Switcher recommendations?
February 3, 2004 4:53 PM   Subscribe

Just made the switch to Mac OS X (12" Powerbook) -- my first Apple. For the Mac crowd -- any "standard build" recommendations? Favorite app, apple script, etc that I should be checking out? Just installed Office, but that's about it so far.....
posted by mmangano to Computers & Internet (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have a Mac but for someone like me, at least, I couldn't imagine keeping myself sane on one without Fink, the Debian port to OSX.
posted by majick at 5:10 PM on February 3, 2004

go to versiontracker.com and get launchbar. you'll wonder how you used a computer before you had it.
posted by untuckedshirts at 5:25 PM on February 3, 2004

NetNewsWire and Ecto (formerly kung-log). I also like MenuMeters. For document prep, nothing beats TeXShop. The only piece of Microsoft software on this machine is the Remote Desktop Client. For video conversion/burning, I use ffmpegX and the MissingMediaTools.

The very first thing I do on any new OS X install is run SuperCal. It makes any monitor I've run across look positively amazing.

For some reason, I just don't like the Fink system, but then I'm a picky sysadmin type.
posted by mrbill at 5:28 PM on February 3, 2004

what are you into? what types of things do you do with a computer?
Right off the bat, i would say: Safari for browsing; Bittorrent and Mlmac for sharing; MPlayer OS X for viewing video; Suitcase for font management; Photoshop for images; Itunes for music; Transmit for ftp; Trashit for thorough trashing of files...
posted by amberglow at 5:28 PM on February 3, 2004

Oh yeah, and of course, the VideoLan Client for playing any media file under the sun.
posted by mrbill at 5:29 PM on February 3, 2004

I got a "show desktop" app from versiontracker that I like a lot. Also enjoying NetNewsWire lite for RSS feeds. It's worth it to know that OSX has some nifty little apps built in, usually in the Applications folder or in the Utilities folder inside that. Little stuff like a calculator, a screen grabber, a color sampler, etc. iTunes is really handy though it can take a little time getting used to how it works. I have a little script that will show what I am listening to in my iChat window. Dorky but I like it. One thing OSX does NOT have [or didn't when I got it] was a useful GUI ftp client. I use Transmit and find it was worth the registration fee. Same with BBEdit for a full-featured GUI text editor. Other than that, stop using IE immediately and try out Safari. Most worthwhile software can be found on versiontracker.com and I have learned some good stuff via the OSX community on tribe.net and the Apple site has an okay set of forums.
posted by jessamyn at 5:33 PM on February 3, 2004

My weapons of choice? Streamripper X, Chicken of the VNC, Fink Commander, Missing Media Burner, Tyrantula X and Webgrabber.

There's also Frequency, an audio editing tool that's sometimes confused with Frequency, the equally decent weblog client.
posted by Smart Dalek at 5:36 PM on February 3, 2004

Fire should do the trick for all your instant messaging needs. SubEthaEdit for collaborative text editing, or more probably just handing .txt files or any coding you might want to do.

Oh, and some other browser, too. If it hasn't told you to download Safari yet you might want to do that. Although Firebird seems to work well too...
posted by nthdegx at 5:37 PM on February 3, 2004

I second third NewNewsWire (Lite)
posted by Utilitaritron at 5:38 PM on February 3, 2004

I'm cheap so I use BBEdit Lite for editing, which is the slightly-less-featured free version. It's available on their download page somewhere.

I second the recommendation for Launchbar. It rocks. I now find myself hitting alt-space on my Windows machine at work.

I couldn't find any FTP client I liked for the longest time so I do it all via the Terminal. There are only a few commands that won't take you long to learn. I actually prefer it to GUI clients now because it's faster when dealing with lots of files. Since I usually know what I'm looking for, it's nice to not have to wait while the thing downloads the whole file list.

