For the Love of Mac

[UPDATE (2006-09-16) – I trying out a new service called “iusethis” that allows you to track the applications you like to use and compare it to others.]

I’m a relatively new Mac user, I switched over in the spring of 2005 and it has been a match made in heaven ever since. You can’t quite call me one of those “Switchers” because I still use other platforms (use the best tool for the job), so you’ll find my back end servers running a Linux derivative, my desktop (mostly used for gaming) is a Windows XP box, while all my productivity and multimedia work is done on my Mac Powerbook. Being an IT Engineer, this really helps out in my work because I have to deal with OS interoperability on a daily basis. Now, with Parallels Virtual Pc gracing the Mac market, I might be achieving laptop nirvana (once I obtain an Intel based Powerbook). Here is the perfect productivity platform, the power of the Unix OS, tempered by Mac’s unique signature interface that specializes in user simplicity, and now the ability to run both Windows and Unix operating systems live on the same box. Wonderful! (oh I can’t wait). Somehow I don’t think Mac will ever place in the gaming market, but that is ok by me, remember I’m focusing on a productivity machine here, and believe me, Half-Life2 is not productive (addictive yes, productive no).

Now I’m no stranger to Mac, I was first introduced back in High School while taking the Journalism class, somehow I ended up doing much less journalism, and a lot more user support (that was fine by me). After that my first computer job had me administrating a dial-in BBS for a group of Psychologists all based off of a Mac system. Since that point, all of my jobs had at least one Mac user that I worked with to integrate into the company systems. Then in March of 2005, I attended SXSW (South By Southwest) in Austin which is a multimedia venue, indy music, movies, and web technologies. Since I’ve been toting around a IBM Thinkpad running Linux, I’ve always been a minority in a sea of Windows users, but for the first time (in my experience) even the Windows users were a minority. This conference was “dominated” by Mac users, and this was driven home by one photo (please excuse the low quality) that I took of 4 guys sitting on a couch, the ratio of Mac to Windows was about 3:1.



So, in the vein of sharing what I’ve discovered so far, I wanted to list out the applications I find most useful. You will only find 3rd party applications listed here since I figure you’ll spend some time discovering the native ones first.

Don’t want to do without

These are the cream of the crop (in my opinion), I wouldn’t do without them.

TextMate: Hands down, this is the best text editor I’ve ever used. Its largest strength comes from the programable (and user extensible) bundles that allow customization to a degree I’ve not found elsewhere. Check out the screencasts to get an idea of what I’m talking about. (shareware)

QuickSilver: Nicknamed the Mac Swiss Army Knife, this launcher is much much more. It allows you to accomplish common tasks in a fraction of the time and extends the power of all your applications via the numerous plugins. (freeware)

Growl: A message notification system. A bit hard to describe, but to to give an example, when working at my Mac, I see messages such as (email arrival “+name and subject”), (user logins to Aim or Yahoo), (iCal appointments), and (hardware connects/disconnects). freeware

MailTags: Tagging items with meta-data is becoming industry standard. This program allows you to extend that to your email messages. It also allows you to create todo’s in iCal from emails, making it easier to followup or accomplish tasks in relation to said email. (currently freeware)

iView Media Pro: A powerful photo tagger/catalogue. I’ve been looking for a good program to organize all my photos for awhile now, I discovered iView, but the costs kept me at bay. As I attempted to use iPhoto, I came across many of its limitations and eventually decided to take the dive and get iView. I have not regretted it once, it allows you to sync you notes/annotations directly into the picture itself using IPTC standards. This allows me to import my photos (with all data intact) into other programs if I so wish. The other bonus is that once you purchase a license, you are allowed to run both the Mac and Windows versions simultaneously. This cross-platform compatibility was icing on the cake. (shareware)

