Recommended Mac Apps – Updated

I posted a list of my favourite Mac app’s almost a year ago. With advent of leopard and some badgering from other’s, here’s an updated list of what I would install on my mac.

delicious.jpgDelicious Library
http://www.delicious-monster.com/
$40

I’ll admit this is a very non-essential app but was the first I bought for the Mac. Delicious Library allows you to catalogue, store, rate and search your music, films, games and books. There are many other media cataloguers out there but none look so good as Delicious Library or carry out the task with such elegance. Using the iSight I can scan in media barcodes for easy compiling of the library. The virtual shelf allows for browsing of titles, the app comes with spotlight support, a widget for easy title searching and option to export the library to iPod. There isn’t much in the way of web exports though (although the DeliciousSQLExport utility allows for exporting of the library to MySQL) and you can’t add your own media types. Coming soon is Delicious Library 2 which promises a fancier user interface, publishing and sharing capabilities and support for a lot more media types. Can’t wait.

YojimboYojimbo
http://www.barebones.com/products/yojimbo/
$39.00

This was the first app I installed after Leopard. It’s an app that groups together miscellaneous items into one place. You can store text, rich text, PDF’s, serials, passwords and web page snapshots. It’s support tagging and also folders/projects and I’ve found it invaluable over the last few months as I took on a number of projects in my own time that needed a fair bit of management. It also support Spotlight searching and importantly for me, .Mac syncing. This means the Yojimbo library is the same on the desktop and laptop. As it uses the same storage method as Aperture there are some compatibility issues with Time Machine but I’m sure these will be addressed over the next month or so.


connect360.jpgConnect360
http://www.nullriver.com/index/products/connect360
$20.00

One of the great features of the 360 is media sharing. Via Windows Media Player 11 or Windows Media Centre you can view music, photo’s and WMV video’s on the 360. It’s great to switch on your own music instead of some of the guff you find tacked onto games. I always wanted to see my iTunes playlists though – not something you could do easily without copying playlists over to Media Player. When moving to the Mac I’d assumed I would lose media sharing altogether – that’s where Connect360 kicks in. This allows you to share music, photo’s and video from the Mac. Not only that it supports iTunes, so playlists are available and playing music on the 360 updates play counts. It’s a great little app that’s essential for all Mac and 360 owners.

I had some small problems with sleep modes with this program – I had to set it to disable sleep mode when accessing Connect360. This has only happened recently (maybe when the software was updated to support WMV) and it’ a small price to pay for getting access to my music. You also need Flip4Mac installed to access WMV content. There does seem to be issues with Connect 360 and Leopard. Only problem I have is that music seems to take a while to start but videos, podcasts and pictures are fine.

transmit.jpgTransmit
http://www.panic.com/transmit/
$29.95

If you need an FTP application on the Mac then this is the one I’d recommend. It’s been 100% reliable since I switched and is bursting with nice features. I frequently update to a couple of sites. Instead of loading up the application, signing into the server and then navigating to the folder I want I just drop the files on the dashboard widget that Panic provides – files transferred with ease. I can edit files directly on the server with either Transmits built in editor or any editor that I’ve installed locally on the Mac – another step and time saver. That’s not just text files – images too. Folder synchronization is supported allowing you to sync your local files with your remote server as well as linked folders – browsing a folder locally also moves the remote server to the folder assuming they share the same structure.

Quick to connect to servers, easy to edit file permissions, ability to calculate folder sizes and in general very easy for a new user. One slight snag was that I couldn’t see .htaccess files on my servers. Goto View and click Show Invisible Files – problem solved. Highly recommended even over the free Cyberduck.

unison.jpgUnison
http://www.panic.com/unison/
$24.95

While this newsgroup app provides lot’s of functionality it does one key thing (for me) very well. NZB support. NZB files downloaded from sites like Newzbin allow for easy downloading of binary files from newsgroups. Unison has really great NZB support and has been trouble free over the last couple of months. The app provides lots of feedback on files outstanding, transfer rates, problems with files and does so via a clear interface. Message support, whether reading or writing is there but I’ve used it only once as I tend to use Google now for non binary message browsing.

