Essential Software

I am getting lots of comments about what software I am using and with recommendations on other software to try during my switch to Mac OS.

So, I decided to put up a static page with a list of the software I am currently using, software I have tried and stopped using and I will try and keep this up to date as I go on through the switch :)

It is nowhere near complete yet but I thought I would put it up with what I have compiled this morning.

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30 responses to “Essential Software

  1. Im pretty similar to yours in terms of usage. Safari, Adium, NetNewsWire etc.

    Here are some other apps I use though that are not on the list.

    OmniOutliner – superb outliner
    OmniGraffle – think Visio for the Mac


    Shiira – I personally think this is a Safari beater, just need to iron out a few kinks. Change the theme to aqua, and its beautiful. Tab expose too.

    Quicksilver. WOW. Simply put, the most innovative piece of software I have used in years

    Service Scrubber – for when the Services menu (one of the most underrated facets of OSX) gets a little bulky, use this to remove unwanted Services.

    CoverFlow – WOW. If you use iTunes and like to ensure you have album art, then use this beautiful app to navigate your collection via album cover. Pictures dont do this app justice. Give it a try in fullscreen mode, using a remote or bluetooth phone to control it.

  2. hey macnewbie.. this is my first post here, but i’ve been subscribed / following since it was first shown on TUAW :)

    i will be a fellow switcher myself (as soon as my iMac arrives – hopefully Monday!!), and have been researching into how to make my transition as smooth as possible, with replacement apps from XP to OS X.

    you like to say that this blog is awesome, and i will be using your info in the weeks to come.

  3. What about virtualization? Now that Parallels (not a plug) has their product out, would anyone consider using it?

  4. Quicksilver.

    Quicksilver changes everything about how a Mac works, especially when you take the time to get over the learning curve. I’ve banished my dock to save screen real-estate, and solely use quicksilver now.

    There’s nothing like it in the Windows world.

  5. Your take on the switch to mac is great reading, I’m not sure if you’ve mentioned these apps before:

    VLC Player – There’s almost no video it won’t open, It’ll also skip the region code in DVD’s.

    MorphX – A very fun little program.

    Monolingual – If you keep filling your mac with programs you will run out of space quickly, with Mono, you can remove the Languages that MacOs X comes preoladed with. I got like 300 Mb from it.

    On The same line of space-saving, try Disk Inventory X, it is a very neat utility that helps you figure where your space is.

    Utilitunes – A great app that helps you getting album art for one song or the whole album.

    You should definitevely try Omnigraffle (mentioned above)

    Chopper – Cool Game, nice graphics and simple gameplay. It hasn’t been updated though.

    MacUpdate Desktop – Helps you keep software up-to-date.

    Keep up the good writing, Enjoy the apps.

  6. You should check out Growl. It’s an all-in-one notification system.

  7. Here is a similar post I did when i made the switch about two months ago. I’m about to update it as some of it has changed since i started. But this si how i started out.

  8. I use parallels… it works GREAT. It won’t play games, and doesn’t have sound in this version, but with 512MB RAM allocated to it, it simply screams.

    Re RSS though, you all need to check out

  9. I had Safari as my default browser for the past year or so, but I recently switched to the G5-optimized version of Firefox (DeerPark). Why? Because there was just too many sites that don’t work correctly with Safari. With the aid of a few extensions (Tab Mix Plus, Add Bookmark Here), and the GrApple (Brushed) theme, you can get FF to look & feel more like Safari (which I really liked otherwise).

    Definitely checkout the NetNewsWire 2.1 beta. It’s integration with the NewsGator online service rocks, and it allows me to keep up with my feeds from my PowerMac or PowerBook (using the fat client), or anywhere in the world via NewsGator.

    QuickSilver will change your life, dude. :-)

    If you’re a GTD nut (Getting Things Done by David Allen), then you’ll love OmniOutliner Pro and the kGTD add-on. Get the latest beta for each. Also monitor the 43folders blog (

  10. Stuffit, the venerable Mac compression utility, may be worth considering, although I use it less and less these days.

    My Stuffit *replacement* (hehe) tends to be Apple disk images these days, and I like FreeDMG over Disk Utility for creating them. It’s a GUI for the hdiutil command and it adds Disk Image features (segmenting, among others) that were otherwise only available from the commandline.

  11. definitely quicksilver. it will change the way you think about your mac, and as mentioned above, is well worth the learning curve
    growl is great, too.
    i use voodoopad for my note-taking, its like a mini-personal wiki.
    along with the G5-optimized Firefox, the guy makes an Intel one too…

    Then check out the widgets and themes that make it look more mac-esque…

    …and all of a sudden you’ve basically got Safari running Firefox extensions. Superfast, super convenient, i highly recommend.

    VLC is a must have, as is Flip4Mac, which gets rid of the need for that terrible WM player. Flip4Mac will play all .wmv files through quicktimes, and makes web browsing while looking at videos amazingly easier than it is with plain old safari/WM player

    Also, instead of MacUpdate Desktop, just get an account at MacUpdate, it’ll email you every time a new version of one of your programs is updated.

