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Jul 03, 2006

Apps and Oranges

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I officialy retired from the Windoze world in October 2003 when I bought my first Mac, an Aluminum PowerBook G4. It's the best thing that ever happened to my computing world. One thing I've noticed in the OS X world is the amazing applications. They all intertwine to create a powerful workspace. One example is transferring files with iChat. Just drag the file or folder onto the text input and hit return. It's that easy! In my two plus years of Mac usage I've come across some really nice programs of which I'll share here.

  • Butler -- Butler is a program that has many useful features. The two that I utilize most often are the pasteboard and the application launcher. The original reason I stumbled across this gem was the need for a pasteboard. I had tried several other apps like iClip and some other lame program but none compared to the pasteboard inside butler. You can assign keyboard shortcuts to anything inside butler so access to my pasteboard is a snap. And opening an application is as few as four keystrokes away! There are so many other things this program can do that I don't even use but it's nice to know they are there and that they are highly customizable.
  • iTunes -- Obviously can't live without this one! With a music library of more than 14,000 songs iTunes makes everything easy to manage. Just the fact that it keeps everything organized on my hard drive based on id3 tags is enough for me.
  • Synergy Classic -- Synergy is a program that interacts with iTunes. It gives me the ability to assign keyboard shortcuts to many of the functions of iTunes I use a lot like rating, playing/stoping and showing the application. Synergy also provides menu bar icons to play/pause and rewind/fast-forward and a drop down menu. The other feature I really like about this program is the floating window that displays track information above all windows.
  • Menu Meters -- This program gives me up to the second system information in my menu bar. It has four customizable system readings including hard disk activity, network activity, RAM and processor usage. This comes in handy when your system starts to freak out. You can quickly find the cause and remedy it.
  • Witch -- Excellent little PreferencePane app that gives you keyboard shortcuts to show all application windows or all of one applications windows. Nice if you often have a billion windows open.
  • Shrook -- This is a really good RSS and Atom news reader. I just recently forced myself to start subscribing to RSS feeds and it's really nice to be on top of the things you care about.
  • Camino/Firefox -- I rarely use the built-in browser on the Mac, Safari. It just feels foreign to me and I don't know why. I constantly switch between Mozilla's Camino and Firefox. Camino is a cocoa version of the Mozilla rendering engine and it's super fast. It has just recently received more attention from add on developers. While Camino is fast it still doesn't have the extensibility of Firefox. If I am developing XHTML/CSS pages then I'll switch over to Firefox. But if I'm just perusing the web it's Camino all the way.
  • Thunderbird -- Another Mozilla application that I use instead of the default Apple application. I like the interface of Apple Mail but it just doesn't understand the IMAP protocol enough for me to use it. So I have been using Thunderbird for quite some time now. It has some drawbacks but it's the best at handling IMAP that I've found.
  • Colloquy -- This is an IRC chat program. It is still under quite a bit of development so it tends to be a bit buggy at times but it's still the best IRC client on OS X.
  • svnX -- This app is a gui front-end for subversion. It has most of the features you'll need for everyday use and keeps getting better as new releases come out. The only big thing it is missing is the ability to edit svn properties. But still the best solution for a graphical subversion client.
  • iTerm -- Another program I've been using for a long long time. iTerm is a tabbed terminal program. It's nice but could use a bit more TLC from the developers but overall a nice Terminal replacement.
  • Acquisition -- The best p2p program on the Mac. Integrates nicely with iTunes so that when you download a song it adds it to iTunes automatically. These guys put out more releases of an application than I've ever seen so be prepared to download the latest quite often.
  • Parallels -- An amazing virtualization program. This allows me to run Windoze XP, PC-BSD and any other OS I can get my hands on directly in OS X. It's a million times faster than Virtual PC ever was and works like a charm.
  • SubEthaEdit -- SubEthaEdit is a collaborative editing program. It utilizes the Bonjour zero conf networking to allow you to edit a document with a group of people. Very nice for when you want a colleague to take a look at your code. The newest version has brought a slew of new features along with it making it more powerful than ever.
  • VirtueDesktops -- This is an application that I've just stumbled across recently. It gives you the ability to have multiple desktops like you can on Linux and Unix window managers. Basically it's like having Fast User Switching for yourself. And there are four of you! Good looking piece of software for such an early version. I look forward to seeing how it evolves.
