North Western Winds

Contemplating it all from the great Pacific Northwest

Software finds of 2006

with one comment

Obviously the big find for this blogger in 2006 was Apple’s OS X. Once in this new environment I spent a lot of time looking at the tools available.

I like open source software but I’m not a zealot about it. I think open source if great for people who are not too demanding of their software, and / or who have limited funds to use on paid software. You can get a lot of things using open source. It will often take a few more clicks to do it, and the interface will be a bit rougher. My advice is to use open source or free ware for most things, and if you have to, use paid software for the jobs nearest your heart – the jobs that you put time and effort into. One of the best things about open source is a high degree of interoperability, a vision of the net that can be too overlooked in hurry to ‘fit in’.


Since moving to the Mac I’ve used a large number of browsers, more than I did in Windows. There, I moved between IE and Netscape until Firefox came along. Firefox seemed so much more simple, secure and flexible that I never looked back. On the Mac however, I didn’t use Firefox for very long. I’m not sure Firefox on OS X is a bit sluggish. I know there are modified versions like Bon Echo to address that, but there is also the fact that Firefox does not look or behave much like OS X software. That’s a real drawback for someone who has come to appreciate OS X as much as I have.

Mostly what I used was Safari, which I am still fond of. It is fast, fast, fast. I also tried Omniweb, which has its’ pluses, and Flock. Omni’s Workspaces are interesting but not crucial because you can do much of that with tabs, and Flock has a nice blogging tool but is a bit slow and ugly (IMHO), in the same way that Firefox is ugly on the Mac.

Recently I’ve come back to Camino as my browser of choice. It’s feature set isn’t as jam packed as Omni or Flock, or as fast as Safari, but it has what I really want:

  • the speed and the Mac design of Safari
  • the Gecko page rendering engine, the same one found in Firefox
  • the abiltiy to add search engines to the search field
  • block ads, not just pop ups
  • the ability to add right-click links to the dock icon, for fast access
  • There are more customization tools available, such as CamiTools and Camiscript, that add a lot of functionality.
  • the ability to synch bookmarks on different macs via FTP
  • FTP

    You can get free FTP service from the stand alone Cyberduck or from FireFTP, which is a Firefox extension. FireFTP has a better interface, but if you don’t want to use Firefox that’s not much help. I’m not about to use Flock just for the blogging tool either.

    If you’re willing to pay, Transmit looks like the best FTP client on offer at the moment. It has a simple interface and great tools like folder synch – and even tabs! I haven’t bought this one yet but am giving it real consideration.

    I should also mention here gDisk, which allows you to use your Gmail storage for more than mail. Very handy.

    Discs burning

    Disco is another app whose demo was impressive. This is also a pay item, but the price is very reasonable at $15. It’s drag and drop simple, it spans discs, and it smokes and burns when it’s in action. You can even interact with the smoke with your mouse cursor – or even the microphone.

    Photo and Art Tools

    This is an area where don’t have a lot of need beyond iPhoto, although there are times when I miss having a vector based art program for making logos and whatnot. The most promising lead I have so far is Gimpshop, but I have not tried it out much. Gimpshop is free, but required that X11 be installed on your Mac first. Gimp is a Unix program and Gimpshop makes it look and act a bit more like an normal Aqua program.

    Having problem with a video clip in a format that give Quicktime trouble? Try using Visual Hub to convert it. Comes in both free and paid versions.

    VLC might also help. Free.

    Pando isn’t simply for photos or art, but can be used to easily send large attachments via e-mail. I use this to trade high resolution pictures with my photog Father. This one’s available for the PC too.

    Dashboard and Menubar

    iStat Nano is a very slick and very free widget for your dashboard. It shows you your processor usage, ram status, hard disk space, uptime and more. It’s nice to have your IP just a click away when your network is giving you trouble.

    MenuCalendarClock is a menubar utility that puts a calendar just a click away. Click on the clock and it drops down. That much is free. If you buy it you get iCal integration. I’m not going to bother with that, but I do like the quick calendar.

    Spanning Sych is in beta at the moment but it promises to bring integration between iCal and Google calendar. Looks like it could be promising.

    Growl is a freebie for program notifications.

    Spirited Away is a very small little utility that looks like it might have been orphaned. In any case, it’s simple – it just hides apps that have been inactive for a time that you specify.

    SMARTReporter is a free utility that monitors your hard drive for impending failures.

    Blogging Tools

    For a nice, free RSS reader, Vienna is very good indeed. I don’t think there is much doubt that the king of RSS readers on the Mac remains NewsNetWire. It comes in a free light version, and a paid $30 version. I thought the full version added enough to warrant a purchase; I haven’t regretted it.

    I did finally find a stand alone blogging tool along the lines of w.bloggar on the PC, and that app is MarsEdit. It’s not the most feature packed, but it’s was fairly inexpensive at the sale price of $15. It’s now back to $25 but I would not be surprised to see more sales in the future. It offers a live preview pane, integrated pinging, custom tags, and script integration with Safari, Camino and iTunes….

    Currently playing in iTunes: Feelin’ Good by Colin James

    It also has a spell check, something I’m sure you’ll all be thankful for.

    Office software

    I will never buy a copy of MS Office – for Mac or PC. It’s bloated and expensive and who needs it anyway? NeoOffice brings Open Office to the Mac. This is plenty nice for a lot of jobs. If you want something a bit prettier, there’s always Apple’s iWork. I hear it will get a spreadsheet soon, greatly enhancing its value.


    I haven’t really used this much, but Xtorrent looks like a promising app to me. It’s available as a free beta right now.


    Written by Curt

    January 1, 2007 at 9:35 pm

    One Response

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    1. I like Safari as well, but I’ve found that I cannot use it to place a custom header on my blog. I use Firefox for that. In any other way, Safari I think is superior to Firefox.

      I only recently switched to the Apple world when I bought a Macbook. I love it.


      January 1, 2007 at 11:43 pm

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