Mac Apps
August 6, 2011 11:51 PM   Subscribe

Looking for the latest, greatest, Mac Apps.

I recently bought my first Mac (an 11" new Macbook Air). I've browsed through the Mac App store, and googled for "best Mac Apps" for non-App Store results, but the results seem either dated or repetitive.

What do you find are some of the best Mac apps? I'm particularly interested in ones that don't necessarily get huge amounts of attention.
posted by aclevername to Computers & Internet (30 answers total) 143 users marked this as a favorite
Omni's apps are all around awesome. I often use OmniGraffle and OmniOutliner in my daily affairs.

Flexiglass is a useful utility that adds some Windows 7 window management niceties to Mac OS X.

Cyberduck is another useful utility for file exchange with FTP, SFTP, SSH, S3, Google Storage and other services. I don't know if it is worth getting through the app store — you could get this directly from the developers and pay less, depending on its utility to you.

I love the Reeder app for managing RSS feeds.

Enjoy your MacBook Air. I'm loving mine.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:02 AM on August 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Dropbox , undoubtedly. It's free - it's amazing - it will sync on all your IOS devices as well. If you use this link each of us gets an extra 250 MB of free space.

Handbrake is completely free and if you ever want to transcode movies for your iphone or ipad, it's simply amazing.

VLC player is hands down the best video player for OS X. It will play just about anything at all - no extra codecs needed. Haven't used quicktime since i got VLC. It's free!

Like to listen to Radio? Radioshift is an amazing player. Best feature: daiy schedules of what's on for any station you choose. It will record like a TIVO any programs that you want to listen to automatically. Free trial.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:04 AM on August 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Have you visited the Mac section of iusethis? You can click on the "Top Apps" link and see the most popular.

Some apps that I like (from my Applications folder) are Butler, Filezilla, Komodo Edit, TrueCrypt and WriteRoom.
posted by forthright at 12:13 AM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Going through my Applications folder in alphabetical order...

Adium is the gold standard for multiplatform IM clients. Backblaze is an excellent cloud backup app (better than Dropbox if you specifically want to do backups; Dropbox is better for syncing files between computers).

MarsEdit is my current favourite blog-post-writing software (though ecto is good too); Perian lets Quicktime play a whole bunch of different video formats; and SuperDuper is extremely handy for making quick bootable backup disks (before you do an upgrade, for example).
posted by The Shiny Thing at 12:15 AM on August 7, 2011

These are all basic background utilities, not everyday apps. They're the kind of thing I can't remember to look for on other Macs, but always help me without getting in the way.

Quicksilver. Hasn't been updated since 2008, stuck in beta, developers moved on. Haven't found a suitable substitute. Many of its features have slowly been added straight to the OS, but I still find it indispensable.

Perian. VLC is great as a video player, but Perian is a plugin that uses Quicktime itself. Main advantage for me is that I can use Quicklook to preview video files.

The Unarchiver. Beats OS X's built in ZIP/RAR/etc utility in every way. Runs invisibly.

For working around Flash: Your new Mac didn't come with Flash. You can install it. Don't. Use Safari as a primary browser, and download Chrome. Chrome has Flash built-in, and you can enable the Develop menu in Safari to quickly open any Safari page in Chrome when Flash is needed. If you do install Flash (for Safari), download the click-to-flash plugin. It disabled Flash until you click on its area, so you can selectively enable it, e.g. ads, no, vimeo, yes. It also uses whitelists.

Growl. You may have seen in mentioned, and some apps tout their Growl support. It's really nice for me to have a small notification when anything I deem important happens in the background.
posted by mhz at 12:17 AM on August 7, 2011

Oh... if you like to use torrents.... purely for downloading Linux builds of course.... ahem... uTorrent is outstanding for OS X . Simple , non nonsense - it just works. Free!

Got Time Machine? (no? , you will) Then Time Machine Editor is a great free utility if you don;t want to do hourly backups and instead want time machine to backup on your own schedule (me? I do once a day).

Carbon Copy Cloner is a great way to backup and/or synchronize folders. Since you're on a Mac air you'll probably be using network storage a lot. CCC will easily sync local and remote folders for you - on a schedule if you wish. Also free.

