“Must Have” Mac Software

A friend of mine is getting a Mac soon, and asked me what software he should get for it. I named a few applications, but that got me thinking about all the applications I couldn’t live without. There are many more applications for Mac OS X, and some of them are really cool. This list, however, is for pratical software that I use every day, or else have found it very useful when I need it.

  1. Adium
  2. Transmission
  3. Aurora
  4. iStat Menus
  5. Teleport
  6. Growl
  7. USB Overdrive
  8. FrostWire
  9. Cyberduck
  10. iMsafe
  11. OnyX
  12. UnRarX
  13. VLC
  14. Burn
  15. Audacity
  16. Office 2008

1. Adium – I wrote about this application before, here.

2. Transmission – If you’re into the whole BitTorrent thing, then this is a must-have. It’s a lightweight app that downloads and seeds torrents. It even allows you to create torrents. And it’s free.

3. Aurora – Used to be free, but 10.5 support came with a price tag. I’m sticking with the free version (since I have 10.4 still.) Hopefully we will see the price tag dropped in the future. Aurora is an iTunes alarm. It will launch iTunes and play any playlist for a set amount of time, or until you turn it off. It can also wake up your computer if you let it sleep at night. € 15.

4. iStat Menus – As much as I hate a cluttered menu bar, I love iStat Menus. It gives you information on CPU useage, Network, temperature, hard drive, fans, date and time, pretty much anything you need to know about your computer. The interface is customizable: graph, chart, numbers, colors, anything you want. Free.

5. Teleport – If you have more than one Mac and limited desk space, then this is for you. It allows control of another Mac over the network. Simply move the cursor to the screen edge, and it jumps over the air (or ethernet) to your other Mac. I hate laptop keyboards and track pads, so being able to use my regular keyboard and mouse with my laptop is great. Free.

6. Growl – Global notification app. It gives a customizable pop-up whenever you computer does something important: new email, new RSS feed, CD/DVD/USB/Firewire/network plug in or out, Transmission download status, iTunes track, and many many more. Supports multi-monitors and customizable screen position, as well as a whole bunch of applications. Free.

7. USB Overdrive – If you have a mouse with more than two buttons and a scroll wheel, then you probably need this. It allows you to customize what the buttons on your mouse/gamepad/joystick do. I use it with my Logitech MX510, and it works great (Logitech’s driver…not so much.) $20, $10 upgrade. Update: I found a better driver that works with my Diamondback.

8. FrostWire – P2P client. Switched from Limewire and never looked back. Adds music automatically to iTunes and separates the download folder based on file type. Free.

9. Cyberduck – FTP app with bookmarks and transfer queue. Has Finder-like interface for folder browsing. Be honest, Mac OS X’s built-in FTP doesn’t quite cut it. Free.

10. iMsafe – Backup software, the best I’ve used. Backs up over network, with a schedule. Simply set the source and destination folders, set a time and day, and leave it running. Uses a lot of CPU during backups, but none when idle. Used to be free, now $40 (it’s worth not losing your data, though.)

11. OnyX – All-around system maintenance utility. Also with OS hacks to unlock hidden features (Like a Quit item in the Finder menu.) And, they keep back issues, so no matter which version of OS X you have, you can get an OnyX that will work. Free.

12. UnRarX – Simple utility for decompressing segmented RAR archives. Getting a folder full of .r01, .r02 files can confuse most novice users. UnRarX decompresses these files, and repairs corrupt archives using par2. Free.

13. VLC – If QuickTime can’t play it, VLC can. Opens pretty much any audio or video media format (including VIDEO_TS folders from DVDs.) Free.

14. Burn – Burns CDs, DVDs, and VCDs. Need a simple way to burn a video file to a DVD playable in a standard DVD player? Burn has you covered. Need to make mass copies of a disk image? No problem. Free.

15. Audacity – Multi-platform audio editor. If audio editing isn’t your thing, then it probably won’t be that exciting. But if you want to cut up and remix songs, edit some sounds, or record something, Audacity is the app for you. Free.

16. Office 2008 – As much as I hate to admit it, Microsoft has made it onto the list. Office 2008 for Mac is long overdue: It adds Intel processor support and makes the interface more Mac-like. Most expensive one on the list: Starts at $130.

I might have a list of cool Mac apps in the future, those that don’t do anything for productivity, but can wow your friends. Stay tuned. Read the addendum.

About Edward Carlson

Film and television Director of Photography working in Los Angeles, CA.
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