I have been a user of BetterTouchTool for quite a while. However, among the many features it provides, I only use one: window snapping. You move a window to the border of the screen and it resizes and snaps the window to the left, right, or whole screen. I almost never used the rest of the features about gestures, partly because the software UI was too confusing, even if there is a “Simple” mode and an “Advanced” mode provided.

BetterTouchTool Expiration

Recently when I upgraded BetterTouchTool to version 1.5.0, an unpleasant message appeared. The author decided to monetize on the app. While it was totally fine for the author to make this decision, paying at full price for the features I hardly use doesn’t sound right to me.

So I did a quick Google search for free alternatives (window snapping feature only) for Mac, and ended up with a list of three candidates. Interestingly they all start with ‘S’.

The following is a comparison table of the three apps in the hope that I can finally made a decision what to use to replace BetterTouchTool.

Feature ShiftIt Slate Spectacle
License GPL v3 GPL v3 Unspecified
Default Shortcut Keys Straightforward Buried in Config File Inconsistent
Customizing Shortcut Keys Preferences Cryptic Settings File Preferences
Mouse Drag’n’Drop Integration No No No
Multiple Screen Support Yes Unknown Yes
Installation Method Unzip Un-tar or .dmg Unzip
Need Accessibility API Access Yes Yes Yes
Auto-start at System Login Yes Yes Yes
Remember and Restore Layout No Yes No

The default key bindings for ShiftIt and Spectacle can be easily looked at in the preference or simply from the menu bar icon, as in the screenshots below.

ShiftIt Default Shortcut Keys Spectacle Default Shortcut Keys

I personally find the settings for ShiftIt more consistent and easier to remember than that of Spectacle. Everything starts with ⌃⌥⌘ in ShiftIt, so you only have to remember a small list of keys. The ones in Spectacle are not very easy to get at in the first place.

The key settings for Slate is totally a different story. It’s very cryptic. First off, when you start off the application in the first time, it complains that a settings file cannot be found, and it’s going to use a default setting. It gives you the hyperlink to the default settings file and you have to go online to learn about it. What’s worse, this happens each time you open the app, until you’ve set up your own configurations. The page teaching you how to do so, specifically what to put to such a settings file, looks taunting.

The only good idea in Slate, that is not implemented in the other two, is the capability to remember and restore windows layout. This might be useful occasionally. Other than this, ShiftIt and Spectacle totally win.

What I finally choose is ShiftIt, for its explicit free license and easy to remember shortcut keys. It would be nice if the author could incorporate mouse integration sometime in future.