Even if you’re new to all things Mac, you’ve most likely already realized that your computer comes packed with a great selection of built-in applications designed to cater to most people’s basic needs. However, it’s when installing third-party apps that the fun can really start and there’s a massive amount of software available for OS X, much of it free or priced competitively.
It would be impossible to cover every single app in one article but we can make a good start here, so with this in mind let’s take a look at ten apps which should be considered an essential download or purchase for every new Mac user.
Dropbox is a fantastically flexible piece of software which is also surprisingly easy to use. Following a free download and install, a Dropbox folder is placed into the Home folder of your Mac and then any files added to that folder will be uploaded for easy access through a computer running OS X, Windows, Linux, or a compatible mobile device.
There’s a lot of love for Dropbox here at Mac.AppStorm and exploring the Dropbox tag is a great way to learn more about the service.
Price: free for basic service
Personally, I’m a big fan of iChat already and the upcoming Messages app which Apple is releasing with Mountain Lion looks set to increase the usefulness of the Mac OS X native chat client tenfold. However, I still believe that there’s a place in most people’s Applications folder for Adium, the open source instant messaging application which can make use of AIM, MSN, Google Talk and more.
Adium is very cute graphically and can make use of several plugins to expand its functionality yet further.
For those who have somehow managed to avoid the slightly over-enthusiastic media storm which followed Spotify’s US launch in 2011, Spotify is a music streaming service which allows users to access a massive repository of music for free, albeit with advertisements occasionally breaking the reverie. For those who choose to purchase the optional premium service, Spotify ditches the ads and unlocks a host of goodies, such as offline listening and the ability to make use of a complementing iOS app.
Though not a new concept by any means, Spotify successfully reinvents the music-streaming wheel and therefore should find itself a home in your Applications folder. Check out Rdio for a good alternative.
Price: Free and paid plans available
Though OS X Lion can handle ZIP files itself, for a lot of other compression formats like .RAR, you’re going to need to install a third party application. On balance, The Unarchiver is the best such app, with a lightweight and robust interface and the ability to compress or decompress practically anything you throw at it.
To get started with The Unarchiver, just download it through the Mac App Store and run the app once, selecting all the formats you’d like it to handle as default.
While this version of Pages is getting a little old in the tooth now, having originally been introduced with the iWork ’09 suite, it remains an excellent word processor and can be purchased directly from the Mac App Store without the need to shell out on the entire iWork package – as is the case for its counterparts Numbers and Keynote.
There are word processing apps which are more minimalist and there are others which offer more iOS integration but on the whole, none do so many things quite as well as Pages.
Cloud syncing seems to be all the rage nowadays and though iCloud syncs notes adequately, Evernote is an alternative which offers greater power and flexibility.
Truly cross-platform with clients for Mac, Windows, Linux and most mobile devices (including, of course, iOS), Evernote will sync notes, audio clips and images seamlessly between your devices.
Price: free for basic service
Adobe Photoshop reigns supreme over graphics editing software, but unless one makes a living or actively pursues a hobby with image manipulation, Photoshop’s impressive features can be overkill, not to mention expensive. Here’s where Pixelmator steps in.
Pixelmator makes simple editing as easy as it should be and even users like me who struggle to get to grips with such applications should find themselves up and running in no time. That’s not to say that Pixelmator is limited however – far from it! Underneath the intuitive UI you’ll find lots of ability packed in to this great lightweight app.
There are a lot of organisation or GTD (getting things done) apps available for Mac but my own personal favourite is Cultured Code’s Things. Things really does make organizing your life easy and fun and it does so with a seriously beautiful interface.
However, Things does command a hefty price tag and so if you’re looking for a more affordable option, 2Do is also very good and is priced at a much more budget friendly $6.99. If you’re in the market for a free alternative, check out Wunderlist.
OS X Lion comes with Quicktime preinstalled and while there’s nothing wrong with Apple’s own media player, it doesn’t tend to be too flexible when it comes to video formats. VLC on the other hand, will play practically anything you’d like – both audio and video formats.
While VLC has a reputation as a ‘power user’ application on account of its more advanced capabilities, the simplicity of being able to play any file makes it more than suitable for the Mac newcomer.
Initially developed in Europe, Skype was bought up by Ebay and became a very popular way for people to communicate online via voice, text, video or all three at once. Skype is available on most major platforms and has a huge user base, making it far more flexible than the admittedly slick FaceTime VOIP software developed by Apple.
Skype to Skype calls are free but Skype Credit can also be purchased cheaply to make very inexpensive calls abroad, very useful for those of us who have relatives living overseas.
Hopefully these ten great apps have given you a good head start on some awesome Mac software to get installed on your new Mac. Naturally, no such list can be definitive and the choices no doubt reflect this author’s own tastes but there should be something there for everyone, with plenty more suggestions to get stuck into on Mac.AppStorm.
No doubt I’ve missed plenty of other great apps which are suitable for new Mac users, so if you’ve got any particularly compelling top picks then please let us know about them in the comments!