To help with NZB downloads grab MacPAR deLuxe which supports PAR2 files and unrarring and Split & Concat which MacPAR makes use of when joining downloads together. All three apps provide a great newsgroup user experience.

TextmateTextMate
http://macromates.com/
€39

I swapped to this earlier in the year. Far more capable than TextEdit it’s great if your working on lot’s of files or doing a fair bit of programming. Firstly almost everything can be driven from the keyboard which is great for working on the laptop. Secondly, the code snippets are great and a real time saver. Bundles can be downloaded to extend the functionality of the program. It’s hard to put into words how good this app is but the screencasts show just how powerful this app is. if you don’t want to pay money then try TextWrangler.

superduper.jpgSuperDuper!
http://www.shirt-pocket.com/SuperDuper/
$27.95

Backup. Everyone should do it but how many really do? I was always a bit dodgy when it came to backups. Every so often was my motto and luckily it turned out ok. Moving to Mac and I decided to do backups a bit more regularly. SuperDuper! helps in that explains what it’s doing in plain English, supports backup to many different devices and allows for incremental backups.

Firstly you can download and run the app for free. Using it you can create an image file or just backups of various files. As mentioned it’s explanations at each step of the process demystifies backups which in all honesty should be straightforward to run. However the free version doesn’t support the smart (incremental) updating of an image or scheduling of a backup. The smart update makes a massive difference. My first backup (to a NAS device) took around 11 hours. My weekly smart update of that image only takes around 1/2 an hour – a massive difference. Scheduling takes the chore out of backups. You can also have many different backup routines running (if you wish) so copying data to different volumes. I’ve used it a couple of times to create a separate backup of media only and it’s worked a treat. There are some excellent support forums and while I’m happy with the product so far I’ve yet to actually use my backup image to restore my machine. Well that’s what I wrote last year. Since then I’ve used the backup in anger and it’s worked a treat. Even with Time Machine now bundled with Leopard I would recommend buying SuperDuper!.

disco.jpgDisco
http://discoapp.com/
$29.95

This ones maybe a bit controversial but I’m sold on it. Disco lets you burn cd’s and dvd’s with ease, all for a fairly cheap price. It does so through a lovely interface although many Mac fans are unhappy at the non Mac like gui that has been developed. Who cares – it looks good and more importantly works well. Supports burning and creating of images and also has a couple of useful features. You can span burns across multiple discs with Disco working out how to best fits files across those discs. The Discography feature allows you to search across your burned discs to easily find files and the discs that they were burned too.

The real clincher for me is that at $29.95 it massively undercuts Toast. Well worth a try and if you download it you get 7 trial burns. The interface is clutter free and after spending years watching Nero drown with new feature upon new feature that I never used it’s great to get back to a simple, quick burning app.

quicksilver.jpgQuicksilver
http://quicksilver.blacktree.com/
Free

A unified, extensible interface for working with applications, contacts, music, and other data.

That’s how Quicksilver is described on it’s website which doesn’t really sound like much. What does it do? It allows you to search for data but more importantly act on that data quickly and in a variety of ways. Through plugins it’s easy to find a file, search for a contact and send him the file. No app’s need to be launched part from accessing Quicksilver itself. I have it installed and accessible via a mouse click and like much of the Mac system it lets me get things done quickly and easily and reduces the time taken to think about how to do a task. It’s one of those apps where words don’t do justice. The overview docs give you some idea of what you can do but if your not convinced or need some help to get going with Quicksilver try these youtube videos – Quicksilver Tutorial 1, Tutorial 2 and Tutorial 3. Macrumours has a great guide, 43 folders has many Quicksilver tips including a good setup guide and Dan Dickinsons QuickSilver – A Better OS X In Just 10 Minutes really sells the app well. Like all my really favourite app’s there’s a healthy support forum too. I found it took some time to adjust to Quicksilver but now that I’m there it’s the one app (apart from Expose) that I miss on the pc at work.