OmniGraffle Pro: This the best diagramming program I’ve ever used, for too long have I wanted something like this, I’ve used Visio (in all of its incarnations) on my PC, Dia/Kivo on Linux, and nothing seemed to get it right … until now. This is simply the easiest, most intuitive, aesthetically pleasing diagram program I’ve ever used. (shareware)

FolderGlance: Allows you to quickly access any of your folders from a right-click of the mouse. This quickly becomes one of the most used add-ons when moving files around on your computer. Oh and to make it that much sweeter, for the laptops (we only have one mouse button), it allows you to hold down the button for a second, which then acts like a right-click. (shareware)

Sogudi: Another (I use this everyday) application that makes life that much better. It allows you to use key words to perform special searches directly from your address bar. For example, I just need to type “imdb firefly” and it will automatically perform the search “firefly” against IMDB. It is highly customizable, so any query/command that can be issued via a URL, this will allow you to perform it. Yes, most browsers have a “search” window next to the address bar, but they are not very customizable, you have to enter your search term AND then select the engine to use, and you have to use a separate input area, where I always use the address bar for either direct addresses or searches against (imdb, wikipedia, google, etc). freeware

FireFox: No computer should be without a second browser, and Firefox is quickly becoming that standard (and in most cases, the primary browser). freeware

Fugu: SFTP and SCP for your Mac. These days security is a must and since FTP is clear text, SFTP or SCP is the next logical step. This allows me to move files between my laptop and home/work without any worries at coffee shops or other hotspots. freeware

SSHAgent: Automatically loads and applies pass-phrase to access the private key from a public/private key pair, used to gain access to remote computers. This program helps users that connect to remote computers on a regular basis. freeware

NeoOffice: MS Office compatibility (and an actual spreadsheet). The business world runs off of MS Office, if you cannot read Word, Excel, or Powerpoint files, you will have problems. People work in these industry standards and adding an extra layer of “convert to X for the Mac/Linux user” is not appealing. Also, a spreadsheet is a requirement for any OS that hopes to make it in the business world, for some reason, this has been neglected by iWork for too long now (luckily they look like they are fixing this problem). freeware

Flip4Mac: WMV playing for Quicktime and Safari. It would be great if everyone used one format, but until then Quicktime, Windows Media, and Real-Player are the required main courses for your online media consumption. (freeware)

VLC: Useful for playing those media files that you somehow cannot get other programs to deal with. It also has the ability to allow you to export out your media via http. freeware

Adium: A multi-protocol chat (IM) client for Macs. This allows me to keep in touch with friends over AIM, YahooIM, Google Chat, etc. freeware


These applications provide a certain functionality that, though called upon rarely, can make life much nicer when needed.

DateTree: Automatically sorts photos from a source (usb, sd, memory-stick, etc) into dated folders at any destination. When dealing with hundreds of photos, this makes my life much easier to store my media in a reasonable hierarchy. shareware

TerminalHere: Opens a terminal window at any finder window you are currently viewing. Useful only if you are familiar or comfortable with the unix command line. freeware

TftpServer: Allows you to act as a tftp server. I use it to dump cisco/network configuration files to my Mac directly from the device. freeware

ZTerm: A serial terminal program. I use it to connect to network equipment/appliances via my USB to Serial connector. freeware

Colloquy: An irc client for Mac. freeware

My Widgets

These widgets are the ones I have running constantly (minus the system ones)

VelaClock: Uber-World clock. This allows you to display multiple time-zones (based off of city) in one window. If you deal with workers, clients, friends in different zones, this is a lifesaver. shareware

Reminder: Pops up a reminder notification in X minutes using the Growl interface. freeware

iCal Events: Summarizes all of your upcoming events without having to load iCal. Useful to see what’s head. freeware

CIDR Calculator: Helps the user work out subnets. Useful for anyone working with IP address ranges. freeware

IP Locater: Gives country (and sometimes city) information for a specific ipaddress. freeware

NotePad: Quick access to a multi-note pad. freeware

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