And if your recent Mac purchase has left you too poor to purchase Photoshop (or you're too honorable to steal it), take the plunge and set up The Gimp. Takes a little getting used to, but it's more than adequate for my image manipulation needs at home. And it's free!
posted by web-goddess at 6:20 PM on February 3, 2004

NetNewsWire Lite and LaunchBar. I paid for the LaunchBar license ($20) within a couple hours of downloading.
posted by anathema at 6:41 PM on February 3, 2004

GraphicConverter is the best image viewer I've found.

Also, LiFTP is a decent free alternative to Transmit.

Welcome to the family!
posted by esch at 7:28 PM on February 3, 2004

A superb instant messenging client is Adium (www.adiumx.com). It's in very heavy development, but the "alpha" is more full-featured than most IM clients I've seen that are in stable production statuses, and while I'm not lucky enough to get the more advanced AIM features (only seem to work with Panther @_@) it still rocks hard.

And yet another shout-out for NetNewsWire Lite, which however has died on me lately, it doesn't want to get any feeds and complains about my POSIX threads. Which are fine as far as I know. My Mac hasn't gotten any more or less POSIX compliant lately o_O
posted by cyrusdogstar at 7:52 PM on February 3, 2004

I think any Mac with a burner (CD or DVD) should have Toast. The burning features native to the Mac OS are adequate for most needs, but Toast is much more versatile.
posted by joaquim at 7:57 PM on February 3, 2004

My favorite app is Notational Velocity. The best note taking software I've ever found. And it's free!
posted by dobbs at 9:29 PM on February 3, 2004

A related question: I'm buying a 12" ibook, and I have to choose between upping the memory to 384mb, or getting a second battery.

Will Panther run at a reasonable speed with only 256mb? I thank you.
posted by mecran01 at 6:14 AM on February 4, 2004

You will probably want to take advantage of the extra battery, but you will use the memory. You can always spring for a battery later if you find yourself needing it.
posted by majick at 6:51 AM on February 4, 2004

Firstly, I second the recommendations for Fink, GraphicConverter and Fire.

Fugu is free and excellent for file transfers if your remote host(s) support SFTP (and they darn well should in this day and age!). The S stands for secure, as in encrypted end to end.

You don't need MS Office, BTW. You can get Open Office to run on OS X. It requires Apple's X11 client, but it works just fine and plays nicely with MS Office files. You get that and Fink going and you'll have the ability to run just about any popular Unix/Linux application.

I also recommend getting familiar with the OS X command line environment. Terminal.app is in /Applications/Utilities and sometimes using command line tools is your best way to clean something up or accomplish a task.

Finally, one of the best computer games ever is now available to be played on OS X
posted by ursus_comiter at 7:28 AM on February 4, 2004

Stuff I like (sorry about the absence of links - I'm in a rush)

AdGate - very flexible ad blocking shareware
Synergy - sits in menubar and controls iTunes
FruitMenu - gives you a quasi-Windows-style start-menu
WeatherPop - weather forecast in your menubar
Searchling - another menubar extra, that lets you quickly look things up in dictionary.com, google, etc.
A Better Finder Rename - batch file renamer; you'll need it sooner or later
iView Media Pro - a great media viewer
Toast - an absolute must

Not sure what your ethics are about trying software before you buy it, or extending your trial period, but http://www.macserialjunkie.com/ is a good place to start, if you're into that sort of thing. mac.torrentskickass.com is also a good place to find downloadable goodies.
posted by stonerose at 8:00 AM on February 4, 2004

Try this thread on MacNN for freeware/shareware. My favorites are Carbon Copy Cloner for backups, Proteus for instant messaging, NetNewsWire Lite for RSS feeds, GraphicConverter for images, Transmit for FTP, SpamSieve for email filtering, Thoth for newsreading, and PCalc, a calculator. They can all be found on MacUpdate. As far as commercial apps, I use BBEdit, Mailsmith, Photoshop, MS Office, and PGP pretty regularly. Toast Titanium is handy as well.
posted by hyperizer at 8:04 AM on February 4, 2004

As a new Macintosh user, can I recommend that you start out with as clean an installation of Mac OS X as possible, and actually use it for awhile before you start loading it down with 3rd party products that "extend" it? I'm not talking about full-blown applications like Photoshop or BBEdit but rather the menubar extras and the hacks and such that either alter or "workaround" Mac OS X's native functionality. Get comfortable with the real thing first, then decide you can't live without an Apple menu "like in the old days" or a dock icon that displays a dancing little CPU usage graphic.

