The Greatest Macintosh Application of All Time

Recently John Nemerovski posted a message to the My Mac Staff asking what everyone thought was the greatest Mac app ever. The question prompted an immediate response from everyone, which has now turned into a group effort that you will find below.

ClarisWorks/AppleWorks – the kitchen sink of Macintosh apps
By Ralph J. Luciani

When the gang at My Mac Online came up with the idea of a collective article on what we thought was the most outstanding Macintosh application, the suggestions grew faster than the offspring of procreating rabbits. My choice is purely personal and it is AppleWorks – formerly known as ClarisWorks.

Ten years ago when I first started to use a computer it was an abandoned Mac Classic. Times were tough and my primary job had been reduced to a three-day week. In order to survive I took on a second job with a contractor specializing in renovations. My new boss had received the Mac as part payment of a debt and the original all-in-one Classic was gathering dust in a closet because no one knew how to use it. Without any instructions I plugged it in and played with this fascinating “toy.” The only application that was installed was ClarisWorks. My hit and miss introduction garnered more hits than misses and I marveled at the easy to use computer and this amazing multi-faceted piece of software.

ClarisWorks was made up of six modules that included: Word Processing, Drawing, Painting, Spreadsheet, Database and Communications. In the latest version of AppleWorks all the above modules remain except that the Communications module has been replaced with two new entries, Calendar and Presentation.

Each module is a program on its own and can be used alone or integrated, with some exceptions, with one or more of the other modules. My work required shop drawings for construction that would be sent to architects for approval. These drawing would include a cover sheet, schedule sheets, elevation sheets and frame and door detail sheets.

In our office we were using a Windows program designed specifically for the Hollow Metal Door & Frame industry. It was an ugly and typical Win app. Although it was fast with its built-in Cad, there was no room for customizing the schedules or details. It drove me crazy and I hated the way all the sheets looked when printed out.

I decided to design a personalized set of AppleWorks drawings that would highlight my company’s logo, etc. For the cover sheet I combined the basic Drawing module with “frames” of word processing and graphics. The schedule sheet, which could vary from a few sheets to several dozens, was made up of a base Spreadsheet plus word processing and graphics. Elevation and detail sheets were on a base Drawing with some word processing. All this was accomplished in an amazingly short time and I got the flexibility that I wanted. The simple and direct way that the base module sheet can be enhanced by copying and dragging from the other modules is an exercise of pure delight.

I am proud of the fact that several different companies that I worked with have adapted some or all of my shop drawing sheets as part of their operations. Thanks to Apple and Claris/AppleWorks they made my job easier and more pleasant. I could also work more productively and the way I wanted – the Mac way.

I found that AppleWorks was the only program I needed. In a short time my personal collection of over 300 movie videos was listed in a Database file. My artistic sketches of outrageous automobile designs I cataloged in a Painting file. The guest list for my sons’ recent wedding was on a Spreadsheet file. All of my My Mac Online articles are composed and saved in a Word Processing file. Every project around the house is first sketched and then saved and archived in a Drawing file. AppleWorks certainly contains anything the average computer user would require to be productive. It is indeed the most complete and compact user-friendly Macintosh application.

Claris Em@iler: the greatest Mac application of all time!
By Ian Scott-Parker & Beth Lock

Beth: My husband is much more eloquent than I. He forgot to mention the best feature of emailer: redirect.

Ian: Winston Churchill’s doctor allowed him one brandy and one cigar a day: the result was the Churchill size cigar. They asked for two paragraphs for this item. Thank your lucky stars I made them so short.

Apple and Claris may have abandoned Em@iler, but users most definitely have not. Consider the history: for some unfathomable reason Em@iler was abandoned at version .203 while the development team scrambled to complete outstanding work. The app defined how email clients should work. Ever since software authors have struggled to ring the changes, with varying degrees of success. Microsoft headhunted Jud Spencer, Dan Crevier, and David Cortright to the Outlook Express team. Even Bill has occasional flashes of good judgment. Check out the features in that buttock clenchingly bad app to see how they struggled to get Em@iler functionality into something that was at best ill begotten.

Fast forward to the present. Sign up for the Em@iler talk list and be amazed at the digiterati who have struggled to keep their Em@ilers working whatever operating system upgrades have been made. Know any other app where the original development team still cares enough to drop by? Members of the club of apps of Em@iler’s vintage, that still work, and have such a dedicated following, are an elite. These words were written in Em@iler.203 running in Classic on a G4 Mac running OS X version.10.1.5 and everything works. I expect to upgrade to Jaguar this week: if I decide to switch to Mail I see that as a compliment to Em@iler that it took so long. Hats off to the past, coats off to the future! QED.

Claris Em@iler seemed to be just about everyone’s favorite, as shown by this additional response by Bob McCormick.

