Agent Angelo

Software for your new Mac

A former co-worker of mine (I’ll call him The Ninja from here on) has bought a Mac. He is a skilled web developer and know his way around Windows, but this is first Mac. Ever! As I have used Macs since 1990 I have politely reminded him of the advantages of the platform and how his life will just become better and better when using a Mac. Needless to say it has taken him some time to change his ways.

Mac OSX is great and there’s lots of software that makes your productivity soar, but when you’re coming from a Windows centric world you just don’t know where to start. Friends changing to the Mac have asked me for tips and how to get up to speed so I thought it was time to make a list of software recommendations and give my view of what to get and why.

I will divide the list into the following parts:

This post will be updated continually over the next week so please come back and check it out. Feel free to ask me any questions if you’re new to Mac OSX by commenting this post.

Software I can’t live without

1Password is without doubt the only piece of software that has saved me from going crazy. I sign up to a lot of webservices, I have 6 Gmail accounts, 6 Twitter account and loads of other different accounts all over the place. It’s been ages since I could (and bothered to) remember which email and what password I use for a particular webservice/account and 1Password has come to my rescue. It helps you quickly sign in without any hassle. Right now it helps me keep track of 354 different accounts. Get it!

I used to use Quicksilver and it was great, but since the developer stopped working on it the software has become slower with each update of Mac OSX. Tada!! Alfred steps in and works great. I use it (without the Powerpack) to launch apps, open folders, check spelling of words in Dictionary and do custom web searches.

Launching apps fast with Alfred

I use Alfred to launch apps, open folders and do custom web searches

Andrew Pepperrell is the developer and is very active in expanding the software and frequently posts on Twitter as @alfredapp and @preppeller. If you do install Alfred do yourself and follow the Tumblelog Alfredtips. Also check out Appstorm’s post on how to become an Alfred expert.

I use this every day. It kicks into action when I write email, write HTML and CSS or just when I need to type my full name, address or phone number. It saves me a lot of typing and if you write more than 3 emails a day you should get it. Here’s an example. I currently use a snippet of HTML and text when I post a photo to Flickr. This is it: Bigger on the <a href="">Nonlinear</a> photoblog. Instead of typing that line every time I simply type the abbreviation “abig” and boom it’s there. TextExpander’s statistics tell me I’ve expanded 4006 snippets, saved 59.265 characters and saved 2,47 hours (at 80 words per minute). That’s since I upgraded my harddrive at the end of October 2010.

Default Folder X
I’ve used Default Folder since way before Mac OSX was introduced (in 2001 ??) and it still saves me time when I need to navigate in Open and Save dialogues. You may not need this, but be sure to check out the overview screencast and then decide.

Apps you probably know

Twitter for Mac (Danish Appstore link)
The best and nicest Twitter client for Mac OSX although I like Kiwi and YoruFukurou too.

VMware Fusion
If you need to run Windows or Linux in a virtual machine on your Mac. I like it better that Parallels.

For your movie needs.

You know what to do and you’ve probably already installed it.

I don’t chat much, but there’s no getting around Adium. It’s a great piece of software and supports all the protocols I need. Be sure to check out the extras while you’re there.


Monolingual or Xslimmer and Cocktail
I like to keep my system fast, clean and oiled. That means doing a bit of housekeeping once in a while.
When I do a fresh install of everything (system, fonts, applications and so on) I spin up Monolingual or Xslimmer to remove language resources I have no use for. You can literally save hundreds of megabytes. Even more if you use Xslimmer and you remove the fat binaries (PowerPC code) from applications. If you’re on a laptop this is a must.

Cocktail is used to do the housekeeping on Mac OSX and I recommend you do the same every couple of weeks. Especially if you use your Mac extensively. This keeps your system tuned, fast and responsive. I use Cocktail’s “Pilot” function (see screenshot beneath) and usually leave to get a cup of coffee while it does its magic.
Cocktail's "Pilot" tab

When I’m done installing a fresh system I soon get TinkerTool launched to change various settings of Mac OSX. As I’ve mentioned before I like the Finder and general system to be zippy so use TinkerTool to turn Finder animation settings like “Show animation effect when opening files”, “Animate opening info panes and Desktop icons” and stuff like that off. It’s a great tool to make changes you otherwise would have to do via the Terminal and the software is free.

Check out Mac Appstorm‘s review of TinkerTool.

Applications you probably don’t know

I’m fairly new to Reeder, but I quickly fell in love with it. It’s fast, opens up links either in you preferred browser or in it’s own window and makes it easy to jump around different posts in a certain RSS feed (which I think is a pain to do in Google Reader). It syncs with Google Reader. I have 1048 feed subscriptions in Google Reader and because Reeder is well designed and easy to use I’ve actually managed to get some of my feed group counts down to 0.
I also use Reeder on the iPad. I consider it the best feed reader around on that platform.

Screenshot of Reeder for Mac

Quickly zip through your RSS feeds in Reeder for Mac

A former favorite is NetNewsWire. I’ve had it for years and it also syncs with Google Reader. It’s developed by Brent Simmons who through the years has done a great job of keeping NetNewsWire ahead of the other feedreaders for the Mac.
Download Reeder for Mac.

DR Player for Mac (Only for people living in Denmark)
The Danish national TV station has developed this nifty, small application to watch TV from DR1, DR2, DRk, Ramasjang, listen to all the radio stations and DAB radio.
Screenshot of DR Player for Mac

Download it from their Dropbox account and follow @drplayermac.

A lightweight Webkit full-screen browser developed by The Barbarian Group. If I want to spend some time in front of a large iMac monitor and just browse sites Plainview makes that activity a better experience as it’s a full-screen browser. (Yes, I know Google Chrome can do that, but when Plainview was launched in 2008 there was no Google Chrome for Mac) It’s great for doing presentations.

Applications for web development

I use ImageOptim to scale down the size of graphics for the web. It’s free, fast and does the job of optimizing PNG, jpg and GIF files very well.

Screenshot of ImageOptim in action

Reducing the size of the Reeder screenshot I've used in this post

Other tips & websites

A great place to keep track of updates and software for the Mac and iPhone. Now the Mac App Store has launched I’m curious about what will happen with the Macupdate site in the longer term.

Check out Trevor’s blog post over at Signals vs. Noise on how he set up his new Mac when starting working for 37signals.
Stay tuned. More coming soon.

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