Emilio Suarez's WebLog

Monday, August 28, 2006

Essential Mac OSX applications

I recently upgraded the hard drive on my PowerBook to 120GB and it was a good opportunity to select exactly what were the most important applications on Mac OSX that I needed to install immediately.

So here is the list of essential software for your Mac:

- Quicksilver. I don't know how anybody can use a Mac without this incredible piece of software. Even if you only use it in its most simple way, it is worth it... and it is free. Quicksilver allows you to launch (or switch-to) any application/document/web site by just using a keyboard hot key (Cmd-Space) and by just typing the starting characters of the name... you need to use it to experience it.

- MenuMeters. This is a great application which is actually a preference panel, and puts icon on the menu bar with indicators for cpu, memory, disk and network usage. There are differen options for the display, but I like to have the minimal view, but visible enough to tell me what is going on with the computer.

- Firefox. Even though Safari is pretty good, I always install Firefox and use both browsers all the time. I have a few extensions in Firefox that I use all the time, and it is really nice to have a cross-platform browser that behaves the same in all the machines that I use, wether it is Windows, Linux or Mac.

- Adium. If you have more than one IM account, this is the best IM (instant messaging) application for the Mac that connects to every protocol (AIM, Yahoo, Jabber, MSN, Gtalk, etc) and it is free.

- Desktop Manager. The ability to have multiple virtual desktops is really useful, and I am looking forward for the Spaces application in the next version of OSX. But in the mean time, Desktop Manager is a free alternative that works pretty well.

- Google Earth. Just for fun, but this is also a really educational tool, and the community that has grown around it makes it more interesting. You can spend hours circling the globe looking at towns, cities, webcams, pictures, special layers, etc... it is just an amazing application that you cannot ignore.

- HandBrake. This is the application that I use for converting DVD's into the iPod video format, although in reality, the one that I use is Instant Handbrake, which is a simple application that uses HandBrake in the background, but gives you a one-click setup for converting a DVD. Now I have a lot of movies for my kids in the iPod which are very handy for some situations... if you are a parent you know what I mean...

- iPodDisk. For those times when you just want to move your music or videos from your iPod to your Mac... this application makes it a snap... and it is free...

- iSquint. Another program for converting videos to iPod format, but this one works with all types of videos, not DVDs. So for all those QuickTime movies that I have created with iMovie, this is a great tool for converting those.

- iTerm. Tab support... window customization... and is free... Yes there is the Terminal, but I really like to have multiple terminals opened and organized in tabs makes it easier to navigate and reduce window clutter.

- JAlbum. I also use this in Windows, since it is a Java application. Yes iPhoto and iWeb can create nice albums, but I don't subscribe to the iPhoto library management system... I organize my pictures on my own, and this is a tool that creates really nice browsable photo albums.

- NewsFire. For reading RSS feeds I have used NetNewsWire, but I found this new application from the creator of Acquisition and Xtorrent.. and has a really nice interface that is elegant and simple.

- OSXvnc. I have multiple computers at home and I like to be in control of all of them all the time. I have installed VNC on all the windows machines and this is the corresponding VNC server for Mac. Really simple and works great. For the client I use Chicken of the VNC.

- Skype. Who doesn't use Skype nowadays? it is the de-facto application for communication when you are sitting in a computer all day... and the latest beta version supports video.

- VLC. iTunes... yes... QuickTime... yes... DVD player... yes... but VLC handles everything in one application... it allows me to play videos, play music from anywhere in my network, since I have all my media dispersed in different computers and different drives. And so far I have not found a media format that VLC cannot play.

- WhatSize. It is always good to know what is taking all that space in your hard drive, and this is the best tool I have found. Is equivalent to TreeSize in the Windows world. Simple but effective.

- Xtorrent. Another application from the genius of David Watanabe. He has created some very slick applications, and this is the latest of the crop.

Well, there you have it... the best applications for the Mac... my opinion...

Next time I will talk about the ones that I use for programming and software development in general.