Posts tagged mac os x
Posts tagged mac os x
2010 was the year I fell in love with apps all over again. I got a Macbook Pro near the end of 2009, giving me a chance to finally pull the plug on my dying iMac G5, and start from scratch with an almost empty Applications folder. While hype in 2010 may have been dominated by iOS apps and HTML5, Mac OS X app development continued as usual. It was as good a year as any to re-discover the beauty of the desktop app. With the launch of the Mac App Store coming tomorrow, 2011 will be off to a good start, and it’s likely to be an even better year than the last for Mac OS X. The Mac App Store will likely bring a new round of apps and a new wave of eager developers, but I’ll be just as interested in watching some of my favorite apps improve as I will be in discovering new ones. With that in mind, here are five apps for which 2011 should be a significant year.
In September 2010, The Document Foundation was announced, to foster a truly open and independent alternative to Microsoft Office. LibreOffice was simultaneously released, and while in its current form it’s basically a re-branding of OpenOffice.org, The Document Foundation promises an exciting future with a focus on content and the document itself. “The Document Foundation founders foresee a completely different future for the office suite paradigm,” read an e-mail from November, “each single module of LibreOffice will be undergoing an extensive rewrite… Most of the new features are either meant to maintain compatibility with the market leading office suite or will introduce radical innovations.” LibreOffice is the logical evolution of OpenOffice.org. While a lot of progress has already been made in the past few months, 2011 will be the year that The Document Foundation finds its footing, and LibreOffice gets a chance to fulfill its potential as a re-invigorated and truly independent alternative to Microsoft Office.
2010 saw the release of Plex/Nine, a long-awaited update featuring a restructured library system allowing for advanced features and greater control, as well as more independence from XBMC, Plex’s original source. Apps for the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad were also released. I’ve already said that Plex is the best media manager out there, and with the developers now working on it full time, a deal with LG Electronics, and an upcoming Windows version, 2011 should be a good year for Plex. I won’t be surprised if this is the year it finally reaches 1.0.
Mail client Sparrow has only been out for three months, but it’s already been downloaded over 150,000 times and become one of my most used apps. Development has been quick (it’s on beta 7), the developers are very responsive to feedback (on Get Satisfaction), and Sparrow continues to improve with each beta. Sparrow is one of the first apps in what will surely become a trend: an iOS-inspired interface for a desktop app (see also: Reeder, below). The developers have promised support for IMAP in 2011, making Sparrow not just an incredible Gmail app but a viable replacement for other mail clients.
Reeder (beta for Mac OS X)
The beta for the frequently lauded iPhone/iPad app Reeder was recently released for Mac OS X, to near universally positive reception. Reeder is another app that seems built for iOS but nonetheless right at home on Mac OS X. Considering the excitement surrounding even such an early beta, expect Reeder’s popularity to increase in 2011, especially with the Mac App Store and a more complete release.
An official Mac App Store might seem like a death sentence to an independent one, but I think Bodega can survive. That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy: Apple has the marketing dollars and exposure to get attention, the dominance to attract developers and users (which populate the reviews, making it more valuable for discovery), a powerful position of interest to bloggers and others in the media (there have already been more stories about the Mac App Store, even before it’s released, than Bodega, which has been around for over a year), and with the Mac App Store coming pre-installed with Lion, a guaranteed user base. However, I see the Mac App Store as an opportunity for Bodega. Bodega provides an open alternative to Apple’s restrictive policies, as well as a much more fair revenue split with developers (Bodega keeps only 7%). Aside from illegal and highly offensive apps, Bodega will accept everything, a stark contrast to Apple’s Mac App Store. A list of benefits for developers appears on Bodega’s site, and it’s easy to see why it would be more attractive than the official store. The most important factor is potential customers, of which Apple will absolutely provide more, but there will also certainly be demand for an alternative Mac App Store, and Bodega will be there to fill the void. Increased publicity around Mac OS X apps and App Stores is good for everyone involved, including — and especially — Bodega. “Bodega is not going anywhere,” Bodega’s Phil Letourneau told The Loop, “It will continue to grow in terms of developers and customers coming into Bodega.” I’m very excited to see what this next year holds for the original “corner store for Mac apps.”
While many would claim the imminent end of desktop software (at the benefit of mobile and web apps), my daily use of technology is still largely defined by the “classic” software I use, from old staples to new arrivals. In 2010, many great Mac apps continued to improve, and there were even some notable newcomers. Here’s a roundup of the Mac apps I regularly use, with a focus on what I used a lot over the past 12 months (in no particular order).
Plex has long been the best media manager on the Mac, and with the long-awaited release of Plex 9, the developers have outdone themselves, while further distinguishing Plex from its source, XBMC. Plex 9 is absolutely the best media manager on the Mac (or on any system, I would say), giving media collections the beautiful presentation and organization they deserve.
