Turn John Hodgman into Justin Long
December 3, 2008 3:39 PM   Subscribe

What are the Mac equivalents of great Windows software? This was a great question about what a Mac person should install on a Windows box. I'm going the other way, as my office kindly bought me a new MacBook Pro. I'm a scientist and haven't used a Mac since OS 7.5. For the past decade my machines have been Windows, Linux, or dual-boot. Freeware/shareware programs I use a lot under Windows: Cygwin, Essential PIM, FLVplayer, IrfanView, Maxima, Openoffice.org, Scilab, Winamp, Xemacs, Xplorer2 pro. Commercial software: Mathematica, IDL, occasionally Microsoft Office. I'm mostly interested in freeware or shareware such as great text and image editors, tex/latex, and other nerdware. Thanks! Naturally, the new laptop runs Leopard.
posted by lukemeister to Computers & Internet (40 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I forgot gnuplot, for scientific plots.
posted by lukemeister at 3:46 PM on December 3, 2008

I love Papers for organizing papers. It's never been easier to find a paper quickly.

For Latex I use TexShop which works flawlessly and reliably. I think it's just the right mix of having some prewritten templates and allowing you to tweak things to your own liking.
posted by peacheater at 3:56 PM on December 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Cygwin: MacOS is built on Unix, so all that stuff is there already in the Terminal. If you want to easily install other Unixy stuff, there's Macports.
FLVplayer: VLC plays FLVs, and just about anything else, just fine.
IrfanView: I like Xee for image browsing.
Openoffice.org: There's a Mac version, and the new 3.0 version actually looks like a Mac app now.
Scilab: There's a Mac version.
Winamp: VLC (mentioned above) and Cog satisfy my lightweight music playing needs.
Xemacs: There's an official Mac port of Xemacs, but if you want a more Maclike experience, there is Aquamacs.
tex/latex: MacTeX is a great TeX distribution, and TeXShop is an editor with great integration between your TeX source and the PDF output.
gnuplot: There's a Mac version that you can get with Macports.
posted by zsazsa at 3:57 PM on December 3, 2008 [3 favorites]

Texas Edit is the friendliest and easiest editor out there, then TextWrangler--powerful but less friendly.

Gimp or Gimpshop is a must.

My students like VMWare a lot for emulation duties.

Neooffice is a nice implementation of Open Office

The included Preview is excellent--never install Adobe Acrobat--and the closest thing to the sublime Irfanview.

Versiontracker is my favorite archive of macware--sort by ratings and downloads to separate the wheat from the chaff.

VLC works on the mac, as do many other awesome Linux-based utilities.

Graphviz is the best implementation out there of .dot language (flowchart-ish software)

Processing is also nice. (imaging/animation software)

Call me a sellout, but I like Itunes a lot, and there are scripts to sync it with non-ipods.

Make sure to install X from your system DVD to access many other good programs.
posted by mecran01 at 3:58 PM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

This has been asked many times around the Internet. There are many lists of the "best Mac applications for switchers" or "Top 10 Best Mac freeware apps", etc. Google a bit and you'll find many lists talking about great tools like Quicksilver, Flip4Mac, NeoOffice, Perian, Nvu, and more.

You can browse either MacUpdate.com or Versiontracker.com for thousands of freeware or shareware programs for Mac OS X. There's a lot of garbage out there, so the ratings and reviews can be useful.

You might also check out some of the more widely-read Mac blogs like TUAW, Daring Fireball or some news sites like MacNN.com, MacWorld, or Macintouch.com. Mac OS X Hints.com can be your friend once you've mastered the noob Mac OS X stuff and want to dig deeper.
posted by mrbarrett.com at 4:02 PM on December 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

Emacs is of course the Mac equivalent of Xemacs. And I'm sure you know that you have no need for a program like Cygwin since Terminal can do all that.
posted by peacheater at 4:05 PM on December 3, 2008

Ah, should have previewed.
posted by peacheater at 4:15 PM on December 3, 2008

Quicksilver. Use it for a week and you'll wonder how you ever managed to get by without it.
posted by sjl7678 at 4:18 PM on December 3, 2008

I asked a similar question a while back about Mac equivalents for Windows software.
posted by curagea at 4:29 PM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, you can painlessly install Windows on new Intel-based Macs. You can do this one of two ways:

1) you can use Bootcamp, which comes installed with Leopard. This will partition your hard drive (portioned how you choose) and allow you to install Windows on one of the partitions, or

2) you can use Parallels, which will allow you to run Windows within OS X.

