Friday, November 07, 2008

1 year of Mac: the best applications for Mac OS X

After 1 year of using Mac OS X, I believe I can now give some advise towards what applications you should definitely install on your Mac. To that end, I created this short list of applications (in alphabetical order) that I think are essential for any Mac user:

Adium - (free) the ultimate Instant Messaging application. I use it to talk with all my friends using MSN, GTalk, ICQ, Yahoo and pretty much every well-known IM infrastructure there is.

AppCleaner - (free) Uninstalling applications in Mac OS X is as simple as dragging them to the Trash. However, some applications leave some orphan files behind that, while most probably won't hurt your system, will eat up disk space. Using AppCleaner you can delete any trace of an application that you want to uninstall from your Mac.

Burn - (free) if what you want is a simple CD/DVD Burning application, then Burn is your thing. It burns data/music/images into DVDs and CDs with just a few clicks.

Cyberduck - (free) FTP made simple. Cyberduck allows you to access all kinds of repositories that use the FTP, SFTP or WebDAV protocols, even through SSH.

Disk Inventory X - (free) this is an excellent application for when your hard disk is getting full and you need to discover what's eating up disk space. It uses both a list view and a graphical view that allows you to quickly determine what file types are using more space.

Eclipse - (free) whether you work with Java, C++, PHP, HTML or any other programming language, Eclipse is the right IDE for intense development. It even has specific builds for Mac OS X.

Firefox - (free) Safari (the built-in Mac OS X browser) is quite good but it has some limitations, when compared to Firefox. Due to its extensions, Firefox is most definitely the best Internet browser that you can install on your Mac.

Growl - (free) Growl is one of those applications that it's too amazing to describe in just a few words. It's basically a way for some applications in Mac OS X to show bubble notifications to the user. However, these are totally configurable and the level of intrusiveness is totally defined by the user so as to avoid Windows-like boring notification messages.

Jumpcut - (free) if you write a lot of reports and you need to copy and paste data from several different sources, then you need an application like Jumpcut. This app is a simple viewer of your clipboard history that allows you to choose which (previously copied) text you want to paste at any given moment. Brilliant and quite useful for a programmer like me.

LiquidMac - (free) if your Mac has a sudden motion sensor (most Apple notebooks do) then you have to install this app. It uses the data from that sensor to simulate the behaviour of a liquid in your screen. That is, as you tilt the screen the liquid will behave just as if you were manipulating a bowl of water.

MenuMeters - (free) MenuMeters is a great way of keeping track of your Mac's resources. It allows displaying CPU, RAM, disk, network and lot more runtime information on the menubar at the top of Mac OS X's desktop.

NetNewsWire - (free) I used to use Google Reader as my RSS feeds reader, but it required me to have an Internet connection to access them [1]. NetNewsWire is the Mac OS X version of the news client for the Newsgator service and it is a lot better because it allows me to access my feeds offline, on my mobile phone, on the web (on any computer there of) and still maintain all these channels synchronized (read/unread/clippings/starred items).

Parallels - (Commercial) If you have Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) then you can use BootCamp to also install Windows on your Mac (if you absolutely totally need to do it). But for those that still run Tiger (10.4), we have to use virtualization and Parallels is exactly the tool for it. Too bad it's not free.

Phun - (free) this application allows you to play with a 2D physics environment right there on your Mac. When I first installed this I played with it for hours. It's just amazing and feels quite real. Fully recommended for physics students studying about masses, forces and engines.

Quicksilver - (free) It's an app launcher. No! It's a task shortcutter. No! It's an iTunes controller. No! It's an Address Book browser. No! It's all of that and much, much more! Quicksilver is one of the most amazing apps I've ever seen. But in due time, I'll create the ultimate post about it.

Skype - (free) who needs a description of Skype? It's simple, if you like to phone your friends that live abroad and pay nothing (or very little) for calling them, then you totally should install Skype.

Transmission - (free) if you want to download some files using the BitTorrent protocol then Transmission is the perfect application because it's direct and simple and is very lightweight (read "very low resource-consuming").

Thunderbird - (free) Apple Mail is great but again, extensions can turn Thunderbird into a much more powerful e-mail solution. The only bad thing about Thunderbird on Mac OS X is the lack of integration with Adress Book, but there are some ways of getting around that.

VLC - (free) this is the ultimate video player for Mac OS X. Quicktime is quite powerful but without the necessary codecs there are a lot movies that it won't be able to play [2]. VLC doesn't need codecs because they're already built-in the application.

[1] I know that Google Gears allows offline access to your feeds, but if by any chance you'd close your browser and then try to open Google Reader again when no connection is available, the browser won't even let you access the offline reader.

[2] I know Perian is a great solution but there are also some disadvantages in installing it.

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