3 apps that make everyday computer use less annoying for people with disabilities

I absolutely love when I find products that give me better access to stuff I want to do without being over-priced (have you ever looked at the cost of even basic medical and disability related products? Sheesh.). I’ve been using three apps on my Mac for a while that have made some everyday tasks, like saving passwords, typing email addresses, and launching apps faster and more pleasant.

Alfred

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I just can’t say enough good things about Alfred. Not only does it give me the satisfaction of pretending like I’m a millionaire crime fighter with a wise and loyal butler, it also opens apps faster than you can say “Why so serious?”

As an admitted app junkie, my Application Dock holds more apps than I care to mention. And my Applications folder is filled with tons of stuff ranging from “This one’s the best!” to “I don’t remember this one.” Kind of like your Facebook friends list. But Alfred saves your mind from having to parse over all those apps to find the one you’re looking for. Instead, you simply press a hotkey combination and a simple, omniscient search box appears. Unbelievably, what happens next is that by typing just a few characters, you can do any of the following:

  • Open an app
  • Open a file or folder
  • Play some music
  • Look up a contact
  • Do math
  • Define a word
  • Get some text you copied a few hours ago
  • Search the web
  • Run a script
  • A gazillion other things

It’s not easy for me to use a keyboard, so I appreciate the plethora of tasks that are available with a radically short number of key-presses.

Alfred is free, with some features requiring the £15 Powerpack license.

TextExpander

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You know what’s annoying? Typing something for a computer that a computer should be able to type itself. Let me give you a few examples:

I need to type my email address. My computer should be like “Oh, you wanna type your email address? I got you, dawg!”

I need to type my full name. My computer should know my name and type it for me. If it doesn’t know me by now, it will never ever ever know me…

In a pathetic need to brand myself, I need to leave my full name, contact info, and a ridiculous catchphrase at the end of every piece of digital communication I write. My computer should stop me from doing this (ideally), but should otherwise do it for me.

This is what TextExpander does. It lets you type something like:

-mail

And then automagically types your email address in place of the abbreviation.

You can do this for any bit of text that you want, with the possibilities ranging from short and simple phrases to long, complicated passages with fill-in-the-blank variables. In fact, while writing my failed NaNoWriMo 2011 novel, I got so lazy that I set up abbreviations for people and places in my story. So I could simply type “-flc” instead of “Frostlake Crossing” every time I mentioned the place.

TextExpander comes with a free trial after which it costs $34.95.

1Password

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If you are still using the same short password on every site you log into, you should really consider changing at least the important accounts (email, bank, shopping, social media) to strong, unique passwords. It’s better for the security of your online identity.

Of course, keeping up with a bunch of long, hard-to-remember passwords can be difficult for anyone. But if you have trouble typing, your going to be hesitant in changing your go-to password of “yourcatsname.” That’s where 1Password comes in. It can generate secure passwords and remember them. You just need to remember one master password (get it?). Maybe something a bit more secure like, “y0urC@t$nam3.” Then you can copy and paste any of your saved passwords.

Now you have the benefit of secure passwords without having to remember or type them.

1Password is available on multiple platforms at different prices. The Mac and Windows versions cost $49.99. Available on iPhone and Android as well.

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