These options would probably save you a lot of time trying to hunt down equivalents of programs you're already comfortable with, and save you from the hassle of learning new ones.
posted by self at 4:36 PM on December 3, 2008

IDL and Mathematica both have native OS X versions, as does Microsoft Office.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:37 PM on December 3, 2008

firefox (duh)

tofu (free) - - http://amarsagoo.info/ (paste any text into it and it will convert the text to easy-to-read columns)

textmate - macromates.com (BEST text editor. Read the help-file chapter on text editing.)

Eclipse (free) -- eclipse.org (great code editor)

Namely (free) -- http://amarsagoo.info/ (launcher similar to Quicksilver, but without all of QS's power features. QS slowed my system. Namely is good-enough for me without being a resource hog)

evernote (free) -- evernote.com (fantastic information manager, especially if you want to sync multiple machines. iPhone version available, too)

mamp (free) -- mamp.info (apache, php, mysql for the mac.)

Writeroom -- www.hogbaysoftware.com/products/writeroom (great for when you want to write with no distractions. Hides everything except a simple text editor.)

Openoffice (free) -- openoffice.org (Opensource MS Office replacement)

chax -- www.ksuther.com/chax/ (plugin for ichat)

transmit www.panic.com/transmit/ -- REALLY good ftp client
coda -- www.panic.com/coda/ -- even BETTER ftp client. A bit pricey but way worth it if you ftp a lot.

Appzapper: appzapper.com/ (uninstaller)

syncroSVNclient: www.syncrosvnclient.com/download.html (best svn client I've ever found)

vlc (free) www.videolan.org/vlc/download-macosx.html (media player that plays just about anything)

BetterZip: macitbetter.com/ (best compress/decompress utility I've found)

jumpcut --jumpcut.sourceforge.net/ (clipboard enhancer)

Textexpander -- www.smileonmymac.com/TextExpander/screencast/index.html (create keyboard shortcuts that instantly expand into text in any program where you can type. For instance, if I type ggg it turns into grumblebee@gmail.com)
posted by grumblebee at 4:47 PM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Most are freeware or cheap

Prefling (direct access to individual pref panes from the dock)

File Buddy (very expensive, but it's a great swiss army knife, and spotlight searching's going to drive you crazy with your system 7 background, and file buddy gives a saner disk search)

Adium (by far the best IM client)

Skim (vastly better than Preview for viewing PDF files. Note that it's for scientific users...I'm not one...so will be even better for you).

DVDpedia, Bookpedia, CDpedia (if you collect such things, these are awesome catalogers. Use iSight to scan in via bar codes! Not free, but not expensive)

Minuteur (best timer app)

Tofu (you'll never want to read on-screen text any other way)

Isolator (blacks out all but the frontmost window, makes it easier to concentrate)

Namely (start typing an app name and this finds it...simpler/easier than quicksilver, which confuses the bejesus out of me)

Perian allows quicktime (and thus your browsers) to play lots of video formats

Intouch With (great freeform address book and general information manager, though expensive)

PTHPasteboard (mulitpile clipboards...free)

PDFLab surprising power to finagle with PDFs in a freeware app

R-Name best renaming app

best classic to-do list: ToDo X
best GTD type to-do list: iGTD (though it's in a developement stall, and if that bugs you opt for OmniFocus)

I could go on.... oh, and don't overlook "Dictionary", which came with your mac. it's real good.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 5:08 PM on December 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

also Audacity (free audio editing...much like the great old system 7 audio editors)

and RadioRecorder is a good freeware app for capturing (to mp3) audio streams (e.g. from internet radio)

Like I said, I could go on, if these tips are helpful and don't feel like a deluge...
posted by jimmyjimjim at 5:13 PM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Please do go on and on, jimmyjimjim.
posted by grumblebee at 5:24 PM on December 3, 2008

Oh, and you'll want isquint (converts video files for ipod) and VisualHub (all sorts of conversion ability on all sorts of video files, including FLV files which Handbrake - which sux btw - can't handle).
Unfortunately, development has ended, and you'll have to build the (renamed) apps from the sourcecode. here's instructions
posted by jimmyjimjim at 5:26 PM on December 3, 2008

If you use SCP, fugu is a nice graphical frontend.
posted by kickingtheground at 5:42 PM on December 3, 2008


BBedit is hugely expensive compared to back in the day. But good news is the company puts out a freeware text editor, TextWrangler

WordService is a freeware gem for souping up your "services" menu

Melody Assistant, if you can get past the fugly interface and learn the arcanities, is as good a music app as those costing 10X the price

MacJanitor is a good thing to run once in a while

ShowVolumeFragmentation is something a system 7 vet will appreciate

WriteRoom is a zen-ware "no distractions" way to belch out streams of writing (if you liked isolator and tofu, you'll like this). seems insane to blow $25 on this, but if you love it, you'll need it.

Bugdom2 such a great game. Cro-Mag Rally is the best driving game. Well worth $20-30. Both are avail. for Ipod, btw.

