On Essential software redux

Posted in Fanboy, Geekfest on March 29th, 2009 by juan

I’ve been far to quiet here for way too long. So, to kick things back up, here’s my redo of my most essential mac software. I’m doing this because this one post is the most visited page/entry to my blog. For those of you new to here, thanks and welcome. Hopefully you’ll find what I post here useful. If you compare this to my original post, you’ll see that this list has grown quite a bit. That’s a good thing. It probably shows that Mac software has come along a long way and also that the quality has gone up along the way.


  1. QuickSilver – It’s way hard to describe this tool, but I can’t imagine using a Mac without it. Think of it as speed for your Mac. There’s definitely a learning curve to this, but once you get over it, you won’t ever go back (free)
  2. Adium – Premium, way cool, instant messenger. Supports Yahoo, AOL, MSN, Jabber, Google, + many others (free)
  3. NetNewsWire – a very powerfull RSS reader, that also has an iPhone companion. They sync over a free service. (free)
  4. Transmit – IMHO, the best mac FTP client out there. It costs bucks, but they are worth it (check the next item for a free, almost as good program).
  5. Cyberduck – The FTP/SFTP client for Macs (free)
  6. Xee – The fastest, most feature rich image viewer I have been able to find for the Mac. (free)
  7. Firefox – if Safari won’t do it, this will (free)
  8. HandBrake – The easiest way to rip, transcode, and store DVD’s. Can be used for video iPods as well. (free)
  9. Unison – a great USENET news reader. Very Mac like interface, but has some odd edges to it
  10. MacVIM – The VI clone now with a real Mac GUI (Cocoa based). (free)
  11. VLC – The opensource Video viewer. If this doesn’t play it, you can’t play it on a Mac. (free)
  12. Flip4Mac – Microsoft has stopped supporting their video player and is now giving this as a Quicktime plugin instead. This works better than the media player ever did, but doesn’t work with DRM content. (free)
  13. CoRD – The best Mac RDP (Windows Remote Desktop Protocol) client out there. Simply great. Make sure to use one of the daily builds, they seem stable for me and bring much needed functionality. (free)CoRD – The best Mac RDP (Windows Remote Desktop Protocol) client out there. Simply great (free)
  14. Calibre – if you use an ebook reader (like I do), this is THE tool to manage your collection, convert it, and up/download it to your device (supports Sony, Kindle, and many others). (free)
  15. iCHM – An actively developed, fast, Cocoa based CHM document reader. If you don’t know what a CHM is, then you don’t need this. If you do, you must get this. (free)
  16. RapidWeaver – think iWeb done right. Think “build a web site fast, simple”. Think “there’s much hidden power”.
  17. Shimo – if you use VPN on your Mac, you need this to take care of it. It works with Cisco clients (lays on top of it) and many other VPN protocols (natively). Must have for us corporate users. (shareware)
  18. DropBox – a free service and utility to keep multiple computer’s data sync’d. They have Mac, Windows, and Linux clients as well as a Web interface. 2GB free space. More if you pay for it.
  19. iStatMenus – do you hate that you don’t know your memory usage, or if your hard disk is doing anything, or the temperature of your mac, or …. you get the idea. Free utility that sits on your menu bar and shows monitors for anything you want on your computer (free)
  20. 1Password – keep all of your passwords for all of your web-sites, accounts, etc. Autofills on Safari and Firefox (if you want). Also has a free iPhone companion you can sync with.
  21. ShoveBox – another one that’s hard to describe, but think of this as the place you shove, store, write all those little notes, links, screen grabs that you don’t know where to keep but know that you will need at some other point.
  22. Little Snitch – so, you have a firewall protecting what information comes in to your computer – Little Snitch does the same for the stuff going out of your computer.


