metrics monitoring tool that supports various code IDEs, showing how much code you’ve written.
  6. OrbStack: A super sleek and lightweight tool for Mac, serving as an alternative to Docker and Linux.
  7. Bio Link: A simple personal link website where you can compile and display links to your work.
  8. Reactive Resume: A free, open-source resume builder tool, perfect for job seekers.
  9. Nomad List: Gathers and displays the digital nomad index for thousands of cities, including cost, internet speed, and quality of life, helping you find the best place to work and live.

Resources Category

  1. macOSicons: Over 5000 free icons for macOS and iOS, commonly used to replace unattractive app icons for a unified style.
  2. Pexels: A website offering free images and video materials.
  3. Loose Drawing: Commercially usable illustration materials by a Japanese designer, showcasing a unique style.
  4. ManyPixels: A vector illustration download website suitable for dark backgrounds, with each image finely crafted and exquisite.
  5. Mockups Design: A free high-quality mockup material download website, offering real-world templates like 3D objects, brochures, business cards in PSD format.

Life’s Good Things

Engineers need more than just software and code; a fulfilling life and love for living are essential. The purpose of earning money is to lead a happier life. Here, I recommend some life-enhancing gadgets that have increased my happiness. If you suffer from choice paralysis or are in the midst of decorating, these might give you some ideas.

IT Devices

  1. Computer: MacBook Pro M2 32GB 16-inch Space Gray, significantly faster than the 2019 model. I opt for larger screens since I don’t use external monitors.
  2. Phone: iPhone 15 Pro 256GB in the original color, a noticeable upgrade in appearance and texture from the 13 Pro, and lighter. I recommend purchasing the best device your budget allows for everyday use.
  3. Headphones: AirPods Pro2, having used Pro1 for about 3 years before selling all other headphones. Now, this is my only headphone, fully satisfying my daily needs.
  4. Watch: Apple Watch Series 7 in starlight, bought a few years ago. It’s a beautiful but somewhat frivolous item. If used merely as a watch, it’s not worth it, but for decoration and health monitoring, it’s acceptable.
  5. Router: Xiaomi AX9000, a large black device with strong performance and speed, covering the entire house. Paired with affordable broadband, it provides a smooth experience watching 4K Netflix videos.
  6. Chair: Yongyi Ergonomic Chair MC-1128E in grey white, with adjustable backrest and waist support, hidden pull-out footrest, and reclining feature. Purchased from Sam’s, it offers great comfort and value for money.
  7. Desk Lamp: Mi Desk Lamp 1S Enhanced Edition in Night Black, previously mentioned on Twitter, is exquisitely made and aesthetically pleasing, ideal for computer use and reading.
  8. Power Bank: Anker 10000mAh 30W with built-in cable, bought for a trip and found to be very useful and attractive. It’s convenient for charging other devices in the living room without plugging in.

Home Theater

  1. Box: Apple TV 7, as recommended on Twitter and in my blog post My Entry into Home Cinema: Apple TV is the product of the year for its simplicity and ease of use.
  2. TV: Sony X90L 75 inches, chosen for its value after comparing many models offline. The experience confirms that there’s Sony and then there’s everything else. However, if affordable, I recommend getting the largest TV possible.
  3. Sound System: Samsung Q600B Soundbar + Rear Surround 9200S, reasonably priced and significantly better than the TV’s built-in speakers. If you have a soundbar, adding rear surround speakers is highly recommended.

Small Appliances

  1. Coffee Machine: De’Longhi ECP33.21.W, a semi-automatic coffee machine that is the greatest source of happiness in my life. I’ve recommended its accessories on Twitter before; I absolutely love it.
  2. Air Fryer: Panasonic NF-HCSAM400, bought on a whim at Sam’s for 299. It’s frequently used for baking bread and chicken wings, performing well and looking great in white.
  3. Rice Cooker: Toshiba 1H RC-10HPC, purchased to enjoy fragrant, fluffy rice, unanimously approved by my family as making delicious rice.

