Ten small life improvements

I’ve ac­cu­mu­lated a lot of small ap­pli­ca­tions and items that make my life in­cre­men­tally bet­ter. Most of these ul­ti­mately came from some­one else’s recom­men­da­tion, so I thought I’d pay it for­ward by post­ing ten of my fa­vorite small im­prove­ments.

(I’ve given credit where I re­mem­ber who in­tro­duced the item into my life. Ob­vi­ously the biggest part of the credit goes to the cre­ator.)

Video speed

Video Speed Con­trol­ler lets you speed up HTML 5 video; it gives a nicer in­ter­face than the YouTube speed ad­just­ment and works for most videos dis­played in a browser (in­clud­ing e.g. net­flix/​ama­zon).

(Credit: Stephanie Zo­lay­var?)


Spec­ta­cle on OSX pro­vides key­board short­cuts to snap win­dows to any half or third of the screen (or full screen).

Pinned tabs + tab wrangler

I use tab wran­gler to au­to­mat­i­cally close tabs (and save a book­mark) af­ter 10m. I keep gmail and vim­flowy pinned so that they don’t close. For me, clos­ing tabs af­ter 10m is usu­ally the right be­hav­ior.

Ag­gres­sive AdBlock

I use AdBlock for any­thing that grabs at­ten­tion even if isn’t an ad. I usu­ally block “re­lated con­tent,” “next sto­ries,” the whole youtube side­bar, ev­ery­thing on Medium other than the ar­ti­cle, the gmail side­bar, most com­ment sec­tions, etc. Similarly, I use kill news feed to block my Face­book feed.

Avoid­ing email inbox

I of­ten need to write or look up emails dur­ing the day, which would some­times lead me to read/​re­spond to new emails and switch con­texts. I’ve mostly fixed the prob­lem by leav­ing gmail open to my list of starred emails rather than my in­box, ad-blocked the “In­box (X)” no­tifi­ca­tion, and pin gmail so that I can’t see the “In­box (X)” ti­tle.

Christ­mas lights

I pre­fer the soft light from christ­mas lights to white over­head lights or even softer lamps. My fa­vorite are mul­ti­col­ored lights, though soft white lights also seem OK.

(Credit: Ben Hoff­man)


Kara­biner remaps keys in a very flex­ible way. (Un­for­tu­nately, it only works on OSX pre-Sierra. Would be very in­ter­ested if there is any similarly flex­ible soft­ware that )

Some changes have helped me a lot:

  • While hold­ing s: hjkl move the cur­sor. (Turn on “Sim­ple Vi Mode v2”) I find this way more con­ve­nient than the ar­row keys.

  • While hold­ing d: hjkl move the mouse. (Turn on “Mouse Keys Mode v2”) I find this slightly more con­ve­nient than a mouse most of the time, but the big win is that I can use my com­puter when a blue­tooth mouse dis­con­nects.

  • Other stuff while hold­ing s: (add this gist to your pri­vate.xml):

    • While hold­ing s: u/​o move to the pre­vi­ous and next word, n is backspace.

    • While hold­ing s+f: key re­peat is 10x faster.

    • While hold­ing s+a: hold shift (so cur­sor se­lects what­ever it moves over, e.g. I can quickly se­lect last ten words by hold­ing a+s+f and then hold­ing u for 1 sec­ond).

I’d definitely pay > a minute a day for these changes.


I find split+tented key­boards much nicer than usual key­boards. I use a Ki­ne­sis Freestyle 2 with this to prop it up. I put my touch­pad on a raised plat­form be­tween the key­board halves. Alter­na­tively, you might pre­fer the wire cut­ter’s recom­men­da­tions.

(Credit: Emer­ald Yang)


Vim­flowy is similar to Work­flowy, with a few changes: it lets you “clone” bul­lets so they ap­pear in mul­ti­ple places in your doc­u­ment, has marks that you can jump to eas­ily, and has much more flex­ible mo­tions /​ macros /​ etc. I find all of these very helpful. The biggest down­side for most peo­ple is prob­a­bly modal edit­ing (keystrokes is­sue com­mands rather than in­sert­ing text).

The biggest value add for me is the time track­ing plu­gin. I use vim­flowy es­sen­tially con­stantly, so this gives me ex­tremely fine-grained time track­ing for free.

Run­ning lo­cally (down­load from github) lets you use vim­flowy offline, and us­ing the SQLite back­end scales to very large doc­u­ments (larger than work­flowy can han­dle).

(Credit: Jeff Wu and Zachary Vance.)

ClipMenu [hard to get?]

Keeps a buffer of the last 20 things you’ve copied, so that you can paste any one of them. Source for OSX is on github here, I’m not sure if it can be eas­ily com­piled/​in­stalled (bi­na­ries used to be available). Would be cu­ri­ous if any­one knows a good al­ter­na­tive or tries to com­pile it.

(Credit: Jeff Wu.)