More people today are using Mac’s than ever before – OS X market share has been climbing steadily since the release of Mac OS X, but third party software is just as important as the OS it’s running on, so what do you need to put on your Mac?
Every new Mac comes with Snow Leopard pre-installed, which gives you Safari 4 out of the box. If you’re on an older Mac or just don’t like Safari, there are a host of alternatives available. I have three browsers installed on my Mac, but often use Safari. If you want to customise your browser then I recommend Mozilla Firefox, my PC and Linux browser of choice. As well as offering plugins and add-ons that allow you to make the browsing experience more personal, it’s open source too. You could also try Google’s Chrome browser for OS X. It’s been unofficially available for quite some time now, but the official Google Chrome Beta was released a few weeks ago and it’s very speedy and takes up less system resources than Safari.
You’ve no doubt used Microsoft Office at some point. You can buy Microsoft Office for Mac from around £70, although there are two other alternatives you should also consider, which are Apple’s own ‘iWork’ office suite, and Open Office. Each have their advantages and disadvantages; Microsoft Office is the most expensive of the three but arguably the most feature filled also. I personally use iWork on OS X, as it doesn’t carry much of a learning curve, in fact I found the learning curve on Office for Mac to be a steeper one due to the different interface than I’m used to.
Being the open source alternative, OpenOffice is free and a good alternative for those of you who don’t want to pay for an office suite. When using OpenOffice on OS X, I’ve always felt that it was stuck half way between Windows and OS X. When navigating around, it feels as though you’re using a Windows application virtually, as the interface isn’t very ‘Mac-like’. Despite this, it’s just as functional as Office and iWork if not in need of a facelift to make it more user friendly.
If you don’t need a full office suite, but are just looking for a better alternative to Apple’s TextEdit, I recommend checking out a small application called xPad. It’s easy to use and compatible with OS X 10.3 upwards. I use it on Snow Leopard for making notes or writing something down quickly and it’s a great tool to have.
Every Mac comes pre-installed with the iLife suite, which means that you can manage your music with iTunes as soon as you’re up and running with your Mac. If you don’t like to use iTunes, or want to sync another device apart from an iPod, I recommend using DoubleTwist, which you may have seen our review on a few months ago. DoubleTwist supports a wide range of devices, and the list is growing, so you may be in luck if you own an Android device, Blackberry or other portable device.
When viewing video files, I use VLC media player. You won’t find a fancy interface or any frills, but you’ll be able to play almost any video file you can get your hands on! If you use iTunes to organise your video collection, I’d recommend using Handbrake to rip any DVD’s to your Mac, as it comes with a lot of easy to use, pre-loaded presets.
As well as the bare essentials, there are a few other applications that no Mac user should be without… For any P2P user, there are some great torrent clients for OS X. My personal favourite is Transmission, which is lightweight and easy to use, if not sometimes a little buggy. Despite the fact that it isn’t entirely stable all the time, I still use Transmission over other choices such as uTorrent or Azureus.
Another application I couldn’t live without is AppFresh, a great application which keeps all your applications, widgets and plugins up to date with the latest version. If you want to know more about AppFresh, just check out our AppFresh review from last month.
Have you got any more suggestions for the list? Let us know in the comments and if they’re particularly useful, then we might just cover them on Zath in future reviews!