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Mac OS X Must Haves

A few friends have only recently become Mac-converts! I know! What took them so long?!?! Anyway, they always come with the same questions about 3rd party software etc- so here is a list of what I personally consider to be the must-have applications when you first get on your mac from another, strange operating system.


A back-up hard drive for Time Machine (built into the OS). Do this ASAP. Works amazingly and all you need is a drive 2-4times this size of your built in drive. Should anything go wrong, everything is there. Should your MacBook get nicked, it replaces everything, quickly, on a new machine. Oh, and should you want to find your Mac if it does get knicked, check out http://hiddenapp.com/ (and remember to set up Little Snitch, mentioned below, to allow it to do it’s thing!)



Anti-virus. I know people say you are protected by having an OS X machine, but the truth is it is only a matter of time before viruses will turn up for the Mac. A free virus checker for mac is out there: ClamXav – http://www.ClamXav.com


I am very cautious about what apps talk to what, and I want to know when my computer is registering with stuff etc. LittleSnitch allows you to control and filter what apps can get access to what. IE Want to stop xxx apps contacting home? No problem. Monitor which apps are using what resources? A click away from the tool bar. Perfect for controlling what you let talk to the world and finding out what your apps are up to. Nice. http://www.obdev.at/products/littlesnitch/index.html



Growl. A sweet notification system. http://growl.info/screenshots.php This little system allows all your applications to notify you in loads of different ways. Can just be a small note on the corner of the screen, a big MTV-style pop up from the bottom of the screen or a Push notification to your iPhone or Android phone. Makes you aware of anything, a download complete, a mail arrived etc. Even has priority systems and makes things ‘sticky’ until clicked (perfect for when people mention you in tweets). Be sure to download the plug-ins for Mail etc.



Aidium, Sykpe, Tweetdeck & Colloquy. Adium is the king of all Messenger applications. You can connect all your accounts to it and configure it to look completely unobtrusive while connect to facebook chat, MSN, Yahoo! chat, ICQ, Bonjour services etc.. It also connects to skype, although I load that separately. I love it- the only decent Messenger app to me. http://adium.im/ Notifies you about everything with Growl. Be sure to download the extras for further options. http://www.adiumxtras.com/ Skype I’m sure you know. I noticed if you take Skype and .net and mash them up, you get SKY.NET- hahahaha! Colloquy http://colloquy.info/ is a beautiful and fully featured IRC client. Tweetdeck is an AIR app you probably already know of.. makes things really simple to keep up with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more or less any RSS feed sets. http://www.tweetdeck.com/


WEB (dev) STUFF.

Chrome – the lovely thing about Chrome is  the fact that each tab is it’s own process, so each page runs effectively as it’s own app on the computer, making it FAST. http://www.google.com/chrome/intl/en-GB/more/features.html Also Chrome has a brilliant and detailed debugger, making Javascript dev a LOT simpler. For FTP I recommend CyberDuck, http://cyberduck.ch/ it’s great, pretty fast and easy to use. For editing text files, I use BBEdit (the oldest decent text editor for Mac) http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/ or TextMate (which brags to be OS X’s missing editor), http://macromates.com/ but Coda http://www.panic.com/coda/ also works brilliantly to edit multiple files at once. CSSEdit http://macrabbit.com/cssedit/ is the best CSS preview and editing set-up I’ve found so far. All of these link up to CyberDuck to do online editing of files on the server, but online Apps are getting stronger, if you want to try building everything online instead of having different locally installed apps, try http://kodingen.com/ to do all of the above in a browser. For VNC connections, Chicken of the VNC http://sourceforge.net/projects/cotvnc/ is free and works perfectly.



Get Parallels and you can run Windows and OS X together at once… even drag and drop between the two. Perfection!

For Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents etc – you will find iWork the perfect replacement, especially Keynote for all sorts – not just building presentations, but mock ups of all sorts can be built in the wonderful drag-and-drop environment and exported out to almost anything. Pages is the Word equivalent and works much better in my opinion, and Numbers is your spreadsheet. If you are working collaboratively, I suggest using Google Docs as it allows multiple editors and you can be on the other side of the planet working together on building documents together simultaneously.



– VLC –http://www.videolan.org/vlc/ the most compatible media player for OS X with a huge range of features such as repeating playlists, streaming and the ability to script it.

– Boxee – http://www.boxee.tv/ a great media player for use with that remote that came with your mac or now on their own little box. Better than the built in FrontRow as it allows applications to be embedded, any type of media to be played (including youtube etc) and is open source to boot.

– Mindjet Manager – http://info.mindjet.com/ A perfect way of mind-mapping ideas and linking them all together.

– Klok – http://www.getklok.com Working on different projects? Need to keep track of what time you spend on what? This does the job perfectly and much much more.

– Transmission – http://www.transmissionbt.com/ the Bit-Torrent solution for OS X. So smooth 😀


So there you have it, my guide to getting on with OS X, the things that are not in the manual.

Feel free to comment and update about anything I might have missed out!


One Comment

  1. 4, January 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Someone just asked me about back-up limits, saying they always get:

    “Time Machine hasn’t backed up for x days because it is full”

    Here’s what I suggested:

    In time machine preferences -> options, un-check “Warn when old backups are deleted”.

    When that box is checked (on Leopard, 10.5), Time Machine will fail with a message when the backup drive is full.  Just un-check it and run a backup — it should behave properly.
    (Note: the wording of that option, and behaviour, were changed in Snow Leopard (10.6):  if the box is checked, it sends an informational message after deleting old backups.)

    More info on manually deleting old back-ups here:


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