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Essential Mac OS X Applications

Last Updated in September 2008, but I intend to keep this up to date.

Both the MacBook and the iMac come with iLife ’08 and Leopard (10.5) now. That fulfills my need for iPhoto (to import pictures from the camera). If you have a Mac Mini, Mac Pro, or MacBook Pro; you get Leopard, but you do not get iLife. If you want iPhoto; you may want to snag a copy of iLife to go with your new desktop or laptop.

Other things built into the machine are: Safari (excellent web browser), Mail (best mail reader since ZMail), AddressBook (excellent contacts database), Terminal (pretty good shell/terminal emulator), and TextEdit (for reading those pesky, proprietary, and annoying MS Word doc files people insist on sending me). UNIX geeks will want to install the optional X11 software and Xcode Tools (developer toolkit) that come on the Mac OS X install DVD; but are not installed in the standard install. The Xcode Tools includes a bunch of useful UNIX software for setting up SMTP mail and compiling code, and X11 offers an XWindows server native to the Mac OS GUI.

I recommend iWork if you are doing lots of word processing and/or presentations. The Pages and Keynote portions of iWork are excellent, and frankly, better than the MS Office programs called Word and PowerPoint. Numbers, which is the spreadsheet portion of iWork, is decent, but it is no where near as powerful as Excel; so serious spreadsheet users need to get MS Office instead.

Nearly everything else I use is available for free download, and comes as Disk Image (.dmg file) which makes it trivial to install. Sadly the Palm Desktop Software I use to control my Tungsten C (PDA) from my Mac is only available as a Stuffit Archive (.sit file), so I had to find Suffit Expander (free, but a pain to find now) and install that as well.

Mac OS X 10.5 “Leopard” install DVD
X11
Xcode Tools

iLife ’08

You don’t need either of these, and only one of the two:
iWork (excellent word processor and presentation, limited spreadsheet)
Microsoft Office (buggy and bloated word processor, decent presentation, excellent spreadsheet)

Stuffit Expander (for extracting the last few Stuffit Archives in the world, if you have nothing with a .sit extension, skip this)
Adium (best AIM/Jabber/MSN Messenger/Yahoo Messenger)
Colloquy (IRC client)
VideoLan (Video playback for many formats not supported in QuickTime)
Flip4Mac (Quicktime and Web extension allowing Windows Media files to play)

Web Browsers:
Safari (comes with OS X; fine for many things, some security flaws)
Camino (Excellent Web Browser, very fast text display, screaming fast text)
Firefox (Excellent all-around web browser, very customizable)
OmniWeb (Excellent web browser, very fast, excellent bookmark management)

Carbon Copy Cloner (bootable image backups to external drive)
TimeMachine (incremental file backups, but not bootable images; can back up to drive, file, remote drive, or TimeCapsule)

Chicken of the VNC (useful for remote control of other machines)
QuickSilver (Application launcher and search program)

OmniDictionary (Dictionary spelling and thesaurus)
OmniFocus (Getting Things Done tool, organizer)

Palm Desktop (Desktop organizer for Palm PDA devices)
Plucker Desktop (ebook/cached web page reader for Palm PDA devices)

OmniGrafflePro (Visual Diagram Software, the Visio-killer!)
Graphic Converter (Very good and affordable photo image editor, though iPhoto v7 and newer can do the same thing)

Additional stuff you may find useful as a UNIX geek:
SSHKeychain (runs an SSH agent to handle keys for you so ssh -A remote_host works with no password)
OpenVPN (open source Virtual Private Network for UNIX and Mac and PC)
Tunnelblick (a GUI front end to OpenVPN software)
DbVisualizer (GUI based access to your Oracle/Sybase/MySQL/PostgrSQL databases)
MacPorts (Mac OS X version of Darwin Ports which is the Darwin version of the BSD ports command, think of it like apt-get, zypper, or rpm)
Synergy (share a mouse/keyboard over several computers; perhaps the most useful tool available on the planet)

Also, I typically set up the first account on a Mac as “Administrator” with the short name admin, then I set myself up as a second account without administrative priviledges so it is harder for hostile software to grab my machine. If you use this, be sure to remove the quarantine on software you trust once you have installed it as the “Administrator” user:

su - admin
cd /Applications ; xattr -d com.apple.quarantine Firefox.app Adium.app VLC.app OmniWeb.app Camino.app

The new iMac comes with the “Mighty Mouse” and the new aluminum keyboard… I was skeptical, but initial impression is very good on the keyboard, and my previous dislike of the Mighty Mouse may be fixed by turning off horizontal scrolling (I found it made vertical scrolling harder to control). Most of all, I love being able to simply turn off the annoying Caps-Lock key (hurrah for Preferences/Keyboard&Mouse Control in 10.4 and 10.5).

Here are some applications others have recommended:
PictureSync (for automatic/easy transfer of pictures from iPhoto to Flickr)
Handbrake (to rip your own DVDs into AppleTV, iTunes, or iPod/iPhone)
Fugu (graphical interface for scp/ssh/sftp; I prefer the commands, but GUI fans may like this)
Oracle SQL Developer (free GUI tool for developing SQL statements you can insert into other code)
Coda (Panic’s fantastic web development toolkit)
Transmit (Panic’s excellent GUI front end for scp/sftp/ftp)
OmniOutliner Pro (OmniGroup’s outliner)
NetNewsWire (RSS reader)
PhotoShop (Adobe’s big image editor)
MarsEdit (word processor for LiveJournal and WordPress blog posts)
iTerm (alternative terminal sessions with tabbed sessions)
Conversation (IRC alternative client)
iPodRip (share iTunes music between several Macs)
Skype (VOIP)
TeamSpeex (VOIP)
Ventrilo (VOIP)
Popcorn (Roxio’s )
Toast (Roxio’s CD/DVD burner/authoring)
StickyBrain (alternative to Stickies, now looks like it is replaced with SOHO Notes and can sync multiple computers)
Unison (awesome Usenet News Reader by Panic)
unison (keeps folders/directories in sync over multiple machines)
Open Office (free and open source office productivity suite)

These suggestions are from Mindflayer, Sutragirl, and Brian L; thanks folks!

Mindflayer has his own lists: Leopard applications and Tiger applications

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