What are the Mac Software Must Haves
May 29, 2008 11:00 AM   Subscribe

I just switched to Macs and I was a Windows power user (video editing, audio editing, scanning, graphic design, presentations, flowcharting, spreadsheets, databases, web design). What software can I absolutely not live without for the Mac? Being a fan of Open Source software (and excessively cheap) I'd prefer open source apps when possible.
posted by arniec to Computers & Internet (23 answers total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
If you have any intention of doing video editing professionally, or even having professional work done on any projects, I really wouldn't recommend using any editing program other than Final Cut Pro or Avid Soft. Most professional post-houses use either Avid or FCP (seems more are moving to FCP), so it would benefit you greatly to stick with either of these two programs.

As for the rest... It seems like most of the really popular open source stuff is cross-platform (at least that I know of, but I've been a Mac user my whole life, so that may not be true). For basic audio I use Audacity. For video conversion and DVD extraction I usually use MPEG Streamclip. For editing code I use Text Wrangler. For playback I use VLC Player. For design I use Adobe products.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 11:12 AM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Just thought I might add a few general productivity and maintenance tools:

posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 11:18 AM on May 29, 2008

Video Editing = iMovie '08 (and you can get a free downgrade to a version that doesn't suck). Final Cut and Avid are the power apps here, but are pricey.

Audio Editing = Garageband, Audacity, or Sound Studio depending on what you what to do.

Scanning = Image Capture (free on the Mac), Vuescan (shareware app that works with most scanners), or the drivers from your scanner company.

Presentations = Keynote (works for Steve Jobs and Al Gore)

Flowcharting = more than you can shake a stick at, but many of the Omni Suit apps do this.

Databases = MySQL? Or do you mean more like Bento?

Notebook is a pretty cool app as well.

http://versiontracker.com is your friend

Bang around with the iLife apps and give the iWork trial a try.

I didn't bother with the graphic design part of your question, since I am sure you can do this without Adobe, but I wonder who would want to.

Transmit, Coda, and CSSedit are essential and fairly cheap if you want to do webdesign on the cheap. Try iWeb, but am guessing you'll hate it if you are really a power user.

I wish I had more open source options to give you, but I generally buy cheap apps instead.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:20 AM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

TextWrangler is pretty good. I like Notepad++ on Windows but TW works fine on the Mac. If you need more than that, KomodoEdit is cross-platform. Neither KE or TW are open-source, but both are free.

Other things I have found useful: Witch, a free task switcher that uses alt-tab instead of cmd-tab. Also lets you easily cycle between specific windows of open programs, and un-minimizes minimized windows on selection. Made my switch a bit easier. You'll also want QuickSilver if you haven't already installed it. I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of that one.

Adobe CS suite on Mac = Adobe CS on Windows. I haven't noticed any differences, really, aside from minor differences with the keyboard shortcuts. If you used it extensively before switching, you may want to bite the bullet and get it. The Gimp works, but it isn't Photoshop. If you have the Adobe menu items and commands burned permanently into memory you won't be comfortable with The Gimp. On the other hand, if you don't need Adobe then stick with The Gimp for most graphics and Inkscape for vector stuff.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:26 AM on May 29, 2008

Nthing Quicksilver. I use it primarily as a launcher, which allows me to keep my dock small and free of junk, but I'm told it is capable of WAY more.

I use Adium for IM. It's a nice cross-platform program that lets me chat with everyone at once. It's free.
posted by Pecinpah at 11:42 AM on May 29, 2008

I second CSSEdit, it's awesome.