(I can see this is going to be a great thread :) )
posted by Poet_Lariat at 12:27 AM on August 7, 2011

Caffeine keeps your monitor lit so you don't have to think about it. Worth its install-size in gold.
posted by yaymukund at 12:38 AM on August 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you're at all a writer, Scrivener is in itself enough reason to own a Mac, even without all the other great apps mentioned in this thread.
posted by robt at 12:55 AM on August 7, 2011

Alfred is nice for launching programs, finding files, doing quick math, searching Google, etc. Similar to Quicksilver, but still being developed.

AppZapper uninstalls programs and deletes the extra files they leave around your system.

CandyBar will help you change and customize system icons. Coda is great for coding websites. Both are from Panic.

RipIt can rip and compress DVDs very well.

Senuti transfers songs from your iPod/iPhone/iPad back to your computer.

Onyx can run a lot of different maintenance things for you.
posted by skilar at 1:13 AM on August 7, 2011

iStat Menus gives you lots of system info in your menu bar (CPU/network/disk usage, temperatures, fan speeds, etc). Menu Meters is free but has slightly less info.

Caffeine (already mentioned above) is great for temporarily disabling half-dim and display sleep.

F.lux automatically changes your display's color temperature after sunset to reduce eyestrain and make it easier to get to sleep. (That unnatural blue glow of your display at night is keeping you awake!)

BetterTouchTool allows you to assign actions to multitouch gestures. I do so much with gestures now, I could never go back. It can also enable Windows 7 style window-snapping, if you like that sort of thing.

Safari AdBlock has good reason to be at the top of the Safari Extensions Gallery (where you get an easy one-click install). Also there is Type-To-Navigate which allows you to search without asking and hit return to follow links.

Cyberduck is a free open source FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, Cloud Files, Google Docs & Amazon S3 Browser.

BBEdit is a text/code editor which has been actively developed and improved since the early 1990s. TextWrangler is the free lite version which is actually rather full-featured. I love BBEdit, though there are many other great choices (TextMate, Coda, MacVim, etc).

0xED is a nice little hex editor with plugin support for custom data types.

Transmission is my BitTorrent client of choice, though the above mentioned uTorrent is also good. Flexget deserves a mention for super-configurable torrent auto-downloading.

Pixelmator is a great image editor if you are like most folks who never used more than the standard features of Photoshop.

DoubleTake is a panorama photo stitcher for assembling multiple shots. Hugin is a free open source panorama stitcher. Both are pretty good.

iStopMotion allows you to make stop motion videos with your built-in webcam or just about any other camera you can plug in, even DSLRs.
posted by bigtex at 2:02 AM on August 7, 2011 [6 favorites]

Quicksilver has been open-sourced and is still under development. It's obviously amazing once you get the idea after a couple minutes, but you still need tutorials to unlock the full power of it.

I like to use AirFoil and Audio Hijack Pro with Slim Slow Slider's Linear Phase Graphical Equalizer to get a much better sounding EQ than iTunes and to play music from any app to my Airport Express, which is connected to my speakers. (There are lots of other high-quality freeware EQs and sound tweakers out there.)

You probably want to play with audio and music. Few things are as satisfying as messing with a synthesizer, even if you don't understand it. I really like Arturia's CS-80 and Arp 2600, and G-Force's Minimonsta Moog.

AudioMulch is some pretty wild "software for live performance,
audio processing, sound synthesis and music composition". Try it, if only to see the craziness.

NX / Nomachine is a really totally amazing remote desktop solution. You can only connect to non-OS X Unix machines, but if you do ANY work AT ALL on Linux desktops, this is the bomb. Speaking as a computer scientist and UNIX admin: NX is light years ahead of any other remote desktop software out there.

Jolly's Fast VNC is then a really super good client for normal VNC usage. Try it if you do any kind of screen sharing at all. Next to NX, Jolly's is much faster than anything else I've tried.

Screen Recycler is quite fun. Uses a local network connection to slave another computer's display to yours. So if you have e.g. an iMac or Windows box, you can use it as a second monitor for your new laptop.

Teleport and Synergy then allow you to use one keyboard-and-mouse set to control multiple computers. Roll the pointer out of the laptop display to the right, and you're automatically controlling the Windows machine next to it.

