My Mac Essentials

The following is a list of the top 24 3rd party programs on my Mac at the moment. Unless I note it otherwise, all of these programs are either freeware or open-source(only one commercial program made it in!), and the links should link directly to the program’s respective website. So, without further ado, my favorite Mac programs.

    • Adium – Adium is what may very-well be the best general-purpose IM client for the Mac. It supports AIM, Yahoo, ICQ, MSN Messenger, Google Talk, Jabber, and a multitude of other IM protocols. You are able to customize the display of everything from your groups and buddy list to how the IM sessions appear.
  • Azureus – Azureus is an open-source BitTorrent client written in Java It can be a little resource hungry, but it offers a great amount of features, and runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, and anything else that Java runs on.


  • Camino – an adaptation of Mozilla’s Gecko engine to a Cocoa application. In other words – a Cocoa version of Firefox. It’s a great web-browser and shares almost all of the same advantages as Firefox (except maybe the extensive library of plugins that Firefox has).


  • Chicken of the VNC – a great VNC client for Mac, allowing me to connect to my Windows/Mac/Linux friends and family for tech-support.


  • Conversation – an IRC client. A lot of people seem to like Colloquy for their IRC client, and I did too, until I tried Conversation. It provides a really slick interface, and you can set it to automatically save your conversations in your documents folder. Unlike Colloquy which saves the IRC histories as files with a custom extension, Conversation uses regular RTF files for the saved IRC histories, allowing them to be searched using Spotlight.


  • Cyberduck – an (S)FTP client. This is a great FTP client and allows you to connect to multiple servers at once, while integrating nicely into the Mac interface. You can drag-and-drop both files and folders both directions, and edit files live on the server.


  • Desktop Manager – virtual desktop manager. Development seems to have stalled with Desktop Manager, leaving a couple of rough edges, but it’s a lifesaver when you’ve only got a small 12″ iBook and are trying to handle multiple windows at once (documentation, text editor, mail, web browser, etc.).


  • Firefox – the ubiquitous web browser. It’s everywhere and the plugins like adblocker are second to none. Regardless of the OS that you’re running you should have Firefox on it, especially if you’re a Windows user.


  • Flip4Mac – Microsoft is discontinuing their media player for the Mac. Instead they’ve licensed with Flip4Mac to allow you to download their WMV for Quicktime plugin for free. It does just what it sounds like – it allows you to play WMV files through Quicktime, removing the need for a really horrible 3rd party media player. Just click on the big WMV button and then Download on the right-hand side to get to the correct page.


  • MacGIMP – a great free image editor. Although it has several quirks and isn’t anywhere as near as powerful as the newest versions of Photoshop, GIMP (the GNU Image Manipulation Program) is still a great image editor and more than fulfills the requirements that I have for basic image editing and creation. MacGIMP packages the whole thing into one nice .app package that you can just drag and drop into your Applications folder. You’re going to have to install X11 support to run this program.


  • HandBrake – rip your DVDs to MPEG4 files. I have a portable harddrive that I like to take with me when I travel. I don’t like to take an additional dozen or so DVDs with me (I never know what I’m going to want to watch). This program allows me to rip my DVDs to MPEG4 files that I can watch through either QuickTimePlayer or iTunes. Hint: if you don’t want to have to pay for QuickTime Pro to watch your videos in fullscreen, just drag them into iTunes and watch them that way. Also, enable 2-pass encoding when encoding the video. It takes about twice as long – but you can notice the difference.


  • Inkscape – a vector-image editor. Just as the GIMP is a good image editor for bitmapped images, Inkscape is an excellent image editor for vector images. You’re going to need to install X11 support to run this program


  • iTerm – another terminal application. This one has tabs though, very useful when you’re connected to multiple systems.


  • KisMAC – wireless sniffer/WAP finder. Compile the newest version, and you’ll have the ability to put the newer AirPort Extreme cards into monitor mode. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t mess with this program. Watch out that you know what you’re doing with this one, you can mess up your system if you’re not too careful.


  • Mplayer – a media player. It plays other media which QuickTime doesn’t support like DIVX files.


  • OmniOutliner Professional – A great outliner. I use it for general notes, school, and planning papers among other things. commercial software – offers a student discount


  • OnyX – access hidden customizations. For some reason, Apple hides parts of the underlying OS from us. This is a pretty nice GUI to access those hidden portions of the OS. There is the potential of messing things up with this program


  • Opera – web browser and email client. The newest version is offered up free to anyone. I tend to use it only to check to make sure that sites look good in it.


  • Screen Spanning Doctor – fix your iBook/iMac. By default the iBooks and iMacs only mirror your current desktop to the external monitor. This allows you to span your desktop across multiple monitors (it also allows you to use the presenter’s view in Keynote). Again, there’s the potential for screwing up your system with this software


  • Smultron – an open-source text editor. It supports syntax-highliting for many different languages and is a nice all-around basic text editor.


  • Textpander – it watches what you type and fills in shortcuts for you. For example, all I have to type is ahref and it inserts a basic link tag for me. Very useful for cutting down on your keystrokes.


  • VLC – a cross-platform media player. Like MplayerOSX, it’s an alternative media player. Each of these media players tend to have different strengths. Some files that Mplayer has a problem with, VLC can play perfectly and vice-versa. Also, if you don’t want to change the region of your DVD drive, VLC can play back DVDs without you having to worry about that (software decryption).


  • WikiNotes – A great combination between a plain text editor and a wiki. Great for taking down notes that don’t fit into exact outlines and whatnot. It seems to be in active development.


  • Witch – like cmd+tab, but a lot more useful. You can choose between active windows (kind of like expose, but better for those of us who like the keyboard more than the mouse), and if you want to you can tweak it out a bit more to do some other things as well.



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