Last October, I got a shiny new 15″ Macbook Pro and have been using it as my main work computer ever since. It is much faster than my iMac, and other than watching movies and working in Photoshop, I find that I prefer using it over the iMac.
The only thing that has really bugged me about this computer is that the sound sucks. In many cases, the volume is too low to hear anything above the outside street noise. At least it was until yesterday when I discovered an awesome little app called Boom.
Boom is a volume booster and equalizer for macs. From the moment I installed it, the volume on my system has been quite a bit louder. After turning on the built-in equalizer and setting it to ‘Vocals’, the sound was even better while watching a video podcast that I had not been able to hear earlier. The app is $6.99 and can be purchased from the seller’s website or from the Mac App Store.
Update (8/3/09): Added SuperDuper! to list and changed title.
Just got my aluminum imac replaced by Apple. The old one was kind of possessed by gremlins or some such thing. After several failed repair attempts, part replacements, and countless hours of phone support, Apple agreed to give me a shiny new computer. Loving it 🙂 The specs are not all that much different from the first one, but the parts are better, so it is faster and the graphics are extra kick ass.
While restoring my data, I was having an appreciation of all the great mac software out there. Much of it is free, donationware, or relatively low cost. Here are some of my current favorites (in no particular order):
Caffeine (Free) – A one trick wonder. Puts a coffee cup icon in the menu bar that, when clicked, prevents your computer from automatically going to sleep, dimming, or starting screen savers. It is really great for reading long articles and watching videos or screencasts. You can set a default duration for it to stay on so that you don’t have to worry about forgetting to disable it.
SuperDuper! ($27.95) – I can’t believe I left this one out! SuperDuper! is a backup program that will make a fully bootable backup, or “clone” of your mac’s hard drive. I clone mine nightly. During my aforementioned computer woes, I recovered my drive several times using SuperDuper! and booted my laptop from the clone while my imac was in the shop so that I could keep working.
DropBox (Free to $199/yr.)- Online storage and file sync for mac, windows, and linux. First 2 GB of space is free and you can get up to 3 GB more by referring other people. If you click the link in this article, we will both get 250G extra space 🙂 Paid accounts are available with 50 or 100 GB storage. One feature I love is that you can create public downloads by right-clicking on a file in your Public folder and selecting ‘Copy public link’. This allows anyone who has the link to download the file.
Komodo Edit (Free) & Komodo IDE ($99-$245) – Both of these code editors are great. Komodo edit has an excellent set of features for a free app. Multiple languages, code formatting, auto-indent and more. Komodo IDE adds debugging, a code browser, source-control systems integration, and other handy tools like a regular expressions toolkit.
MAMP (Free) – MAMP rocks! It is a really quick way to set up a local development environment. Installs and configures Apache, PHP, MySQL, and phpMyAdmin in a self-contained directory that will not interfere with any existing Apache installations.
Transmit ($29.95) – There are some great free FTP clients out there, but I really love the Transmit interface, mac integration, and the fact that it can handle any FTP task I throw at it (SFTP, TLS/SSL, WebDav, iDisk, Amazon S3, server to server transfers and lots more. If you have mobileMe, you can sync your accounts between macs.
Bookdog ($19.95) – Syncs bookmarks between browsers. Amazing. Removes duplicates, sorts, and verifies links. Syncs with del.icio.us and Google Bookmarks and works with tons of browsers.
ImageWell (~$18) – I have had this tiny app for years and use it all the time. Great for quickly resizing images and adding watermarks. Photoshop and other apps will do the same thing, but none will do it as fast or as easy.
ColorTagGen (Free) – Another app I use all the time. Lets you use the mac color picker to generate hexidecimal and RGB values of colors. A closely related app which I also use is Hex Color Picker (Donationware) which adds a tab to the system-wide color panel that allows you to see and edit the hex color code for any color.
