I made the switch to Mac OS X a little over two years ago when I bought my first MacBook (which is still working fine as my main computer, I might add). I find that my workflow has improved, and I’m more efficient in my daily tasks. Exposé and Spaces are probably a large part of that.
The idea to share my most frequently used applications came to me recently, so I thought I would write-up a quick compilation of the software that I use on a daily basis post-Windows. Obviously I needn’t bother with the “well, duh…” applications like iTunes, Terminal, or my choice in web browser. After all, the major browsers all have Mac versions. Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Safari. (I use Firefox, despite the speed issues, since I’m fairly dependent on certain extensions.)
I don’t do a lot of Instant Messaging, but I keep an account on all of the major services for the occasions when I need to. Apple’s own iChat only supports AIM, MobileMe, ICQ, and Bonjour, if I’m not mistaken. Many users, including myself, prefer Adium for it’s extensive protocol support. You can chat on AIM, Jabber (GMail/GTalk), Yahoo, MSN, Facebook, ICQ, Bonjour, and many others. It has a good interface, and it’s feature set is more than adequate for most users. I don’t believe it offers voice or video chat options, but you can always open Skype or iChat for those.
Need to share a file fast? That’s what CloudApp is all about. It sits in your menu bar, waiting for you to drag a file onto it. When you do, it uploads the file to the service’s redundant servers and copies a short URL to your clipboard. It has some more nice features, but that’s the crux of it. I find it useful for sharing files or screenshots, and it keeps my Dropbox account from becoming too cluttered.
There are fancy FTP clients like Transmit and Forklift, but if you’re holding out for a free option, look no further than CyberDuck. It’s one-pane interface looks good and works well, and it’s fairly feature-rich. (I use the term “FTP client” loosely, for, like Transmit, it’s more of a “file transfer application.” It supports FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, and Amazon 3 among other protocols.) It doesn’t seem quite as fast as Transmit at uploads, but you can’t beat the price. I have used CyberDuck for most of my time as a Mac user, and only recently have I tried Transmit. It’s certainly an option, and well worth tipping a few dollars to the creator if you like it.
Dropbox is a service I previously wrote a post about. I described it as something akin to the floppy drive of the twenty-first century, with a bit of off-site backup in the mix. Basically you get a “Dropbox” folder (in your home directory) that automatically syncs up to Dropbox’s servers. It keep the files inside in sync with any other computers you use Dropbox with. When you edit a file on one computer, it changes instantly on the other. It also has handy sharing features that let you share a subfolder with another Dropbox user, or keep a public folder for files you might need to send a download link for.
I use Dropbox primarily to back-up critical files off-site. I use symbolic links so my most important documents are picked-up by Dropbox and safely mirrored in the cloud.
You get 2GB of storage space for free, and you can increase the quota up to 10GB by referring friends. Paid plans with up to 100GB are available for a reasonable monthly fee.
Homepage: Dropbox (Affiliate links gives both of us an additional 250MB of storage.)
The editor has decent syntax highlighting and indentation support, as well as facilities for storing code snippets.
If you work on websites locally, then publish them to a server, Espresso’s FTP/SFTP/S3 publication features make it easy to keep things in sync without bringing an external FTP client into the mix. I still haven’t gotten around to setting any of my WordPress sites up that way myself yet, despite the time savings it would offer for quick theme edits.
Before I had an iPod Touch, I would carry around a small notepad in my pocket. Anything I wanted to remember, an idea for a blog post, a name for a new website, the answer to a vexing code problem, I would note down for later reference. I eventually replaced that practice with a neat service called Evernote. It runs on an iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Mobile or Android device for easy mobile note taking. Your notes are synced up to Evernote’s servers, so you can access them from a web interface or a desktop (Mac/Windows/Linux) application.
Evernote is one of those things you just have to try to fully understand. It can collect snippets of web pages, photos or voice recording from your phone, or just plain text input. You can sort your notes into separate notebooks, tag them, search them.
There is a 40MB monthly storage limit, but most users won’t run into it. Text notes are tiny, and you could create thousands of them before you reach your monthly quota. $45 a year gets you 500MB of monthly space, making the photo feature much more useful. Want to remember the brand that made those delicious cookies? Take a picture with your phone and seamlessly upload it to Evernote. Now your external brain will never forget it.
I have always had trouble finding RSS aggregators I like. I started out using Firefox’s “Live Bookmarks” feature, and when my feed collection outgrew that I created my own web-based reader that emulated the experience of Live Bookmarks.
