If you’ve just joined the Macdom (congratulations and welcome! and why not check out this post), or even if you’ve been messing about in it for a while, perhaps you’ll find this useful — a list of the non-Apple Mac apps I regularly use, and generally make my life better (wish I had a Mac at work …):
My choice of Bible software for the Mac. Bit of a learning curve, but amazing power lies just beneath the surface
A lovable and insanely useful chat client for all manner of messengers
Application got your goat? Get rid of all traces of it, pronto. (Leaving useless preferences lying around your system is grimy.)
- Audio Hijack Pro
I don’t know if this is the best of its kind, but it’s done the job everytime I wanted to record audio on my Mac, whether with the internal microphone, or from a streaming station (ahem), or just any program that emits audio of any description. Bundled with Fission, which lets me edit the resulting recording.
- Comic Life
So very fun. Have you ever read those old Bunty, Judy, Debbie, Mandy comics from the UK? An aunt of mine has a thick stack that I used to pore through every time I visited her home in Malaysia. One of the regular features of those magazines was photo comics — basically you tell a story through posed pictures. This program makes this ‘artform’ surpremely easy, is a handy way of circumventing boring e-cards and whatnot, and if you’re ever sick of looking at yet another series of holiday snapshots, why not make an entertaining collage with attendent snarky captions instead?
Windoze version available
So very useful. A free 2GB online folder for your ”stuffs“, and helps you skip a step or two if you ever have to bring work home — just save the file in the folder and access it from home and office. Comes with a public folder — put a file in it, then right-click it to copy a unique URL that anyone can use to access the file. Get creative and upload an entire website like this one.
Windoze option available
Need this to view WMV files.
Ho ho ho, if you ever have to rip a DVD you own for personal use, this is the app for you.
Access your Gmail through a standalone app. For some reason, this is meaningful to me. I guess I met this app at a time when I was plain sick of browsers (though of course this app functions as a narrow-minded sort of browser). Now incorporates Gmail’s offline option. Has a few features that make life eaiser, especially if you use multiple Gmail accounts.
I try to blog through this, as it reduces dependency on fickle browsers that shut down anytime.
- Microsoft Office 2008
Girl’s gotta eat. But honestly this version drives me a bit nutty. I can’t get hanging indents to work properly! Dang you, tabs!
Charming little RSS reader that gets it right. Love the three-column format and the way tabs are handled. Oh, and it’s FOC if you can tolerate a little ad rectangle. Sure thang.
Haven’t plumbed the depths of this one yet, but it’s definitely proved useful for note-taking on the fly and structuring things like lesson and life plans. If you use it with other Omni Group apps like OmniGraffle, you can automatically create mind maps and pretty ”stuffs“ like that from your outlines. Wah.
Clean up after yourself once in a while, eh. Macs may be largely virus-free but that means most of the damage is self-inflicted. And see if you can tell how French this software is.
If you do not use Quicksilver, you do know the meaning of Mac. Be sure to check out this tutorial.
I used to be much more enmeshed in the use of graphics software; not just the simple stuff will do. This app is FOC and does all sorts of handy things like resizing, simple editing, some illustrating/textual insertions, all in an elegant way that gives you easy access to your photo library. Nice. If you want something more powder-full but not-Adobe, check this out. And Gimp. And actually, Preview is a surprisingly versatile native app on your Mac — does simple editing and even quite complex slideshows.
You know this. Much more fun with a USB handset, by the way.
Windoze version available
- Stuffit Expander
If I have this, why do I need the next app? Anyway, this is the gold standard for opening compressed files on the Mac. I liked it better when it was a smaller outfit though. Maybe that’s why I’ve been using …
- The Unarchiver
I do enjoy the name. Oh, I think it unarchives archived files. Yeah.
Presents any copy and pastable text in a pleasing and highly customisable way. Columns are helpful cylinders for content. If you struggle to read longer texts online, try Readability. It makes the Internet a more comfortable place to hang around.
I think Tweetie has a nicer feel, but it doesn’t seem to be as customisable — though I may simply have no idea and patience to get to know it properly. Anyway, I’ve come to love and enjoy TweetDeck for making Twitter meaningful and fun for me. Wish I had a way to turn off those friggin’ Facebook app messages from people though. I just wanna know their status updates, not their high scores!
Windoze version available
This plays everything. Even FLV files I get off YouTube, etc. with DownloadHelper. And it makes things louder.
Windoze version available
For the higher purpose that is full-screen writing. The software company, Hog Bay, has another cool app called TaskPaper, which is a text-based to-do list modelled on GTD. I like it like I like text-based RPGs. If you’re into huge writing projects, like dissertations or novels, check this out.
I might or I might not further my adventures with this app — meant to be a repository for slips and slops you encounter on the net, and ideas and PDFs. (Hey, did you know you can create smart folders that collect all the PDFs on your Mac?) Would probably utilise this better if I’d bother to learn how to use it! But I’m lazy like that. Too old to work hard. Too young to hang on.
If you need a BitTorrent client on the Mac, try Transmission. If you need an FTP client, go for Transmit. If you need to extract songs from your iPod or iPhone, use iRip. If you need to burn VCDs, use Burn.