Games: Steam works on Mac these days. Get Braid if you haven't played it yet! SpaceChem is good too, and of course Dwarf Fortress. (NYT piece.) Here's something to make Mac Dwarf Fortress nicer.

Caffeine keeps your display from sleeping. Essential for long Skype sessions.

FontExplorer X is an excellent font management tool. You need this if you're doing any desktop publishing at all. It allows you to find fonts, manage collections, switch them on and off, and does it automatically in some cases.

Did you play console games when you were a kid? There are a few console emulators out there, like bSNES for Super Nintendo. Lots of others too.

Google Sketchup is available for Mac; It's a very intuitive 3D program. Planning on changing something in your apartment? Try Sketchup to draft it out first. Truly magical app. Really simple and really powerful.

Wings3D is an amazingly fun and easy 3D graphics program. Kerkythea seems to be a pretty good freeware raytracer.

Apple's XCode is an amazing programming IDE. So are Jetbrains' IDEs (available for Java, Ruby, Python, general web editing, etc.)

Peel is an excellent MP3 blog reader. It automatically finds links to MP3s in the blogs you subscribe to in it, and allows you to play them as a "magic playlist" sort of, or to download them and add them to iTunes.

OmniDiskSweeper is nice for finding what is using up your drive space. It's free.

SelfControl allows you to ban yourself from timewasting sites. It's a pretty hardcore implementation of a self-blocker. I'm a computer scientist and I couldn't find out how to un-hose my system after I accidentally blocked everything but Facebook in a freak accident. Free and open-source.

Textmate and SubEthaEdit are two text editors I like. SubEthaEdit is "multiplayer" - so you can edit stuff collaboratively. Hard to explain, simple to do - try it.

TimeMachineEditor allows you to set the frequency of your Time Machine backups. If you're doing disk-intensive work during the day, like photo or video editing, then a Time Machine backup can kill performance (and flood the backup drive with unnecessarily many versions). You can use TMEditor to back up once per day during the night, for instance.

VirtualBox is a good freeware Virtual Machine software. (Runs Windows or Linux in a window.) However, I use Parallels myself, a paid-for virtual-machine program, because it allows me to seamlessly run my native Linux and Windows partitions under OS X.

Then you really owe it to yourself to give Apple's pro gear a spin, like Logic and Final Cut Pro. Wildly confusing at first glance, but watching just a couple tutorials will get you going.
posted by krilli at 4:33 AM on August 7, 2011 [15 favorites]

1Password - awesome password management app that does autofilling in every major Mac browser, allows you to securely access your passwords elsewhere via Dropbox, and handles complicated logins like multi-page bank logins.

Adium - as mentioned above: if you use IM, you should use Adium. Period.

Devonthink - information management database. I use this all the time for any research project I have; it took a while to figure out the power of the application, but now I can't imagine working without it.

Dropbox - if you're not using Dropbox, you're missing out.

Firefox: great multi-platform browser; useful because of all the extensions available.

Google Chrome: my default browser because it feels lightning fast

Handbrake: DVD ripping

NetNewsWire: RSS done right

OmniOutliner: mentioned above; if you do any organization work/outlining, this app is spectacular

LibreOffice/OpenOffice: great Office suite. NeoOffice is the Mac-specific version; I can't tell you much about the differences between them, but don't use decision paralysis as an excuse to not get one of them.

Pandora: streaming musci

Skim: for marking up PDFs

TextExpander: this app has literally saved me over 40 hours of typing in just a couple of years—yes, more than a full work week. This is an amazing text expansion utility, and I cannot believe how useful it is.

Transmission: Bittorrent client

VLC: the handles-everything-and-the-kitchen-sink media player.

I want to give an honorable mention to Quicksilver; the app itself is very slick, but I stopped using it because I can do most of what I need to in Spotlight. YMMV and you should check it out.
posted by philosophygeek at 4:39 AM on August 7, 2011

I'm a programmer so my choices will reflect that. Maybe useful to you, maybe not.

Ditto on the Quicksilver recommendation; I honestly don't know how I would use my computer now without it. It is basically an integral part of my system at this point.