  12. i “switched” some 5 years ago and still think your’s is one of the most interesting mac related blogs which i read in the last few days.

    i totally agree with a bunch of allready mentioned essentials:
    – safari – best browser, sometimes camino has to stand in
    – quicksilver – the essential of the essentials
    – growl – a lot of the essential apps do integrate with growl
    – coverflow – to enjoy

    others you might consider, in order of appearance :-)
    cyberduck – very good opensource ftp/sftp client for os x
    amsn – best solution i can find currently for mac-to-pc videoconferencing, if you want to stay in contact with your former friends ;-)
    smultron – nice opensource editor for all needs
    carbon copy cloner – to generate bootable backups etc.
    neooffice – oo which runs natively under os x
    blogassist – system menu item to format text on the clipboard to help blog entry
    textpander – automatically expands predefined abbreviation in any application
    sizzlingkeys – control iTunes with keyboard shortcuts from any application
    sogudi – adds shortcuts based search from location bar to safar, very useful
    here – adds “find as you type” and some other search related features to safari

  13. Get dektop manager

    you wont be sorry…have one dektop for email and one for your delopment tools and one for web browsing it really helps keep the clutter down

  14. I agree with everyone above! If you use quicksilver the 2 biggest things for me is to check the “Find All Applications” checkbox in the catalog preferences, and to make the default action the Command-Spacebar instead of the ctrl-spacebar. Makes it far more functional.

    Desktop Manager –
    –possibly instead for universal apps?
    Cant live without this now. Having 4 desktops to switch between using the cube effect (and would be damn cool if you were using windows in virtualization on one desktop and flipping to it..)

    Little Snitch –
    Blocks unwanted outgoing or “call home” apps.

    Shapeshifter – ( )
    if you would like to play with the theme in OS X this app is unbelievable. I love the default OSX theme but you’d be suprised how easy it is to fall in love all over again when you find a good theme. I use Eternal 1.1, but you can search for more.

    Appzapper –
    The Application uninstaller that gets rid of all the preference and related files when you delete an .app. I know you were complaining about the OSX application structure, but I think it beats anything out there in terms of simplicity, yet still powerful.

    Tomato Torrent –
    I know everyones preferences vary on torrent clients, but this is the best when it comes so speed and system memory.

    Camino –
    I use Safari as default because I use it as my default RSS reader (after making a bookmark folder and adding all my rss sites into it) and the bookmarks bar ROCKS when it is laid out correctly. But when something doesn’t go right I use Camino because it is the fastest and cleanest browser out there.

    One cool thing you might not know is that you can drag javascripts into your bookmarks bar in Safari that will do actions on whichever webpage your on. (Highlight this….
    and drag it into your bookmarks bar. I dont know if other browsers do this but I find it pretty useful…..

    Textmate rocks…good choice!

    iBackup –
    Haven’t used it too much currently but its nice because it allows you to choose which application preferences you’d like to back up. You probably haven’t reinstalled OS X yet, but if you ever do its a DRASTICALLY (non destructive, intuitive gui, etc…) different process than windows. You dont even need to backup to reinstall the OS! :D

    Newsfire –
    Like I said above, I use Safari to manage all my RSS feeds, but this is my favorite reader app.

    Get OmniGraffle and OmniOutliner. and get the GTD add-on….simply awesome.

    DarwinPorts –
    If you like the terminal, this site installs almost any linux binary onto your mac with ease! I use alot and didn’t like any of the OS X usenet readers so I got hellanzb and couldnt be happier.

    And finally, which I hope I dont get in trouble for posting since I dont support or condone software piracy at all, but I do use Serial Box in a few cases when I have reinstalled my OS and lost my previous serial numbers. Sadly it is sometimes a necessary utility.

    Sorry for rambling but I hope that can help fill some of your needs.
    and MAN I LOVE SYSTEMWIDE SPELLCHECK! I sure hope MS adds some equivalent in Vista, its a basic necessity that is often overlooked while using OS X.

  15. Bah, nevermind my above javascript, when posting it messes up the ‘ so it doesnt work. I am trying it in my url, but I guess it isnt important. ooh well. but heres where it came from

  16. Hi,
    for a great backup solution have a look at SuperDuper!
    You just plug an external disk, lauch SuperDuper!, click 2/3 times and let it go. I will duplicate your disk on the external drive and make it bootable too !!

    here is a link

  17. One other thing that most windows users Ive helped with their macs find very helpful is moving the dock over to the left edge. It makes much more sense with the widescreen macs freeing up your vertical screen space and it makes it more akin to the start menu. Try it and you’ll never go back!

  18. Everyone has pretty much listed all of my suggestions:

    Desktop Manager

    One I haven’t seen mentioned is gDisk ( for using you Gmail account as a network drive.