And you should really try to use the Apple-supplied applications - Safari and Mail are both excellent and while you'll find passionate users of alternative products ranting about the shortcomings of both, you'll probably find, as most people do, that they are more than sufficient for your needs.

Lastly, save yourself an immense amount of time and stay away from anything that requires something called "APE" to be installed, as well as anything that munges the actual appearance of Mac OS X (OS X was designed to be "skinnable" but in the shipping version it definitely is not - anything that claims to change the appearance is mucking about in unsupported, undocumented ways...)
posted by JollyWanker at 8:40 AM on February 4, 2004

Lastly, save yourself an immense amount of time and stay away from anything that requires something called "APE" to be installed

This bad advice is almost folk mythology now, and should be ignored. I have never—repeat, NEVER—had a problem with APE or any of the haxies which use it, across the hundreds of computers on which I have installed it and various add-ons which use it. APE is no more a problem than any other software you might run on your Mac.

The likely origin of this bad advice is that Finder crash logs often list APE as part of the memory and process map, so people who read these crash logs wrongly assume APE is the culprit. In fact, since APE is operational at all times (at near-zero processor usage), it is bound to show up in the Finder crash log, no matter what program is really causing the crashing.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:32 AM on February 4, 2004

To add to the above...

Absolutely get either cocktail (shareware) or YASU.

Every time you do a major update, it will fix permissions/rebind the system/run the daily,weekly,monthly cron jobs.

VLC for running all those .avi you've downloaded.

DiskWarrior is an absolute must for repairs.

KisMac for sniffing those wireless networks.

All findable at versiontracker.
posted by filmgeek at 10:38 AM on February 4, 2004

Imagewell is a pretty awesome screen shot app. You can take the screen shot, crop and/or resize, and upload it to a server and copy the url of the image to the clipboard in about ten seconds.

I just downloaded Simple List a couple of days ago and like it a lot (I'm a listy kind of gal, though so YMMV).

There is a little clock ap that enhances the OS X clock, and a copy and past utility made by the same people that keeps track of what's on your clipboard so you can paste things you copied forever ago (it works a little bit like the mulitple clipboard entries on MS Word, but nowhere near as annoying) that I read about in MacWorld that I absolutely adore, but I can't remember what they are called. I'll look when I get home, though.
posted by jennyb at 12:20 PM on February 4, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions/comments!! This thread is a keeper!
posted by mmangano at 1:18 PM on February 4, 2004

I'm late to the party.

If you go for command line interfaces, you'll likely love iTerm. Tabbed terminal windows are delicious.

Count me in with those that love LaunchBar. It has one failing - you can't enter a path, hit enter, and have the path come up in the Finder - but as a way to launch applications it can't be beat.

Fink is wonderful for us Debian dorks. apt is a great piece of software. If you don't want to muck around on the command line, though, you likely won't find too much use for it.

mecran01: Go with the memory. An extra battery will help you some of the time, but more RAM will help you all of the time. I find that during daily use OS X is sluggish on machines with 256MB.
posted by amery at 1:56 PM on February 4, 2004


command-space, find, shift-command-g enter.

all done!

posted by n9 at 12:09 PM on February 5, 2004

erg. it at the part where i said 'type path here' for some reason. do that before hitting enter.
posted by n9 at 12:10 PM on February 5, 2004

JunkMatcher for trapping spam within Mail.app

Voodoopad lite is super cool. It's a local wiki. I love that thing.

Ical (built in) is quite elegant as well, and I'm digging garageband. I would like to find a freeware equivalent of Toast for burning iso images. I love Panther. LOVE it.
posted by mecran01 at 5:06 PM on February 26, 2004

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