2007-03-13

Urgent Apps - "20" Mac Software Picks

So, I just reformatted my laptop and reinstalled the OS, which got me to thinking about which applications I installed first, reflexively, as I can't stand to be without them - and then I progress on through the stuff that I need infrequently, but I do still need nonetheless. These are my "Urgent Applications".

Firefox
The best browser, period. Well, okay, Camino might actually be better - I haven't used it, because it doesn't support FireFox plugins. Bust.

Adium
The ultimate multi-messenger application. Handles MSNM, Y!IM, AIM, ICQ, GTalk, Jabber, IRC, and a whole host of smaller services. Moreover, it's just about the most customizable instant messaging app I've ever used, on any patform.

Quicksilver
Quicksilver is a launcher and then some. It doesn't just let you quickly find and open documents and applications; it lets you do anything to them, with just a few key presses. I still have yet to fully discover its potential.

TextWrangler
Nice text editor, especially for programmers, webmasters, and power-users.

Punakea
MacOS file tagger and tag-based file browser. Stores tags in meta data so they can still be searched with Spotlight.

Growl
Global notification app. Many of the programs on this list support Growl notifications, and more applications add Growl support every day.

7zX
On windows, 7Z has always been one of my "urgent apps" whenever I reinstall. 7zX holds the same spot for OS X.

Xcode
I know, I know, it's cheating, but hey, you do have to manually install it. And besides, it's required for Fink.

X11
Again, I know, it comes with MacOS, but again, it must be installed seperately. X11 is found in the "optional installs" package on your MacOS disk, and it allows you to run graphical Linux applications on your Mac, side-by-side with Mac applications (programs such as OpenOffice, the GIMP, and Inkscape.)

NeoOffice
A pure Aqua port of OpenOffice. It's got some quirks, and it tends to be a couple of steps behind the official OpenOffice tree, but it's still a very solid port.

VLC
VLC isn't just a multimedia player; it's an omnimedia player. I've only run into a couple of files in my life that VLC can't play; and even when multiple players will play the same file, VLC usually does so with better quality, less resource usage, in fullscreen (unlike unregistered Quicktime), and for free.

Fink
Fink is the Darwin package manager, like apt or yum (in fact, it's a forked port of apt to Darwin.) It's a command-line tool you can use to install and update the thousands of standard (free) packages that have been ported to Darwin.

FinkCommander
For those squeemish at the command line, there's FinkCommander, which puts a nice graphical interface over top of Fink. Heck, I love the command line, but I still use this instead of fink itself 90% of the time.

FruitMenu (payware)
One of the few pay apps on my list, FruitMenu is well worth the price. It lets you turn your Apple menu into, well, something that's actually useful for stuff. There's a free demo, so check it out.

FileZilla 3.0 beta
The famous FTP client for Windows has in its third generation finally been ported to the Mac - and the people rejoiced. My all-time favorite Windows FTP client is finally available, and completely free, for the Mac (and, for that matter, Linux as well!)

Chmox
Mac OS X app that lets you view Windows CHM helpfiles, which are prolific throughout the open source community in providing packaged online documentation. Works very well, with an interface similar to Preview.

OnyX
OnyX is a system tweaking, tinkering, optimizing, and maintenance tool. And it's free. Go get it. I run the full suite about once a week.

SuperDuper (payware)
The other pay app on my list, SuperDuper lets you quickly back up your Users directory, your entire disk, or any selection of files, to a disk image.

hfsdebug

Hfsdebug is a command-line utility you can use to quickly get information about an HFS drive, such as file size and fragmentation. The only free way I know of to determine file fragmentation on an HFS+ disk.

Dashboard Widgets
iStat Pro
Shows various system stats, such as memory use, network info, disk use, fan speeds, temperature readouts, CPU usage, uptime, battery status, and more.

Delivery Notification
The best package tracking widget I've ever seen, bar none - and I've used many of them. If you do a lot of online shopping - or even just occasionally - check this little widget out.

Color LS
Yes, yes, this would make #22 (#21 if you count the dashboard widgets as one item, which I do, because I'm a cheater), but it's not exactly just an application, so I'm not counting it as one. In order to get LS in color, you have to install a version of LS which supports color output. You can do this from Fink by installing the "fileutils" package. This gets you a color-capable ls, but it's not in color by default; you have to use the --color=always flag. However, you can change this by editing your ~/.bash_profile and adding a line like so:

alias ls='ls --color=always"

You can find more info here: http://kung-foo.tv/xtips.html#9.

Open Terminal Here Workflow
(See note from Color LS about how this doesn't put me over 20 items.) Sometimes you're browsing around the Finder and you need to get to the current directory in a Terminal window - only to discover there's no easy way to do it; you can't even quickly copy and paste your current path. So, what is a power-user to do? Script the action!

Right-click on a folder's background (or the desktop background) and choose Automator -> Create Workflow. This will open Automator with a new Workflow, with "Get Selected Finder Items" already inserted as Step 1. Choose Automator as the library, find Run AppleScript, and add it as Step 2. For the script body, use:

on run {input, parameters}

tell application "Terminal"
set firstpath to item 1 of input
do script "cd " & (quoted form of POSIX path of firstpath)
activate
end tell

return input
end run

Now save the file as a Finder Plugin, and name it anything you want. Now, to get a Terminal that's where you are in the Finder, just right-click, and choose your script name from the Automator menu.


Know of a superior alternative to one of my picks? Or something that should be on the list but isn't? Post a comment and let me know!!
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