  • Path Finder -- A Finder replacement that gives you a tabbed interface and a whole lot more. I've just started using this one so I'm not completely sold yet. But it is nice to have tabs in a Finder window.
  • Remote Buddy -- If you have a Mac with a remote then you'll love this program. It gives you control of a lot more apps than the default Front Row apps. It also gives you a way to use the mouse and the keyboard via the remote.
  • Transmit -- The best FTP program for the Mac.
  • OmniGraffle -- Nice app to create UML diagrams, visual mockups and all sorts of other things.
  • OmniOutliner -- Another app from the Omni Group that gives you the ability to make very detailed outlines and lists. I wish you could merge two copies of the same outline though. That would be boss.
  • VLC -- A video player that supports most video formats. If it didn't work in Quicktime then try it in VLC. Chances are it will work better in VLC. I've recently had problems playing a few DVDs in DVD Player and had to revert to this fine program.
  • Airfoil -- Admittedly I don't use this program very much but it is quite cool. It gives you the ability to stream any audio source from your computer to an AirPort Express.
  • Digital Performer -- When I upgraded from AudioDesk (the default software that came with my FireWire audio interface) I faced a dilemma. It was either Digital Performer or Logic Pro. I like Apple apps but I was already familiar with the DP interface so I decided to upgrade to Digital Performer. And I think that was the correct decision. It's a very professional audio/MIDI workspace. It's a bit overwhelming sometimes but it's never failed me.
  • Genesis Plus -- The best Genesis and Master System emulator for the Mac.
  • Nestopia -- The best NES emulator for the Mac. Wish it had the network play like Nesticle used to though.
  • Stella -- Best Atari emulator that I've found for the Mac. Head on over to Atariage and pick up some roms.
  • Cocktail -- I love to tweak the settings on my computer. This app helps me do just that. It gives you an interface to set all sorts of hidden system options and more. My favorite is the verbose mode startup so I can see all the details when my Mac starts up.
  • Delicious Library -- If you own a lot of DVDs, books, video games and music then this is the application for you. It gives you a nice interface to catalog all that you own. You can scan in all your collection using your iSight and the barcodes on the things you want to add. Makes quick work of cataloging your collection. And you can use some tools to export everything and create a website of your collection.
  • Google Earth -- If you haven't used this app yet you really should. It allows you to explore the world via satellite. Probably one of the coolest programs I've ever used. And it's really freakin' addicting.
  • Logorrhea -- This utility allows you to search your iChat logs. Spotlight can do it to but not as fast. And Chax has a log viewer built in but the search is weak. So I'm still using this fine app to get the low down.
  • MenuCalendarClock iCal -- I'm really picky about how my menu clock shows me information. The default clock info just doesn't cut for me. So I found this program that allows me to display the date and time in any format I want. Genius! It also gives you a little calender sub menu when you click on it in the menu bar that can show upcoming events.
  • Service Scrubber -- The OS X services are a nice little touch to the operating system. But I rarely use them because they are so cluttered with all kinds of useless functions that I never use. This program allows you to clean up that list. And it also allows you to redefine the keyboard shortcuts for all the services (some of which conflict with existing shortcuts). Use this in conjunction with Hot Service and you've got a usable services menu. Unfortunately Hot Service doesn't work with Intel Macs yet.
  • EvoCam -- This is a web cam app that I find quite amusing. If you have an iSight or any other web cam for the Mac then you should try this out for kicks. You can set up this program to upload images to your web site, use it for surveillance and a myriad of other things.
  • Xyle scope -- If you've used the DOM Inspector in Firefox then you have probably had that not so fresh feeling. It's written in XUL and the interface is a bit lacking. While Xyle Scope isn't as powerful as the DOM Inspector it does offer a much nicer interface and some usability enhancements that make me really want to love it. It's a really nice app for exploring the DOM but it still needs some love to surpass the Mozilla app.
  • Paparazzi! -- Have you ever wanted to take a screenshot of a web page that was longer than your screen. Well now you can with this slick little app.
  • Chax -- There are some things about iChat that are really annoying. Like having to click accept on every new IM, that's just silly. Chax puts an end to my misery by fixing almost every gripe I had about iChat.
  • Tunnelblick -- If you use OpenVPN then this little menu bar app will be right up your alley. Easily turn VPN access on and off via the menu bar.
  • Artis Screen Tools -- In particular the Artis Screen Ruler. This on screen ruler is the best in it's class. They have actually upgraded this software to a different product named xScope that I think is less user friendly and overly complicated. So if you need a simple on screen ruler then this is your best bet.

I probably missed something in there. But that's a pretty good list for now.