I switched (drank the Kool-Aid) from Windows to Mac at the turn of the century and haven’t looked back. However, I am not a fanboy. All I want to do is just get on with things. With the proliferation of iPhones and iPads, more and more people are moving over to the Apple way of doing things. I have been asked a number of times in the last few months by folks making the leap across the operating system divide as to what I would recommend as essential applications to have.
This is the list I usually come up with:
- Flip4Mac: Sorts out audio incompatibilities with Microsoft audio .wmv files. The free version is all you need unless of course you do want to do all those other things. See how it goes first. [Link]
- Perian: Sorts out other unusual audio and video formats. Of course, it would be quite legitimate to ask, “why doesn’t the Apple OS come with all these compatibility issues resolved?” My answer is I don’t know and I haven’t found the answer yet. [Link]
- Growl and Growlmail: Notifies you of incoming e-mails etc., so you don’t have to keep checking back to the original application. [Link]
- Evernote: I find it indispensable if I am researching something. The free limit is large and is month by month, and I haven’t really come close yet to having to pay. But if I did I would probably be happy to do so. [Link]
- Launchbar: This is worth paying for, IMHO, but test its usability-enhancing power in the 30-day free trial for yourself. It does far more than just call up an application that you want to use. Once you get used to using the keyboard commands, you can really whizz around your system. It obviates the need for most of your navigational clicking – a very good thing. There is a bit of a learning curve but I found this online video tutorial really helpful. You will be able to master the essentials in about an hour. It’s worth it. [Link]
- Expose and Spaces (System Preferences): Most newcomers find these need having to be pointed out to them. They help you get a lot more control of your desktop and you can split things up into separate working areas. Invaluable. [Link]
- Gimp: This is a free open-source version of Photoshop, and works in a similar if somewhat geekier way. A few hundred quid saved for what most people use only every now and then. [Link]
- Onyx: This is essential and should be your first port of call if your Mac is not behaving properly. Take the time to set up a maintenance schedule. It catches problems when only a few bits are corrupted and also cleans out all the old hidden stuff that can slow down your machine, or worse, and that take up space. [Link]
- Pester: A very neat and useful reminder application. It keeps me on the straight and narrow. [Link]
- Stellarium: This is just kind of neat. It is a planetarium on your computer and a very good one at that. You don’t have to download it but I like it. Anyway it is my article so I get to plug what I like 😉 [Link]
Except for Launchbar and Evernote, which only charge when you reach a very generous limit, all of these are free. I hope you find them useful. I am sure some of you have your own Mac essentials. Let us know what they are.