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Essential OS X Software

by Rob Friesel

Revisiting last year’s list to make this the 2007 edition… It’s the Top 10 “it should have been in the box” applications for OS X. And in some cases, they are in the box; but in most cases they are not. That said, the top 10 “can’t live without ’em” applications for the OS X desktop environment.

  1. Quicksilver — This was last year’s lead-off item as well. I cannot stress enough how awesome this one little, almost totally and completely transparent application is. The cliche in the Quicksilver-using community holds true with me: “I feel crippled without this thing.” Cmd+Space all day long; who needs a mouse when you have this?
  2. VoodooPad — Another one from last year. I spend just about all day in this thing, too. Everything that you need in a notepad application and more. Everything you need in a personal wiki application and more. Per-page encryption, linkback support, backlink lists, document-wide searches, export options galore, hooks for Quicksilver, scripting via Lua. This app has it all.
  3. Cyberduck — Three in a row from last year. This fully-featured FTP application is complete with SFTP support and FTP-over-TLS. It also features Bonjour, AppleScript, and Keychain Access support. Plus it’s a free, open source download. Occasional random crashes (especially on drag/drop downloads) are a little annoying but hardly a deal-breaker. Especially when you throw Growl into the mix.
  4. OmniOutliner — I resisted this one for a long time. “A list manager? For what? I got my lists right here in VoodooPad!” Well, after about a week of throwing to do lists and project outlines into OmniOutliner… You better believe I “got it” then. Notes/comments, linkback support, customizable formatting. Really nicely done.
  5. OmniGraffle– Echo of last year: Pretty much the perfect diagramming application. And with some sweet drawing capabilities wrapped up in it, too. (Because those are pretty intrinsically linked.) Worth the price. And so is the Professional version. Not much to add to that.
  6. ImageWell– Just about the ideal lightweight image editor for “quickie” edits. The free version doesn’t have all the bells/whistles but you can get by on that. (Though you’ll be tempted to spring for the pro version every day until you break down and do it…) The UI is a little weird if you’re already accustomed to more professional graphics editor (i.e., Photoshop) but once you get the hang of it, ImageWell is the perfect app for the 2 minute “crop > circle > label > upload” task.
  7. SIMBL — Not really an application… More of a… Framework? No, that’s not right. More of a… Meta-plug-in? That’s more like it. SIMBL allows you to graft all kinds of wicked cool UI hacks into all kinds of applications. See also: iPhoto Keyword Manager. See also: Visor. See also: Safari WebDev Additions.
  8. Lingon — Perhaps the deepest geek item on this list, Lingon is the launchd editor/manager. With launchd in the background and Lingon up front, cron looks like some kind of 17th century automata. Between Lingon and Smultron, Apple should at least comp Peter Borg 10 years worth of .Mac membership or something.
  9. Perian — This replaces Flip4Mac as the crucial plug-in for QuickTime. I know VLC seems to have the bigger following and get all the press but its last release seemed to broken — several video files it didn’t seem to want to play any more. Oddly enough, Perian’s done an OK job with most of those. Still need Flip4Mac for Windows Media files. Fortunately, those are few and far between.
  10. TextMate — The verdict is in. For text (especially code), TextMate trumps them all. Nothing can touch it. If you spend hours a day staring at scripts and source, TextMate rocks it. That said, the price tag is a little steep-feeling sometimes. Well worth it but if you can’t justify that for yourself: Smultron comes close.

On browsers: Last year’s list posited Camino as one of the essential ten. As browser preferences are their own nerdy jihad, let’s just work our through this with the following. To date, Camino has given me the best browser experience on the Mac desktop. Wrapping the Gecko rendering engine in a Cocoa-based browser keeps the UI consistent with the rest of the OS while giving what many have argued is the best overall in-browser experience (in terms of functionality, features, consistent rendering, etc.) For most casual browsers, this should be more than enough. But casual browsers are likely stick with what is pre-loaded (i.e., Safari). That said, Safari is a great browser in and of itself and has (arguably) some outstanding and perhaps even unique features as far as color is concerns (if you’re into that sort of thing). But Safari doesn’t play nice with certain web-forms (as we’ve mentioned before) and the recent talk of Safari’s memory usage are both concerns. As for non-casual, webdev types… Well, some things make Firefox untouchable.

currently playing: Voxtrot “The Warmest Part Of The Winter”

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

3 Responses to Essential OS X Software

Antonio says:

Flip4Mac does not replace Perian. F4M is still the essential WMV playback plugin. Perian doesn’t support all the codecs F4M does. I think they work in concert well, but F4M takes the lead with the Studio version and import/export features. Also, Check out their new DVD imaging app HERE and my blogblurb about it HERE

VooDoo Pad is quite nice, but I’m still using the free “lite” version. I wonder if the full app has enough features to be worth $30.

I’ve started using Imagewell, but, as you said, it’s a bit hard to get used to. Maybe I haven’t found the preference, but I have not been able to edit an image without it changing the original. I’d like to keep the original untouched. Guess I could make a copy first and edit the copy.

found_drama says:

Antonio: I do not mean that Perian replaces F4M in functionality — just that it replaces it on my list of essentials. As I said:

Still need Flip4Mac for Windows Media files. Fortunately, those are few and far between.

As for VoodooPad: I used the “Lite” version for over a year before I needed the rest of the features. It’s definitely possible to out-grow the Lite version. And by then, you will realize it’s WELL WORTH every penny of that sticker price.

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