Geeks Recommend Their Favourite Apple OS X Software

The New iMac Has ArrivedThis week I got a new iMac. It’s the first machine I’ve had that’s running OS X 10.5 (that would be Leopard for all you cat-lovers), the current version of Apple’s operating system. I thought I’d ask on Twitter about the Apple desktop apps that the cool kids are using. Here’s what I heard back. I expect that Apple power users will be familiar with all of these.

UPDATE: If this post interests, you might want to check out part two as well.

1Password – A password manager and form completer.

Adium – The popular all-in-one instant messaging client.

Bento – “Personal file organization and database”. I’m a little unclear on why I’d want this. Anyone?

Boot Camp – The app that enables you to run Windows on my iMac. Assuming I can acquire a copy of Windows, I plan to install it for running Windows-only games.

Caffeine – “Caffeine is a tiny program that puts an icon in the right side of your menu bar. Click it to prevent your Mac from automatically going to sleep, dimming the screen or starting screen savers. Click it again to go back.” I gather this is for when you’re watching longer web-based videos, where the screen goes dim without inputs after a while?

ClicktoFlash – A Safari plug-in that turns all Flash elements in a web page to gray boxes until you click them. I’m a Firefox user myself, so FlashBlock looks like the equivalent.

FileVault – Software for encrypting one’s files. Boris assures me that I “can ignore FileVault — it’s for encrypting your home directory. Only uber nerds use it.” I am not an uber-nerd, so I’ll take his advice.

FileZilla – An open-source FTP client. I’ve always used CyberDuck, for no particular reason. They both have incredibly goofy names.

Fluid – Make site-specific browsers for your favourite web apps. I’ve been using Google Gears to get certain web app icons in my desktop’s dock, but this will work better.

HandBrake – “An open-source, GPL-licensed, multi-platform, multithreaded, DVD to MPEG-4 converter, available for MacOS X, Linux and Windows.”

KeePassX – Another password manager. Yes, I’m troubled by that creative spelling of “key”.

Layers – If I understand it correctly, it enables you to build multi-window screen captures? Seems kind of like a nail in search of a hammer, but who am I to judge?

Mailplane – This is kind of a custom email browser for Gmail that makes the web-based email app act more like desktop software. I’ve used this on my laptop for a while, but lately (probably due to Gmail, not Mailplane itself) I’ve found it rather sluggish. So these days I’m giving Apple Mail a try.

PersonalBrain – A mind-mapping tool, from what I can gather.

Quicksilver – Hard to describe, so here’s Wikipedia: “allows users to use the keyboard to rapidly perform tasks such as launching applications, manipulating files and data, running scripts, or sending e-mail.” I’ve had this installed on my laptop for some time, but I barely ever think to use it.

Skitch – The very handy, exceptionally usable screen capture and quick illustration app.

Snackr – An Adobe AIR app that, I gather, turns part of your desktop into a kind of CNN news ticker, powered by the RSS feeds of your choice.

Storyist – A word processor designed for novelists and screenwriters.

TextMate – A fancier TextEdit. I used NotePad++ on my Windows desktop–I must check to see if there’s a OS X version.

Things – Task management software. Boris, if I recall correctly, described the Areas of Responsibility feature as a ‘game-changer’.

Ted – Combines RSS and BitTorrent to automagically download the TV shows you specify. I’m familiar with another app that does the same thing, TVShows.

Time Machine – Apple’s fancy backup system.

Tinderbox – “A personal content assistant that helps you visualize, analyze, and share your notes.”

VideoLan – The workhouse, almost-never-fails video player I’ve come to know and love. Nowhere is Apple more irrational than in its ridiculously narrow native support of video formats.

Yojimbo – Yet another information manager.

Thanks to Avi, Ian, Chris, Miranda, Graeme, Andrew, David, Kerry, Derek, Chris, Ryan, John, Danny, Martin and Masey. Apologies if I referred to you as a geek if you are, in fact, a Normal Human.

That’s a good start. What favourite app would you add to this list?


  1. I’m not sure if I would use File Vault as it tends to slow things down, but I would recommend using TrueCrypt instead (there’s versions for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X). Also, has the ability to completely hide an operating system on a HD, and has some neat extortion protection features (say a border guard forces you to decrypt data, you can use a special password that decrypts part of the data, but hides your sensitive data).

    Also, TimeMachine is a must. It’s backup that’s very easy to use, and a life saver if your HD dies (already saved me once). Just buy any external USB hard drive and plug it in and then it goes to work.


  2. Couple of additions.

    No mac should be without Quicksilver, i buzzed you on twitter about it Darren. Trust me, soon as you start using it regularly it becomes a must have.

