The applications listed below contains a few “old timers” and several Johnny-Come-Lately apps that have found a permanent home on my Mac.
The last few years has seen several fancy-pants screen capture utilities come to market. They all look spectacular, but I’ve stayed with Snapz Pro X because it offers the perfect balance of features at a reasonable price. Snapz Pro X offers everything you would expect in a screen capture utility, with the added ability to capture video and audio of your Mac’s screen (a feature I love to use when a web site attempts to prevent downloading of audio or video!). When it comes to static image capture of your screen, Snapz Pro can capture your entire screen, specific windows, or user definable portions of your screen with a keyboard shortcut, and save it in a number of formats. It also gives you the ability to keep the cursor visible, keep or remove drop shadows, add watermarks, and much more. Snapz Pro X with video capture capability costs you $69 and is well worth it if you do a lot of screen captures.
Panic released an all-encompassing FTP and coding app called Coda, but for simplicity, reliability and features, you can’t beat Transmit for your file transfer needs. Transmit handles FTP, SFTP, WebDav and more. I’ve been using it for years and had no reliability issues. The latest version offers plenty of new features, but the base feature set of uploading files and making minor edits to my HTML and CSS has been enough to keep it installed on my Mac for a long time. One really handy feature is the ability to create a “Droplet” you can keep on your desktop or in your Dock which automatically uploads any file(s) you drop on it to the specified FTP site. It’s fantastic if you frequently upload files to the same server. There are free FTP apps out there, but for $34 Transmit is a bargain.
Now you might wonder why I would need another file upload application when I just told you how great Transmit is. Courier handles drag and drop file uploading to FTP just like Transmit, but also adds the ability to upload images to Flickr, TwitPic and Facebook, videos to Vimeo, and files to Amazon S3 and MyCloudApp. The application is beautiful to look at, but beneath that beauty is a handy history feature that shows you which files you’ve uploaded to what service, and where that server is located by plotting its location on a map. You’ll also be provided with an active link to the files you upload. If you don’t need more robust FTP features, Courier is a steal at $19.95.
I mentioned in Part 2 that Apple hasn’t offered much in the way of improvements to the Open and Save dialog boxes. Another area that hasn’t improved is the Clock in the menubar. Apple did give us the ability to add the date, but it’s still lacking usefulness for me. Windows offers a full calendar in the menubar’s clock. MagiCal for the Mac fixes this shortcoming by giving you a host of options for displaying the date and time in your Mac’s menubar. While there are apps that will also add the ability to view iCal events and ToDo items in the calendar, MagiCal does this simple task without adding overhead to the system with features I don’t necessarily need. MagiCal is absolutely free.
MainMenu is another menubar application that I’ve come to love which places a number of Mac maintenance options at your disposal. With the click of a button you can rebuild your Spotlight index, force empty the trash when pesky files just won’t go away, repair permissions, clean system and user caches, repair and eject volumes, and much more. While all of these utilities are available via the Terminal (as well as other full applications like Onyx), MainMenu keeps them all readily available in a single menubar icon for only $19.00.
Mac users have been asking for tabs in Mac OS X’s Finder about as long as we’ve had tabs in our web browsers. TotalFinder finally brings this much requested feature, and a whole lot more. Once installed, TotalFinder lives in your Finder Preferences window an allows you to not only add tabs to your Finder windows, but adds a number of other features as well. One of those features is also Cut & Paste, a feature Windows users have enjoyed forever. With TotalFinder installed, you can also set your windows to display folders on top, view invisible files with a keyboard shortcut, and display dual tabbed windows in a single unified window – with a Finder sidebar on each side. Along with a few more features, TotalFinder is a great buy at only $15.
For years I used ImageWell to quickly edit an image for uploading to discussion forums because ImageShack and other image upload services were littered with ads and too cumbersome to work with. When I had the opportunity to try Skitch, I was sold immediately. Skitch is a combination of a desktop app and a web-based image sharing service. The app is a simple image editor, allowing you to draw simple shapes, add some text, and size your image. Once you do that, you can upload the image to the Skitch website where you have your own personal dashboard. Your images are saved in the application’s history, and have the URL to the image copied to the clipboard. Your Skitch dashboard also offers links to the image, and even formats them for HTML coding or discussion forum formatting. Skitch is free for basic use if you don’t want any of the Plus features.
I know, how could any respectable Mac user install MS Office 2011 on their Mac when iWork is available at half the cost. I agreed with that for a few years, using iWork to write my articles for Macworld and TheAppleBlog. But what I found was that iWork is so simple to use that it’s almost difficult. Yeah, that’s right, it’s too easy. Too many features are hidden behind multiple clicks or simply don’t exist at all – where with MS Office 2001, they’re right in the Ribbon at the top of the screen for one click access. Then there’s the whole compatibility issue – which for me is a big deal. Office 2011 has been greatly improved over previous versions, especially in the area of speed. And if you need compatibility with an Exchange server, the addition of MS Outlook makes Office a no-brainer. MS Office costs $280 for the Home & Office edition, or $149 for the Home & Student edition which does not include Outlook. I look forward to seeing what Apple comes up with for the next version of iWork, but until then, I’ll stick with MS Office 2011.
Like TotalFinder, HyperDock aims to fill the gaps Apple left in Mac OS X’s Finder. HyperDock’s primary function is to add preview thumbnails to the windows open in any given app in your Dock. Beyond that though, HyperDock offers a few even more useful features to customize your user experience. You can view iCal events when hovering over the iCal icon in the Dock, and control iTunes when over that icon. But for me, the killer features are the Window Management options. HyperDock allows you to enable Window Snapping – which automatically sizes your window to fill half the screen and moves it to the appropriate edge when you move a window to the edge of your screen. This is especially useful for laptop users. Another great feature is the ability to move and resize application and Finder windows from any edge, not just the titlebar. This feature is great for users with a large LCD screen – saving a lot of scrolling! All these features should be built-in to the Mac OS. Until they are, HyperDock is free while still in beta.
Last but not least is Alfred, a multi-use utility for launching apps, documents and folder, as well as searching the web from your desktop. There are other apps like it, QuickSilver pioneered the idea, Google has their version, and their are numerous takes on the idea from other developers – but non is as simple and good looking as Alfred. While Apple’s own Spotlight can do some of what Alfred does, I really love working with Alfred because it offers so much more in the way of working with apps. For example, you can search for a file and attach it to a new email with the email address of the person you want to send it to – all without leaving the small Alfred window. Alfred also keeps a history of your clipboard, lets you control iTunes, and has a host of new features on the way to work with more applications. The basic Alfred app is free, with a PowerPack adding numerous features for only 12 British Pounds, which is about $23 US dollars.
This concludes the 3 part series. I hope there was at least one app in the 3 articles that you didn’t know about and now find useful. If not, share your favorite apps with everyone in the comments. I know I’m always on the lookout for great new apps for my Mac!