Apple/Mac essentials

Why hello there,

this entry will be dedicated to the things that make a Mac not only unique but take productivity to the next level. Enhance your Mac to make it fly. Give it some steroids and see how wonderfully powerful the Mac really is. Belittled by the PC brotherhood for many years, show them who is the boss by learning to get the most out of your Mac. Make your Microsoft ‘friends’ jealous with the abilities that you can unleash with some pretty nifty apps.

Pc < Mac

Pc < Mac

First and foremost, everyone uses an instant messenger service, be it AIM, MSN, Facebook or Twitter. The issue I have with being a member of so many different services is that naturally you would have to download a dedicated app to host all of these services. Yet fear not, along comes Adium X (freeware).

Adium duck

Adium duck stares at you

What fascinates me about Adium are several things. Not only does it include several messenger services in one (AIM, ICQ, MobileMe, .Mac, MSN, Jabber, GoogleTalk, LiveJournal, Yahoo! Messenger, Bonjour, MySpace IM, Facebook chat, Lotus Sametime, Novell Groupwise, QQ, Gadu-Gadu). The latest beta (www.adium.im/beta/) can even handle Twitter support and IRC!

What takes Adium to the next level though is its high level of customization. Find your way to the Xtras page and you will be faced with tough choices. Do I want to use my Simpsons soundset or a Monty Python one, or even Napoleon Dynamite. The list is long, but alas fear not, you are not bound to choose one soundset alone. Assign different sounds and effects to different actions or even users, (adium does take advantage of growl too!). And since we are talking about a Mac program it even handles AppleScripts. Play around with it, get used to it, start loving it and then wonder how did you ever live without it. I see another article coming dedicated on how to set this bad boy up.

Since I am an aspiring web designer slash web developer I was in the need of an app that lets me write html and CSS code from scratch. Thankfully I was introduced to Coda ($99) via a friend.

Coda says hi

Coda says hi

According to Coda’s website Coda is a “text editor + file transfer + svn + css + terminal + books + more = woah.” And I can not but help but agree. This is an extremely powerful tool that is a must have for every web developer (aspiring or not). Is the price hefty? Yes, but is it worth it? Yes. Try out the free version for a few weeks and see how it goes.

Do you own many DvDs and are always worried that heavy use of them will render them useless sooner or later (I look at you P90X dvds in that shady DvD booklet thing scratches my dvds). Stare some more at them…

Anyhow as wear and tear on dvds increases you will inevitably not be able to play them on your computer or dvd player. So I was forced to create digital copies of my P90X dvds. MacTheRipper and HandBrake to the rescue (both freeware).

Yarrrr lets rip

Yarrrr lets rip

How to rip a DvD properly deserves an entry on its own, albeit it would be short, we start with MacTheRipper to extract the entire DvD, that’s usually a 4 gigabyte monster but at least its usually done in about 15 mins. After that you have a full copy of the DvD on your computer.

Time for a delicious drink

Time for a delicious drink

Then HandBrake enters the scene with all its sexiness. You will then compress, trim and reduce the extracted file to something much more smaller 300 to 700 mb usually and you can adjust its style format, be it audio or video. This is so handy and easy a caveman could do it. No really. Set the file to an iPod format and voila soon you will be able to playback the file on your iPhone or iPod. So handy. And if you would think that the iPod/iPhone quality setting is not enough, let me tell you, even playing that tiny file on our Sharp Aquos LCD big screen the quality is still flawless.

I read a lot of eBooks and I like to keep all of my eBooks as a .pdf file however ever once in a while a .chm file will come across, which can not be read in any PDF viewer or in Apple’s Preview.app. Those are Microsoft compiled HTML help files, so a .chm reader is needed, and a decent one is iChm.

I make your life easier

I make your life easier

Not only is this sexy for using .chm files, no it will also let you save the entire .chm file as a .pdf. No other .chm client on mac lets you do this. For this I applaud you iChm, this is what makes it outstanding. Of course once you have it saved as a .pdf there is no need for this app but its a keeper non the less.

I hate my dock, I hate it so much that I let it autohide, at start up the only things that are visible at the dock is this: Finder, LaunchList, Documents, Downloads, Trash. Why would I need to put my start up apps in the doc. There is no need to click through all of them. No need to use Spotlight either. I like using LaunchList which is available for free.

I do stuff for you

I do stuff for you

After start up click on this app, click on Launch button, it will now start up your predetermined applications for you and then quit itself. That’s it, nothing more nothing less. Saved me 30 secs of my life probably but you know, it’s the small things that matter. That’s what separates a mac from a PC…either that or i am highly lazy. Stop judging me.

Sometime there is the need to acquire certain files (be it movie, audio, or whatnot), be it singular files or several. This can be achieved with iTunes most of the time, but then sometimes personal taste does not comply with the taste of the masses, ie the files may not be available in the iTunes store and its counterparts. This is where P2P comes into play, LimeWire and Transmission fulfill my need when iTunes fails me.

