Mac Gems – Part 3

Continuing the list of useful applications for OS X.

So you know how OS X is Unix underneath … well unfortunately at some point Apple decide not to ship all the cool Unix tools with the Desktop version. Yes there are projects such as Fink and MacPorts but I tend to like a bit more mac-ie solutions. So here is my poison:


Never head of it? Look it up it’s well worth your time and bandwidth. ~380mb

Speaking of console applications you should always get yourself

Most if you know a bit about unix … less is greater than more and most tops both 🙂
If you are not sure what those are, all 3 a console applications with more/less being the default viewer for man pages (help files for console apps). Most however is the best there is and yes you can run it on OS X although it does not come with it by default. All are free.

and nowadays you can also run


on OS X. I must admit, htop is probably one of the coolest console tools to come out of linux. It used to not run on OS X because OS X does not have /proc but nowadays it’s all peachy and if for whatever reason you don’t have it you should go and get it pronto!

[for those who have no idea what htop is, you know how top shows you processes and stuff? Well htop does the same only in color, had easy keyboard navigation and about a thousand other cool features] It is almost like Activity Monitor only it run’s in the console. Sorry no dtrace integration.

For RoR admins there is Ruby Mine which is a regular (GUI) OS X application and makes deployment of RoR sites a bit easier. If you know RoR well you probably won’t care much, but it is a nice tool so it get’s a mention too.

A few desktop tools that are free and should have been included in OS X by default (hint Apple). Apple most definitely can afford to buy the respective software rights an make the apps part of the OS.

AppTrap you know how uninstalling Windows applications NEVER gets rid of all the changes that were made to your OS (and yes that is absolutely true). Well apparently, Apple though that that’s not such a bad thing. So here comes AppTrap. Every time you delete an application it checks for preference files in the usual location and it asks you if you want to delete those too. It shows you a list of the files just in case you want to know. Now sometime you don’t want to delete those files, like when you are upgrading an application or just want to save the registration for some future purpose. However, most of the time you do and this is where AppTrap is indispensable. Oh and it’s my favourite cause it’s FREE!

Caffeine prevent screen from dimming

InsomniaX keeps the computer from sleeping when the lid is closed. Has a bit of a hick up problem with the latest MBP’s when closing the screen. Still it does work!

Growl the notification system that Apple … well forgot to build. For whatever reason Apple continues to ignore this. Only most developers use Growl so right now the only thing that Apple can do is just bundle it with the OS. It is an OSS project so no purchase is possible.

Lab Tick gives you full control over the keyboard backlighting, as in you can turn it on even if the room is very well lit up

Visor lets you pull down the terminal ala Quake style from any application. Downside: Terminal has to be open! Ok, so it’s not really anything special but it is the coolest geek tool ever! Oh and performance is absolutely stellar.

TwoUp this is just like windows 7’s stupid split screen feature. Only this one is controlled with a keyboard shortcut which means that the sides of your screen are still usable! Didn’t think of that did you stupid MS designer. So there you go … best of both and it is a very useful productivity tool. There is also a paid version with more functionality (different name)

And some that a not free but I couldn’t recommend them enough:

DiskRadar simply gorgeous application showcasing why OS X applications are better than Windows counterparts. This is a disk visualizer/explorer. Scans a 320gb hdd (a slow one) in about 1 min and you get every file on your hdd with size and attributes and a gorgeous chart of disk usage. The application is 64 bit multi core/cpu compatible i.e. it does use multiple threads for analysis of hdd information. Still in beta but very stable. The application has a 2nd part and that makes it unique. It checks the health of your HDD, based on SMART status and some application magic and shows you a rough percentage of health. Basically, you get an idea of when you will need a new HDD before it actually does happen. Sadly, the stock macbook HDD is already at 60 odd % after less than a year of usage …

OmniFocus expensive but quite possibly the best personal planner. It has a corporate quality and look and feel yet is easy to use. I wish there was a Windows version so I can nag IT to buy it for my work computer (sadly I am stuck with an Adamo wannabe at work …)

Papaya OMG I have no words to describe how nice this application is. It is the easiest way to share files and by far the quickest too. It basically creates a web server that other network users can connect to and either send you files or download files that you have shared with them. It also works over Internet if you have an open port. It is well worth the money if you work in a small team and you have no IT dept. to annoy you (sorry support you).

And last but not least so other cool apps that I have found useful but don’t really fit in the above categories:

Perian the codec pack that every Mac user needs! Apple didn’t include it cause it’s got some potential licensing issues.

MacFUSE and iTunesOS those 2 give you the best and easiest way to copy files from your iTunes library (especially if it is being sorted by iTunes). If you buy music from iTunes it get’s shoved in some obscure location, well you shouldn’t care with the above combo. You get your iTunes library mounted as a drive and it’s organized in virtual folders a bit like what iTunes does. Oh and you can use Spotlight to search it!

Warp pretty cool tool for when you work with virtual monitors. Find it useful quite a few times.

MarsEdit which is what I am using now to write this post. It is nice and quite useful but it is not one of those to die for tools. It is great because if you ever choose to move your blog you take the messages with you (well with the app). But it’s a bit expensive if you are a casual blogger and I would probably never use it if I didn’t get a free licence …

Transmission if you want to download anything from bittorent this is the ultimate client. It is rock solid and is the best client that I have seen on any platform. A few of the cool features are a bit hidden like cmd+t, cmd+r, etc. but if you are new to OS X you just have to get used to the idea that the keyboard is your friend. Mac users LOVE keyboard shortcuts. Oh and if the ones already there are not enough for you … you can define your own! (in OS X I mean)

Vox you know how iTunes is the go-to music player? Well Vox is another one. It has a very simple interface, is free and does some quick music playing if that is what you are after. Does not create a library and that’s exactly what I sometimes need. It is great and even had the same command keys as iTunes (a bit of a problem if both are running). Oh and you can control it trough the taskbar icon (not every option).

Sophos never though I’d say this but here we go … if you really need an antivirus software, Sophos for Mac is free for personal use (maybe even in general). OFC this is due to the lack of paying consumers and you are basically a tester. But the software integrates with OS X better than Symantec’s entry works very well, and best of all it FREE. So take it with a grain of salt if you must. I keep it around just in case I need to help a needy mate with a virus infected windows computer … or something like that …


Sure there are other applications that I use, but the above ones I consider either essential or a great example of good software that gets things does and stays out of my way.

So there you go, the best of the not so well known Mac world. This is not really an official guide but all of the above are cool programs that I have used over the past several years and are a true testament that while some Windows applications do not run on OS X they are surely not missed at the least!



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