Sogudi allows you to do all sorts of web actions from the "go to" field (whatever you call the field where you type in the URL). Hard to explain, but do try it.

You'll remember quickeys from system 7. Still here, still useful. underrated cuz it had some bad years there, right after OS X came out. But now it's good. though expensive

I haven't tried TrueCrypt, but it looks like a real breakthrough: on the fly disk encryptian software that's FREE.

Winding down here. May cough up a few more things later.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 5:45 PM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

including FLV files which Handbrake - which sux btw - can't handle

Yes it can, and no it doesn't.
posted by kindall at 5:54 PM on December 3, 2008

Also, VisualHub has been discontinued.
posted by kindall at 5:57 PM on December 3, 2008

"VisualHub has been discontinued"

I noted that ("Unfortunately, development has ended")

As for handbrake, the last version I tried did not convert FLV, and I assumed it hadn't been added because several people in this thread declared no FLV support, and I noticed there's been one updated version released since that thread, but the release notes mention nothing about FLV having been added. So if full FLV support has been added, it's been awful quiet. As for sucking, sorry, does.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 6:27 PM on December 3, 2008

For scientific computing, SAGE should have your back.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 6:38 PM on December 3, 2008

Response by poster: M,sM: Thanks. I've been meaning to try SAGE.

Everyone: Thanks for all the great info. I use Thunderbird for email. Any reason I should switch?
posted by lukemeister at 6:44 PM on December 3, 2008

Flip4Mac for WMV web content.

Perian adds a whole bunch of codecs for video-viewing.

MenuMeters is handy for keeping an eye on your system.

Little Snitch monitors outgoing connections, alerts you, and stops them, if you want it too. (keeps apps from "phoning home.")

Seconding Transmit as the best FTP client, and seconding the avoidance of Acrobat in favor of the built-in Preview. If you've already got acrobat installed and all pdf's are defaulting to it, just do a "Get info" (command+i) on a .pdf file, and change the default app back to Preview.

side note -- I think a lot of people don't realize how cool Quick Look is. Select file in Finder. Hit spacebar. Coolness. Use up/down arrow keys to "Quick Look" at the next files above/below in the folder, if there's multiple items. It's my favorite addition to the finder since 10.5, other than that it does generic previews of Illustrator files. But that's probably an Adobe thing.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:47 PM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you like Thunderbird, you may want to try the latest Eudora, which was recently wrapped around Thunderbird. I happen to use the old, dead-ended standalone Eudora, and will continue to.

But if you have no strong preference, it's always a good idea to go with the flow and use the Apple app...if only because that way you take advantage of cross-app synergy Apple builds into these things. And Apple Mail is really quite damned good. I'd definitely try it for a while. Same for Address Book (though, per above, I go 3rd party and use Intouch With).
posted by jimmyjimjim at 6:47 PM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oops, how could I forget?

Carbon Copy Cloner is excellent backup & system cloning software. Creates bootable volumes on external drives, etc.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:50 PM on December 3, 2008

Devils Rancher, there are a bunch of apps with quick look or quicklook in the title. Can you offer a link, a company....any kinda command-I on this?
posted by jimmyjimjim at 6:50 PM on December 3, 2008

I share your love for Carbon Copy Cloner, but I graduated from it by investing $30 in SuperDuper, which truly earns its title. Wonderful interface, and such a solid program (when so many backup apps are horrid and finicky). I highly recommend it, as do myriad others.
posted by jimmyjimjim at 6:52 PM on December 3, 2008

Sorry, jimmyjimjim -- it's built-in to the finder. (in OS 10.5) I was just pointing out its coolness.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:53 PM on December 3, 2008

Ah, ok. I wouldn't know, I'm still running 10.4. I don't see anything in 10.5 worth paying for, though I'll welcome the stability and speed of 10.6. I never upgrade my Mac OS until a X.4 or X.5 update, though (nor do I ever buy vers 1 apple h/w, for that matter). I've learned to wait, having been with Macs since my Mac Classic (OS 7.1) back in 1986 or so!
posted by jimmyjimjim at 6:57 PM on December 3, 2008

Does SuperDuper do automatic incremental backups? (I use CCC to update my Users directory daily)
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:57 PM on December 3, 2008

Dude! The waiting is over! 10.5.5 is very stable, and the updates to the Finder alone were worth it for me.

posted by Devils Rancher at 6:59 PM on December 3, 2008

Incremental, yes. Automatic, surely via applescript, not sure it's a built-in feature however. But if CCC can do it, superduper certainly can
posted by jimmyjimjim at 7:01 PM on December 3, 2008

There are some awesome recommendations here (and a few I didn't know, my thanks to grumblebee and jimmyjimjim especially), but here are a few more:

I was an Xplorer2 Pro user in Windows, and when I switched to OS X, I chose Forklift. It took some getting used to; there are fewer customization options (as is true of nearly all well-designed Mac software), and I had to adjust my habits, but it is now one of my favorite apps. It's stable, efficient, and thoughtfully designed. It's also a fine FTP client, should you ever have the need.

