A bit more than 2 weeks passed since my post with some considerations on the Mac applications available and I had a bit more time experimenting and reading some advices from other. So I think I almost decided my toolbox of must-have applications, so I share it as also other did.


Skipping over the “standard” applications like browser and email client, for which I use Firefox and Mail, let’s review the application I installed on my Mac:


TextMate.pngThe swiss knife of all text editors: it’s fully extensible, and comes with dozens of “bundles” for almost everything you might want to do with a text editor, and even more. From any kind of programming language (C, PHP, Java, Perl, HTML, JavaScript, CSS, etc…), to connecting to FTP or SVN server, to connecting and making queries on SQL Server (only MySql and postgres), till blogging. And if it’s not enough, you can look for more bundles online or build your own. Unfortunately it’s not free, actually it’s one of the 3 commercial apps of this list: it costs $65 or 39€.


NetNewsWire-Icon-128.pngI was already using FeedDemon on my PC, so I thought his Mac counterpart would have been as good. Unfortunately it’s not as good (even if the version released last week closes the gap a bit), but the integration with NewsGator, which means that I can sync the feeds read on the Mac with the ones read during the day on my company’s laptop and the ones I read when I cannot connect with my laptop, is the feature that made me choose this instead of NewsFire: no more “mark all as read” when I come from work. And, last thing, together with improving the UI a lot, the version released last week has been made free, so you only have to pay if you want the integration with NewsGator.


ecto_128px.png As I already said in a previous post, I choose Ecto over MarsEdit since I prefer to use a WYSIWIG editor: and Ecto is also extendible with plugins, so with some spare time I could write a plugin to fill the main gap with WLW: code syntax highlighting. This one is also not free: it costs $17,95, which is a lot more than the cost of WLW, but since the Euro is now almost $1,5 makes it costs almost like eating out for the lunch break.


logo.png I tried AdiumX for multichat, but I never liked multi-chat, and since my wife has a Mac as well, we use all the iChat features using our gtalk accounts. But I’ve to admit that for people that like multi-chat apps and don’t to use the specific features of each IM, Adium seems to be a great software.


HandBrake.png For ripping dvd’s to mp4/divx.


isquintsmallicon.png If the source of the video you want to convert is not a real DVD but some other kind of video, and you still want to watch it on your iPod, that’s a useful app.


Quicksilver.png I’ve not tried it yet, but all the “top software for Mac” articles and everyone I speak to tells me that once he tried it he is not able to use any computer without it, so must be good.

Google Notifiers for Mac

logo_large.gif There is no Gtalk messenger on the Mac, but there is an awesome notifier that brings not only your gmail but also you calendar to you toolbar. I wonder why Google is building different products based on the OS.

iLife 08

iPhoto.pngiPhoto is the best photo archive and organizer I ever used. And with the iPhoto uploader for Flickr it becomes a snap to upload images on the Web.


smcfancontrol_v2.png This little tray app let you monitor the temperature of your Mac and the speed of the fan: useful to keep the Mac running cooler.


Transmission.pngxTorrent is the best BitTorrent client I ever used: RSS download, integrated search, but it costs money, so for the moment, since I’m not an heavy downloader, I stay with Transmission, which just hits version 1.0 and is OSS.

Chicken of the VNC

icon.pngNothing fancy, but it works… what should I want more than this from a VNC client?


OnyX.pngAllows to check the startup disk a là Scandisk, does a bit of system maintenance, allow configuration of hidden properties, clean system cache, and much more (I still have to understand what it does and if it’s really useful).


Little Snitch.pngA firewall, very easy to configure, and also allow to monitor the connections being made in realtime. It costs $24, but the demo is not that annoying, only stop the firewall every 3 hours.


cyberduck-application.pngTransmit is the best FTP client I ever used in my life, but giving the fact that CyberDuck comes for free and does all the things I need to do…


cocopad.pngAn application to draw sketches using the mouse (or with a tablet pen if you have one). Useful to draw diagrams or processes as if I was drawing a normal sheet of paper, but without the overhead of using a formal app like Visio or without the need to draw on paper and then scan to have a digital version of it. And it’s developed by an Italian Engineer.


growlicon.pngIt’s a general purpose system notifier and a lot of applications support it and send notifications. A must.


ship.pngIt’s a port of OpenOffice that runs natively on the Mac and takes advantages of all the features specific to the Mac: as it’s parent it’s a word processor, a spreadsheet, a presentation tool, a basic drawing app and a personal database (a là Access).
When I wrote my presentation on Vista Gadgets I used Keynote, and I really liked it, so I might buy iWork 08 in case I need to do more of them.
I’m also evaluating Scrivener, which adopts a completely new approach to word processors: it’s more targeted to book’s writer and allows you to collect ideas, store references, write notes, write an outline and than assemble the final result applying styles and formatting the output, and exports to LaTex as well, which is the required format for scientific publications.
Since I’m starting to write some articles and taking blogging more seriously, this might be a option.

Dashboard widgets

Mac has widgets, that are just like sidebar gadgets in Vista. They are not always visible as in the new Windows OS which makes them a little less useful than the one alway visible in the sidebar.
Anyway I want to share two of the widgets I’m using:

  • DashAlytics - this one shows a overview and the most commonly looked stats from Google Analytics. Useful when I just want to know how many people are going to your site today, but are interested in the details.
  • Feedburner StatsTracker - as above, but for Feedburner: it also allows you to track more than one feed. Nice.


The OS X is very usable out-of-the-box, but coming from a previous Windows experience I find some typical Mac behaviors a bit annoying. For example, why does the tab key only cycles through text-boxes and lists, but not including buttons?
You can make it include also buttons selecting “All Controls” at the bottom of the System Preferences -> Keyboard & Mouse -> Keyboard Shortcuts dialog. I found this and other nice tweaks on the LifeHacker blog: Top 10 Mac OS X tweaks.
And also one specific to Leopard: Customize Your Mac with Leopard Power Tweaks.
Last thing: if you want to play XviD, DivX, WMV from inside FrontRow you have to download also the QuickTime components for those codecs:

Open Issues

I almost decided which software to use for every kind of application I needed, but still three are missing:

  • a SVN client (I found a few of them, one also integrated with Finder)
  • a quick image processing application (like it was Paint.NET on windows)…
    Last week I bought Pixelmator as part of the Macheist bundle, but I still have to try it
  • and last but not least the battle between Fusion and Paralles for hosting a windows OS. But I'm leaning toward Fusion. I found a very complete benchmarking that says Paralles is better than Fusion (even though Fusion is faster hosting Vista), but it compared Parallels 3.0 with Fusion 1.0 that didn’t have Unity as the current version 1.1, so the results are totally useless IMO.

And last thought: Office:mac 2008 comes with Microsoft Expression Media. How long before we see a version of Blend, Designer for the Mac? BTW: why is Office:mac 2008 not inside the MSDN subscription?


Here is a list of the posts and sites that helped me choosing my apps (in random order):