My Top 50 Mac Applications

A noted Mac guru lists his "must have" personal favorites.


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Posted August 13, 2007

Joe Kissell

Joe Kissell

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As part of my job, I download and test boatloads of Mac applications. Most of them go into the Trash after five minutes. A few of them stick around on my hard disk for a week or two before I realize I can live without them. But some have turned out to be indispensable.

In this article, I’ll share with you the 50 applications I’d choose if I couldn’t download any other software for a year.

Needless to say, my favorite applications reflect the types of tasks I do, as well as my personal preferences and work style. (Games, for example, are just not my thing, so you won’t see any on this list.) Your mileage may vary. But most of the applications on this list deserve, at the very least, a good solid evaluation from every single Mac user. They can make your work easier, save time and effort, and enhance those warm fuzzy feelings that made you choose a Mac in the first place.

#1: LaunchBar

URL: http://www.obdev.at/products/launchbar/

Price: $20 (personal); $39 (business)

My favorite and most highly recommended Mac application by far, LaunchBar makes almost everything I do quicker and easier. With just a couple of keystrokes I can launch any application, even if I don’t know where it is; look up someone’s phone number; play a song in iTunes; perform a calculation...the list goes on. Similar apps with legions of loyal fans are Quicksilver (free; http://quicksilver.blacktree.com/) and Butler (free, donations accepted; http://www.manytricks.com/butler/).

#2: Mail

URL: http://www.apple.com/macosx/features/mail/

Price: Included with Mac OS X

Even as a power user with half a dozen active email accounts and hundreds of messages received every day, I haven’t found an email client I like better than Mail—and I’ve tried them all. I probably spend more time in this one app than any other program on my Mac, Web browsers included. With a few judiciously chosen add-ons and customizations, it can be an incredibly powerful tool.

#3: SpamSieve

URL: http://c-command.com/spamsieve/

Price: $30

If you can’t seem to get ahead of your spam, you’re not using SpamSieve. It’s the smartest and most accurate junk mail prevention tool I’ve ever used, and an essential companion to Mail (or any other Mac OS X email client).

#4: Safari

URL: http://www.apple.com/safari/

Price: Free

It doesn’t have all the bells, whistles, and user-configurable goodness of Firefox, but it’s still my favorite Web browser—solid, pretty, and easy-to-use. Now available for Windows too, and I hope it catches on fantastically there. And to think Internet Explorer was once the standard on Macs!

#5: Firefox

URL: http://en.www.mozilla.com/en/firefox/

Price: Free

My second-favorite Web browser has all the bells, whistles, and user-configurable goodness that Safari lacks. It’s not as pretty or Mac-like, but it’s a rare site indeed that doesn’t load properly, and it can do all sorts of spiffy tricks without requiring dubious, unsupported hacks.

#6: NetNewsWire

URL: http://www.newsgator.com/Individuals/NetNewsWire/

Price: $30

One thing I can’t bear to use Safari for is reading RSS feeds. For this, my tool of choice is NetNewsWire. Of all the Mac news readers, this one most closely matches my tastes and work habits, and helps me to keep all those zillions of feeds organized and under control.

#7: 1Passwd

URL: http://1passwd.com/

Price: $30

Any Web browser can remember passwords for you, but 1Passwd gives you a centralized password list, stored in your Keychain, that all your browsers can use (and that includes NetNewsWire). Plus, it has a handy password generator, and ably stores all sorts of other form data. My favorite part: you can store multiple sets of credentials for a single site. My fingers have gotten as used to my 1Passwd keyboard shortcuts as my LaunchBar shortcuts, and I can’t bear to be without it.

#8: iTunes

URL: http://www.apple.com/itunes/

Price: Free

It’s really iMedia, a tool to organize and play not just music but movies, TV shows, audio books, and more, and even buy them direct from Apple. It’s one of those things that I use so often—typically in the background—that I can easily forget it’s there. But I’d hate to go back to managing my media without it.

#9: BBEdit

URL: http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/

Price: $125

BBEdit works splendidly as a tool for many kinds of writing, but it’s especially good at working with code. If you’re programming or developing Web sites, its endless array of text-manipulation and collaboration tools is unequalled. If you don’t need every last power-user tool, you might be satisfied with its free younger sibling, TextWrangler (http://www.barebones.com/products/textwrangler/)—a formidable text processor in its own right.

#10: Mail Act-On

URL: http://www.indev.ca/MailActOn.html

Price: Free

One of Mail’s few deficiencies is its all-or-nothing rules. If you want to apply just one rule (or a set of rules) to particular messages, after they’ve been received, this is the tool for you. It makes filing, sending replies, and otherwise processing mail a matter of a few keystrokes, rather than lots of tedious clicking and dragging.

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