My Essencial Mac Software

New to Mac? Old hand just looking for something interesting to add to your app collection? You have come to the right place. I have been using Mac since 2004 as my primary machine. I switched away from Windows and, after a month of wanting to throw my iBook out the window, I found that I could do much more with the machine and operate it more easily than Windows.

Here are a few of the best mac apps that I have found and personally use regularly.

TextWrangler - Text Editor - Free
My favourite text editor. If you ever have to work with large block of text, lists or code, TextWrangler is the app for you. It is free and more than meets my needs. Bare Bones Software, who produce it, also have a premium product called BBEdit, but I have never found TextWrangler lacking enough to justify the purchase. Note that when you download the software that you should do so from the company's website. It is also available from the Mac App Store, but misses some key functionality.

OmniGraffle - Charts and Diagrams - Paid
If you ever have to make presentations where a graph or chart would be useful, OmniGraffle is what you need. I bought it a while back because we have some partners that would often send me Microsoft Visio files that I needed to edit. OmniGraffle handles the task brilliantly and generally gives you the capability to make diagrams look better than what Visio is capable of.

Spotify - Streaming Music - Free & Paid
I know that Apple Music is supposed to be the next big thing, but it is just not as easy to use as Spotify. If you are stuck and don't know what to do in the online music space, Spotify is a good place to start. Also, if you don't mind listening to the occasional ad, the basic service is completely free.

Astrill - VPN - Paid
More and more these days we are becoming aware of how important security is. Astrill is my favourite VPN service because it is reasonably priced, offers a wide range of countries and has the option to use their proprietary Stealth VPN system which provides a dual layer of encryption on your traffic to minimise packet sniffing.

CrossOver - Run Windows Apps - Paid
Run Windows apps on your Mac. I don't think most people even know this is possible, but it is awesome. The software is still not perfect and a lot of apps won't run or will crash, but it is improving all the time. Some of the professional apps I use like Perfect Lite for Windows work perfectly which allows me to work natively in the OSX environment instead of booting up a virtual machine.

VirtualBox - Virtual Machine - Free
So I like to use free programs where I can and VirtualBox is a great example. I have used it for years to run virtual machines and find it extremely easy to use and reliable. Unfortunately, OpenGL support is non-existent, which means that if you want to run something that uses a bit more graphics horsepower, VMware Fusion is probably your best bet.

SEO Powersuite - SEO - Paid
I bought this software package several years ago and am still happy to pay for the updates. When you are trying to optimise a website, it is really a long hard game and it is difficult to easily measure your performance without dedicated tools. I use Rank Tracker and SEO SpyGlass every day to keep track of what is happening, without having to manually scroll through thousands of pages of search results.

SketchUp - Architectural Design - Free
Some years ago Google bought a little know app named SketchUp and turned it into something awesome. By leveraging the power of their community and making it free they created what is one of the simplest design applications for the Mac. If you don't need the power of an AutoCad type product for your project, SketchUp should do the trick.

Little Snitch - Firewall - Paid
Little Snitch is a highly customisable firewall that allows minute control of every connection into and out of your computer. While it is a great application, it is also probably a bit too technical for the average user to feel comfortable using. If you do understand the basics of a firewall and what should and shouldn't be transmitting to the web, it is a great application to help you control what your apps are doing and who they are communicating with.

Transmit - File Transfer Client - Paid
While I don't have to directly transfer files to a server as often as I used to, Transmit is still my favourite app for doing so. It is easy to use and has great features such as auto mount to make file transfers as painless as possible. While this is also quick enough to do with the Mac's built in tools, the simplicity of the application is appreciated when I recognise that my job is not to make life difficult for myself.

SquidMan - Squid Proxy GUI - Free
While not something that I use regularly, I find that when I am forced onto a bad / restricted internet connection and am forced to save bandwidth, Squid Caching Proxy is a good way to speed up my online world. SquidMan is an easy to use Mac GUI interface that still allows full control of the underlying application. It can also be used to block websites and such, but I haven't personally ever needed to do that.

Handbrake - Video Transcoder - Free
I'm actually surprised at how often I use this one. Essentially this just gives you the ability to take a video in one format and convert it to another. Simple task, but can be a frustrating one to solve if you don't have the correct tools at hand. I've had to use it before presentations where the video file wouldn't work on the podium computer and converting the file was the simplest solution.

jPDF Tweak - PDF Swiss Army Knife - Free
This app is awesome and saved my a night of boredom. On the Mac it is simple enough to combine PDF documents together in Preview to make a larger document. What is not so easy is adding page numbers and a title to the bottom of every page after they have been combined. jPDF Tweak solves this and many other issues for free. The interface is a bit lacking, so it is easy to think it has crashed when it is actually still working in the background, but it does the job well.

LanScan - Network Scanner - Free & Paid
Great simple little app for scanning for all IP addresses in a range. It is not something that I use a lot, but I always have it with me in case. It is surprising how often one needs to scan a network to see what is plugged in.

OneDrive - Cloud Storage and Sharing - Free & Paid
As someone that avoids Microsoft products for the most part, I actually quite like the OneDrive platform. Given that I am forced to use Microsoft Office for compatibility most of the time, using OneDrive allows a level of collaboration that was previously unknown in the software. While not the best collaboration software on the market, it is easy to get people using it because they are already using Office.

Steam - Gaming - Free & Paid
If you enjoy playing games on your computer, Steam is the app to get. The company runs an online app store with an amazing collection of games. It is also where you will find more Mac Games that even the Mac App Store. Because they don't have to sandbox the games to the same degree as developers in the App Store need to, producers can be more flexible about what they build into their products.

TNEF's Enough - Open Winmail.dat - Free
One of my pet grievances for many years has been people sending around winmail.dat files in their emails. This ridiculous feature of Microsoft Outlook meant that people running the default settings used to have their attachments bundled inside one of these files that only Outlook handled properly. Thankfully that is less of a problem these days, but I still find it handy to have the app around for the odd person still using a poorly configured, outdated computer.

VLC - Media Player - Free
The Video LAN Client has been around for years and is an excellent piece of software. It is my go to for playing any video as it rarely ever seems to be caught out by strangely encoded files. As the name suggests, it also seems to perform quite well when playing video files over a network.

Display Menu - Change Screen Resolution on a Headless Mac - Free & Paid
I use the free version of this app to allow me to change the screen resolution on my headless MacMini. Without the app, the computer is stuck in 1280 x 1024 so that it doesn't fill the screen on my HD TV properly when I am screen sharing from it. First world problems, I know, but still a major annoyance cured.


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