Some gems you should know about

I still shudder when I recall the pain-filled days of OS9 freeware/shareware applications. They were often very good, but they were so few, and ran on a crash-prone operating system. Those were truly dark days.

Things are looking much better these days though. The mac developer community is alive and well, and they keep pumping out fantastic software that makes macs even more pleasurable to work with. There are few tasks out there, in fact, that don’t have at least one or two solid freeware/shareware apps to handle the work. Here is a short list of some of my favorites:

I just stumbled across this one this week actually, but it looks very promising and so far, seems like a great little gem that will stick around for a while.

This one is one of my most indispensable tools. As a matter of fact, I have been looking for something like this for a long time, and I finally stumbled across it. If you’re designing a number of web sites, each with their own color guidelines, this is a must! The price is a little steep, but it’s worth it.

Although I’m slowly phasing this one out of my workflow, it changed the way I interact with my Finder forever. I use it primarily as an app launcher but it’s capable of so much more. If you haven’t used it yet, what are you waiting for?

When you download and play around with as much junk as I do, this little app is a must. It essentially scans your drive for any .plist or supporting files for any application you decided to try on a dare — and trashes them. 🙂 Ahhh. Always nice to do a little cleaning.

Sick of Aladdin Software’s StuffIt? So am I. Enter the free and incredibly reliable (although not too pretty) CleanArchiver. All it does is compress files, but you can tell it to keep those pesky .DS_Store files or not – as well as archive to a number of different formats.

The Unarchiver:
What good is a compression utility if you can’t uncompress? This app basically replaces OSX’s BOMArchiveHelper (which handles decompression of packages) and adds many more formats to the list. Nice and robust.

Once upon a time, there was a nice FTP program that I feel sat on their laurels much too long. The folks at Panic software came into the picture and effectively kicked some collective bootie. Now, the FTP client market is saturated once again with great apps. My personal favorite is Transmit (mainly because it syncs with .Mac), but there are a number of them out there. I have also used YummyFTP with great results — although if you’re looking for a free alternative to either of these, I’d recommend CyberDuck. (Seriously, who’s coming up with these names).

For as great as I think iChat is, I also know it’s missing features which all the other chat programs have adopted. Chax brings some of that back and does so quite nicely by integrating with iChat preferences. For those of you who can actually concentrate on more than one chat account at a time, Adium seems to be the preferred app there. But if you do that, I highly recommend heading here and grabbing a better-looking icon. What’s up with ducks?

Flickr Uploadr:
If you use Flickr for the casual photo update, you should take a look at their official uploader. It’s easy and convenient, and sits quietly on my dock.

This is a great app to control iTunes directly from your menu bar — or better yet, through keyboard shortcuts. Not only that, but it uses a very nice (and customizable) notification system complete with album cover, rating, song title, and artist. Which brings me to my next item…

I heard a lot about this one for a long time and I never understood what it was until I finally downloaded it and gave it a try. Growl is simply a system-wide notification system, and I know what you’re thinking (why would I want that), but it has been a nice little app! Here’s an example: say you’re uploading something via FTP and you want to know when it’s done, but you don’t want to stick around. Well, let Growl notify you! Give it a whirl and see what you think. I believe you might get hooked.

Dolor Sit Amet:
Okay, so it’s not technically an app — but close enough. I use this gem of a widget daily, and that is not an exaggeration. As I design layouts I’m often caught in-between the client and the writers trying to determine content. In the meantime, I pop open my widget, type the number of words I need, and viola! Insta-copy! 🙂 Just be sure to replace all that greeked-up junk with actual meaningful content! 😉

I’m sure there are many more amazing apps out there — but I have either yet to stumble across them, or haven’t had any need for them. I’m curious to know if you know of any apps that you find indispensable which I have not included here.

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