A few more things I didn't see mentioned yet: if you are at all a UNIX/Linux person, and have gotten used to having certain powerful tools available which are not available out of the box on a Mac (for example, I use Wireshark and nmap a fair amount), then you should install Macports (beware confusing pretender "Darwinports," which I guess is some weird copy of the official Macports site). I've also heard good things about Homebrew, but have found Macports completely adequate for my needs. Even if you're not a tech-y person I would recommend installing one of these and investigating what is available that you may find useful.

Also...I don't use it a lot, but Open Office can come in handy if you don't have Office or, what I prefer, Apple's iWork suite. iWork costs money, but it's relatively cheap and quite a nice alternative to Office—I find Open Office frustrating here and there for it's general clunkiness (although it does get the job done, and I'd rather use it than Office much of the time).

Continuing on the theme of sound apps, SuperCollider is absolutely incredible, but the learning curve is steep—it's basically a programming language.

Anki is a pretty damn good program for spaced-repetition-based learning. It has a few quirks that annoy me sometimes, but hey, it's free software and pretty nice for all that. It is available on quite a number of platforms too. The iPad/iPhone version is expensive, but that's how the developer makes money to support the other branches (which are free), so I went ahead and bought a copy—but now I can do my flash card practice on my iPad on a plane, then sync up when I get home and continue on my laptop, etc. Very nice.

Little Snitch is a handy network monitor that will prevent apps from 'dialing out' without your explicit permission, and it also provides a nice monitor of what is going on which will appear if you mouseover the icon in the top right bar (where they put all the app icons, date and time, etc., whatever that's called). I'm sure it has more options than I know about too, I use it in a very basic way.

Ardour: professional grade (supposedly, but I'm neither a professional nor have I tried it in a while, so, grain of salt...but it's been in serious development by people who know what they're doing for a loooong time) digital audio workstation.

If I think of anything else I'll let you know. And if, for some reason, you are interested particularly in language learning (specifically Japanese) or programming, I'm sure I have a bunch of other apps I can suggest...but right now I think it'd be best to just list what I've provided above.

Great post, great answers folks! I'm learning a lot.
posted by dubitable at 5:14 AM on August 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'll add my voice to those recommending Quicksilver. There are a few other similar apps out there; of all the ones I looked at, I liked Alfred best (probably because it seemed to follow the QS model most closely).

After using Font Explorer for a long time, I recently switched to Fontcase, which I like better.

If you write HTML, check into Coda. Aside from being pretty, it's very useful, and has exactly the same "multiplayer" mode as SubEthaEdit. I also use BBEdit—the two are complementary.

NetNewsWire. Yes.

GlimmerBlocker is an ad-blocking proxy. So if you use more than one browser, they all get the same adblock treatment.

I do all my paying work in Apple's iWork apps. I do keep a copy of MS Office around to deal with compatibility issues, but rarely spend much time in it.
posted by adamrice at 6:04 AM on August 7, 2011

Skitch is great for screen grabs.
posted by backwards guitar at 6:10 AM on August 7, 2011

shift+cmd+4 is my screen-grabber of choice. Learning that shortcut was a blessing.

After trying lots of mind-mapping, note-taking and list-making programs, I've settled on Notational Velocity-very lightweight, but with lots of ways to integrate with Spotlight, Dropbox and other work flow tools.
posted by bendybendy at 6:24 AM on August 7, 2011

Software that people have already recommended: Growl, F.lux, Textwrangler, Handbrake, VLC, Marsedit, Perian, Netnewswire (the old version, not the App Store version, which doesn't have all the functionality yet). And Dropbox if you ever share anything.

For app removal, I use the AppTrap preference pane. When I dump an app in the Trash (SOP on a Mac), it pops up a dialog box to ask me whether I want to remove associated files like the preferences and caches.

For arty stuff, I like Acorn, which is cheaper than Photoshop, even Elements.

I use multiple browsers and BookMacster keeps my bookmarks in sync. Other people use different software/services, but I've had it for a long time and it keeps Safari in sync with Chrome and Firefox so my phone (which syncs to Safari) is up to date.
posted by immlass at 6:30 AM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

DiskWarrior is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL. It's a disk utility program that makes problems go away. Think of it as a massage therapist for your Mac. And it's easy to use.