mainmenu.jpgMainMenu
http://www.santasw.com/
Free

Although the Mac is easy to use, it’s built on Unix and it does need some maintenance especially if you don’t reboot frequently. Log files can grow and from time to time index’s may need to be rebuilt. MainMenu takes the pain out of maintenance with daily, weekly, monthly clean-up scripts and the ability to repair disk permissions, rebuild the spotlight index, clean user and browser cache and a number of other low level clean-up utilities. This is more feature rich than MacJanitor and has been pain free over the last month of use. At the moment I’m not sure if MainMenu works under Leopard fully and I’m not going to run it until I know for sure as it could do some damage if it’s not quite working.

appzapper.jpgAppzapper
http://www.appzapper.com/
$12.95

This app hurts. One of the many Mac myths is that applications don’t leave files all over the O/S removing the need for an uninstalling app like ‘Add/Remove Programs’ in Windows. Bollocks. Look around after removing an app and you see folders in your user directory, libraries etc. The reason the app hurts is your paying $12.95 for something that should be included on the O/S and should be free – a way of uninstalling the mess that an application leaves behind. Rant over. AppZapper is a great tool that fills the gap. Drag an app to AppZapper and a list of files will be shown. One more click and the app and it’s associated files are in the trash. You can also generate a list of app’s so that you can see what’s installed and what can be removed. Needs no more explanation – it’s just a shame you have to buy something like this to remove applications fully. Another free option is AppDelete which does much the same as AppZapper but does it for free. Nice.

vlc.jpgVLC
http://www.videolan.org/vlc/
Free

A great cross platform media player. If Quicktime struggles with a file then try VLC. Also supports streaming media which can be handy for pushing media across you home.

TwitterrificTwitterrific
http://iconfactory.com/software/twitterrific
$14.99 or Free with adverts

Twitter has been an on and off hit with me but it’s definetly better since Twitterrific came out. The app, recently updated to version 3, is a beautiful small app that allows you to track your friends twitters and easily update your own. Doesn’t get in the way and is the ideal partner to Twitter.

TransmissionTransmission
http://transmission.m0k.org/
Free

This is the app I like the most for torrents. It looks good but has also been recently updated to support encryption and also a number of front end tweaks that allow you to easily manage each torrent. I’ve had great speeds using this client and prefer it over Azureus. It also allows you to create torrents unlike previous versions of the app.

The UnarchiverThe Unarchiver
http://wakaba.c3.cx/s/apps/unarchiver.html
Free

Instead of buying an app for extracting rar’s, zip’s or the plethora of other archive formats try The Unarchiver. It supports over 30 different archive formats removing the need for a variety of extraction tools on your Mac.

SkitchSkitch
http://plasq.com/skitch
Free (but in beta)

There are many tools for capturing screenshots on the mac. I used to use Screenshot Plus which is a great widget but the beta of Skitch takes screenshots ot a new level. It’s easy to capture full screen, an area or from a webcam. You can then graphically resize the image and also add arrows, text, basically any annotation you like which are held as layers so not affecting the original image. You can then upload to your Skitch web account or to Flickr in one easy step. A great tool especially if you have a Flickr, .Mac or ftp account.

AdiumAdium
http://www.adiumx.com/
Free

The number one multi protocol chat client on the Mac. It not only looks good but performs really well. At first I stuck with the MSN Messenger client but it was pretty poor really and I eventually moved to Adium. Tabbed chat, custom icons, supports themes and version two (next year?) is promising audio and video support. The Tokyo Train Station sounds are a joy to listen to.

FlickrExportFlickrExport
http://connectedflow.com/flickrexport/iphoto/
£12

I love Flickr. I also love iPhoto which is currently meeting all my photo needs. FlickrExport makes the export and upload of images from iPhoto to Flickr quick, easy and reliable. It allows you to easily publish photo’s to your account with iPhoto tags already assigned. it also supports publishing your photo’s to old or new sets and also to various group pools. I used to use Flickr’s own tool for uploading but this saves so much time and effort it seems cheap at only £12.