Notational Velocity, free
Notational Velocity is a staple among Mac aficionados, but I only recently became acquainted with it. It’s now become essential, and contains content as diverse as lecture notes, book summaries, quotes, ideas, lists, writing projects (this was written in Notational Velocity, mostly while on a plane), random thoughts, references and more. Simplenote sync keeps my notes with me at all times (thanks to the iPhone app), and anything I think of on-the-go is synced to my computer. Simply put, Notational Velocity has allowed me to organize my mind.
Quick Search Box, free
Developed in party by Nicholas Jitkoff, the same guy responsible for Quicksilver, Quick Search Box provides easy access to everything on my computer. Mostly I just use it to search my computer (it uses Spotlight’s excellent index, and includes Google Chrome bookmarks), and as an application launcher. It also keeps a clipboard history (but I use Jumpcut), and can manipulate files, so I’ll sometimes use it to move a file. There’s some very cool system integration: aside from clipboard history and the ability to manipulate files (get info, show in finder, move, rename, etc.), it provides access to menu items of all open programs, as well as things like “Empty Trash.” There’s some integration with Google’s cloud services, like the option to upload files to Google Docs, and the inclusion of Google Docs files in search.
Picasa’s not the best photo manager, and I’ve had plenty of issues with it. But it is one of the best free photo managers. And I like that, unlike some programs, almost all the metadata is written to the photo itself, so each file is self-contained, instead of relying on specific software (and folders are created in Finder for groups of photos). Geotagged location, tags, and description are all managed through the EXIF data. Unfortunately, Picasa is still missing features and there are some persistent issues, and new features are not very actively developed. I worry that Google’s focus on the cloud will cause Picasa to be ignored, at least as a self-contained photo manager (two of the most significant updates in the last year were integration with Picnik, the online photo editing site Google recently acquired, and better integration with Picasa Web). I’d love if Google were to open source Picasa and let the community develop it.
Hugin is incredible software. It allows the creation of seamless panoramas from adjacent photos, and it’s very advanced. All that’s needed from the user is a set of decent photos and a few nudges in the right direction, and Hugin does most of the work. Hugin is actively developed as well, and while the interface may not win any prizes, the technology is impressive. With the latest release (at the end of 2010), the developers write that “For the first time Hugin can be considered feature-complete.”
Simple and effective word processing. While a lack of footnotes and similar advanced features prevents Bean from being the only word processor I use, it remains my go-to text editor (aside from Notational Velocity), and for almost everything, it’s exactly what I need, without being too much.
Preview is my default image and PDF viewer. It’s lightweight and fast, and perfect for everyday use.
When I want a bit more options when working with PDFs, I open Skim. It’s an excellent PDF viewer, with a focus on notating files — adding text notes, highlighting, etc. It provides a searchable index of all notes and highlighted sections in a pane on the right. Everything is exportable in a number of formats as well.
Sparrow, free while in beta, freemium after
I’ve always avoided mail software, as Gmail’s web interface is sufficient for my needs, but I was won over by Sparrow (released in beta in October), which sports a beautiful and minimalist interface, while including most of Gmail’s features (notably missing is Priority Inbox, but the developers are considering adding it). Sparrow is one of the first apps to bring elements of an iOS interface to Mac OS X. Even in beta, it’s already very promising.
The classic DVD-ripping and video-encoding app, useful as ever.
Google Chrome, free
Google Chrome, my browser. Chrome is basically just a window to the web (and various “web apps”), but it’s an impressive and elegant window at that, and deserves a mention, as the single program I undoubtedly spend the most time using.
I’ve resisted installing an office suite for some time, but with college’s demand for footnotes and presentations, along with the excitement of a re-invigorated and truly-open Office, I finally installed
OpenOffice LibreOffice. It may be slow, cluttered and huge, but it gets the job done.
Flickr Uploadr, free
This program is far from perfect (and well past due for an update), but coupled with picasa2flickr, it has proved consistently useful for getting my photos from Picasa to Flickr, metadata and all.
Apple’s pre-installed Dictionary isn’t anything special, but quick and easy access to definitions and synonyms (just a right-click in many programs), even while offline, is invaluable (along with easy access from Quick Search Box).
I keep my school schedule in iCal, along with any other important events. It also includes Facebook events and television shows I watch (thanks to On-My.tv).