    Keep up the good blogging

  19. Most of you list is similar to what I have, but my program collection has grown a bit larger since I’ve switched.

    Here are some recomendations:
    * Quicksilver – Changed the way I use computers. This is hands-down the most usefull app I’ve used. Program launching, file managment, iTunes control and a whole lot more…
    * Star – iTunes song ratings
    * MenuCalendarClock iCal – A calender in the menu bar
    * High Priority – Easy-access to the ToDo list
    * Divx Player
    * Flip4Mac – plays WMV files in QuickTime. Buggy, but sometimes alot better than MS’s POS player which is no longer supported.
    * HandBrake – Video encoder for converting DVDs to MOV, Divx, or MP4
    * MacTheRipper – ripping DVDs (*ahem*)
    * Linotype Font Explorer X – iTunes for Font Managment
    * SWF Movie Player – Plays flash movies
    * TextWrangler – BBEdit’s free little bro’
    * Transmission – Simple Bittorrent client
    * Transmit – Best FTP program ever.
    * URLWell – stores URLs temporarily in the menu bar.
    * Virtue – Virtual desktops. Buggy, but has some nice features.
    * Desktop Manager – Open source desktop manager. Virtue stems from it, but DM is more stable. Lacks some features found in Virtue
    * VLC – plays anything but like most things Linux, the UI leaves alot to be desired.
    * VoodoPad – A personal Wiki.

    * Cocktail – Maintenance tool
    * iStumbler – Wireless connection manager
    * MousePose – Uses expose to find/highlight the mouse
    * Pixel Tester – Find dead LCD pixels
    * Preferential Treatment – Fixes corrupt preference files
    * SMART Reporter – monitors hard drive health
    * Service Scruber – cleans up the services menu
    * Spotlight Indexer – Make spotlight index hidden directorories
    * WhatSize – finds/sorts files on the drive and tell you what is sucking up your hard drive
    * USB Overdrive – excellent programable multi-button mouse support.
    * Stuffit – to extract the occasional .sit file
    * Textpander – inserts text using shortcuts and magic.
    * MenuMeters – system info in the menu bar
    * Growl – system wide notification system

    Just for Fun software:
    * ShapeShifter – change icons and themes of OS X
    * Xbench – benchmarking software
    * Coverflow – a pretty way to browse album art and play songs
    * Celestia – 3D map of the solar system.
    * Democracy – beta of a IPTV application. Follows RSS, uses bittorrent to download ‘net TV. A bit buggy.

  20. You should give SubEthaEdit ( a try. It’s a very robust text editor. It costs $35 now (used to be free), but if you work with different text formats (XML, Objective-C, C, C++, Java, JavaScript, HTML, PHP, LaTeX, and so forth) a lot, it’s a great program.

  21. For anyone whos a fan of Irfanview for windows, my recent switch to mac introduced me to the lovely ViewIt. Was a lifesaver when I needed to quickly sort through a lot of photos.

  22. Here is my list:

    It is a very good list of awesome software for Mac, and it’s all free software. That’s sweet.


  23. 1. VLC – did not set my DVD Player to play DVDs by default. I’d rather use VLC. However, with FrontRow, you may have no other choice but to use the DVD Player. I wonder if it plays DivX files. :)

    2. StuffIt Expander – compression/decompression tool.

    3. ScreenShot Plus Widget

    4. iStat Pro Widget

    5. BitMemo Widget

    6. Skype and Gizmo

    7. Transmit (not free)

    Am just wondering, have you encountered some of those WebKit vulnerabilities while viewing using Safari? With that vulnerability, I have reverted back to Camino as my default browser.

  24. Some apps I have installed…

    Handbrake (DVD -> iPod), Xcode for development, Gvim for text editing, X11 for shell and remote access, Toast Titanium for VCD/DVD burning, Blender for 3D modeling.

  25. I actually have a few questions by the way your blog is setup. I like the layout and the technorati tags. Do you use a plugin for this feature?

  26. Welcome to our side of the fence! It’s good to know you’re enjoying your experience.

    A couple things to note:
    – Holding Shift and pressing the Delete key will do a forward delete in most applications, this may be a better alternative to remapping, but again, it doesn’t always work in every application.

    – PHP and MySQL CAN be installed the way you did it, or if you really want power and flexibility you can download the regular Linux source and compile yourself with no worries!! Not recommended for the average user, but you’ll be able to install GD and all your favorite add-ons — almost all the software I’ve tried has installed without a hitch on my G4 server, I even have Postfix running with MySQL to offer virtual mail. Slick.

    – SubEthaEdit, Flip4Mac, and ProcessWizard are three essential Mac application experiences that you have not yet spoken of on your blog. SubEthaEdit is an amazing little text-editing application that works with Bonjour, Flip4Mac is Microsoft’s new answer for WMV on the Mac, and ProcessWizard will allow you to allocate system resources to tasks like Windows users do.

  27. Above: Buy not by…!

    Google Earth comes in handy now and then…

  28. I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying this blog! I too am a recent “switcher” (a WIndows user since I started working with PCs in 1990, and especially since owning my first PC in 1995).

    I’m especially keen to learn more about using the keyboard first for navigation, and mouse second, as my Windows habit has been vice-versa (probably becaus eI’ve never had to write code!)

    Anyone got any tips for building up a healthy keyboard habit?

    Most importantly – what happened to the “Essential Software” static page?

  29. Thanks pcolnaghi :)

    I took the essential software page down temporarily because it was getting loads of comments that it was unfinished and incorrect in places so I took it down until I have time to fix it up and get it finished.