This program has saved me MANY TIMES. It's really useful for fixing corrupt files and keeping harddrives healthy (and getting data off of corrupted harddrives in the process of failing).
posted by Murray M at 6:32 AM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bean for word processing (free)

Scribus for page layout (free)

Inkscape for vector graphics editing (free)

The difference with Skitch (mentioned above) is that it has lots of editing tools and allows you to annotate your screen grabs, for when you need that.

Quicksilver, quicksilver, quicksilver! I use about 1/100th of its functionality and wouldn't trade it for anything. (I found the open source version to be a little wonky so I went back to the original, but that was a while back.)
posted by Room 641-A at 7:20 AM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

(Maybe not an app recommendation, but USE THE INCLUDED TIME MACHINE BACKUP FACILITY! I deeply and sincerely apologize for shouting, but this is so very important. Get a backup drive. The fact that computers are even allowed to be sold without external backup drives is actually one of the most stupidly unnecessary inefficiencies of the free market.)
posted by krilli at 7:42 AM on August 7, 2011

I like DateLine and MagiCal for quick access to calendar and iCal. I also use Air Video Server a lot to stream videos to my iPod Touch. VisualHub is now discontinued but if you can find it it is an awesome all-around tool to compress/switch format of video files.
posted by ddaavviidd at 9:20 AM on August 7, 2011

If you do a lot of torrenting, or simply need to convert lossless audio file types, I can't think of a better piece of software than XLD.
posted by VikingSword at 12:49 PM on August 7, 2011

Mentioned above, seconding: Airfoil and Transmission. Also happy with LastPass for password management.
posted by zippy at 1:34 PM on August 7, 2011

Hazel watches folders and automagically organizes files for you based on rules you set. It's pretty essential for a macbook air, I've found.

I've got mine set to automatically delete dmg files and archives after one week and move movies, videos, pictures, etc, to their appropriate folders..
posted by empath at 1:52 PM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh ,dittos on Air Video Server - an incredible app! You can stream all your videos to your iWhatever no matter where in the world you are.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 2:01 PM on August 7, 2011

I've found a few useful apps via Macworld's Mac Gems.
posted by DakotaPaul at 9:34 PM on August 7, 2011

If you listen to uncompressed FLAC files, then give TwistedFLAC a try. It allows iTunes to play these files. (TwistedWave looks like a good audio editor, although I haven't tried it.)

FuzzMeasure Pro is a really clean and simple signal analysis program. You can measure your speakers' response and your room. Great if you have a studio or build your own speakers.
posted by krilli at 2:16 AM on August 8, 2011

If you are a big nerd, you will probably like Cathode.
posted by moonmilk at 7:38 AM on August 8, 2011

Nthing Adium, for IM, Dropbox, for syncing, and Backblaze, for off-site backup.

I also use Time Machine and Super Duper (Carbon Copy Cloner is a good alternative, I've heard, but I like Super Duper). I work from home, where some files belonging to my employer are only here, and so I have a three-times-redundant backup system (Time Machine, Super Duper, and Backblaze).

I love NetNewsWire for reading RSS feeds, though with the addition of some user scripts like Helvetireader, I've mostly switched to using Google Reader in a browser. I also use NetNewsWire on the iPad, where it is stellar. Most other RSS apps seem focused on showing me some of the stuff I subscribe to. I want much finer control.

Firefox 5 is the browser. I've tried so hard to like Safari and just can't do it.

I never used Quicksilver, but I rely hard on Launchbar, which used to be its competition when both were actively developed. Love it, love it, love it. A Mac without Launchbar is a Mac I can't efficiently use.

Little apps I like a lot are Desktility, to keep icons arranged where I want them on my two-screen desktop, and Fresh (Mac App Store link), which pops up a window with recently used and frequently used documents.

I use MobileMe for calendar/email/contact syncing, so I love QuickCal, which lets me enter new events in plain English without launching iCal or picking up my phone or iPad. Everything propagates to all my devices in a matter of moments. One on Mac, I've switched from iCal to BusyCal, but with each new release of iCal, the differences are less important. If you want to sync MobileMe calendars with Google Calendar, BusyCal has you covered very well.

My FTP app is Transmit. Nothing, repeat nothing, from Panic is junk. They're wonderful.
posted by kostia at 1:03 PM on August 8, 2011

Oh, and 1Password. Can't believe I didn't catch that one.
posted by kostia at 1:03 PM on August 8, 2011

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