Big Items

  1. Toy Car: Tesla Model 3 in red, looks just like the toy cars I adored in my childhood. I love products with a simple beauty. It’s been over 2 years since the purchase, and the pros far outweigh the cons, expanding my life’s radius significantly.
  2. Bicycle: Dahon P8 Matte Black Folding Bike, I absolutely adore this bike. Purchased offline, it rides wonderfully. I’ve written about My Entry into Bicycling which you might find helpful.
  3. Washing Machine: LG Washer-Dryer Combo FY11MW4 + RH10V9PV2W, I did a lot of research before buying a washing machine. Many online photos make them look fancy, but in person, the quality feels average. After much consideration, LG stood out in terms of cost-effectiveness and aesthetics. The experience has been great, with clothes washed and dried without fuss.
  4. Refrigerator: Panasonic NR-W591-CP-W French Door Fridge in white. The good-looking ones were either too expensive or the wrong size. This model was just right in price, size, functionality, and aesthetics. Little Red Book has many best practices for choosing a fridge, worth a look offline, but the primary selection criterion should be the size.
  5. Mattress: Serta Shaun Mattress. Choosing a mattress was the most labor-intensive of all purchases because there are so many brands, and you really need to sleep on one to know how it feels. Many seemed overpriced to me. My first consideration was comfort, reminiscent of the mattresses in five-star hotels. After some research, I found that Hilton and Marriott use Serta, so I ended up buying one offline. The sense of being enveloped is strong, facilitating quick sleep, and it’s quiet when turning over.
  6. Water Purifier: A.O. Smith Janette CAR800-FA1, making it unnecessary to buy bottled water for home use anymore. It supports hot, warm, and cold drinking water directly, with a great cost-performance ratio. The only downside is if I need a lot of hot water at once, it requires a few sessions, but luckily, that’s a rare scenario.

Smart Tools

  1. Doorbell: Xiaomi Smart Doorbell 3, this sub-300 item I consider the most worthwhile purchase. A single charge lasts half a year, serving as both an outdoor camera and doorbell. Installed above the door lock, it matches the existing lock without being obtrusive.
  2. Hand Washing Device: SUPOR Automatic Foam Hand Washing Device, incredibly practical in the bathroom. Fill it with hand soap, and a single charge lasts half a year. Place your hand under the dispenser for automatic foam delivery.
  3. Electric Toothbrush: Usmile Y10 in Obsidian Black, reasonably priced with a charge lasting half a year. Features a small screen displaying battery life and mode, and it even detects if you’ve missed spots, offering much better value compared to other brands I’ve bought before.
  4. Speaker: XiaoAi Speaker Pro in black. After using other speakers, I found they weren’t as smart. XiaoAi does the job well without being overly talkative, making it a decent choice for central control of home devices.
  5. Curtains: Mi Smart Curtain 1S, automatic bedroom curtains are, in my opinion, the most useful smart device. “Open in the morning, close at night,” just one command. Why Xiaomi? Mainly because I’m not too familiar with this area and went for the best value for money.
  6. Vacuum Robot: Roborock P10 Pro, performs well, though it’s a bit noisy, which seems common for most vacuum robots. After some research, I chose this one and have hardly needed to mop since. Setting it to clean automatically when I’m out has been liberating.
  7. Balcony Light: Midea Radar Light Sensing Human Body Sensor Ceiling Light, I replaced the previous light, and now it automatically turns on and off just by satisfying the conditions of being nighttime and someone moving outside, which is quite convenient.
  8. Thermohygrometer: Xiaomi Thermohygrometer 3, serves as a beautiful decoration that quietly does its job. However, checking the temperature and humidity at home from time to time is quite nice.

In conclusion, life needs a bit of fun. Keep tinkering, keep loving, stay young, and keep your passion alive. I wish you happiness just the same.

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