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Mac OS X 3rd party applications I use

I’ve had my MacBook Pro for about half a year. Never satisfied with limiting myself to what came out of the box, I thought it’d be useful to document what third party (non-Apple) applications I found useful, if not indispensable.

Update (10 January 2007): Thanks to SjG for mentioning MAMP, which I use frequently.

My next post on this topic will discuss third party applications that fall into that sad bucket of necessary evils: essential tools that are terrible to use. (I know I haven’t discussed Dashboard widgets, screen savers, icons and other software add-ons in this article, so I will save that for a future post.)

Next in series: Mac OS X 3rd party applications that suck.

AdiumAdium (free, open source), based on Gaim (upon which I depend on Linux), is a great replacement for iChat (mmm, tabs!). Eminently configurable, yet its default UI is clear and easy to use. I do wish it had IRC implemented, though.

CaminoCamino for my Web browsing pleasure. I prefer it over Safari and Firefox. Like Firefox, though, it’s a delightful, open source Mozilla project.

Fan ControlI found a way to cool down my feverish MacBook Pro by using Fan Control (free, open source), a System Preference to increase the minimum fan speeds from their default of 1000 rpm. Hardware MonitorHardware Monitor (shareware, US$9.45) complements Fan Control by allowing me to view the temperatures of the CPUs and hard disk, as well as the fan speeds.

GrowlI don’t use Growl (free open source) directly, but several applications on my machine do: Adium, Vienna, Transmit, etc. Growl displays transient popup windows containing useful information like number of articles downloaded, messages received, and so forth —excellent for when I have several applications running in the background.

MAMPMAMP (free, open source), a helpful bundle of the latest Macintosh Apache, MySQL and PHP distributions. Easy installation, including a handy Dashboard widget for controlling the servers —although there’s a bug with the widget’s start page control. MAMP has been an invaluable tool for web development! (On a related note, there’s XAMPP for Linux and Windows. XAMPP has a Mac OS X port which supposedly isn’t as mature as MAMP, but I wonder how useful the Linux and Windows versions are. There’s also a Solaris port under development. Anyone have experiences with XAMPP?)

MarsEditFor blog writing, I played with MarsEdit (commercial, US$24.95) and ecto (commercial, US$17.95). It’s hard to gauge MarsEdit’s development activity, since responses within the its forums seem infrequent. Still, in spite of minor limitations (not handling different types of posts properly, date modifications, etc.), MarsEdit wins easily with its straightforward features.

OmniDazzleOmniDazzle (commercial, US$14.95) helps me locate the tiny pointer on my two-monitor setup. But I’d prefer to have a concurrent choice between either a keyboard shortcut or mouse shaking for activation (must select one and only one activation method). I tried Mouseposé (commercial, US$14.95), but it lacks OmniDazzle’s shake-to-activate feature, and its highlighting scheme is confusing.

SmultronFor a text editor that goes beyond the basics of TextEdit (which, btw, ain’t too shabby for what it does), I’ve been torn between Smultron (free, open source) and TextMate (shareware, €39). TextMate, like BBEdit, has several huge menus for code and markup bits which can be handy…yet it gives me a cluttered feeling during actual use. Smultron feels more streamlined, more nimble, so I’ve been using it for the vast majority of my editing needs.

ThunderbirdThunderbird (free, open source) for mail. Although its UI isn’t as polished as Apple’s, Thunderbird seems zippier from my (admittedly cursory) experience of Moreover, I find’s threaded UI irritatingly convoluted; Thunderbird’s UI for this has become essential for my mail reading ease.

This just in side notes: Correo 0.1 came out this week and GyazMail announced IMAP support. Something to investigate!)

TransmitThe world’s best FTP-app-with-a-GUI is Transmit (shareware, US$29.95).

ViennaVienna for reading syndicated news (RSS). I could never get into the habit of reading RSS content within a browser. And while Thunderbird was initially good, I wanted something simpler in appearance and function —especially with my ever growing list of feeds. Vienna is free and open source, with an active, responsive development team.


  1. SjG wrote:

    Others that I use regularly:

    Adobe Photoshop for image tweakage of all kinds and fun programmatic manipulations of images via JavaScript, iView Media Pro for managing collections of images, rdiff-backup for backing up and keeping revisions of files or directories over the network, Chicken of the VNC for remote management of other machines (particularly Windows machines where you need a GUI or can’t get a shell via ssh), Disk Inventory X for figuring out where my disk space went, Neo Office for when I need to use Office-ish documents — it’s so compatible with MS Office that it has most of the same annoyances, Passwords Plus to manage passwords (and synch them to my Treo), Snail Mail to print envelopes, Audacity for editing sounds (remember SoundEdit16 from the old days?), Google Earth for wasting enormous amounts of time, and Study Card Studio for learning Spanish.

    (Also, stuff for development like MAMP for the PHP/MySQL/Apache instance that’s easy to manage, YourSQL a decent database tool for MySQL when you don’t want to use the command line, and, of course, the universe of Ruby on Rails for when you want to be all Web 2.0 and stuff.

    Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 10:13 am | Permalink
  2. sairuh wrote:

    I nearly forgot to mention MAMP! Will add that to my list. You mention quite a few apps which I’ve used occaisionally, but have potential: the subject of another article. 🙂

    Wednesday, 10 January 2007 at 10:42 am | Permalink

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