programs with most surprising use

Hi all

in analogy to the thread about programs you said goodbye to, I am curious about the programs that were of unexpected use to you. So, it is not so much about the programs that you grew used to simply because the purpose they were designed for suddenly started to make sense to you, but the programs that did something well you did not expect them to do at all.

I’ll start with one:
In my academic life, much of the literature accumulates in the form of pdfs, straight from the journal websites, from colleagues, co-authors and the nifty copy machine in our institute that can mail pdf copies from hardcopy prints, journal articles etc to my account that I can OCR later.
Some of the pdfs on my Mac are duplicates, or even triplicates and many of them have obscure names. In order to weed out the duplicates, I first tried the usual duplicate finder tools to no avail. One, perhaps because I pressed a wrong button, even deleted ALL copies and shredded them instead of putting them into the trash. :open_mouth:

Anyway, I ended up using Graphic Converter for this purpose, a wonderful graphics program. It has a “find duplicates” functionality which works not only with images but with pdfs as well. Which in retrospective makes sense because pdfs are images of sort. What really sets it apart from duplicate finders is the fact that it does not only rely on the text content and so finds duplicates of papers even prior to OCRing and displays them side by side. It even has a fuzzy search that would in principle allow to find similar pictures perhaps from different copies of the same paper although I haven’t tested that.

What are your highlights? I’d love to hear about them.


Hi Prion, not to hijack the thread but have you tried Devonthink?

It sounds like it would be a much better app for the things you describe. Their website is and they offer “150 hours of non-continuous runtime free trial, 200 email messages and 20 OCR runs per day.”

In addition to the OCR stuff, it’s a sort of database app which uses some kind of clever AI magic to find common factors between text or image documents. I was once actually able to sketch from memory an image I couldn’t find, import it into DevonThink, and it found the exact picture I was trying to describe.

If only iPhoto had a “find other images like this one” feature!

DT can do that? Cool!

I’m a big fan of the program, but clearly I’ve barely scratched the surface of what the AI can do.


Scriv actually…

I bought it for a couple of long stories, but became so comfortable with it that I moved it from a “personal” app into my professional and semi-pro life. The ability to see ideas and manipulate them with so much ease has made it the best single tool I have paid for.

Unless you count the wife. While not a traditional piece of software I think she might qualify.
She costs a lot and has a HUGE motivational impact (skillets do that).
She is soft (in all the right places). I have determined that the proper input has great results while bad input yields… crashes.
I am surprised everyday when I wake up or come home and she is still there (heck I would leave if I were her). Kind of like recovering from a crash.
She does the laundry.

Not sure she would appreciate the comparison, but there it is.

It deserves mention that OCR features are only available in DEVONthink Professional Office edition, which costs $150USD, not the $40 or $80 versions. I’m not sure about the image recognition, I’ve never heard of that, so I’m guessing it must be Pro or Pro Office? I just have the standard version, myself.

I have started using Aperture to scan my notebooks into.

Because my OCR would NEVER ever work on my handwriting, this works really well for me. In the “Notes” metadata I can type up the bits of text I like and then archive the image safely away.

I have also discovered it is invaluable for my cameraless photography - I have discovered that I actually need to reproduce some of my Darkroom stuff (sigh), and to do this, have been scanning them in and post-processing them. This shouldn’t sound too surprising but until this point, I have never felt a need to integrate my digital and my non-digital photography together and if I did, it was not in this direction.

Also Preview as an Image Editor - bloody hell it’s really not bad! It can all sort of funky stuff that it’s probably not meant to (go “Adjust Colour” and then push the White Level and Black Level all the way to the other side from where they start and it turns the image negative… which is cool).

I’ve got two – LaunchBar and Google.

I’m a keyboard person, and LaunchBar allows me to ignore the dock entirely for launching apps. I can also use LaunchBar to look up words in Dictionary, send e-mails or files to people in my AddressBook, copy text where I want. It has templates to look up stuff in Wikipedia, IMDB, and Google. There’s always some pleasant surprise with it.

Google has similar surprises. I can do calculations, convert any measurements system to another system, get the delay times at any airport… there’s a long list of them at

Life would be dull indeed without them

Robert, Jacksonville, Fla.