Required Software for Mac Users

Last year, I posted a list of my favorite Mac software I used and recommended to others. 18 months have passed, and its time to provide an update for folks.

Download Inquisitor | Previous recommendation that must be recommended again
Aside from far-faster page-loading performance, Inquisitor makes Safari the one-and-only browser choice on the Mac. (Don’t get me wrong: Firefox is fast, open source, and worth having on your machine. Safari’s just much, much faster, and better integrated into the Mac.) The plug-in, now financed by Yahoo!, modifies Safari’s top-right search box in the following ways:

  • Change the default Search provider
  • Adds auto-complete
  • Adds search term suggestions
  • Shows the first 3-5 results for your search in a bubble with a preview
  • Allows you to add customizable links to alternate search engines (mine target my links, Amazon, Google Images, Flickr, Wikipedia, and Yahoo!’s intranet)

To top it off, it is super fast. It’s free, and very easy to install. Do not wait.

If you use a Mac, this should be the very first piece of software you install.

Download Quicksilver | New to this list
I fought this for a long time, and I now regret doing so. Quicksilver is so many things, but at its basic core it provides a time-saving application and document launcher… via keystrokes. While the mouse and other inputs (like trackpads, Wacom tablets, etc.) provide precise pixel-level control over the cursor, the keyboard is undisputedly one of the fastest data entry devices for all things text. I mention this, only as I had previously argued it was faster for me to leave whatever I was doing, move the cursor down to the Dock, and click on an App I wanted to open. Unfortunately, I was wrong on two accounts:

  1. Moving my mouse down to the OS X Dock, finding the App, clicking it, and then moving back up to the newly-launched App’s location takes a fair bit of time and thought.
  2. Many times, the App I want isn’t in the Dock, so I either need to pollute my Dock with all App possibilities I may at some point want or invariably have to switch to the Finder, find the App by clicking through folders structures, double-click it, etc.

With Quicksilver, I simply hit Ctrl-Space, begin typing the App’s name I want, and hit Return as soon as I see it enter focus in the middle of my screen. My cursor stayed put, my fingers did what they were already doing, my Dock is now sparse and very easy to scan, and I can limitlessly access all Apps with roughly five keystrokes (3 of those being Control, Space, and Return).

Further, after seeing Mozilla Labs release Ubiquity for Firefox, I’m further convinced that these keystroke command lines are best suited for language-driven actions than cursor/touch interactions… and will hopefully become more commonplace.

Download 1Password | Replaces Pastor
1Password is a life-saver. While OS X has a built-in Keychain application which remembers OS-level passwords, 1Password reaches deep into all Web browser Apps (such as Safari, Firefox, Opera, WebKit, Fluid, etc.) to extend password (and contact info form) remembrance. What does that mean? Instead of collecting all your passwords on a piece of paper or an online notepad, 1Password automatically collects all the forms you fill out online and makes them one-click away from being resubmitted later on. These passwords then can be synced between multiple Macs (via their free service) and iPhones (via their free 1Password iPhone App).

As added features, it can generate very secure passwords for you, remember multiple accounts (if you share the same computer with several people who use Yahoo! or Gmail), and can store and access non-Web site passwords (such as software serial numbers, frequent flier accounts, or frequent shopper perks).

Now, all you need to remember is the one password you use for 1Password.

Download Fluid | New to this list
Fluid doesn’t make sense to most people I discuss it with, unfortunately, but it is among my favorite Apps. Fluid lets you take any Web page and turn it into its own App. “Why,” most of my friends ask, “would you want to do this?” Safari, Firefox, and other Web browsers all seem to get sluggish and/or crash right when you need to check email or perform a quick task. When that happens, everything you have open inside of them is frozen. This isn’t a big deal if you’re checking the New York Times or another news site. It is, however, a big deal when you use some Web pages like Apps themselves (think: Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, Mint, WordPress, etc.).

Fluid, in essence, turns your favorite sites into standalone Apps. This gibes you some of the many benefits Apps have over Web pages in OS X (such as new message count for email or new items for RSS feeds). Each App created by Fluid runs in a protected instance of Safari, meaning that if Safari slows down, your App doesn’t (and vice versa). Lastly, you also get Growl notifications, Greasemonkey extensions, and much more.

Download | New to this list
I still am surprised that Apple supplies a built-in Dictionary and Thesaurus, but not these tools. And, further, that someone provides all of these free-of-charge. And, further, that no one seems to know about these.

DEVONtechnologies has made an OS X plugin (called a “Service”) that allows you to do the following to text you have selected in most Apps:

  1. Convert to Initial caps of sentences
  2. Convert to Initial caps of words
  3. Convert to uppercase (all caps)
  4. Convert to lowercase
  5. Convert between straight quotes and smart quotes
  6. Get statistics (letter, word, and line count)
  7. Convert between Mac, Windows, and Unix line endings
  8. Sort lines ascending/descending
  9. Shift left or right
  10. and plenty more…

Needless to say, if you ever deal with text (whether in email, Word docs, or browser form fields, this Service will be worth an installation. You can always access it then, too, by selecting text, opening your App’s menu (i.e. “Safari” menu in the Safari App), navigating to the Services item, and then opening Convert, Format, or Insert.

Download Adium | Replaces Proteus
Previously, I recommended Proteus for multi-service instant messaging; I’ve long since converted to Adium. First, Proteus is no longer under development. Second, Adium has been squashing bugs and adding features at an amazing clip. You can not only chat across the major services (AIM, Yahoo!, MSN, ICQ, GoogleTalk, etc.), but you can now chat with Facebook friends, too. It taps into OS X’s built-in Address Book for contacts, and is very customizable.

Download AppFresh | New to this list
Far from the last App to download is AppFresh. This software should be built into Apple’s Software Update mechanism, but until it is, there’s AppFresh. It scans your Mac, lists all the software you have, lets you know which are out-of-date, and (best yet) lets you update those you select without leaving this App. Keeping up-to-date was never so easy.

Other Recommendations
The following Apps have been useful to me, although they are far from the standard, daily-use fare of the aforementioned Apps:

  • FFXporter
    Free, lightweight plugin for iPhoto which lets you upload your selected photos to Flickr. (This has been a long time coming.)
  • Secrets
    Exposes numerous OS X software “hidden” preferences for quick manipulation. Many similar Apps charge $20 for this; Secrets is free, and allows users to quickly add other prefs to the system as they’re discovered.
  • Punakea
    Tiny, lightweight App which lets you quickly tag files (ala Flickr and in the Finder.
  • RapidoWrite
    Create shorthand for text snippets, ala TextExpander… but $30 less (i.e. free).



  1. Juan said,

    September 1, 2008 @ 7:27 pm

    Thanks for your list. I know When I first got my Mac, your list of software made me life a lot easier

  2. John P. said,

    September 23, 2008 @ 5:39 pm

    You know i depend on your research! release this list more often! I'm an overfed starvation victim after 18 months

  3. eve isk said,

    November 7, 2008 @ 6:38 pm

    Thanks for your list. I know When I first got my Mac, your list of software made me life a lot easier.I suffered through years of dealing with Windows issues, and still do as an ISP support technician. When I made the jump to the Mac, and my eyes were opened to just how much better the Mac was than my life with Windows, I used to take every opportunity to slam the old Operating System.

  4. levykauppa said,

    November 24, 2008 @ 7:33 am

    Whoa! This list is awesome. I definitely recommend AppFresh for all Mac users. Thank you fot the list.

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