Bento – ($49) – Bento (made by FileMaker) is drag and drop easy to use database software. I can never decide if I like it or hate it, but find myself using it more and more. It is great for simple databases like a client list or home inventory, but I often wish it had more relational database features like FileMaker. Bento is also slow to open and I use it for information that I need to access quickly. On the other hand, it does more than a spreadsheet and makes data pretty.
Together ($39) – Junk drawer software. A place to put all that random information that you want to be able to reference in the future. I tried a bunch of apps when it was time to replace my beloved Yojimbo, which was starting to feel out of date and cumbersome. Together came out on top for having the features I needed without being too complicated or too basic.
Text Edit – Basic mac text editing program. I default to plain text format and use this all the time to clean text that was sent to me by clients in Word or copied from a web page. I also use it for a notepad and scratch pad.
LaunchBar (~$34) – Quickly launch applications, access clipboard history, find documents, and much more with your keyboard. Very similar to QuickSilver, which I used to love, but started having problems with, possibly because it is in perpetual beta. Still, it is a classic and it is free.
MenuCalendarClock (Free, $19.95 for advanced features) – I love this tiny app. Lets you customize the menu bar display of time and date (best to disable default time display in System Preferences). Clicking on the menu bar date/time drops down a calendar that highlights days with scheduled events. Hover over the dates and a tooltip appears showing the events for that day. Lots of other cool features. Not really sure which ones are in free vs. paid version, but there is a comparison at the site.
DragThing (Shareware, $29) – Dock replacement. Allows you to create multiple docks, each with multiple tabs, and place them anywhere you want. Along with LaunchBar, this is one of the first things I install on any mac. I wrote a post about DragThing last year.
Default Folder X ($34.95) – Adds many useful features to Open and Save dialog boxes. Choose recent and favorite folders quickly. Assign default folders for applications. Menu bar icon for fast access to favorite and recent folders, open finder windows, and all other folders through flyout menus.
PathFinder ($39.95) – Finder replacement (works alongside of Finder). Adds about a million features that you wish were in the Finder. More sorting and display options, dual pane browser for side by side folders in one window, tabs, drop stack to hold files in a temporary stack, and more.
1Password ($39.95) – Store logins, passwords, credit card info, and secure notes. Integrates with most browsers allowing you to log into websites and enter credit card information with just a few keystrokes. You only need to remember one master password to allow the browsers access to the stored information. Pretty amazing if you have tons of logins to remember and/or shop online.
TextExpander ($29.95), Typinator ($19.99) , TypeIt4Me ($27) – Thanks to the many mac software bundles, I have somehow managed to have a license to all 3 of these apps. Currently I am using TextExpander, but I don’t think I have a preference. They all have their pros and cons. Mostly pros. All 3 apps basically do the same thing – inserting text and/or images when you type a short abbreviation. For example, when I type bsig, it automatically changes to my 4 line business email signature. Also great for canned responses, code snippets, email addresses, phone numbers, common typos, URLs, and anything else that you type regularly.
Paparazzi (Donationware) – Another one trick wonder. Takes full page screenshots of web pages. Very handy for designers and developers that need to view an entire web page at one time.
World of Goo ($20) – Not sure what to say about World of Goo except that you should try the demo (mac, windows, linux). Completely original game involving balls of goo with different physical properties. The “dialog” and sounds are funny, the graphics and animation are excellent, and it’s very fun! Warning: May also cause extreme frustration in certain circumstances.
That is all I can think of for now. Curious what other people’s favorite apps are. I’ll try just about anything that has a demo version.
Komodo Edit 5 has been my default code editor for the past week or so. It is much faster and nicer to look at than previous versions that I have tried. I switch default code editors almost as often as I switch default browsers. There are so many good ones out there, but none feels exactly right. Considering I spend most of my days switching between browsers and editor, I like to keep up with the latest that is available for mac.
One of the things I am most picky about in an editor is the color scheme. It is very hard for me to find schemes that I can stand to stare at for long periods of time. Schemes with white/light backgrounds and colored text are usually too bright for me and dark schemes are usually either too high or too low contrast. For this reason, I usually end up making my own.
If anyone else is using Komodo Edit (or Komodo IDE) and is similarly picky about color schemes, I have made it available for download.