  1. ecto – A blog editor. WYSIWYG and HTML formats. Let’s you edit with spell checking and live previews. (shareware)
  2. ImageWell – a simple, fast, well tuned image editor for bloggers (and anyone else that doesn’t need to ‘shop images) (shareware)
  3. SeaShore – a simple, fast, image editor for when you do need to do simple ‘shopping (free)
  4. Gimp – The opensource image manipulation program. (free)
  5. LaunchBar – Spotlight on steroids and then some (in my eyes a lesser, but simpler QuickSilver) (free)
  6. MacTheRipper – Another DVD ripper. This one doesn’t transcode, but it does a superb job of de-DRM’ing your collection. (shareware)
  7. TinkerTool – tinker with a zillion Mac options. (free)
  8. NameMangler – if you ever have to rename a bunch of files and hate doing the click, click, click thing, or the cli reg-ex dance, this is the tool to fix it all (free)
  9. OmniGraffle – The premier mac graphing tool. In many ways much better than Visio (which it can import and export to). A must if you have to deal with any schematic, styled, or hierarchical drawings.
  10. ScreenFlow – If you ever need to capture a video of what you have on your screen, annotate it, and share it with the world (a.k.a. screen casting), this is most likely the only tool you’ll ever need.
  11. SuperDuper! – A very powerful backup tool. This let’s you back up your hard drive to another very efficiently. You can also use it to upgrade your drive (will make the second drive bootable for you). (shareware)
  12. TiVo Decode Manager – if you have TiVo, and you want to take your recorded TV shows with you, this is a free tool equivalent to TiVo To Go. (free)
  13. JollysFastVNC – a super fast, very flexible VNC client. (free)
  14. Max – do you ever convert from one audio format to another? Do you want to do it fast, simple, and have a good workflow for doing this (including tagging)? Here you go.


  1. Azureus – the best torrent client. (free)
  2. BBEdit – the most feature rich native Mac editor. If it wasn’t for VIM, i’d use this all the time (shareware)
  3. Opera – a very nice, fast, feature rich web browser. (free)
  4. Path Finder – a Finder replacement. I would use this all the time if it was the built-in Finder. Many people use it exclusively. If Apple re-does the finder and gives is half of the features in this tool, we would all be that much better for it.
  5. REALBasic – If you want to code apps, but don’t want to get into the details of XCode, Cocoa, and a steep learning curve, this is the tool. It has much coolness including the ability to develop on a Mac and deploy native apps to Linux and Windows (and vice versa). Free Linux version. Mac/Windows are paid.

Depecrated (stuff that was cool before 10.5)

  1. Desktop Manager – Multiple virtual desktops with the coolest switch transitions. This alone has made people go “ooohhhh! I need a Mac” (free)
  2. Thoth – It was my preferred news reader for a long time. It appears that development on it has resumed, but I have not looked at it in a long time.
  3. Vim – The VI clone with a GUI interface. Already comes in a CLI format built in. Vim.org has the GUI version. (this is the original posting – a new better mac version is above). (free)
  4. RDC Menu – Let’s you launch multiple windows remote desktop sessions at the same time. (free)
  5. Spark – A key macro tool that lets you control your apps via keyboard shortcuts. I use it to control iTunes while it’s hidden. (free)

Outside of Safari.App, Mail.app, Microsoft’s Office, and iWork I spend 90% of my time in the stuff here.
Hope this helps you. If you see stuff that should be here, let me know. I’m always looking for other cool stuff.

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on Cocoa programming.

Posted in Commentary, Geekfest on September 7th, 2008 by juan


Still working through the decision process between ecto3 and marsedit.

I’m thinking I’m going to stay with ecto3 for now.

On the news side:

Started working my way through Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X by Aaron Hillegass. I’m about through the first 8 chapters. Things to know if you are going to be doing this:

  • This isn’t like working with Delphi, Visual Basic, Real Basic, or any of the other “object oriented” systems. This is much different.
  • You really should learn Objective-C first. Even though he says you should have a moderate knowledge of Objective-C, you really should spend time learning it well. The examples and “challenges” in this book assume a fair amount of knowledge. Some of the exercises and examples really don’t make that much sense until you spend time learning Objective-C.
  • It really helps if you have access to the Apple documentation. For example, in chapter 8, you go through some really cool stuff on bindings. For me it was completely magical until I went through the Apple “Cocoa Bindings Programming Topics”, “Key Value Coding Programming Guide”, and “Key Value Observing Programming Guide”. Once I worked through the basics of those documents, chapter 8 went from being a really mystical, chant invoking exercise, to more programming with some occasional leaps of faith.
  • Cocoa programming is based on some very extensive frameworks. If you are like me and you want to know how the frameworks work – don’t, yet. Just take some of the stuff as magic and assume that it works. Once I gave in to the “I’ll figure out how that works later” concept, this has started flowing better for me.

I’ll be posting more on this as I go through the exercises on this book. I’ve also started creating side challenges for myself to figure out how some of this stuff works. I’ll post those as well in case you need some additional views. Remember that I’m just learning this stuff so take this material as you would any other beginners: an example of how it possibly works correctly. To get you started, here’s a simple program that I wrote that uses a couple of controls, and a text field. The first one uses bindings to get it’s job done. The second one is the exact same, but uses an Object Controller to mediate the bindings. For me, until I saw both of these simple projects working, I couldn’t really “get” the different between just plain bindings and what an object controller bought for you. Check them out: myBindingsFun and myControllerFun.

Hope that helps someone

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