Nowadays I use Newsfire. I like the application’s two-pane interface, and I can speed through my unread items fairly quickly. The only thing it’s really missing is Google Reader sync (I can’t stand Google Reader’s interface, but it serves as a good way to keep a desktop aggregator and an iPhone reader in sync) and a way to get an overview of the day’s hottest stories.
I haven’t found an RSS reader, other than Newsfire, that comes anywhere near what I consider to be adequate to my peculiar tastes. If the developer would just add Google Reader syncing, it would be just about perfect.
I mainly use Google Apps for my email, and forward pretty much everything into one inbox. Since I prefer using the web interface to a desktop client, I use Notify to alert me to incoming messages. It can monitor multiple POP/IMAP accounts and send you a Growl notification when new messages come in. It sits in the menubar and displays a count of unread messages. Notify even lets you preview, delete, and respond to messages right from the menu bar.
Repeat after me: GIMP is not an adequate replacement for Photoshop. It may be fine if you mainly do quick photo retouching, but it’s not going to slice the salami for anyone doing web design.
I’m still using CS1, since the cost of upgrading is pretty steep, but it’s been good enough for me so far. It runs under Rosetta, seeing as this version was released before Apple started putting Intel processors in Macs, but there isn’t a noticeable performance hit.
iPod and iTunes, meet Last.fm.
ScrobblePod monitors your listening habits and “scrobbles” the tracks to Last.fm, helping the service build up a richer profile of your music preferences.
I like listening to Last.fm on days when I want to hear something new, and scrobbling helps improve its recommendations. I use ScrobblePod because the “official” Mac application was causing iTunes to crash and corrupt my iPod’s album art. It provides some extra handy features, anyway.
Photoshop is essential for heavy-duty image manipulation, but Skitch is great for capturing and cropping quick screenshots for use in blog posts. Some basic annotation features are included as well.
You can save a file from Skitch to your local machine, or you can effortlessly upload it to the Skitch hosting service or your own FTP server or Flickr account.
Bare Bones Software, famous for BBEdit, also has a free (yet still capable) text editor by the name of TextWrangler.
I use TextWrangler as a light-weight editor for making quick modifications, simple non-code text files, or other things that don’t require a full-blown IDE like Espresso. It’s fast, lightweight, and good at editing text.
While I have been a long-time CyberDuck user, I’ve been considering switching to Panic Software’s Transmit. It’s faster and it offers some interesting features I like. I’m still using the 7-day free trial, as I’m not quite ready to shell-out $34.
Transmit is a very slick and capable file transfer application, as I said in my post about Transmit 4.
You won’t find a Twitter client, Mac or otherwise, more polished than Tweetie. I’ve been using it pretty much since it’s release. Though it took me a little while to get used to the interface, I much prefer it to anything else out there.
A 2.0 release with support for the new way of retweeting and syncing with the official Twitter iPhone app (formerly known as Tweetie for iPhone) is in the works, though it seems like it’s taking forever.
You can read my full post about Tweetie here.
Bonus: Some Apps I Use Regularly But Not Quite Every Day
Need to edit some audio? You could use Garageband, but the open-source (and cross-platform) Audacity is a good alternative more simpler tasks. If you don’t need to do loop sequences or things more oriented toward music production, Audacity might come in handy.
Need to use IRC? Internet Relay Chat hasn’t changed much in the last twenty years, but clients for the ancient chatroom protocol have advanced somewhat. Colloquy is probably the premier Macintosh IRC client. It can auto-connect you to your favorite channels at launch time, and it sports a convenient tabbed interface.
Where did all that hard drive space go? 250GB just isn’t enough these days…
DaisyDisk is a visual disk usage mapper. It analyzes your drive and shows you just what’s taking up all of your storage space in a pretty, interactive map.
Ripping up DVDs is an increasingly common practice, despite the complexity in comparison to CDs. Maybe you want to watch a movie on your MacBook or iPod without lugging a DVD with you? Or you want to make a copy so the original doesn’t get broken or scratched? Rip It is simply the best app for the job.
Homepage: Rip It
Screencasting is all the rage in the blogosphere these days. Whether you’re making a tutorial, a machinima video, or showing off the interface of some software you’re selling, capturing video from your computer screen is a fairly common request. Screenflow is one of the best Mac solutions for video capture. Unfortunately, it’s pricey. (I was lucky to get a hefty discount from MacUpdate, but the normal retail price is $99.)
WireTap Studio records any audio playing on your computer. You could use it for podcasting, as you can record a mix of your voice and a call coming in from Skype, for instance. You can limit recording to specific applications, or go system-wide. You can select up to two recording sources. It’s pretty neat, and there are plenty of uses for it.
Homepage: WireTap Studio