Monday, August 30, 2010

What's on your Mac?

Within the span of a week, two good friends of mine decided that it was time to switch from PC to Mac.  I promised both of them a list of the Mac utilities and applications that I have found useful or interesting or fun on my Macs over the years.  Before I start I need to give props to my buddy Scott Corscadden who took the time to school me in the Way of Mac when I made my switch some years ago.

1Password ($39.95) - This great utility keeps track of your passwords, log in ids, and form settings.  It can also generate strong passwords which you access with your 1Password password.  Integrates with all browsers.  You can even store your encrypted 1Password file on a file sharing service like Dropbox so that all your Macs, iPhones, iPads can access the same passwords.

Adium (Free) - Are you an iChat or an MSN?  An AOL or a GTalk?  What about all your contacts?  Do they all use the same instant message service that you do?  With a product like Adium, it doesn't matter.  Use Adium to log into multiple IM services at the same time in the same interface.

AppTrap (Free) - Uninstalling an application on a Mac is as simple as dragging it from Finder to your Trash bin.  While this does uninstall the application it has a side-effect of leaving behind application support files such as configuration files, caches, databases.  AppTrap will automatically detect an uninstall and, after prompting you for permission, delete all the support files for a clean uninstall.  CAUTION: Some application upgrade processes consist of uninstalling the old version and reinstalling the new version.  When doing an upgrade, select "Leave files" rather than "Move files".

Dropbox (Free) - There are a few cloud storage services out there (including iDisk from Apple).  None are as seamless as Dropbox.  Configure a directory to be your Dropbox and any file you put in there will automatically be synchronized on the server and with any other client you have pointing to your account.  Share files seamlessly between your Macs, PCs, iPhones, iPads, Android phones, etc.  The first 2 gig is free.  50 gig costs $9.99/month. 

Evernote (Free) - One of my all time favorites.  At first glance, Evernote seems like a regular text note taking tool.  But you can also take photo notes (with OCR) and audio notes.  Oh, and they're all seamlessly synchronized to the cloud.  And searchable.  Oh, and you can get clients for Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Palm Pre, and Windows Mobile.  Awesome.

Firefox (Free) - Safari is a damn fine browser.  In many respects it is superior to Firefox.  The killer Firefox feature for me is its plugins which I make heavy use of (perhaps a topic for another post).  True, Safari and Chrome both now support plugins but so far neither of them have as rich a set as Firefox.  The moment I can get all or even most of my plugins for Safari I will likely drop Firefox from my list.

gfxCardStatus (Free) - Macbook Pros enjoy not one but two graphics processors.  An integrated processor which is light on features and easy on the battery and a discreet graphics processor stacked with features but can run your tank to empty in no time.  Apple's method of switching graphics processors is to change the setting in System Preferences and then reboot (Holy Microsoft Usability Batman!).  This utility will install a menu icon that not only tells you which card you're currently using but lets you switch back and forth between the two without rebooting.  Sweet.

Growl (Free) - Growl is a simple notification platform.  Many other applications integrate with growl to inform you of updates, alerts and other information.  One interface for notifications.

HandBrake (Free) - HandBrake converts to and from a multitude of audio and video formats.  Perfect for converting the format of the video your brother-in-law sent you to a format your television actually recognizes.

Hula Girl (Free) - I don't know why I like this dashboard widget but I do.

iStat Nano (Free) - This Dashboard widget gives you at-a-glance status information about various hardware and software components running on your Mac.

iWork ($79.00) -This is Apple's office productivity suite consisting of Numbers spreadsheet, Pages word processor, and Keynote presentation software.  If you must work in a Microsoft Office environment then go get Office for Mac 2008 (2011 coming soon!).  If you don't, then get iWork.  It's much cheaper, has all the features that you're likely to need and Keynote kicks Powerpoint's ass simply by lifting its right eyebrow only.

jitouch ($6.99) - Once you use the multitouch features of the Mac trackpad you will very rapidly learn to depend on it.  Using non-Mac trackpads becomes very frustrating when you find that all it does is move the mouse pointer and nothing else.  jitouch extends the multitouch capabilities with literally dozens of other gestures.  Easily worth the $6.99 price tag.

MacVim (Free) - At the risk of starting a text editor flame war I'll go on record stating that I'm a VI fan and always have been.  MacVim is a terrific port of VIM (VI Improved).

MenuMeters (Free) - MenuMeters puts a couple of handy indicators in your menu bar (at the top of the screen) for monitoring things like CPU, network, disk, etc.

NTFS-3G (Free) - Mac OS/X does not natively recognize NTFS partitions.  If you have carved out some of your diskspace to run Windows (via Bootcamp, VirtualBox, or some other mechanism) you might want to install this NTFS read/write driver so that you can read the Windows file system from the Mac side.  There is also a commercial version of NTFS-3G called Tuxera if you prefer to spend money.

OmniDiskSweeper (Free) - The Omni Group makes some really great products for Macs.  DiskSweeper is a free utility for managing your drive space.  With it you can find what's eating all the space.

OmniFocus ($79.95) - The price is a little steep but without OmniFocus I would be a completely disorganized mess at work.  If you have read David Allen's Getting Things Done you will love the care that the Omni Group has taken in developing a product that so closely embodies the GTD principles.  Purchase the iPhone version as well and access your

OmniGraffle ($99.95) -Another pricey-but-worth-it package, OmniGraffle is a sophisticated diagramming tool.  Similar to Microsoft Visio but with a more intuitive interface and richer presentation features, OmniGraffle makes the process of creating complex diagrams easy.  It even will output in Visio format for compatibility.

