Every couple of months I am usually hit up by a friend (who knows of me as a Mac user) for sage advice on what software to get for their new laptop or iMac. Invariably, I write up a long email with the latest and greatest freeware/shareware that I can’t live without, as well as a couple commercial titles that have no equals.
In this here “Year of the Golden Pig,” its all about health, wealth, and knowledge of self at Laaker.com, and a smattering of self-help. As such, I am sharing said wealth and knoweldge (and no health) concerning all things Mac-software… and eliminating the need to write multiple emails this year.
Further, if you’re just generally curious as to what software I use, check out my software profile at iusethis. It’s a social repository for software usage of which I’ve become a fan. If you’d rather spend your time online here, though, feel free to peruse my choice picks below:
Unlock Debug menus for Safari, Disk Utility and other applications; perform system maintenance and optimization tasks; and configure the Finder and other system tools to behave as you wish.
Totally pimp your Safari search box: add autocomplete, your favorite search engines (MyWeb, Wikipedia, Amazon, etc.), and see similar popular queries.
StuffIt has been the industry standard for file decompression for years. There’s a new competitor out, the open-source The UnArchiver, which I’ve just begun to try… jury’s still out on whether it takes the cake.
Simple-purposed application for storing passwords, logins, serial numbers, preferences, etc.
Great app for archiving your data, music, and video discs; it costs $30 after 30 days, but has served me very well over the years.
One use of this media catalog program will have you gathering up anything with a UPC code on it. If you have a digital web cam, you can use DL to scan bar codes on your CDs, DVDs, books, etc., automatically grab info from Amazon, and catalog all the info on your machine. Perfect for insurance tracking, as well the ability to publish elsewhere if you want. ($40)
For those without Macs or $40 lying around, there’s also Library Thing, which fills a similar role without fulfilling the UI delight… nor the easy-entry barcode scanning.
Kind of like Toast/EZCDCreator, but free. For most needs, Apple’s built-in CD/DVD burning will suffice; however, Burn is faster, uses less disk space on your computer (as Apple makes a disc image first), and gives you more options (like VCDs and more).
Free FTP program that can sync your bookmarks with your .Mac account
Instant Messenger application that handles AIM, Yahoo!, MSN, GoogleTalk, Jabber, and more, while still using your OS X Address Book.
What was hands-down the best (and free) code/text editor available on the Mac is now one of the ugliest. Featuring code snippets (think of it as a quick library of commonly-used text/code), .Mac preferences syncing (for multiple machines), and tabbed environments, Smultron is fast and often-updated. Repair the icons by applying a patch created by the original icon artist on the project.
Very useful for quickly managing your del.icio.us bookmarks.
If you use del.icio.us bookmarks, you need this application, too. Anytime you search in Apple’s Spotlight, your del.icio.us bookmarks will be included, too.
PDFs are everywhere, and the latest version of the Reader application is much, much speedier.
Macromedia Flash Player
Macs rarely come with the latest edition, and a large chunk of the Web requires the latest and greatest.
Macromedia Shockwave Player
Macs rarely come with the latest edition anymore. While seldom used anymore, you can save some pain later by downloading now.
Adobe SVG Viewer
This plugin lets you view the XML version of Flash on your Mac.
(you know why)
This is what I use to copy music from iPod back to my Mac… it’s $8 well spent.
This plugin allows DivX and other generally-PC-only formats to play just fine via QuickTime.
Windows Media Player support comes to OS X in the guise of this plugin. It will let you play .wmv files directly in the QuickTime player.
VLC video player
This application plays a lot of movies Quicktime, WMP, and Real can’t play.
Tivo Decode Manager
$100 is too, too much to pay for what is already free; bypass TiVo’s overpriced TiVoToGo software and use this constantly-updated
Have an old XBox (i.e. not an XBox 360)? Got it modded with XBox Media Center? If so, XB allows you to rip your games and save them on the XBox hard drive so that you won’t have to switch discs for games again.
.Mac 1-year subscription
If they ask, tell them “firstname.lastname@example.org” sent ya… beyond well worth the $99 a year… lets you sync your files between multiple computers, cell phone, iPod, palm pilot, etc.