I hastily signed up for an online backup service when I feared my drive was done for (and I didn’t have a hard drive to use), and I’ve used Backblaze ever since. The great thing about Backblaze is that I don’t have to think about it — it runs as a Preference pane, so my computer is always backed up remotely, and aside from the occasional peak to make sure everything’s running smoothly, I just let Backblaze do its thing. Not only is everything backed up online, but I’ve got versions going back 30 days, in case I need an earlier version of a file. It also provides online access to my computer’s hard drive from anywhere, since I can login and download any backed up file, any time. It’s $5 a month for unlimited space and bandwidth (you can even include external drives), so it’s well worth the price.
iStat Menus, $16
Bjango released version 3 of iStat Menus this year, and it’s continued to advance since then. The update also brought a price tag (it used to be free), but having constant access to network, memory and CPU usage from the menu bar is well worth $16. It’s great being able to glance up and see my download and upload speeds (or if I even have a network connection), or if a certain program is using too much processing power. I’ve even replaced the default battery and clock with the iStat Menus versions — the battery icon provides various details and a different look depending on the state (charging, charged, plugged in, etc.), and the clock gives me one-click access to a calendar, as well as the time in various (customizable) cities (not to mention sunrise, noon, sunset, moonrise and moonset times in each).
This simple menu bar app provides a clipboard history, and allows copying of more than one thing at a time. It’s quite useful just as a back up, for those times when something important is overwritten by a thoughtless “copy,” or something used previously is needed again. The ability to copy many different pieces of text at once is incredibly valuable, especially when copying things like quotes, links, or tags (it’s also an easy way to paste something in plain text). There are more advanced clipboard managers like Ayluro’s Corkboard, but Jumpcut’s simple effectiveness is perfect for my needs.
This simple utility adds a visual cue (like the one for volume, brightness, etc.) when the Caps Lock key is pressed. Never again type a sentence in all caps before realizing that Caps Lock is on.
HyperDock, free while in beta
A recent addition to the customization of my Mac, HyperDock is very useful for managing multiple windows in one app. Hovering over a dock icon provides a Windows 7-like popup of all open windows, which is a lot quicker than right-clicking.
The Unarchiver, free
A simple app for extracting archives with support for lots of formats, which I use as my default.
In 2010 (and 2009), it’s all about being everywhere. Sites and services need websites optimized for desktop, mobile, touch and even TV, with an app for each device: iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, and all the rest, not to mention Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Synced, backed up, and accessible everywhere, the theme for the future is this: ubiquity.
Ryan Block of gdgt.com poses the question of whether the upcoming Mac App Store will have enough software to sustain its relevance for long. He argues that software is increasingly in the cloud, and there isn’t that much software that consumers need to purchase (with the exception of productivity software). Most of the essential Mac apps are either free, or would violate Apple’s strict App Store policies. “The boxed software business didn’t die because of app stores, it died because of an overabundance of great programs that are free, open, or otherwise subsidized that are available through other web or internet services,” he writes. Furthermore, desktop apps are, on average, considerably more expensive than mobile apps, and the consumer software landscape that exists today is nothing like that of mobile apps in 2008 (where distribution was an issue).
If we look at the Mac App Store not as the only, end-all source of Mac software but just as a simple, polished and very good source, the issues he brings up, while certainly being important, will play only a peripheral role in the ultimate success of the Mac App Store. The market that the store will target is the same one as the iTunes App Store — simple and fun apps that just seem to work. All the best free (and even open source) apps will likely be included, as while it’s not part of the profit system, a wide selection of free apps is crucial to a healthy app store ecosystem (VLC, one of the most widely used open source applications, is now available on both the iPhone and the iPad). The kind of apps that will be rejected, the ones that are focused on customizing the system instead of the functionality of the app itself — “the kind of software that gets down and dirty in fixing, changing, or extending stuff in ways Apple doesn’t” — aren’t for the target consumer market. The Mac App Store will be targeted at the mainstream audience whom isn’t interested in getting “down and dirty,” not those of us like Ryan Block (and myself), who won’t depend on the store for getting all of our software. The success of the App Store will be in its mainstream appeal, not in its appeal to power users and others with more specific preferences.
The Mac App Store will also likely be filled with simple, single purpose apps, like many of those for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. This would negate the traditional price difference between desktop and mobile software, as the same way the iTunes App Store is dominated by low-priced apps, the Mac App Store could have many small, widget-like apps for under $5 — “a new class of micro-apps.” Just as the iPhone app store motivated a new generation of developers, the Mac App Store could have the same effect.
Bodega — a Mac App Store that’s been around for over a year — is proof already that there is enough software to sustain a Mac App Store. Bodega does allow a lot of software that Apple will reject, but even discounting those apps there’s a healthy selection. And Bodega is independent — the Mac App Store will already have the advantage of Apple’s considerable influence. One needs look no further than Sparrow to see that paid desktop software is still being developed (the developers have said they will eventually have a free, ad-supported version alongside a paid version).
There’s also games, which should not be discounted. They could easily become a driving force behind the success of the Mac App Store (especially financial success). Steam for Mac proves there’s a significant market for games on the Mac.
The Mac App Store won’t host every great Mac app, but if it aspires to be not the only source but merely one of the best, it should provide a great central source for reliable and consistent Mac software — for many people, the only source needed. And for the rest of us, a place to look with a certain level of quality guaranteed, but not a substitute for the traditional channels of software discovery and distribution that exist already.