Five Mac OS X Applications You Should Own
- March 2nd, 2010
- WoA Feature Articles
- Contributing Author
As more and more of my friends and colleagues move from their PCs to the world of Macs; I am often asked what programs they should install on their new machines. Apple usually includes the latest version of iLife with most computer purchases, so I feel comfortable telling these people, you should have all you need on your shiny new Mac right out of the box.
The folks at Cupertino provide plenty of options with just the base OS. Apple Mail gives access to your email, iCal helps manage one’s calendar, iPhoto organizes your cherished memories, there’s even iMovie – for those Cameron wanna bes and much more. There is plenty of good stuff to keep the neophyte Mac user busy.
One program not included that some people may require is an office suite. That can be easily addressed by downloading and installing the always free OpenOffice.org package. This suite includes a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation program and also features a database management program, vector graphic editor and a math equation editor. It is compatible with Microsoft Office files except for the newest proprietary save format used by Microsoft Office 2007 for PC and 2008 for Mac.
With all this being said, most people don’t just run OS X by itself, they want to do other things. Today we will discuss some applications that will make life even easier and possibly more productive for the Mac user. The following are the five OS X applications that I tell people they shouldn’t live without.
The first program I like to recommend is Dropbox which is actually a service that is a cross-platform cloud-based storage system. With it you are able to store and sync locally housed files online between computers.
Basically Dropbox creates a designated folder, which syncs with the Dropbox servers and any other Dropbox clients registered to that account. Save a file on your MacBook Pro and it will show up in your iMac’s Dropbox hard drive within seconds as long as you have Internet access.
Files in a Dropbox folder can also be shared with other Dropbox users through invitations making it a great collaborative tool. If this sounds similar to Apple MobileMe’s iDisk then you understand the concept. From my experience Dropbox works must faster than the buggy iDisk.
It is a free service for up to 2 GB of storage and if you refer enough people you can get an additional 1 GB. Each referral get both the referrer and referee an additional 250 MB. Here is my referral link if anyone is interested. If you wish to have a larger storage capacity of up to 50 or 100GB then Dropbox becomes a pay service with a monthly fee.
Dropbox offers numerous “hacks” for syncing program data across all your machines such as the ones described here or listed here. For instance, if you wish to sync your Firefox bookmarks using Dropbox that can be easily done. Programs such as one password, things, iCal, address book can all share one database file across multiple Macs using Dropbox. The beauty of this is changes made on one machine are reflected along other almost instantly.
What makes Dropbox especially handy is its ability to sync a program’s database file so that it can be used across multiple machines. This allows the settings and any changes made on one machine to be reflected on all others. In fact there are numerous Dropbox “hacks”
More details about Dropbox can be found in this review.
My next recommended program works particularly well when used in conjunction with Dropbox. For those of us who have trouble-maintaining track of all their logins and passwords, then a program created by Agile Web Solutions called 1Password3 is what you need to get.
1Password3 is a password manager that lets the user control their Logins, Identities, Secure Notes, generate passwords, manage software licenses and use a virtual wallet. Agile Web Solutions recently updated 1Password3 to version 3 and add some exciting new features such as 1Password Anywhere which allows the user to access all this information within any web browser, even on a Windows PC, cough, cough. In addition they added tags, a new Vault type dubbed Accounts for AirPort routers, Mail and Entourage accounts, FTP apps, Instant Messaging, and the iTunes Store.
By storing your 1Password keychain in your Dropbox folder and directing your 1Password preferences on all your machines to that folder location you will have all 1Password data synced across all your Macs. I wrote more about this terrific program in my review.
For those who have trouble keeping track of tasks, to dos and various lists then this next program is exactly what you need. Things is a program from the folks at Cultured Code and is a task management software solution.
Most task management solutions are arduous to use, the beauty of Things is that it feels like you are using any other Apple program. It is laid out like iTunes or Apple Mail and is easy to navigate and work in. A review of Things written by myself can be viewed here.
What adds to the power of Things is that it works in conjunction with its own iPhone app. If you need to add an entry to your Things categories or check off a completed task while out and about this can be done on your iPhone. Once you get home, you can wirelessly sync these entries between your Mac and iPhone. Naturally, Things can also be synced across Macs using what else; Dropbox of course.
Next on my must install queue is a program called Quicksilver, which is a freeware launcher for OS X. This simple looking program is immensely powerful as it allows the performance of such tasks such as starting applications searching for files, opening websites and running scripts. It uses keyboard combinations, mouse gestures or menu selections to perform actions on your Mac.
Quicksilver is a very powerful program and is dependent on the user to unleash its maximum potential by learning all its nuances. I primarily use Quicksilver for launching applications instead of scrolling down lists to find the desired program. A wonderful detailed write up of Quicksilver can be seen here.
The latest program to join my must install cadre is Evernote. This is another online service, which allows users to collect notes, thoughts and ideas and then sort and tag them.
This information can then be organized with tags and placed into virtual notebooks for easy indexing and searches. Evernote uploads this information on to their server and then shares it with whatever device is running an Evernote application such as a Mac, PC, Windows Mobile smart phone, Blackberry or iPhone.
Notes can be edited on your Mac and then viewed on any of the devices I just listed. When used with an iPhone Evernote supports image captured from the built-in camera and the recording of voice notes.
Evernote comes as a free service with basic options such as 40 MB monthly upload allowance. The Premium account costs five dollars per month or $45 for the year and allows 500 MB to be uploaded monthly as well as searches within PDFs, offline notebooks and lack of advertisements.
For more info on Evernote and an in depth review check out this write up.
There are numerous great Mac programs on the market and these five are just a few of the great ones. They are the five OS X applications that I can’t live without and recommend to all my friends and colleagues.
What are your favorite Mac applications that you would immediately install on your brand new Apple machine? Please feel free to leave your comments below. If we get enough input we will do a readers Mac OS X applications must install article.
This is a guest post from Tomas Ratas over at TestFreaks.