When I switched to Mac, 1 thing I was worried was the availability of freeware apps since I use many freeware apps in Windows. A lot of Mac apps are shareware, but the availability of freeware apps is not as bad as I thought. Here’s my Top 10 Mac freeware apps:
Sure, Apple wants you to use Safari, but there is simply no substitute for the flexibility of Firefox and its extensions. Having used Firefox in Windows ever since it was called Firebird, the first thing I installed on my Mac was Firefox. Firefox 3 is an excellent browser. It might not be advertised to be as speedy as Safari, but it is secure, follows web standard, and extremely expandable with add-ons. Check my Top 5 Firefox add-ons.
Most users are fine using iTunes as their main CD-ripper and lossy encoder. However, iTunes was not good enough for me, considering I’ve been using EAC and Lame MP3 in Windows for years. XLD started as an encoder, and it supports .cue + wav image file, which is the way I backup my audio CDs. I used to use Max as the CD ripper on Mac, but now XLD will also function as a CD-ripper, able to rip a CD into a .cue + wav image file, and a secure ripper too! XLD uses the latest Lame MP3 encoder. Besides MP3, XLD also able to encode to AAC, Apple lossless, OGG, and FLAC. An excellent and must have tool!
The obvious Mac version of MP3gain, a utility useful in normalizing MP3 files. the Mac version has simpler GUI.
4. Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection
I’m using my iMac as my primary computer, but I also have a few Windows PCs. Wouldn’t it be great if I can control those Windows PCs without leaving my Mac? That’s what Remote Desktop Connection (RDC) is for. Simply enable remote desktop on the Windows machine, and you can log-in to the machine from MacOS. Note that remote desktop is only available in Windows XP Media Center & Professional, and Vista Business & Ultimate, not on XP Home nor Vista Home Premium & Basic. Another reason why I recommend people to get either Vista Business or Ultimate only. IMO, MS RDC is better than Leopard’s screen sharing function. In RDC, I can have sounds played from the Windows PC to be played on my Mac, set a custom screen resolution, and the Windows PC is locked while RDC is connected. Another note is that if you want to control a Windows PC without keyboard and mouse, make sure it is connected via ethernet. If the Win PC is connected via wifi, you have to log-in on the actual Windows PC first (to load whatever drivers necessary for the wifi card) before RDC can connect to it.
SuperDuper is a backup utility. It can create a bootable image of your Mac’s hard-drive. Extremely useful for backing up. The free version is limited to creating a full image every single time, while the paid version will allow you to do a smart update (only backing up things that are changed), making the back up process faster. No biggie. I use the free SuperDuper to create a full image of my hard-drive once every couple months, while Time Machine does the daily backup.
iPhoto is great to manage photos, and Apple’s own Preview app in Leopard is powerful enough to crop/resize pictures. But what if you just want to add some text on a picture without using heavy duty programs like GIMP/Photoshop? Windows have MS Paint, a basic image editing program. Seashore is a similar program for the Mac. It’s free!
Want to play Divx, xvid, AVI, and Matroska videos on the Mac? Look no further. Simply install Perian, and you can play those media in Quicktime. Simple and straight forward, unlike the official Divx codecs. Works in Frontrow too, but I find playing Matroska files via Frontrow is a bit dodgy and unstable.
XBMC (XBox Media Center) started as a media player for a modded original Xbox. Now it’s a multi-platform Media Center app, available for Windows, MacOS, Linux, and even Apple TV. If you don’t like Frontrow, or want a more customizable media center program with better codec support, get XBMC. It is not as user friendly and the setup screens are a bit geeky, but its extensive codec support is worth it if you want to use your Mac as an HTPC.
Heralded as the best and free encryption program. It’s also available for Windows and Linux.
Need to encode videos for your iPod? Handbrake is perfect for the job. It has presets fro PSP, PS3, iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, etc. It uses x264, a free H.264 encoder, which I find to be pretty fast. It can create chapters that is compatible with iTunes and iPods, useful for long movies, concert videos, etc. The only downside is that I have yet to find a reliable DVD ripper for the Mac. Handbrake itself can rip DVDs, but I find to not work on most commercial DVDs I have. IMO DVDfab Decrypter to be the ebst DVD ripper, but it’s Windows only.