Nicks Octopress Blog

A blogging framework for hackers.

Favorite Tools and Tricks

I was showing two of my engineer buddies something on my laptop when I realized they didn’t know how to shortcut between tabs. It blew my mind that people don’t know these things, which got my thinking about all the little tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years. I ended up making a list… so I figured I might as well share it. I’ll throw on a quick summary for why I use all these things. For example:

  • Google, Really really good search engine. A strong alternative to Bing if you’re willing to give up the $125/year that Microsoft will give you for clicks.

I’ve mostly found these through annoyance at minor inconveniences, whether they be multiple keystrokes or the laborious task of moving my hands to the keyboard and back.

Chrome Shortcuts

  • Remove item from search bar and history, opt+cmd+del
  • Switching between tabs, shift+opt+{} or ctrl+shift+tab
  • Jumping between tabs, cmd+(0-9)
  • Moving to address bar, cmd+L

Gmail Shortcuts (have to enable them)

  • Refresh inbox, u
  • Move between messages, j/k
  • Archive and Move between messages, {/}
  • Move to search bar, /
  • Open message, o
  • Move between Folders, g+(i for inbox)(t for sent)(l for label)(s for starred)(a for all)
  • Compose, c
  • Send, cmd+enter

Chrome Extensions

  • Vimium, I couldn’t live without this one. It lets you use chrome with vim inspired shortcuts. Hit ’d' to go down half a page, ‘k’ to scroll up, ‘gi’ to move cursor to a textarea then ‘tab’ to move to the next textarea, etc.
  • Papaly, I have two tabs pinned… gmail and papaly. Papaly lets me save links in a quick and organized manner, letting me keep my browser uncluttered.
  • Empty New Tab Page, Because it cleans up your interface ever so slightly, “a clean room is a clean mind”.
  • Imagus, hover to see full size image. Have it configured to show image on shift press.
  • URL Shortener, this is very particular to my workflow. Whenever I find something valuable on the internet, I’ll throw a quick summary and it’s link on a plain text to review later.


  • Ghostery, Ghostery blocks 3rd party trackers, make sure to disable GhostRank.
  • TrackMeNot, clicks every ad (but doesn’t load them) to obfuscate your actual activity.
  • uBlockOrigin, uBlockOrigin, largely superior Adblock Plus. More efficient.


  • Flux, reduces eyestrain by adapting your computer screen to the time of day. Takes some adjusting to. But after that you won’t be able to live without it.
  • Moom, window management, lets me move my windows anywhere I want with an efficient hotkey. Mandatory if you’re working with larger monitors (I have a 27" and 24").
  • VPN, lets me feel safe when I’m on public wifi. Was especially useful when I backed around Asia. I personally use Private Internet Access (PIA), one of the bigger providers.
  • Copy Clip, clipboard manager for os x. It’s free, why not?
  • Google Spreadsheets, have several of these setup for subjects that require more organization. Is conveniently synced between phone and computers.
  • Pomodoro Timer, more for my workflow. I work on tasks in 30 minute chunks so its perfect.

Knowledge base

  • Sublime Text, have it opened with entire Dropbox directory. cmd+shift+f executes an interactive grep-like search, makes it very easy to find what I’m looking for. cmd+t lets me quickly open whatever file I want.
  • Nebulous for iOS, plain text editor and Dropbox compatibility. Lets me view and edit my knowledge base. Great for my todo lists and to productively kill time when I’m waiting in line.
  • Dropbox, keeps everything synced. Although I did have to pay for more storage.
  • Org mode, incredible! Plan to integrate this into workflow shortly.
  • Evernote, you all know what this is. I’m not it’s biggest fan, eventually I want to move to an org mode + dropbox + sublime/nebulous workflow. But for now, I use its reminders to re-expose me to particularily interesting pieces of knowledge. Huge issues include: inconvenient exporting, no multiple hierachies of notes/notebooks, ads everywhere, general bugginess.

Sublime Text

  • ctrl+cmd+up/down arrows, swap rows up and down.
  • ctrl+shift+up/down arrows, quickly spawn multiple cursors for some efficient editing.
  • cmd+k then cmd+b, hide/show sidebar
  • ctrl+shift+k, delete the current line your cursor is on
  • Many many more, but I don’t want to go overboard


  • Spotlight, cmd+space. Let’s you find anything on your computer quickly and conveniently. Whether it’s an application, file, widget.
  • Hot Corners, move the mouse to bottom left or right corner to put my laptop to sleep. Lets me take faster bathroom breaks at the coffee shop.
  • Remapping Caps to Control at OS level (Modifier Keys). Especially useful for the Command Line Interface. Who uses Caps Lock anyways.
  • PLEASE NEVER MOVE THROUGH TEXT BY HOLDING THE ARROW KEYS (and try to avoid the mouse). cmd+left/right arrows, move to beginning or end of line. option+left/right arrow, move a word at a time, similar to vim’s ‘w’ and ‘b’ commands.

Peace of Mind

  • Crashplan, backs up my computer to a remote location every night while I’m sleeping. I backup with my harddrive weekly for a local backup. So unless the right data center and my house burn down simultaneously I’m fine.
  • Mint, free personal budgeting application. I used to constantly worry about whether I was getting mischarged, having my credit cards stolen, or paying fees I shouldn’t be. With this I can check every couple days and never have to worry.
  • 1Password, just in case I forget. Sync my keychain over dropbox so it’s available in case of emergencies.

App Specific

  • Mint Mojito, improves ui for mint. You can cut out sections you don’t want, like: recommendations, ads, etc…
  • Google Calendar Scroll Disabler, because the trackpad is way too sensitive and I often found myself a year ahead of where I wanted to be.
  • The Camelizer, tracks Amazon prices. Let’s you see if you’re getting a good deal or should wait. Can set price watches that will notify you when the price drops to what you’re willing to pay. Along this note, using ifttt to watch rss feeds or using slickdeals deal watchers is really effective as well.
  • Reddit Enhancement Suite, I can’t remember what it was like to not have this.
  • Download FB Album mod, lets you download albums off Facebook, in case they ever go out of business.
  • Boomerang for Gmail, Lets you program mail to be sent at certain times. Nice when you’re doing email at 3am, but want it sent out at a reasonable time.
  • Facebook: News Feed Blocker, Facebook Unseen (I know this should be in App-Specific… but for real). When you open facebook to jump on the messenger, the feed is less likely to draw you in… and unseen so that you can read messages without beening inclined to answer them until it’s more convenient. Remember when the ‘seen at 4:21’ feature was new and everyone despised it?