Killer Mac OS X apps for 2007

Suppose you’re moving to the Mac from 13 years of agonyecstasy on Windows XP.

What are the best apps for you, circa 2007?

Comments are welcome.

OS X apps:

  • Email: Thunderbird. A lot of people seem to love OS X’s built-in Mail.app but Thunderbird runs on both Windows and Mac and so switching is easy.
  • Browser: Toss-up between Camino and Firefox. Camino seems faster, but the UI is a little clunky (what’s up with that “Find” interface?) and you miss out on Firefox’s extensions. The right answer seems to be to run both.
  • Instant messaging: Adium, in a landslide.
  • IRC: Colloquy, in a somewhat less dramatic landslide.
  • Music player: ITunes, of course.
  • Internet radio: AOL Radio — I know, I know, but little known fact: AOL Radio gives you a good selection of commercial-free XM satellite ratio stations with high quality sound, and you don’t need an XM subscription. Including the essential XM channel 40, Deep Tracks. (Where else can you hear the Electric Prunes, Molly Hatchet, and Ultimate Spinach in the same night?)
  • Adobe Creative Suite 3: In a category of its own — huge, sprawling, heavy-duty professional applications including Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks, and Flash. Covers a broad cross-section of web design and development — and now all integrated and Intel native.
  • Text editor: Textmate seems to be the best regarded, with incredible programming language support. SKEdit also gets a lot of votes. I’ll probably try both. Runners up include Smultron, TextWrangler, BBEdit, and jEdit.
  • Image editor: For lightweight image editing, I’m going with ImageWell. I’ll try Pixelmator when it comes out. Lots of other choices, though, from various angles: Xee, iZoom, EasyCrop, Seashore, Picturesque (cool!), Pixen, Image Tricks, and Scope.
  • Blogging client: MarsEdit. I tried Adobe Contribute CS3 but it seems oddly clumsy compared to the rest of the Adobe apps and compared to MarsEdit. I may also try Ecto.
  • PHP IDE: Zend Studio — for PHP programmers who want a full IDE, it’s a great environment. Lots of built-in PHP knowledgey goodness. (Disclaimer: I’m on the Zend board.)
  • FTP client: A lot of people seem to swear by Transmit, but I’m giving Forklift a try. Lots of backup choices: Yummy, Cyberduck, Interarchy, Fetch, Fugu, and the most exotic choice, MacFuse with sshfs.
  • Windows remote desktop control: I tried using the Microsoft RDC client for OS X but it stopped working and frankly it’s hard to work up the enthusiasm to figure out what’s wrong. Instead, I’m using CoRD for now.
  • Backup: SuperDuper.
  • Cleaner: To wipe OS X’s caches and other assorted squirrely repositories of informational nuts, Mac Cleanse.
  • Tweaking tool: Mac Pilot. Go crazy.
  • Window switcher: To recreate Windows XP’s Alt-Tab window switcher, Witch works great. (Someone please explain to me why OS X normally expects you to Apple-Tab to an application and then Apple-` to a specific window within that application. Someone’s been smoking something…)
  • System monitoring: Menu Meters — for the entertainment value of watching the load on each of your two cores on your notebook computer’s CPU. What a world we live in.
  • Terminal: iTerm. Tabs!
  • Open source package installer and manager: Fink, and its graphical front end Fink Commander.
  • Del.icio.us client: Toss-up between Cocoalicious and Delibar.
  • Flickr client: 1001.
  • Twitter client: Twitterific.
  • Universal video player: VLC.

Then there are the issues of virtualization, running Windows, and Windows apps. My choices:

  • Virtualization software: Parallels. Note however that it is a baaaaaad idea to have your virtual machines inside a FileVault filesystem. I may also try VMWare Fusion although I am enthralled by Parallels’ promise to add pass-through 3D graphics hardware support in their next version.
  • Windows OS: Windows XP. (I am frankly still not sure why anyone would run Vista, at least outside of a Media Center system.)
  • Office suite: Microsoft Office 2003 — because I’m used to it and I don’t need any more features.

Then there’s the issue of OS X software to avoid. My list, based on hard experience:

  • Office suite: Microsoft Office for the Mac — oh my god, is it painful.
  • Email: Microsoft Entourage — wow, it’s bad.
  • Desktop manager: Virtue — great promise but buggy and unfortunately abandoned.

Notes based on reader feedback:

Paul Thurrott makes a superb point — “Switch to the Mac? Just switch to the Web”.

As someone who’s been forecasting the death of traditional software and the rise of Web applications since, approximately, 1995 :-), I totally agree with him.

It must be a sign of advancing age that I continue to focus on desktop apps.

The good news is that a lot of the desktop apps on this list are amazingly great.