Yesterday was a great day (surprising, I know, for a Monday), but as the end of a successful year at work draws closer I was very generously given a shiny new 27inch iMac as my new "workhorse". I'm currently spending my time setting it up and tuning it so it purrs like the leopard it is, however at same time I thought it would be a good chance to share the apps that I'm installing so that it can be a point of reference for anyone else in the same boat - special shout out to my friend Emily and her new MacBook Pro.
Anyway I won't get *too* carried away with the Apple fan boy excitement. Lets have a look at some of the essential apps (as well as some neat little ones) that I think are needed for any Mac.
Quicksilver is one of those apps that almost renders me useless on other Macs that don't have it installed. At it's simplest it's an application launcher that allows you to open any application or file on your computer with a simple hit of Cmd + Space. However that is only scratching the kneecap of what it can do. I won't go into detail because there are a heap of youtube tutorials and blog posts scattered all over the web. I haven't watched this intro video in full, but Merlin Mann knows his stuff when it comes to Quicksilver.
Shiretoko is Firefox, but it's optimised for your Mac. Some dedicated developers have taken Firefox and repackaged it up so that you get the best performance from the browser on your specific system. The only caveat I have with it is the ugly icon, however luckily for us there is a much nicer one here. Also because we are on a Mac so we should show a bit of love to our browser companion Safari which, although doesn't have the extension community that Firefox has, it does have a very nice UI, so here is a link to some Apple inspired Firefox themes.
Although not really necessary, this unobtrusive application remover sits in the background and watches when your drag an app to the Trash and then prompts you whether you want to clean up some files the application left behind. The files are usually harmless if left, maybe its the fear from my past Windows life that makes it hard to believe you can just drag an app into the Trash and its actually deleted, but its feels comforting having this little app look after any stray files.
The killer, all in one, system notification platform. Basically, there are a handful of apps that want to notify you of what's happening and instead of them each using a gaudy custom made notification balloon (such as you might see in Windows applications), they usually will hook into Growl so you can configure all your notifications to look and alert you in the same way. Dropbox, Echofon, Adium, Cyberduck, Gmail Notifr, Delibar are some of the apps i've listed below that all use Growl. It's a must have.
Another killer application, this time for instant messaging. There is no other IM client I'd touch on a mac - if you've seen Microsoft's bloated MSN attempt you'd know why. Adium is like Quicksilver, far too many features to explain in this post. However, I've included some basic configuration instructions below that should get you started with what my favourite UI setup is.
Security is important, even if we are rolling with the lesser hacked operating system. On the web though it doesn't matter what you are using if you have weak passwords. Thus enters 1Password, a password manager that integrates beautifully into your Mac and your web browsers. It's the first paid for product in this list and ironically it's the first Mac application I ever bought. Worth getting, and if you sync it using Dropbox (mentioned below) you can sync your passwords between computers. There is also a cool iPhone app available. One thing to be aware of is there is no Windows equivalent, so if you go and make all your passwords 15 random characters long, you might run into trouble if you need to regularly use a Windows machine.
Dropbox is a free personal file storage service that allows you to sync files to the cloud. These can then be accessed from any other Mac, Windows, iPhone, or any device with a web browser. Dropbox is a small startup that is a success story of the Y Combinator program - which looks very cool indeed. Again many, many posts on the net about fine tuning Dropbox.
The best video player for Mac. It has every codec needed to play all sorts of files built right in, as well as a tonne of advanced settings for those who desire such. I use it instead of Quicktime, although I've yet to try out the new Quicktime in Snow Leopard which did have some promising screenshots I saw a while back.
A sexy Twitter client, pure and simple. Twitter clients are very much personal preference but having tried out Twitterific, Beak and god knows how many others, I've settled very happily with Echofon.... for the time being.
Fluid is cool. It allows you to bundle up web applications (ie, Facebook, GMail, etc) into its own separately running browser application. I love having Facebook for instance as its own application that I can call upon using Quicksilver and have it sit nicely in my dock. There are also a bunch of userscripts that allow you to get dock badges and Growl notifications.Interlude: I've run out of time to add the level of detail I wanted for the following applications because the call of getting some work done needs answering. Explore the links below, see what they are, what they do, and I'll write up some more information about them as soon as I can.
For all you developers out there (which I'm guessing will be most because after all this is a development blog). These are only a handful of apps that show you glimpse of the power of the Mac as a development platform.
I actually don't find it surprising that all the apps in the "Neat" category are from one company - Many Tricks. They make truly great software, the brilliance lies in the solving of one problem, nothing more, nothing less (very similar to another inspirational company in the web development community - 37signals). By the way, if you do enjoy their software (and any software listed), perhaps think about passing a few dollars their way as a way of showing your appreciation. Indie developers are really the lifeblood of the Mac platform and they are definitely worth supporting.
Not for Everyone
Some cool little apps that I personally can't live without, but they are possibly not of interest to everyone.
These are my impulse purchases. They are apps that I just couldn't resist getting my hands on and have fortunately proven quite useful.
Having Adium look and feel the way you like is important right from the start, because if you're like me you're instant messaging a lot throughout the day. Here are some Adium Xtras (aka extensions) and screenshots of my configuration that should help in the setup process.
Here are the links I use to get the above configuration working.
- Overture 1928 - Contact List style
- Universal Theme - Contact List style
- Adiumy iMac - Very sexy, Dock Icon for iMac
- PowerBook Duck - Dock Icon for any Macbook (I roll with this on my laptop)
- AdiumBook - Menu Bar icon (clean and small, works well with all Macs)
That's all folks
So there is the list so far, take your time with it. Install and configure each one at a time, get them just right and you'll save a bunch of time in the future and will have a lot of fun in the present.
I'll keep updating this post with more applications and images as I go, so stay tuned and let us know if you find any neat software to share. Oh and if you've just joined the Mac community, then I'd just like to say one thing, Welcome!