Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Apps to Complete Your Mac

I am a huge fan of Mac OSX. I got my 13-inch MacBook Pro about 2 months ago, and it's spoiled me. I have a hard time using my friend's Windows computer without stressing myself out, knowing that I could be on my quality piece of Apple machinery. My only gripe with Mac is that I would have a hard time using one straight out of the box without installing my collection of applications, but that's easily remedied. The first thing I did starting my computer for the premiere time was install Google Chrome, Audacity, and a host of others. Here are some of the other cheap as free programs that my computer is equipped with, hopefully at least a few of which you'll find useful. If you're on a Windows computer, then, um… just watch this and have a laugh, I guess.
Alfred - Truth be told, Alfred may be the first program that I installed on my laptop, and justly so. If you're familiar with OSX's Spotlight, then you have a bit of an idea of the capabilities of this program. Alfred can not only search for and open files on your computer, but it can also search the Internet, play songs in iTunes, and much more. Alfred is conjured up with a customizable keyboard shortcut (I use control and `), and you can begin typing right away. Whether you're looking for that picture I - I mean "you"- took of the gingerest ginger in all of Philadelphia last year (also notice the Liam Neeson look-alike, yarmulkes, and me laughing at the red), searching for Van Morrison lyrics online to figure out just what the hell he's saying, or IMDB-ing "Angels In The Outfield" and realizing that it has a surprisingly-star-studded cast (Danny Glover, Tony Danza, Christopher Lloyd, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Adrien Brody, Matthew McConaughey... and whoever plays JP), you'll easily find whatever you need. All of this praise goes to a program that is still in beta; follow the Alfred Blog as development continues.

Even with Alfred, I still couldn't find it.

AppCleaner - Completely uninstalls applications, something OSX cannot do by default.
Burn - Allows you to copy CDs, burn audio CDs, MP3 CDs, DVDs, and data disks.
Caffeine - Prevents your screen from going to sleep; good for reading an article or using Hulu Desktop.
Displaperture - Rounds the corners of your screen (as illustrated in the Alfred screenshot above).
DockSpaces - If you have Spaces activated (if not, I recommend you use it, under System Preferences), this program allows you to have a different custom dock for each space. In my example below, I show the transition from my Default Dock used in spaces 1-5 to my Games dock in space 6:

Also shown: my skill with the paint program Seashore, used to make both this graphic and the Blind Melon wallpaper.

Google Notifier - Puts icons in your menu bar for your Google email and calendar accounts, showing you upcoming events, new emails, and even notifying you when you receive a new email. If you don't use Gmail, I think this program works with Hotmail and others, but don't quote me on it, I haven't tried it.
Facebook Desktop Notifications - Similar to Google Notifier, this official piece of Facebook software puts an icon in your menu bar that notifies you of activity on your Facebook (using Growl notifications), which is an excellent segue to...
Growl - Supported by numerous popular applications, Growl puts customizable notifications wherever you choose on your screen, making you aware of everything from a new instant message to a completed download.
MagiCal - Puts an icon in the menu bar that displays the date and day of the week next to your time. If you click it, it'll also give you a handy calendar.
MenuWeather - This menu bar icon (I love menu bar icons) displays the current temperature (of your automatically-detected location), and shows a 5-day forecast when clicked.
Secrets - Most Windows users complain that Mac isn't "customizable" enough… and that is where Secrets comes in to prove them wrong. Secrets, accessed via System Preferences after installation, allows you to change system settings, like being able to drag widgets out of Dashboard and onto your desktop, and application settings, like making the arrows in iTunes link to your library instead of the store (an immensely utilized and useful feature for me).

Finally hidden files are exposed, something many have wanted for a while.

RCDefaultApp - Also via System Preferences, you can change which programs are associated with which file types.
NameChanger - A batch file-renamer, good for retitling photos off a digital camera and many other things.
UnRarX - Opens .RAR archive files.
Perian - Makes Quicktime forty-seven times better by allowing it to play formats previously unplayable, like AVI, FLV, MKV, DivX, and many more.
You Control: Tunes - A very, very handy program that, again, puts an icon in your menu bar that allows you complete access to your iTunes library, no matter what application you're in. Click the down arrow to view the drop down menu, from which you can browse your songs, artists, albums, playlists, recently played songs, and more. You Control: Tunes also displays a nice and customizable Growl-like notification when a song starts playing.

Also a nice screenshot for (from left to right) QuietRead, DockSpaces, Google Notifier (Calendar and Gmail), MenuWeather, Caffeine, Facebook Desktop Notifications, spaces, airport, volume, battery, clock, MagiCal and spotlight)

Adium - An IM program that links all your accounts, including MSN, AIM, Yahoo and most other major instant messengers.
QuietRead - As the website puts it, "Sometimes, when I am browsing the web, I want to store a link for later. There are note taking applications and everything-buckets to do that, but I wanted something light and simple. Simple as dragging a link onto a menu bar item to store it."
McSolitaire - Pretty standard Solitaire application, but bells and whistles aren't at all necessary when playing a good ol' game of cards.
This last one is not free, but I had to include it anyway (if you want it badly enough, and you can't spare the ten-or-however-many-it-is bucks, click here and see what happens... *wink*). You've probably seen the Windows 7 commercial with the guy using his PC in the bathroom and explaining the new "snap" feature, which allows you to drag windows to the side, causing them to fill half the screen, or drag them to the top and fill the entire screen. Well, that's Cinch in a nutshell, so if that feature seems appealing (which to me, it definitely is), grab Cinch (official website).

Did I miss your favorite app? Let me know in the comments.
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