As promised, here is my list of favorite FREE applications for Mac. While these are my own personal favorite apps, many of them are also great for new Mac users and recent switchers.
These are all legitimate applications, and not pirated or black market titles. I use these apps weekly and even daily, and don’t hesitate to recommend them.
Note that I didn’t include any web-based applications and services in this list, though I was tempted to do so. We’ll cover our favorite web apps in a future Kibbles & Bytes.
1 OnyX This is a multifunction maintenance, optimization, and personalization utility for Mac OS X. It’s available for Panther, Tiger, and Leopard. I use it about once a month or so to keep all my Macs running smoothly.
OnyX allows you to verify your Mac’s Startup Disk and the structure of its System files, run miscellaneous tasks of system maintenance, configure some hidden parameters of the Finder, Dock, Dashboard, Exposé, Safari, Login window and some of Apple’s own applications, it deletes caches, removes a certain number of files and folders that may become cumbersome and more.
2 VLC VLC media player is a highly portable multimedia player for various audio and video formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, mp3, ogg, more) as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols.
In other words, VLC will play back many file formats that the QuickTime Player, Windows Media Player, etc can’t handle. Best of all, VLC doesn’t need any external codecs or programs to work.
3 Bean Bean is a small, easy-to-use word processor (or more precisely, a rich text editor), designed to make writing convenient and efficient. Bean is Open Source, fully Cocoa, and is available free of charge! MS Word, OpenOffice, etc. try to be all things to all people, and indeed offer many more writing tools, templates, and output options. But sometimes you simply need to write, and that is Bean’s niche.
Bean includes many writing essentials including a live word count, a Get Info panel for in-depth statistics, a zoom-slider to easily change the view scale,
an Inspector panel with lots of sliders, date-stamped backups, auto-saving, page layout mode, an alternate colors option (e.g., white text on blue), selection of text by text style, paragraph style, color, etc, a floating windows option (like Stickies has). find panel allows regular expressions (pattern matching), and all of Cocoa’s good stuff (dictionary, word completion, etc.).
I combine Bean with Think for efficient, clutter-free writing.
4 NetNewsWire This is an easy-to-use RSS and Atom reader for your Mac. It allows you to browse, subscribe, read, and save hundreds of thousands of website feeds. It is a true desktop Mac application, with integration with Spotlight, Address Book, iCal, iPhoto, Growl, Twitterific and more. Best of all, it effortlessly syncs with NetNewsWire’s web-based RSS reader for free, allowing you to manage all your RSS feeds from any Internet-connected computer (Mac or PC).
5 HandBrake HandBrake is an open-source, multithreaded video transcoder, available for Mac OS X, Linux and Windows. It will convert just about any video file you can play on your Mac into a variety of other, easier to play, more portable video formats. Most people use HandBrake to back up their DVDs, or convert a DVD into a file that can be played back on their iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, PS3, etc. Use it as you will. HandBrake has been updated substantially over the past several years since its initial release
6 Carbon Copy Cloner 3. I admit, since Time Machine debuted with Leopard, I don’t use this app as much as I used to. However, for simple, successful backups, Carbon Copy Cloner can’t be beat. You can also use CCC3 for backing up across network, backup to disk images, and backup of selected files only. CCC 3 features an interface designed to make the cloning and backup procedure very intuitive. In addition to general backup, CCC can also clone one hard drive to another, copying every single block or file to create an exact replica of your source hard drive.
7 The Unarchiver Forget the other commercial unarchiving apps (like the free version of StuffIt)—the Unarchiver is all you need. Uncompress RAR, 7zip, tar, and bz2 files on your Mac. The developer notes “Many new Mac users will be puzzled the first time they download a RAR file. Do them a favor and download UnRarX for them!”
8 Google SketchUp Google SketchUp is used to create, modify and share 3D models of anything you like. I know a few people who used SketchUp extensively to plan and pre-visualize house renovations. I’ve used it to create a virtual set for planning camera placement. There are dozens of video tutorials, an extensive Help Center and a worldwide user community for SketchUp, making it relatively easy to learn.
It’s amazing that SketchUp is free! Download SketchUp by clicking here.
9 Tweetie for Mac. Tweetie is my desktop Twitter app of choice. I like that I can easily mange multiple Twitter accounts, view entire tweet “conversations” iChat-style, and compose Tweets in a seperate draft window (with built-in URL compression). The free version is ad-supported, which so far I don’t mind. I mean, it is free after all.
10 AppCleaner Want to remove some of the apps you’ve downloaded here, or downloaded in the past? Try AppCleaner. It’s a small application which allows you to thoroughly uninstall unwanted apps. Installing an application distributes many files throughout your System using space of your Hard Drive unnecessarily. AppCleaner finds all these small files and safely deletes them.
Honorable Mention: Quicksilver. I know I’d get lynched if I didn’t include this app, which is #1 on many lists of essential Mac software. I simply don’t use it anymore, or ever since I upgraded to Leopard. It’s an awesome app though. Click here to learn about and download Quicksilver
Runners Up: Audacity, Adium, NeoOffice, CyberDuck, Firefox, Camino, Carbon Copy Cloner, xPad, Windows Media Components for QuickTime, by Flip4Mac, iStat Pro, Think, SuperDuper, Burn Chicken Of The VNC, Skype, Anxiety