I haven’t tried Mac games recently; am still taking my time with Heroes of Might and Magic, and dabbled with Otis before (warning: addictive). You should really check out Burning Monkey Solitaire if you’re in that sort of mood.
As for Apple apps, the iLife suite can’t be beat. Really. The iWork suite: Pages needs more customisable options, I haven’t tried Numbers at all, and Keynote is beautiful. (But you need to check out this guy if you ever have to do a slideshow presentation ever, ever, ever again.) And if you haven’t been making use of your Dashboard: boy, are you missing out! The top ten Dashboard widgets on the Apple site will be enough for now.
Now for my favoured Mac accessories:
- Mouse — Logitech VX, baby!!! Once you use that scroll wheel, there ain’t no turnin’ back.
- Tablet — get one of the Wacoms, I guess. Very useful for controlled scribbling.
- Wireless router — because your Mac wants to be free as a bird … if you use Airport, you can even channel iTunes across rooms.
- Backup drive — tried, tested and true. It’s not a matter of if but when your hard disk crashes. I highly recommend a USB-powered drive, having had my Maxtor AC adaptor crash and burn on me with no recourse to the manufacturer (being ridiculously hard to track down in HK)! I have a 1TB one from Western Digital.
NB: Worried there’s an update round the corner that will make your impending Mac purchase obsolete? Click here for a rough guide on when the next product update is expected.
Aha! With my trusty iPad2 by my side (iPad3 and ever after … not gonna happen while I’m a full-time student), I should add my iPad-ish app recos:
This is the reason I wanted an iPad — envisioned myself reading and referring to this often in seminary, unencumbered by a huge laptop. And that’s how it’s turned out. Looking forward to getting the same desktop functionality for the maps and interlinears, but am already grateful for having so much wisdom and knowledge at my fingertips (oh, the power of search!).
Anything you can watch on your Mac/PC (shudder), you can now watch on your iPad — including Flash videos, yep.
Still have not tired of its presentation of content from Facebook to Google Reader to everything on the web that has an RSS feed. Beats running to this and that inhouse app for the latest news and posts. And it’s free, for goodness’ sake!
If you wanna do all sorts of funky things on PDFs, annotating it with sticky notes, callouts, plain/adorned text or good ol’ squiggles, filing everything neatly in folders, and so on and so forth.
- iA Writer
Fine, I was seduced by Stephen Fry’s good opinion and the beauty of its simplicity. But, boy, is it fast. All my secrets I have placed therein … and my class/sermon notes.
Simple, beautiful, efficient, utterly useful.
- National Geographic’s World Atlas
This thing is awesome. I realise one of ‘things’ I need around me as part of the nesting process is an atlas, and with this, I can go anywhere and feel … I’m still on planet earth. Only wish I could double-click on a place name to get to its Wiki entry!
- NYPL Biblion
This is the shiniest example of curation, shared with the world, that I know of. Check out apps from museums round the world, too; they should amaze as well. You could start with the Museum of Modert Art.
So far, the only word processor available for the iPad that retains formatting properly. It needs more competition though! Slower typing compared to something light and fast like iA Writer.
I’m pretty sure there are loads of similar apps around, but this one does the job for me, and I don’t need to look beyond that. And the “job” is … memorising and practising the writing of Koine Greek.
- Star Walk
Yoohoo. You like stars? You like looking up at the heavens? You like imbuing your life with magnificent mystery? Check. This. Out.
- Touch Press
Anything by them will delight. I have The Elements app, which presents the periodic table in breathtaking beauty. Hmm. This beauty thing is starting to be a theme. What if one day we can only absorb information if it’s presented in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing to the eye of the age? What if …
- TuneIn Radio
Miss home? Can’t wait to fly far, far away from home? Listen in to radio at your home/dreamland, and be transported.
If you ever want to know anything about anything that can be known scientifically, this is your app!
My iPad accessories recos:
- I couldn’t pass up the chance to use the Smart Cover, so I didn’t. Love how you can hold the folded-over bit in portrait mode, like with a rolled-up magazine. But it means you’ll need to get a super-sturdy shell that works with it. The only one that didn’t give up on me is thick, slightly rubbery and quaint, being a Cath Kidston design. I got it off Gmarket, cheap cheap!
- Was a bit hesitant at first, but it’s served so well, really freeing up screen real estate and playing to my strength of typing … on a keyboard. Love how the iPad fits into it facedown, perfectly. The Logitech Keyboard Case — so good. If you don’t mind the clackety-clack, that is.
- If you’re going to use your iPad to conduct presentations, you’re going to have to shell out for the VGA dock connector, which enables you to mirror what’s on your iPad screen unless an app (like Keynote) is designed to behave otherwise. Well worth not having to lug a massive laptop around! And fear not, Keynote has a variety of presentation views, including one that turns your finger into an onscreen pointer!
- If you do any sort of painting, sketching, scribbling on your iPad, you need the precision that a tablet pen affords — I concur with The Wirecutter’s assessment that Adonit’s Jot Mini is a delight. Plus, the turquoise really pops!