Simple, Elegant and by golly, it just worked!

It wasn’t that long ago that at least to me, there seemed to be a definite lack of email programs that worked for the Mac. One of the reasons that I used a web-based email was a lack of choice (not to mention funds) for the Mac. These were the early days of the Internet for me. Being none too familiar with what was happening I wasn’t sure what to do.

Don’t get me wrong, there were other email programs for the Mac but some I didn’t like (Outlook express) while others I wasn’t even aware of back then.

I kept reading the reviews and was pretty cautious about choosing which email program to plunk down my money. The one that kept coming up over and over again was Claris Em@ailer. And they were right.

Em@iler spoiled me. It was a breeze to set up, it never crashed and it took extra good care of me. Telling me there was a connection problem, showing me how many mails were coming, how fast they were downloading… Oh those were the days of dial up… when getting your mail was often times a set it and walk away while it downloaded process. Em@iler was and still is wonderful.

Only recently did I finally stop using Em@iler. In fact, I used it for nearly six months in classic mode ’cause I just didn’t have any need to use any other email program. Why should I when even in classic mode, my Em@iler was still spoiling me. Fast, simple, never crashed and just like the box said, it managed my email like a god!

Sadly, Em@iler has gone the way of oh so many wonderful programs that had been developed Claris. One can only hope that some, just some of the elegance of Em@iler has somehow been integrated into the advanced version of “Mail” in Jaguar. We’ll have to wait and see.

Adam Karneboge also added:
If you want my vote, though I’d say Claris Em@iler, which obviously ended up inspiring Outlook Express and Entourage that I use today.

Adobe Photoshop
By Mike Gorman

Without a doubt, the most awesome, inspiring, killer app of all time is Adobe Photoshop.

1988-1992 was an odd time at Parsons School of Design. This was at a time when using a computer to do graphic design was still in its infant stages, and the Mac lab was exclusive to the Commercial Design department. But some of us in the Illustration dept. fought, and we got ourselves the first computer class you could take as an illustrator.

It was an “overview” class that ran us through the basics of Macs, Quark, Word, and finally, Photoshop. Photoshop was a baby back then, and virtually no one was using it as an illustration tool, mainly because no young illustrator could afford a Mac system, and no seasoned illustrator would even think of switching from oils to a Mac! Anyways, I fell in love with Photoshop in 1992.

Our first projects involved scanning in photos and manipulating them in some way using their limited (at the time) filters and tool palate. I spent my time scanning in photos of my friends, giving them multiple eyes, pasting their heads on the bodies of animals, warping their features with the smudge tool, etc. etc. My teacher was disturbed by my work, but said I looked like I had a good handle on the app. I got an “A” in the class.

Since then, I’ve worked on multiple Macs in multiple job environments, and I continue to be floored by the power of this application. I use it daily, now, doing my web work and illustration, and can’t imagine not having it as a tool in the future. It has forever changed illustration and graphic design. While other applications, over time, have added more and more automated features, like auto-spell correcting, etc, Photoshop has pretty much steered clear of that type of thing, opting to give you more tools to do it YOUR way. I love that about Photoshop. It’s a tool like a paintbrush, that has unlimited possibilities but doesn’t try to force any “standards” on you while you work with it.

While I have a slew of other favorite apps (Quark Xpress, Flash, Dreamweaver), Photoshop, to me, is the be-all-end-all,
ultimate-inspiration application. I’ve been using it since 1992, and it still blows my mind. Although, I find a lot to be desired with 7.0. It’s so damn sluggish!! I find 5.5 in Classic runs much faster than 7 in X!

Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator
By Tad Scheeler

I hope I’ll be forgiven for my vote(s) on the best Mac software ever because I am choosing two. Because I use them at work everyday, in tandem with each other, I think of PhotoShop and Illustrator as co-applications. It would be hard to consider one without the other.

While the Mac is certainly capable of doing everything and more than any PC out there, I think that a graphics application deserves the nod as the best because the lions share of Mac users have traditionally been members of the graphic industry and the Mac has always held an edge on the PC world in graphic solutions. In formulating my vote, I considered the impact that these two programs had and continue to have on the entire graphics industry. An argument could be made, much as I hate to say it, for PageMaker in the early years. While PageMaker certainly began the desktop publishing revolution, Illustrator and PhotoShop reinvented it and continue to do so. These programs have forever changed all the printing, typesetting, cinematography and broadcast industries.

Adobe PageMaker
By Bob McCormick

The Killer App? For me, it’s PageMaker.

When word went out on the My Mac mailing list asking for our opinions of the greatest application of all time on the Mac my first thought was PageMaker. It was the first. And most likely without it, the Mac platform may have never become what it is today.

