Essential Free Software for a new Mac

My new MacBook Pro arrived Friday, and the first thing I did (after basking in the beauty that is a new Mac) was to start loading my “must have” applications on it it. Of these, the Quicksilver fast app launcher is probably the single most important tool I have — using it has become as instinctive as breathing, and it’s disconcerting for me to work on a Mac that doesn’t have it installed.

A close second, at least in terms of productivity, is iGTD, a tool for implementing “getting things done” style lists on the Mac. I’m not a convert to the GTD cause (I never read the book) but I find some of the concepts useful and this is the first program that proved itself capable of replacing the paper “to do” lists I’ve been using for years.


TextWrangler: If you need a robust text editor, BareBone’s software’s TextWrangler is the way to go. It’s not a stripped down version of their commerical BBEdit software; it’s a wholey new piece of software with plenty of its own tricks. You’ll feel guilty downloading this one for free.

iGTD: An great tool for anyone who adheres to the “Getting Things Done” school of umm, getting things done. Manage lists by context (home, work, freelance) or project (Nuketown, D&D Campaign, Drupal). Set priorities and deadlines, and sync the whole mess with iCal.

Camino: A Mac-specific implementation of the Mozilla web browser (think of it as Firefox optimized for the Mac). If you’ve had problems accessing sites in Firefox, you might want to try your luck with Camino.

Fugu: If you’re working with web servers, you’re going to need to get your files to them. As it says on its web site “Fugu is a graphical frontend to the commandline Secure File Transfer application”, which means everything’s encrypted when it connects and transfers files to the server (normal FTP isn’t encrypted; folks could sniff your account and password information if they were so inclined)


Quicksilver: A fast application launcher/search tool/automator, Quicksilver is an amazing utility that offers a quantum leap forward in your mac productivity … if you can grok how it works.

Twitterific: Who wants to go out to the Twitter home page to track their tweets when Twitterific can bring them to you? This small app runs like an IM window, providing you with a constant stream of Twitter updates and allowing you to post your own additions.

Using GnuGP encryption for Mail: Feeling a little uneasy about the government’s re-imaginging of the Constitution? Want to make sure you’re the only one reading your e-mail (or at least, make it much harder for others to read it?) then get GPG for Mac Mail, which implements the PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) encryption standard on your Mac.

iStumbler: Apple’s Airport wireless utility doesn’t tell you much about the networks that your Mac can see. iStumbler does, listing all the networks around you, whether they’re open or closed, their signal strength, and what channel their operating on. It’s great for finding usable networks as well as trouble shooting your own (particularly when you’re trying to avoid channel collisions with other wireless networks).

Stuffit Expander: For years, Stuffit’s .sit extension was ubiquitous on the Mac. With the arrival of Mac OS X, and it’s native support for ZIP archive and disk mounted images, Stuffit’s influence waned. The release of Mac OS 10.4 (Tiger) saw it no longer pre-installed on Macs. At this point it’s not quite an essential tool, but it’s good to have around, particularly if you’re going to be dealing with older files (or long-time Mac users who never switched over to zip).


Gmail: Why log into Gmail when you can see what’s new through a Widget? This widget displays the current contents of your inbox; clicking on an e-mail opens that message in your web browser. Google also has a widget for Blogger, but I haven’t tried it yet.

iSlayer’s iStat Widget: This Dashboard widget provides detailed statistics about your computer, including everything from how much space you have on your drive to how hard your fans are working to what your computer’s IP address is.