Mac software essentials

Once I’d taken delivery of my new iMac, I had the task of setting it all up the way I wanted it. Fortunately, being a Mac, that is all very easy. When you first switch it on, it asks you if you’ve got a Time Machine backup that you’d like to use to restore your previous data. Obviously I had been using Time Machine, so pointed it in the right direction. It then asks exactly what you want restored – music, photos, applications etc. I decided to just go for my personal data, as I was aware that I had clogged up my old machine with no end of applications that I had only ever used once before deciding they weren’t for me.

Everything restored just the way I wanted it, but then I had the task of putting back just the applications I REALLY wanted, and this was quite a useful decision-making process. So what did I install? Here’s my round up – and you’ll be pleased to know it’s all free!

The first thing I went for was trusty old Firefox. I prefer it over Safari for a number of reasons – I like the plugins you can get for it, particularly Xmarks, favicon support and its Google search defaults to the UK site. Small things, but for me it gives it the edge.

The next essential app is Skype. It’s even better now I have a Mac with an iSight camera, as obviously I can now do video chat. All my friends have an account, and not only does it do voice and video chat, it’s also a very decent instant messaging program. Add in the fact that I’ve also got it installed on my iPod Touch and mobile phone, it’s an absolute must-have.

Next up, Dropbox. I realise that you can just use it direct from the web interface, but the Mac app adds so much more. I’ve got it set up to automatically synchronise with my Documents folder, so I know I’ve always got an up-to-date copy on Dropbox if I ever need a file, and the drag-and-drop nature of the desktop app means it’s all much simpler than the web uploader.

I’m going to bundle these two together, as they are very similar in their functionality – Perian and Flip4Mac. In actual fact, there’s nothing that you need to do with them once they’re installed, but they give you access to all the different web video codecs that you’re likely to come across. Flip4Mac handles WMV files within the Quicktime player, and Perian does the rest.

On a similar video-based theme, the VLC player is very handy for playing any truculent videos that don’t like the Quicktime player. Not only that, it’s essential to get my next app choice to work properly. Which brings me on to…

Handbrake! A fabulous piece of free software, it allows you to rip DVDs to a variety of formats and sizes. It works in conjunction with the VLC player, so make sure you’ve got that installed if you want to use Handbrake. There are a lot of settings to play with if you’re so inclined, or just go for the presets.

If you’re a Twitterer like me, then a Twitter client is a must-have rather than constantly visiting the website. My client of choice is Twitterrific, which is free if you can put up with the occasional advert. It’s slick and unobtrusive, and there’s a matching iPhone/iTouch app too.

One of the finest ideas in a long time, Spotify is quite something. Internet-based free music, supported by the occasional advert (or ad-free if you want to pay a subscription). I think it’s brilliant. Great for discovering new music before committing to a purchase, and I really like the iTunes-like interface.

If you like to dabble in a bit of BitTorrent, you can do a lot worse than this very fine client app, Transmission. Small but perfectly formed, it does everything you need to do without any bloat or unnecessary features.

Should you need to FTP anything, then Filezilla is a great fully-featured free application for doing just that. Not much more to say really. Easy to use, does everything it needs to including secure FTP if you require it.

And finally, if you just can’t help yourself and you find yourself installing stuff that you later discover you don’t want then you need to get rid. You could just drag it to the trash, but that’s not very sophisticated. AppCleaner will also get rid of all the associated files and folders leaving you crud-free. Splendid.

So there you go – all tried-and-tested, top notch free applications. So are there any that I’ve missed? Your suggestions in the comments if you will…

This entry was posted in Apple, apps, Computing, Dropbox, Firefox, handbrake, Mac, OSX, skype, spotify, twitterrific, vlc. Bookmark the permalink.

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