The Macintosh was a bit of a flop at first. Some said it was overpriced while many said it was a toy but even Microsoft knew that a graphical user interface was the future and immediately began. Apple had introduced MacWrite and MacDraw but they didn’t spawn a whole new industry. However, when Aldus introduced PageMaker, it changed everything. It was the first to allow easy control of text and graphics in just one application. It was also one of the first to take advantage of Apple’s LaserWriter’s capabilities and together they made history.

Suddenly there was a whole new life for the Macintosh. People started buying a Mac and PageMaker, setting up shop and producing newspapers, brochures, newsletters, business cards, faster and easier than ever thought possible. No more typesetters, no more galleys, no more paste up. Well, at least not in the traditional sense, now it was “command v.”

Yes, other applications came along that supplanted PageMaker’s lead. Yes, PageMaker has been purchased by Adobe and suffered the indignity of being turned into “business” application. And now it even has to play second fiddle to InDesign in Adobe’s collection of page layout applications.

No matter if you use Quark XPress or if you have adopted what may very well be the future of page layout, InDesign. You have to doff your optical mouse to the original, Aldus PageMaker. It saved the Mac and gave birth to a whole new industry, which means that many a Mac user owes their entire careers to PageMaker.

By Mark Marcantonio

If there is one program that every school should have as a “must”, CanOpener is it. In my eight years of teaching, this program has saved hundreds of hours of both student and teacher labor. I have used it on a weekly basis for several years now and can count on one hand the amount of times it was unable to save a file. My students have nicknamed it “Magician” for how it makes their work reappear.

With CanOpener, students know that they can’t use the excuse “My floppy is bad”. For us Mac fanatics, the ego boost from rescuing a windows file is worth the price alone. CanOpener’s ability to open virtually any damaged file Mac or Wintel make it my choice as “Required Software”. I can’t wait to get the new OSX version!

By Russ Walkowich

When the idea of a team effort on the greatest Mac app of all time was broached by John N, I, like most of the staff immediately thought of the apps that one depends upon everyday to get things done- Em@iler, ClarisWorks/AppleWorks, etc. But then I thought for a minute, they’re all great apps but unless one’s Mac is up and running, humming along with whatever OS is driving it, all those great apps are useless. That’s when I realized that I had to write about the one Mac app that has kept things going for me and I know, a whole lot more Mac users out there.

DiskWarrior has got to be the best Mac app of all time, particularly when it comes to pulling the proverbial bacon out of the fire. Know the feeling of starting up your Mac and not seeing the smiley face? Know the feeling of trying Norton, TechTool and Disk First Aid and not even seeing your hard drive? I’ve been there and without that handy-dandy little app, Disk Warrior, I wouldn’t be sitting here typing right now. When I’ve exhausted all my tricks, I’ve popped the DiskWarrior CD into the tray, restarted and opened up the program and let it do its magic. Designed to prevent and eliminate directory damage, DiskWarrior goes in and builds an entirely new directory using data recovered from the old one. Without DiskWarrior, too many Mac users would be singing the blues one too many times. My vote is for DiskWarrior!

Graphic Converter
By Tim Robertson

Graphic Converter is my choice for all-time best application. It opens more graphic files on the Macintosh than any other application, be it on a Mac or PC. It also shows that a program does not have to be controlled and created by a huge corporation to be both a great product and a great success.

Lemke Software is famous for updating this shareware program, keeping it current and up to date on every release of the Macintosh for years. It was also one of the first Shareware programs I purchased, and is the only software I have had on every single Macintosh I have owned since 1994 when I first discovered the program.

Graphic Converter is what makes the Macintosh what it is today. Without this program, and what it represents, the Macintosh world would be a much sorrier place.

By Beth Lock

MacLinkPlus by DataViz is an indispensable application for me. I’m not sure how many people still share my sentiment of trying to maintain a Microsoft free environment on their computer. For those who do share my sentiments, MacLinkPlus is my application of choice. This 4MB application allows me to open Word and Office documents that are often attached to my business email. It will also decompress files which have been compressed by the popular Windows formats such as Zip, Gzip, Tar and Z.

MacLinkPlus supports “control-click” contextual menu viewing for a quick peek at the file without launching the application, and full translation features from the application itself. I have yet to run into an attachment that MacLinkPlus could not read. If will even translate “garbage text emails” for those who are anxious to read every bit of spam they receive. It is one of the most intuitive applications I’ve used. I’ve had it for a couple of years, and today was the first time I’ve even looked at the manual, just to make sure I hadn’t missed mentioning any of it’s great features.

While I wouldn’t call this the greatest Mac application of all time (Claris Em@iler gets my vote for that honor), its daily usefulness was well worth the purchase price.

We’d like to hear back from you as to whether or not you agree or disagree with our selections or if you have some that you think are even better. Drop us a line!

Russ Walkowich

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