Quicksilver (Free) - "Act without doing" is the tagline from Blacktree.  Their product, Quicksilver, is difficult to classify.  It leverages Spotlight, Apple's advanced search engine built into Mac OS/X, to easily find and access applications, contacts, music, files, and other data.  Without moving your fingers from the keyboard you can access just about anything on your Mac.  Quicksilver is indispensable. 

Perian (Free) - "The swiss-army knife for QuickTime".  QuickTime is Apple's video viewer.  It's a great app with a simple, clean interface.  Just what you need if you have QuickTime video files to play.  For the other 99% of videos it is useless.  Enter Perian.  Perian adds QuickTime plugins to QuickTime to handle a multitude of other video formats.

The Weather Network (Free) - This Dashboard widget from The Weather Network (Canadian) does a great job forecasting weather.  Get the iPhone version as well.

TweetDeck (Free) - There are a handful of Twitter clients on the market but I prefer TweekDeck over them all.  In one interface you can not only get your Twitter stream, mentions, and directs but also add in Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and Buzz feeds.  Tweet and/or update your stats in any of these social media tools all from the TweetDeck interface.  Be sure to download the iPhone and iPad versions as well.

VirtualBox (Free) - VirtualBox is yet another great free product from the once might Sun Microsystems (I'm really going to miss them).  Hopefully Oracle will continue to develop VirtualBox and keep it free.  VirtualBox is a Virtual Machine that allows you to run Windows, Linux, or other operating systems while running Mac OS/X at the same time.  For those of you that must cling to your favorite Windows programs, use VirtualBox until you kick the habit.  If you want a VM but would rather pay for it then try Parallels ($79.99) or VMWare Fusion ($79.99). 

VLC (Free) - "It plays everything!"  If you need to play the few video formats that Perian doesn't handle then get VLC.  This little video player does indeed play just about any format.

Adobe Reader (Free) - YAGNI (You Ain't Gonna Need It).  Mac OS/X handles PDF files natively.

8 comments:

Kevin Hendry said...

HandBreak (For converting your DVDs to digitally managed formats)
Chrome - Speed both in rendering and innovation is ridiculous. It just keeps getting better.
Picassa - Because I don't like the FB photo stuff. I share on Picassa.
Things (Much cheaper than OmniFocus...and I like it better to boot)
MacPorts - for development. Ruby, Rails, and some other cygwin like stuff. handy.
Eclipse - java dev. Android etc.
Netbeans (I nice ruby on rails IDE) Our new Zengaku web app will be rails based, just like our current RSL site is.
TextMate (although I can't quite bring myself to purchase it)
Plex - for watching your digital content
Boxee - for the same and just because I like to try them all. I think Plex may take the lead once I try the latest release.
Steam - Portal, HL2..what more need I say. It's cool.
WoW - It's the only game I can't quite let go of.
Curse - Required for wowheads.
Yammer - We use this to communicate between RSL guys. It's good for quick updates/notes and such.
Rivet - DLNA streaming of audio and video. Works nice with my PS3 as a player
Vuze - A bit torrent client. for all the stuff you want to buy, but can't quite bring yourself to pay for. Although I've not actually done that yet myself. Free alternatives are good enough for the most part. But it's nice to know you have the option.
Coda - is a good little HTML/CSS editor. Although I'm considering other options still and like TextMate haven't been able to pull the trigger on a purchase just yet.
Ventrillo - Another WoW requirement for raiding/chat.

Google Sketchup - My wife has made some impressive models using this for clients and for us. She figured out exactly what our back room would look like with a fireplace insert and shelving in an evening. It was quite impressive. Handy if you are thinking of renovations such as building a deck or porch. Or if you want to create 3d models for games you might be creating.

I've given up on Adium and just use iChat exclusively now since I can use it with my other jabber client (gtalk). I only used it when I had to use MSN for work, now that requirement has been removed and so to has Adium.

Kevin Hendry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin Hendry said...

HandBreak (For converting your DVDs to digitally managed formats)
Chrome - Speed both in rendering and innovation is ridiculous. It just keeps getting better.
Picassa - Because I don't like the FB photo stuff. I share on Picassa.
Things (Much cheaper than OmniFocus...and I like it better to boot)
MacPorts - for development. Ruby, Rails, and some other cygwin like stuff. handy.
Eclipse - java dev. Android etc.
Netbeans (I nice ruby on rails IDE) Our new Zengaku web app will be rails based, just like our current RSL site is.
TextMate (although I can't quite bring myself to purchase it)
Plex - for watching your digital content
Boxee - for the same and just because I like to try them all. I think Plex may take the lead once I try the latest release.
Steam - Portal, HL2..what more need I say. It's cool.
WoW - It's the only game I can't quite let go of.
Curse - Required for wowheads.
Yammer - We use this to communicate between RSL guys. It's good for quick updates/notes and such.
Rivet - DLNA streaming of audio and video. Works nice with my PS3 as a player
Vuze - A bit torrent client. for all the stuff you want to buy, but can't quite bring yourself to pay for. Although I've not actually done that yet myself. Free alternatives are good enough for the most part. But it's nice to know you have the option.
Coda - is a good little HTML/CSS editor. Although I'm considering other options still and like TextMate haven't been able to pull the trigger on a purchase just yet.
Ventrillo - Another WoW requirement for raiding/chat.

Google Sketchup - My wife has made some impressive models using this for clients and for us.

Peter Scheyen said...

Thanks for the comment Kevin. I'm definitely going to try out MacPorts, Plex, and Rivet based on your comments. I'm also curious about Curse and Ventrillo but I'm hardly Guild (www.watchtheguild.com) worthy.

Kevin Hendry said...

Plex just released a pretty cool iPhone app as well that allows you to use it as a remote for Plex or you can pick up a show/movie from where you were on the Mac , and have it streamed to your phone/ipod.

It's pretty impressive. I'm trying to build a digital library out of my purchased content. And the media manager should help with that.

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