Update (3/4/09): Changed CSS comment color from green to default grey.
Update (3/21/09): Downloaded the trial version of Komodo IDE 5 yesterday and noticed that schemes switched over automatically. [update: bought Komodo IDE 5 after trial expired. Still loving it (1/17/10)]
Update (3/24/09): Fixed issue with some defaults changing from white to black text after update to Komodo 5.1. Added language specific colors for Smarty.
Update (8/23/09): Changed Common Syntax bracehighlight background color from dark grey to yellow for increased visibility.
Update (9/17/09): Changed Find highlighting indicator background color from yellow to green for increased readability.
Update (1/17/10): Changed Tag matching indicator background color from orange to light blue for increased readability.
Update (10/14/10): A few settings were changed slightly after installing Komodo 6.0. Still assessing whether I will change them back or keep them as is.
Update (6/1/11): CSS identifier color changed to increase readability, reduce eye-strain, and match other scheme colors better.
Update (7/9/11): All is well in Komodo 7.0-alpha3 except for the new HTML5 scheme not matching at all. Will get to that if I can ever find some time.
Update (12/28/11): This scheme has been included as a default scheme in Komodo 7 and is now called Dark_Chalkboard. Thanks to ActiveState for including it.
I was browsing Macworld online this morning and watched Jason Snell’s video about DragThing, a utility that replaces the mac OS X dock. It can also be used in addition to the standard dock.
Half way through watching the video, I could barely wait to try it. I downloaded it before the video was over and installed it right away. It took me a little while to get it all configured, but so far it totally rocks.
I like the mac dock but I have so many things on it that they are hard to find. I run my cursor back and forth all the time trying to remember what I was looking for. Drag thing organizes dock items in several ways. There are options to create multiple docks, each with the option of tabbed sections. Many themes are included and the docks can be moved around.
I chose the blueprint theme and created one dock with 6 tabs (main, docs, folders, URLs, dev, and misc). I am also using the ‘process dock’, a dock showing all open applications. I chose to show these as drawers that need to be clicked to open (hover over is another option). One cool thing I noticed is that even with the drawers set to open on click instead of hover, I can still drag a file to a tab and the dock will open so I can drop the file onto the program I want to open it with.
Docks with drawers closed:
DragThing is shareware. It is free to download and try and $29 for a single user license. I will try it for a while before I pay for it, but even after just one day I can see how this could easily become a ‘must have’ app.
A long time ago, Karen promised that she would never throw me a surprise party. She also promised that she would never lie to me. Today, after a surprise party last night which followed about a month of deceit, I find myself surprisingly (and pleasantly) not angry at all.
I was surprised to say the least! Me and Karen and TC were hanging out in the living room when the doorbell rang. I answered it and looked outside to see about 10 or 12 people who I know and like standing there holding balloons and smiling at me. I honestly did not know what to make of it. I think I figured it out about a minute later when they all quietly yelled “Surprise!”, but my brain was still trying to make some sense of it as they started coming inside the house. Continue reading →
There is a great list which includes many of the programs mentioned above (and many that aren’t) at xfreeware.com.
Anyone else have any favorite mac freeware? Please share…
*I am using the word freeware because payment is not required to use these apps with all features enabled and without a time limit. Many of the programmers accept donations to compensate them for their time and effort. If you can afford it and use the program regularly, please consider donating 🙂
I have read the mixed reviews. I have looked at the insanely redundant (yet CSS based) code. I have pointed and clicked my way to a pretty cool website! It is definitely worth the $79 price tag, especially considering that the price includes the entire iLife ’06 suite! (iLife also includes iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD, and Garage Band)
This is not a professional web design/development application, and anyone who is looking for that will not be happy with it. Design options are limited in many ways. Programming options are limited to what is built in. Generated source code is mostly lots of divs with tons of repetitive inline styling and NO semantic markup. If you need a pro wysiwyg web app, Dreamweaver 8 is the way to go. Continue reading →
It is only the first day, and I am already having a great time at macworld. The expo doesn’t even start until tomorrow. The keynote is tomorrow at 9.
