OS X Utilities To Aid Any Developer

Apple’s OS X operating system offers a great platform for software, web or other developers. Combining an intuitive user interface (UI) with a BSD-based underlying architecture, Mac OS X is a pleasure to develop on.

Though as a child, I grew up around various computers, such as old Apple Macintoshes and IBM PCs, my Information Technology career started off predominantly supporting Windows computers. I love computers, no matter what the platform, and a lot of my troubleshooting and development skills were first honed on initial versions of MS Windows. When I first started using Apples though, I got hooked on their intuitive desktop operating system. From OS 7 on pre-PowerPC CPUs, through to the current OS X on Intel hardware, Apple has had a very different approach to the desktop environment and user interface design than their competitors. I find it enables me to be more productive and be less stressed while developing, designing, writing or being entertained. Here, I will present to the reader some lesser-known utilities built-into the OS X operating system which can especially help web developers in their daily tasks.

Locking the screen quickly from the menu bar

As a developer or any professional working on clients’ files very often, I like being able to quickly protect my screen from prying eyes. When I get up to grab a snack, go to the bathroom, etc, I am able to lock my screen quite quickly. While you can assign an applescript to do the same thing and assign it a shortcut key, I am happy to use the following method:

  1. Open the Keychain Access application ( This is inside the Utilities folder which resides inside your main Applications folder ).
  2. Open the Preferences panel via the Application menu.
  3. Set the “Show Status in Menu Bar” to enabled.
  4. Done. Now you may close both the Preferences panel and Keychain Access application.

Now at the top right hand side of your screen, you should see a tiny padlock icon. Click once on this to open the menu, then choose “Lock Screen” to ensure your privacy before stepping away from your machine. This is not the same as logging you out, so when you come back to your computer, simply press a key or move the mouse to prompt for your password and resume work as you left it.

Applescript for web developers

On Apple’s OS X operating system, there are, of course, many ways to do one task. But, there is also one way to do many tasks – it is called AppleScript. AppleScript has been made available by Apple since it’s legacy operating systems were sold. It allows for creating automated workflows between the OS X system and Apple software, and also 3rd party software, which has opened up scriptable control for some parts. An example workflow would be that every time you turn your MacBook on, it would automatically open your favorite news website and read you the first 3 headlines. While this may sound a little gimmicky, many daily tasks for web or software developers can be automated using AppleScript and save you hours of time and energy over the course of a week.

A great example AppleScript which my team and I use very often is a custom dialog which allows us to bring up a list of all our clients’ domain names ( 400 and counting! ). Once a domain name is selected from the list, we are presented with a myriad of options, including:

  • Open in browser
  • Copy URL
  • Copy IP
  • Copy user
  • Copy password
  • Display all info
  • Login to SSH
  • Login to SFTP
  • Login to FTP
  • Download SQL
  • Connect to SQL
  • Connect to MAMP SQL

These commands and more are a huge time saver and negate the need to input each domain’s information into FTP clients or lookup login information in a text file each time we need to connect to a remote server via the Terminal application. For SSH logins via the Terminal, we simply click the button to connect and AppleScript enters the appropriate commands sequentially, waiting for the required delay before inputting passwords, etc. This also eliminates the need for us to maintain security keys for each domain for each user in the company – a great time saver! For high latency servers, we can simply click the button to connect and go back to working on other things while AppleScript handles the slow, boring login process for us.