CSS-EditCSS Edit
http://macrabbit.com/cssedit/
$29.95

CSS is still a bit of a mystery to me. I can get my head round the basics but some of the more tricksy aspects of CSS still puzzle me and I end up with some a lot of trial and error. CSS Edit is an app that allows you to edit your CSS visually, allowing you to define and apply style to a website in CSS Edit’s own window allowing you to change styles on your live site without committing the changes. Very handy. It also allows you to analyse other sites to see how they styled certain objects and also apply different styles to that website to see how it would look. The validation tool is also helpful for us hackers who are still a bit unsure of what we’re doing.

AppFreshAppFresh
http://metaquark.de/appfresh/
Free (In preview, not a Beta yet)

This is a relatively new tool that allows you to see what app’s you have installed and whether they are up to date or not. Many tools will check to see your running the latest at start-up or at a set interval but for those that don’t this is a nice tool which will tell you what the latest version is and compare it to yours. It depends on iusethis having a record of the app for it to work but it does a pretty good job. Not sure if it moved to a paid app that I would continue to use it though.

iGTDiGTD
http://bargiel.home.pl/iGTD/
Free

Launched this year, iGTD has gone through more updates than any other Mac app that I use. It’s one of a number that try and help you manage your tasks following the David Allen Getting Things Done methodology. For me it helps manage my many tasks and goals across work and private life. It supports tagging and syncing across .Mac but it’s the ease of getting tasks into the system that makes it a winner. From shortcut keys to picking up e-mails and turning them into tasks it never faisl to impress how easy it is to get more organised. Just need to start doing the tasks instead of cataloguing them!

SkypeSkype
http://www.skype.com/
Free

Skype is a great call and video client. Good quality audio, connects well to PC’s or Mac’s and you can pay a little money and call landlines if you want to. Latest builds have been more stable than earlier (6-9 months ago) so it’s now a recommended app.

FirefoxFirefox
http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/
Free

Safari is great but I still prefer Firefox. It’s the extensions that make it such a great browser. There is one pretty big caveat though. On Tiger it was fairly crashy crashy and wasn’t the most reliable app. On Leopard though it’s yet to crash once. Don’t know if it’s coincidence or not but the last week has been crash free for Firefox.

GrowlGrowl
http://growl.info/
Free

Growl is a great app for displaying system notifications. It is supported by a wide range of applications and scripts so that when a contact comes online, download completes, script finishes, mail is received or FTP upload is complete your system will display a notification message. It doesn’t sound much but it makes a big difference during day to day usage. The messages are fully configurable meaning they can be as in your face or subtle as you like. Again, earlier versions were slightly unstable but over the last six months I have had no issues at all.

Others

Other apps well worth grabbing are Flip4Mac (allows you to view WMV’s via Quicktime), DivX (allows you to view DivX encoded files via Quicktime) or alternatively install Perian (not yet Leopard friendly).

Don’t forget the widgets

Finally a couple of handy desktop widgets. Screenshot Plus which takes the pain out of capturing desktop snaps and iStat Pro which details a wealth of information on your Mac. Both are only a mouse movement or F12 away.

3 Comments

  1. I use the free ones you suggest and have little to no need for the others.

    I’ll add in BURN which is a nice, free, CD/DVD burner.

  2. Like your choices except I disabled the dashboard long ago and really don’t miss widgets.

    I never thought I’d have a use for Delicious library, but saw a demo of the isight webcam scanning a barcode and pulling up the cover art of a DVD from Amazon and was amazed. Such a good app that Apple hired one half of the development team.

    Here’s 3 I’d add:

    Senuti – excellent for migrating your iTunes library over to Mac from Win.

    Freemind – a nice little mind mapping program (free)

    Vine Server – OS X has a built in VNC server that can be activated from the system prefs, but Vine server is much better. I found it’s a great way to get OS X on windows – remotely login to a mac with VNC!

  3. Loads of reading there Ian, just brilliant. Only thing I use that hasn’t been mentioned already is LogMeIn over at https://secure.logmein.com/

    Handy when I want to footer with the Mac from work, switching on Photo Booth while Julie is working from home is always good for a giggle.

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