Textmate is the most popular text editor, but if the price seems too steep for your needs, Smultron is an excellent free choice. (TextWrangler, as mentioned, is another good option; I prefer Smultron but recommend trying them both, as they have fairly different design philosophies.)

I second the recommendation for Bookpedia and the other Pedia apps. You will mostly hear about Delicious Library, and a lot of reviewers seem to think it's the only OS X collection-management program in existence, but as far as I can tell the Delicious Library people are simply more savvy at marketing. The Pedias are very capable and usable, and their customer support is second to none.

Finally, here are a couple of sites that offer daily discounts on OS X software: macZOT and MacUpdate Promo. Quality varies, but put them in your RSS reader and you'll find great stuff now and then.
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 11:27 PM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Crossover by Codeweavers is basically WINE with a nice user interface. You should be able to run Windows native apps (mainly MS Office 03 and Internet Explorer 6) on it. You could try to run some of your specialty apps, but getting the necessary frameworks for them installed may be tough. For that, straight up virtualization is the way to go (see above posts).

I swear by IE in Crossover since I use a mac for work and constantly have to update my Outlook calendar and doing it through Firefox is such a hassle!
posted by ijoyner at 8:06 AM on December 4, 2008

Not cheap, but:

Since your office bought you your computer: it is not unlikely that they will want you to use MS Office. Unfortunately, Word 2008 for the Mac is a huge buggy piece of crap. (No, seriously. It's badly broken and does not play nice with Spaces or Expose.)

So, if you are going to be expected to read other people's .docs or create your own, I would suggest you consider Apple's Pages. It's a very nice word-processing/lightweight-page-layout program, and it seems to do very nicely with reading/producing .doc files as well.

Also, Keynote is much better than PowerPoint for presentations, if you want something a little flashier than beamer.

Pages and Keynote (along with Numbers, which I haven't used much but which my husband likes very much) are bundled as iWork '08.

(and for what it's worth, I second the MacTeX/TeXShop recommendation from above. Super, super easy TeX distribution to install, and TeXShop is very nice indeed.)
posted by leahwrenn at 10:55 AM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks again, everyone!
Any recommendations for Vmware Fusion vs. Parallels vs. Bootcamp? (I'm not sure I'll need to run any Windows or Linux applications in that mode, but I might.)
posted by lukemeister at 2:44 PM on December 4, 2008

It's pretty unique and I have no idea what it replaces window wise, but I love voodoopad. You'll either love it or not know what the hell to do with it, but you should give it a try.

And as someone mentioned, this questions been asked many times, and even with all the answers you're getting, there's a lot of quality software that still hasn't been mentioned. So check out the previous questions. I'd also try out everything that came with your macbook. You might love adium, but if iChat does the job you want, there's no reason not to use it.

Lastly, leopard is solid (and has been for a while) and the improvements over tiger, while not revolutionary, are nice.

transmit www.panic.com/transmit/ -- REALLY good ftp client
coda -- www.panic.com/coda/ -- even BETTER ftp client. A bit pricey but way worth it if you ftp a lot.
posted by grumblebee

This isn't true. Transmit is a much more powerful ftp client. Coda is a web design application that comes with a stripped down version of transmit.

If you're only needing ftp, transmit is what you want.
posted by justgary at 3:20 PM on December 4, 2008

This is anecdotal, but I'm running VMware Fusion 2 on my home iMac (2007 model, 2.4GHz, 3GB RAM) and Parallels 3 on my work iMac (2008 model, 2.8GHz, 4GB RAM). VMware has been smooth sailing from the moment I installed it, and Parallels hesitates and glitches frequently on simple tasks like opening the favorites sidebar in IE 7.

The IT guys set up Parallels and I haven't really tried to tweak it, so the cause could be something stupid they did, but based on my limited experience I'd go with VMware. (I initially picked VMware after reading multiple reviews leveling similar complaints at Parallels.)

Also, I really hate Parallels' insistence on placing the Windows taskbar onscreen in Coherence mode. VMware manages just fine without it in Unity mode.

Note that Parallels 4 was recently released, and I can't speak to what kinds of performance improvements may have been made since my experience is limited to Parallels 3. I seem to recall decent reviews of both apps on Ars Technica; you might want to look for them.
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 5:52 PM on December 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Before you shell out for either VMWare or Parallels, try Sun's VirtualBox. It's free and apparently not half bad.
posted by kindall at 6:17 PM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

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