Friday, July 11, 2008

Essential OS X Software

There have been a few people who have gotten mac's lately and I'm getting tired of forgetting to recommend a really cool app to them. Therefore I've decided to create my essential OS X application list. These are all applications that I feel are vital that do not come with the OS. I'll cover useful built in ones, widgets (both included and add-on) and Firefox plugins later.

Open Source or Free software:
Adium - Open Source multi-protocol instant messenger application. Really good instant messenger program. Does not do Audio or Voice so I still occasionally use iChat but otherwise, I use Adium.

Burn - A free tool to burn DVDs and CDs. Sure, you can do most with the built in OS X tools but this makes it a lot easier. Also it's free so uhh... go install.

Chmox - Ok, it's not great but it's the best chm reader I've found. It really needs the ability to search though. Plus it's a native OS X app so no need to have the X running or anything.

coconutBattery - Not really essential but shows you how badly you've abused your batter. Nice to know your not going insane and your battery really doesn't last as long as it used to.

Firefox - If you don't know what this is, come out of your cave, it'll be ok. If you haven't already go get this. Safari is nice but the plugins available for this make it really shine. I'll go over essential plugins later.

Google Earth - Another non-essential app but fun none the less.

Handbrake - Want to take a DVD with you, don't want to save a 4Gb iso? Convert it down to something a little more reasonable with this tool. Will also convert to iPod formats for really portable movies.

Miro - Like TV, for your computer. This lets you download most video podcasts and has a nice little directory of them. Can also be used as a torrent downloader so you could subscribe to your favorite TV show at say tvrss.net.

Growl - System message notifier. Ok, doesn't sound like much and probably won't change your life, but there are a lot of applications that will send notifications to growl to display. Useful to let you know at a glance when something is done downloading, you receive a new IM or E-Mail. Handy tool to know if something needs attention now or if it can wait.

NeoOffice - This is a macified version of open office. If you are like me, you don't deal with office documents that much but every once in a while someone will send you one. While some features are missing, I haven't noticed anything I really miss. Especially good for the casual user. If you really need to, Office is available for the mac, but this is a good free alternative that is worth trying out.

Quicksilver - In a nutshell, it's an app launcher. Though that's not doing it justice. I use this all the time but it did take me a while to get used to it. I had to force myself to start to use it and then discovered it's power. Can really speed up the time it takes you to do things. Worth watching a few tutorials and trying it out. Lots of hooks into programs (like the address book, mail, iTunes, etc...) to make it really useful. I can't do it justice, search about it and give it a try!

sshfs - If you use ssh, this is cool. Allows you to create a drive mapping that is really just an ssh connection. If that doesn't make sense to you, you can probably skip this app. Will probably need to install MacFUSE first.

Transmission - Lightweight Bittorrent app. If you use bittorrent at all, this is a handy application to have. It's lightweight and pretty full featured.

Truecrypt - Open source tool to create/mount encrypted volumes. Can also be used to encrypt entire USB flash drives. Keep your private data secure!

Tunnelblick - I have mixed feeling about this, it's a bit buggy and crashes on me all the time whenever the network hiccups but it's a nice easy way to get OpenVPN on your mac. Even gives you a little icon in the menu to connect to your servers. If you don't know what OpenVPN is, you can safely do without this. If you use OpenVPN, this is a nice tool to have.

Vidalia - Tool to use Tor. I don't use it that often but if you're looking for anonymity online, it's the first place I would start.

Vienna - RSS/Atom reader. This is how I get my news and my daily Dilbert fix!

Vim - Text editor based on good old vi. I'm sure most people will not really use this but I find it essential. A bit of a steep learning curve, but once you learn it, you won't want to give it up.

VLC - This video player will play almost anything. Much better than quicktime or iTunes for playing videos. Will also do audio for when you want to listen to a song (or audio stream) without adding it to your iTunes library.

X-Lite - Free SIP based softphone. If that makes no sense to you, you can probably skip it. Not the best app I've ever used but so far the best softphone I've found.

Commercial Software:
With quality open source software out there, I don't like paying for software when I can help it but sometimes something really good comes along and I just have to suck it up.
MenuCalendarClock - This beefs up your clock to add a calendar that integrates with iCal. It's very cool and there is a free version so go check it out. At the very least, go look at the preview pics on the site.

Adobe CS3 - Let's face it, if you deal with graphics, you need this. I shouldn't have to say any more and it's one of the main reasons I tried a mac in the first place. Ability to install Photoshop and have all my Unix tools, I'm in!

iBank - Personal finance program. I tried using Quicken, I just had issues downloading from my banks and gave up. iBank doesn't have all the same features yet but I've been able to download from my banks pretty flawlessly. Very mac-like interface as well. (Tip: put the ibank file on a truecrypt volume (see above) to keep your banking records safe)

iWork - Ok, I guess now I'm really turning into an apple fanboy. Very much presentation oriented. Does not have all the features of their office counterparts but can be used to create really great looking spreadsheets, documents and presentations. Combine this with the open source neo office (see above) for those office docs people send you and you should be set.

Mac the Ripper - I put this in the non-free section because while there is a free version, you really need version 3 which seems to not be free. Though if you look hard enough, you should be able to find version 3.0_r14 without too much difficulty. Helps you get around most copy protection and then you can use handbrake (above) to reduce the file size.

OmniGroup - There are a bunch of apps here, some better/more useful than others. If you are a Getting Things Done fan, definately check out OmniFocus. I just started playing around with it so we'll see how useful I find it. OmniGraffle is a good replacement for Visio if you need to do diagrams. I've used it a little but I don't make a lot of diagrams. I'm going to try and use it more to make better documentation. OmniPlan is a good project management app that I'm also going to try and start using to get organized.

Transmit - Ok, I resisted this for a while, used FUGU (which isn't bad) but as an all-purpose FTP/SFTP client, this really can't be beat. Simple interface, easy to use. If you transfer a lot of files, this is a really nice app. If you don't FTP/SFTP a lot, then you can probably do without.

VMware Fusion - Ok, I don't use this to run windows, but I do run linux on my mac with it to test things. One day I will probably use it to run windows on my mac for IE testing purposes but I've been putting that off because I really just don't want to use windows anymore.

VueScan - Utility to interface with most scanners. I find this to be better than the tools that come with most scanners. Still not great but so far the best scanner utility I've used.

1 comment:

Mienrado said...

Just started using Google Quick Search Box. Love it so far!