Cool Mac OS X applications

I originally wrote this article a long time ago in March 2010. I didn't know this page is still visible but it is and here we are.

Now it's 11 years later, March 2021 as I update this page. Most interesting to me are the applications I still use regularly. Some have now been removed from this list which others remain important staples of the Mac ecosystem. Applications that are no longer available or I no longer use have been removed.

When I first tried a Mac, I didn't know what the best applications were for the platform and it took me a while to compile a significant list. Below are some of my favourite applications for Mac OS X, in order of preference. Many are commercial applications I've purchased, yet others are free. My friends know how much I love technology, systems and virtualization so I sometimes refer them to this list.

VMware Fusion

In its early days VMware made disruptive technologies that were amazing but I no longer use them. Fusion support on MacOS 11 has been brutal. I had an open support ticket with them for months and they closed it on me unresolved. I was unable to get networking to work at all depite using Fusion for ten years, everything broke with Fusion 12. Bye VMware. Your products tend to suck these days.

Adium instant messenger

Used to be cool but the world changed and I don't use Adium anymore.

Firefox web browser

I still use Safari as my main browser, but I install Firefox for its customization and plugin capabilities. It's also always good to have a second browser for a wide variety of uses, from privacy issues to Tor, Flash manipulation, web development, and much more. It's a free, highly customizable browser that many people like more than Internet Explorer. And it has more features than Safari, particularly for anonymous browsing. This is the Netscape browser, reloaded, pluggable and very powerful. 2021 update: yep, still use it.

Microsoft Word

It doesn't need any introduction. Word is the best word processor ever designed, and Word 2008 and the rest of the Microsoft Office 2008 suite is native to Mac OS X. It's a little bulky and slow to load, but once it's running there's no turning back. Many folks wouldn't have bought a Mac if Microsoft Office wasn't available, but fortunately Apple and Microsoft have a good working relationship. Excel, PowerPoint and Entourage (their Outlook clone) work just fine too. Microsoft Office for Mac OS X is a must-have application. 2021 update: yep, still use it and more than ever.

Google Earth - mapping software

This is amazing 3D mapping software of the Earth and the Solar System. Google Earth runs on other platforms like Windows too, but it's fully supported and customized for the Mac. Zoom into where you live and see an arial view of your city. Also works great with the Google Sketchup 3D drawing software... which is fun and easy to use. 2021 update: still use it, but the web-based version is just as good now.

TextMate - text editor

TextMate is a good text editor with syntax highlighting for OS X. It is a programmer's editor. It is usually pretty good at the syntax highlighting, except where three languages are involved and one language is embedded in another. TextMate is simple, powerful editor for programmers and hackers. It comes without the baggage (or price) of comparable programs like BBedit for the Mac, which seems to be for people who used Macs like 20 years ago (I'm not one of those people). The program looks simple but under the hood it is extremely powerful, with macros, in-line spelling, tons of of plugins, customizable color/font schemes, and more. I like that it's fast and simple. 2021 update: yep, still use it.

Transmit - ftp/sftp client

Actually I used the free Cyberduck ftp/sftp program for years and really liked it. But it crashed all the time, so I found Transmit. Transmit is perhaps the most popular of applications in this genre, and supports the Growl plugin, has its own Widget, and settings can be synced with .Mac as well. 2021 update: yep, still use it

SuperDuper! - backup program

SuperDuper is the best backup program for the Mac. More than just backups, it creates perfect clones of your drive, and supports "smart updating" that only has to transfer the changes since the last time you backed up. This program has saved my butt numerous times, and is perfect for a failing hard drive, transferring your system from one Mac to another, or just backing up to prevent data loss. The free version supports basic backups and works in a pinch, but buy the license to get the full functionality like smart updating. 2021 update: yep, still use it. If you want other backup options as well, try this article about Mac backups... the blogger wrote to me asking to link to their page.

Business Card Composer - design software

There is no simpler, easier-to-use program like this on the planet. My friend who owns a small consulting business uses it and it's pretty slick. The developers of Business Card Composer pioneered simple yet amazing features like alignment marks that pop up when you are moving/resizing/changing any piece of text or graphics. That means everything lines up on the business card, so it's perfect for everyone, even for idiots like me. Anyone can make a professional business card in just a few minutes. 2021 update: sadly, this program is no longer available. It will be missed!

Lux - Risk-like game

I don't play many games on my Mac, but Lux is one of them. It's like the board game Risk, but much more automated. It supports multi-player over the Internet, and runs on just about anything (Mac, Windows, Linux) so all your friends can play.

Unison - Usenet binary grabber

Unison is the closet things to Newsbin Pro on Windows. It allows you to very quickly download binaries from the Usenet, a network on the Internet that predates the Web. Everything from music, pictures, videos and files can be found on the Usenet... along with the most dedicated group of discussion forums ever created. Unison has a Mac interface and works well, though I find the navigation slightly confusing. 2021 update: the vendor stopped support in 2014, it will be missed.

Last updated: March 12, 2010

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