    I also immediately install TextExpander, DropBox, Evernote and Keyboard Maestro on every new mac.

  3. Once you really start to use and get used to Quicksilver, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. There are zillions of tutorials that range from getting started to insanely advanced stuff.

    To the list I’d add (sorry for not including URLs I’m lazy) – MacTheRipper, Perion – for all those missing codecs, DoubleCommand – if you use a Windows keyboard, MacFuse, Boxee – much better than Front Row, DarWine – for those pesky windows-only apps, iAlertU – so you can walk away from your Mac at a coffee shop and not worry quite as much, MacFusion – mount remote file systems securely, MAMP – Mac Apache/MySQL/PHP, Minefield – Firefox compiled for Mac users, OnyX – system cleanup (+more) utility, ffmpegX, Max (flac/shn/ape to mp3 etc/audio converter), Popcorn (not free), Transmission (cross-platform bittorrent client), Warp – mouse-controlled Spaces switcher, iWillQuit – put your mac to sleep/turn it off after a specified period, AppTrap – makes sure all files are removed when you drag and app to the trash, Flip4Mac – so you can watch wmv files, Growl – system notification util (that I can’t believe no one suggested), GeekTool, Secrets – super-customizer, rEFIt – if you dual/triple boot your Mac,

  4. You might also want to take a look at Perian ( – it’s a free open source Quicktime plugin that enables Quicktime to play back a number of common video file formats.

    Also good is the WMV Components for Quicktime, from – the trial version allows Quicktime to play back many WMV media formats, while the pay version allows you to encode WMV as well.

    VisualHub ( was an awesome tool that converted between many different video formats. Unfortunately the author has ceased development, although the code has been released as open source so hopefully we’ll see a continuation of the project soon.

    I’m a bit confused by your complaint about Apple not supporting a lot of formats out of the box – that’s pretty much the same as it is on other operating systems. Want DiVX on Windows? Have to install the codec. Want AVI on Linux? Install the codec. VideoLAN is a useful program on *any* OS. 🙂

    Video formats suck in general, across *all* platforms.

    (Not an Apple apologist by any means – I just spent a morning setting up a Windows box and I’m tired of codecs.)

  5. Not having used Mac regularly for a couple of years, I’m no help – but to assuage your concerns about KeePass…

    It’s not a funkified spelling of “key” but an aggregation of “Keep” and “Password”. Now don’t you feel better about using it?


  6. Here are some useful programs that haven’t been mentioned:

    * GimmeSomeTune
    * iScrobbler
    * Mojo
    * LibraryBooks
    * JumpCut
    * Freedom
    * Calaboration
    * DarkAdapted X
    * iTunes Alarm
    * Google Earth

  7. If web-based is your thiing you may want to check out Intervals. It’s hosted project management software that works beautifully in Safari and Firefox on the Mac.

  8. Pingback: Daily Apple: Apps in Parallel, 3G Suits Multiply, & Twitter Recommends - TheAppleBlog
  9. I recommend CSSEdit as well. TextMate and CSSEdit (and Transmit – see below) are essential tools in my web development.

    Also, here are some other applications that I like and which haven’t been mentioned yet:

    • Transmit – A great FTP client that has lots of functionality as well as a nicely-designed UI.

    • Timeline – Application for drawing timelines.

    • xScope – Great application for graphics-designers and web-designers.

    • Versions – Beautiful Subversion client.


  10. Here’s the thing to do with Quicksilver: Spend a week where you *force* yourself to use it for everything possible. Don’t click apps on your dock or go into your Applications folder, don’t open Finder folders, don’t open Dictionary, don’t run searches in Google or Wikipedia or IMDb from your Web browser. If you’re not sure how to use Quicksilver to do something, make sure it really can’t be done before giving up. You’ll need to install some modules and fiddle around with the catalog index to make sure it can find all the files you want it to find. Everything you do will take three times longer than normal because you have to stop and think about it and figure out how to do it with Quicksilver. But once you get it down, and it gets into your muscle memory, you won’t know how you lived without it.

    At first I wasn’t sure what the point of Quicksilver was. When I first installed it to try it out, I never remembered to use it. Now that I’ve learned how to use it and forced myself to do so, I love it, and all the mundane little things I do all the time without thinking (opening apps, opening files, searching the Web) take a fraction of the time they do without it.

    One caveat: Development on it seems to have been in limbo for a while. So if you’re looking for a similar tool with more solid ongoing support, LaunchBar is supposedly a great alternative (although it can’t do everything Quicksilver can).

  11. I have to say for me 1password was the killer app. its the app that let me switch from windows using roboform to OSX.

    I work primary from the web using hosting company logs and individual websites.

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