P2P this

P2P this

Limewire (normal free, Pro version $35) is rather easy to handle, easy to navigate and a lifesaver for when you look for older rather obscure songs. It does the job and it does it well.

Let's torrent something

Let's torrent something

Every now and then I stumble on a gem via the whole torrent system, be it private sites or public trackers. If you don’t know about torrents then this probably won’t interest you, though may I admit you are missing out on the better part of the internet, but for the ones who do know about the torrent system, Transmission (free) is the best application out there. It has a plethora of options and its also highly customizable but it is also easy to use and not a burden on your computer resources. I used to be a big fan of BitsOnWheels but the lack of update(s) really pushed me away from it, I mean last update in 2005 makes me weep. Then on the other hand it served me so well in the years before. Thank you.

smile please

smile please

Another gem thats a must have for any web ‘developer’ is a tool called LittleSnapper. I find it important to take a picture of the website before I started working on it, it makes before and after pictures really easy. Also handy, it will also take a picture of the entire webpage, no matter if you have 100 search results in Google displayed, this app will be able to take a picture of all the results displayed even though they may not fit on your screen. An alternative would be an application called Paparazzi though it is free it lacks the abiltiy to capture java scripted parts of the site properly, so maybe the investment of $39 for LittleSnapper was worth it?

When you are a busy person who has various projects to keep track of or just various smaller To-Do’s it is rather handy to have an application that facilitates how you organize such tasks easily, without much effort. This is where Things ($50) enters the stage.

Getting things done

Getting things done

Where to start with Things, a short write up in this article will not suffice, I will dedicate a full article about this bad boy later on. It is that impressive, it increase your workflow efficiency by a lot. The integration with iCal and an optional iPhone app takes this to the next level, we may have reached the stratosphere its that kind of elevated level. Managing your tasks and time has never been easier.

Most of the time if you download items from the internet be it via P2P (gnutella networks or torrents) or just Safari itself, you will notice some items to be compressed in various file formats, .zip and .rar among the most popular. Two applications come to mind to provide relieve for the mac users out there.

Unrar this

Unrar this

Unrar (free) is the single best mac client to handle all the .rar files that may float around the interwebs, added bonus is the abiltiy to enter passwords with this app, something that other rar expanders may still lack for mac.

Expand that

Expand that

StuffitExpander (free) handles everything else.

Now then, this list just isnt really complete with the usualy suspects and they may not need to be introduced:

  • Microsoft Office is still a must have even though iWork is very handy to have, keynote presentation are just so sexy. But yeah, a computer without Microsoft Office is like a car without gearbox, sadly.
  • Adobe CS4 is also a must have for anyone who has to create stuff out of nothing, pictures, websites, publishing, you name it. You need it, even though the more and more I use it the more I realize how complex these programs are and even harder to master. What really surprised me though was how buggy these programs really are though. Did Adobe work together with Microsoft on this one? If you dont believe me please visist this website dedicated to Adobe UI Gripes.
  • iCal, Mail, Address Book I do use these applications, not really as extensively as one would hope but I ommitted it also because these applications play really well together with Things, which I will cover more in another post.
  • Safari is my main web browser, enable its Developer menu option in the preferences and you are golden. Why bother having to download FireFox and its extensions when it is already pre-installed on Safari and even give additional features that FireFox can not duplicate. Though I still urge every user to download FireFox as a backup web browser.
  • Last but not least, QuickSilver. What a beast, feels like this application is such a big game changer that I can’t even use it properly. Yes it is somewhat intuitive but I have not learned to get past the simple actions that are built in. I hope to master QuickSilver sooner to take full advantage over this app that will even accelerate the rate of productivity (is that even possible?).

Well that’s it. First proper post in this blog. I hope you enjoyed reading though this wall of text (word-count: 1991), some might call it introduction to Mac 101 other might call it a tutorial. Please feel free to add more wonderful apps, gems that you can not live without.

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4 Responses to Apple/Mac essentials

  1. Muc says:

    a friend of mine told me that limewire is no more. i guess its not true..?

  2. Hussein says:

    How can you hate the Dock. Its just awesome!!!

  3. germanboy3383 says:

    @Muc: I just checked just to make sure. Limewire still works, it is now LimeWire (Pro) 5 by now.

    @ Hussein: I might have been exaggerating a bit with hating it, I do admit sometimes, once in a bluemoon I get undressed, get a back of chocolate, sit in front of my computer increase the dock’ size maximum with maximum magnification of the icons and then i just stare at them while eating chocolate and listening to 1930s music. 😉

  4. Awesome post, love 99% of the apps you recommended. Open Office for Mac ( http://porting.openoffice.org/mac/download/aqua.html ) is an alternative to Microsoft Office.

    Good stuff.

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