Owen’s great article on essential shareware and freeware got me thinking about my must have software. I welcome your comments, rebuttals, and additions in our Article Discussion area below (registration is free).
Stating the obvious, Apple’s iTunes, iPhoto, iMovie, and Garage Band should be here, as could iChat, Mail, Preview, Dashboard, and DiskUtility, not to mention Timbuktu, Skype, or StuffIt. The list below is more a psycho-emotional one than a fully-comprehensive catalog.
Here we go:
APPLE WORKS. I don’t use it as much as in the past for word processing, now that TextEdit is so handy and versatile. But AppleWorks and ClarisWorks have been my one-stop-software-shop since the first day using a Macintosh.
In my professional capacity as private computer tutor, many of my clients, not to mention my wife, rely on AppleWorks 6 as their primary writing and spreadsheet software, with some people using it also for drawing and painting. Apple will abandon AppleWorks when iWork has a spreadsheet module, but until then AppleWorks is still the best integrated suite of components from either the Cupertino’s Mother Ship or the Redmondians.
Did you know Apple promotes AppleWorks on its main “Software” web page? Or that it continues to chug along without hardly ever freezing or crashing in OS X, 9, 8, and earlier? Or that AppleWorks User Group is alive and well? Many power users abandoned ClairWorks/AppleWorks years ago, and then sweated and cursed over Micros**t Office — you get the point.
Here in Arizona we have a town called Tombstone, with a motto “too tough to die.” I hope AppleWorks is still kicking and capable of performing its humble wonders for years to come, until iWork buries it with a suite that has a cleaner interface, a more versatile set of components, and a learning curve so gentle that people don’t even know how powerful the coding is underlying everyday work that can be exceptionally ordinary or genius. Nuff said.
ROXIO TOAST. One of my other vocations is as private music instructor — mostly piano, keyboard, and guitar. Even if every student has an iPod (they don’t), there is no substitute for CDs when teaching people to play music along with a recording. I have 1,001 uses for Toast, ranging from archiving data to transferring photos to duplicating music to custom audio mixes to iDVD slide shows. Toast Lite is okay for most data and music recordings, but for DVDs and professional work Toast Titanium is the gold standard.
Apple went a partial way toward kicking Toast off Macintosh computers when File -> New Burn Folder appeared a couple of years ago. This works fine for your basic burn, but for full control, and especially for multiple session burns, Toast has no equal. I use Toast every week of the year, often several days in a row, and to call it indispensable is the truth, not an overstatement.
AUDIO HIJACK PRO. I have written about this great live and streaming recording application several times, and its stature on my computers grows with each use. Just like AppleWorks and Toast, I can not live without Audio Hijack Pro.
Tim and Chad use Audio Hijack Pro to record faraway interviewees and our own Guy Serle, for our weekly MyMac.com Podcasts. David Weeks and I will try a similar setup once we get our “Two Captains” dialogs in full swing for the All Over the Mac segment on Monday’s MiniPodcasts.
Developer Rogue Amoeba Software keep adding features and functions to Audio Hijack Pro, and its fans are paying attention, but not paying additional shareware fees. Version upgrades are frequent, but are provided free of charge. Audio Hijack Pro has a competitor, but I’ll stick with the original.
SENUTI. I know it’s shareware, not payware. Senuti allows me to archive and transfer songs in and out of iPods, hard drives, flash drives, CDs, and DVDs. Challengers are lapping at its shores, but Senuti remains the best and easiest utility for the essential job it performs.
MyMac.com interviewed solo developer Whitney Young, who remains a college student. Simplicity and power are terms that don’t usually cohabit descriptions of contemporary software, and Senuti is a mighty exception. Here is one shareware app that people gladly pay for, because without it their iTunes would be stuck in their iPods, with no way to escape to external storage media. Thanks, Whitney.
SUPERDUPER! It’s another shareware utility, to help you duplicate entire or partial hard drives. Carbon Copy Cloner is good, but SuperDuper is better. I’m relatively new to SuperDuper, so singing its praises will be sotto voce for now. Best thing about SuperDuper is its trial mode, that you can use forever for basic archiving and duping from one volume to another, with only a friendly nudge toward registration and payment. You’ll be sensible to pay Shirt Pocket Software a modest fee for full functionality, and your data sets will be happy for that.
ADOBE PHOTOSHOP ELEMENTS. I teach digital photography, and that’s my third way of earning a living. Every Nemo student now must have Elements 4 installed on their personal Mac or PC, for consistency of instruction, but Elements 3 is darn good and Elements 2 is one of the great applications of all time. It has a single CD installer for either/both Mac/Windows, plus a thorough printed manual and handy standalone reference cards. Version 2 works fine in every rendition of OS 9 and X, and it’s a lean, mean, photo and art software machine.
Photoshop Elements 4 for Mac was released long after v4 for Windows. The Mac version is superior, because of its integration with iTunes, instead of using Windows edition’s dreadful and impenetrable Organizer. Elements Win v5 was just released, but we won’t pay much attention to it until we need to (rumors are the Mac release is far in the future). As value for money, Elements is praised for having “90 percent of the features of professional Photoshop for 10 percent of its price,” or thereabouts. Seeing is believing, and I believe in Adobe’s Photoshop Elements. Great app indeed.
Real Player was a pain for many years. Now it’s more or less stable and functional, but still a little ornery. Real’s dominance make its free player something we perhaps can’t live with and can’t live without, so get over your grumbles and do the best you can with it, or follow Owen’s advice for an alternative. Ditto for Windows Media Player.
America Online is what power users love to hate, and hating got easier with AOL’s putrid OS X edition plus recent overall decline in service and support. Free AOL is better than nothing, when you need to maintain an AOL and/or AIM (AOL Instant Messenger) presence. But now you, just like my family, have no excuses for not using free Gmail from Google (let me know if you need an invitation for it) and Apple’s free iChat, even if the latter depends upon your prior registration for an AOL or AIM screen name. The case is closed on this one, folks.