For the remaining web development tasks, there is Eclipse with WDT. It's a great IDE with HTML and XML editors, a CSS Editor if you don't use CSSEdit, svn and cvs integration, etc. With the PDT plugin, it's IMO also one of the best PHP IDEs, if you require one. Open Source.
posted by uncle harold at 11:43 AM on May 29, 2008

Textmate is another very good editor. Macports is a good system for installing a large chunk of the freeware apps that are out there. Transmission's a good simple bittorrent client. Adium is sort of a one-stop chat shop, able to talk to all the major IM systems. I think all of your other requirements were already covered. :)
posted by Malor at 12:07 PM on May 29, 2008

TextMate rules as well, I meant to include it with my web design apps, but it does a lot more. And they have a sense of humor.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:09 PM on May 29, 2008

Not really in the 'freeware' category, but the best video/audio/design apps you're going to find are going to be by either Apple or Adobe. (I'm an ardent anything-NOT-by-Avid user.)

I'm fairly sure there's a version of OpenOffice for the Mac; I'd also recommend VLC Player. Blender is nice (and free!) 3D modeling software. Celtx is free scriptwriting software.
posted by reductiondesign at 12:14 PM on May 29, 2008

I was like pecinpah, just used QS as a launcher..until they reved spotlight in 10.5. Now I dont even have QS (GASP) installed. I use spotlight, just as fast (if not faster).
posted by ShawnString at 12:34 PM on May 29, 2008

I'm fairly sure there's a version of OpenOffice for the Mac
posted by vsync at 1:03 PM on May 29, 2008

Warning - self-link, but I keep this list for questions like this.

My List of Essential Mac Software
posted by mrbill at 1:53 PM on May 29, 2008 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all for the ideas. I downloaded NeoOffice and iMovie 05 or 06 (whichever Apple is still offering) is loads better than 08 I agree.

MrBill, great list. not sure how much all of those would cost me but I will keep at them.

I use GIMP rather than Adobe for now; it suits my needs.

How about system utilities? Things for RAR files? I have FileZilla and StuffIt right now. What other system power utils will I need?
posted by arniec at 2:22 PM on May 29, 2008

posted by nicwolff at 2:32 PM on May 29, 2008

Here are some websites:

The first two focus on free and open source software. The last is a web 2.0-ish site where you can gauge the popularity of Mac software.

Nicer than Gimp, there are a lot of new, cheap photo-editing apps on the market. I recommend you try Pixelmator. Similarly, there's a bunch of new, sub-$100 vector graphics programs, reviewed here. If you don't need the full power of Adobe's apps, there are a number of cheap, delightful alternatives around.

I use The Unarchiver for Rar files.
OnyX does most of the system maintenance you'll ever need. Tinkertool lets you fiddle around inside the system.

If you go to OpenOffice.org, there is now a Mac native port that doesn't use X11; I find this better than NeoOffice, but really I use Apple's iWork apps for most tasks. TextEdit is good enough for most light word processing. The built-in dictionary is awesome (CMD-Ctrl-D, in any app will look up the word underneath the mouse cursor).
posted by nowonmai at 3:17 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I suggest:

Fugu for FTP
ImageWell for quick and dirty cropping and resizing
BBedit for HTML
Newsfire for RSS
Skim for reading PDFs
DrawBerry for vector-art
Camino for web browsing
Transmission for torrents
Thunderbird for email
VLC for watching movies
posted by pwb503 at 3:22 PM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to say thanks for asking this question because I was about to post nearly the same thing! And thanks to everyone who answered as well.
posted by thedanimal at 3:29 PM on May 29, 2008

OmniGraffle is what caused me to switch from Windows to the PC in the first place. Highly recommended.
posted by SpecialK at 3:51 PM on May 29, 2008

D'oh. Windows to the Mac.
posted by SpecialK at 3:52 PM on May 29, 2008

For FTP: Cyberduck. nthing Quicksilver; you can even post to Twitter using Quicksilver
posted by Korou at 4:30 PM on May 30, 2008

Also: Jumcut, a clipboard manager.
posted by Korou at 5:10 PM on May 30, 2008

Response by poster: Anyone know of good Skype recording software? For recording voice mails to WAVs and also recording Skype phone calls? (I do a lot of phone interviews for podcasts)
posted by arniec at 7:22 AM on June 2, 2008

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