Day 1 of the dreamweaver power tools conference was great; even better than I was expecting. Dave McFarland (the guy that wrote the ‘missing manuals’ for the last few versions of dreamweaver) was running the presentation. He is a good speaker; very knowledgeable, interesting, entertaining, and flexible.
This conference is geared towards intermediate dw users, and I was afraid the level of the first day sessions would be too basic, but for the most part, I was wrong. I even enjoyed hearing about things that I am very familiar with, like CSS.
The way Mr. McFarland explained CSS to the people who were new to it, made me excited all over again about css. It’s great! I am a web geek, and would happily praise css to anyone who will listen, but in my usual life, most people I come across do not know or care about css.
I ended up learning much more than I thought I would. I still think it may be faster and easier to hand code basic page styles than to click through the dw menus and dialog boxes, but once the stylesheet starts getting longer and more complicated, I can see where using the new CSS tools in DW8 can save gigantic amounts of time, and make things much less confusing than trying to muddle through a giant css file looking for the cause of a style over-ride problem, or even just all the CSS that is relevant to a particular element or selection.
I was going to write more, but it is already the 2nd day and I must write about the keynote now.
Today is also my first day w/Tiger. So far, so good. Very smooth upgrade, even though I chose the ‘erase and install’ option. I transferred my user settings and apps from my panther clone on an external firewire drive after installing. Next time, I would install the apps manually afterwards, but truth be told, I was too excited, and didn’t feel like dealing with it. I had already found tiger compatible updates for most apps before the install. Only problem was virex, which i knew wouldn’t work; and I had to get update for sidetrack. I hated not having it, even for the 1/2 hour that it was gone.
Widgets are pretty cool. I downloaded one that is a rubik’s cube for the desktop, one for easy uploads to flickr, one that makes a user defined slideshow from flickr, jiwire hotspot finder, wikipedia lookup, and a color picker. I liked the included weather, dictionary, calculator, unit converter, translator, flight tracker, and tiger tile game, but have not yet figured out how to type on the sticky note.
Spotlight rocks as hard as they promised it would, and as of now, I have retired my ever faithful copy of Quicksilver application launcher. Safari RSS reader is WAY better than anything I was expecting! I’ve still been using netnewswire for subscribed feeds, but I’m using safari for viewing feeds that i click on.
I am SO excited for automator, but haven’t had time to play yet. Also haven’t tried new mail, ical, or address book yet. I wonder if they can sway me from Entourage… Continue reading →
Side Track is a replacement driver for apple ibooks and powerbooks. It adds much needed functionality to the apple trackpad. Coming from the 5 button scrolling mouse on the pc, I was very frustrated with the trackpad on my powerbook. The worst thing was that if I set the trackpad for ‘tap to click’, and tried to type, the cursor would jump all over the place. Side Track includes a checkbox to ‘ignore trackpad while typing’.
Set vertical and horizontal scrolling to edges of trackpad. You can also control the size of the area on the pad that is used for scrolling.
Set trackpad button to either regular click or ctrl-click (right-click)
Set each corner of the trackpad to a different mouse button or keystroke combination. For example: I have bottom left corner set to ctrl-click, bottom right corner set to ‘hide’, top left to ‘back’, and top right to ‘forward’. Very handy.
Custom settings for applications.
Requires OS X 10.2 or higher.
Shareware – 30 day free trial. $15 to register.
Some people have experienced the ‘cursor freezes on wake from sleep’ bug. So far, I’ve only had one problem. After installing 10.3.8 OS update and turning off computer, cursor was frozen when I turned it back on. I had to turn it off, and back on. Since then, all is good, but I haven’t turned my computer off again since then.
Side Track does seem buggy at times, but still worth using, even w/the bugs. Messing with the settings can help some (or make things worse!).
It may take some time to get used to using it, but if you have any frustraton at all with the regular trackpad, side track may fix things, as well as adding a bunch of other very useful features.