This post is part of a series that revisits some of our readers’ favorite articles from the past that still contain awesome and relevant information that you might find useful. This post was originally published on March 1st, 2011.
So you’ve just bought a new Mac, perhaps even switching from Windows. As you’d expect, your friends come over to marvel at your new computing behemoth. So what do you show them? The way Safari expertly renders CSS drop-shadows, or how easy it is to make a sumptuous scatter graph in Numbers?
Of course not. You want to show them the fun, pointless stuff which will make them recoil in awe.
This post compiles 10 of the best apps, easter eggs and tweaks which serve little purpose but to inspire and amaze you and others. You won’t use these apps every day, but there’s no harm in knowing about them as a fun party trick…
This is probably the only useful application on the list, but also one which will impress you an awful lot. Delicious Library is an app for cataloging your possessions, from books and software to clothes and toys. This may not sound like the most exciting app, but it has a little feature which brings it to another level.
Using your iSight camera on your Mac, you can scan books, games, music, etc. simply by holding it up to the camera. It will detect the bar code and search Amazon and other databases for the product, providing you with cover art, a description, production details, reviews and recommendations, all in the app.
It won’t find everything you put in front of it, but it does a pretty good job nonetheless.
Developer: Delicious Monster
Remember the EyeToy, that Kinect precursor that plugged into your PlayStation 2 and allowed you to navigate the PS2 interface ridiculously slowly? Well, imagine an app that allowed you to do the same thing to control iTunes. That’s FluidTunes. Once again, this works via your iSight, and enabling you to browse your media library via waving your hands wildly in the air and hoping for the best.
Unfortunately, you can only select a song through a CoverFlow view, and stop it. No pausing, no skipping, no volume adjustment, nothing. In addition to this, your music is bunched in with podcasts, audiobooks, and even iBooks, so your Beatles mix might suddenly be interrupted by Ricky Gervais at any time. As an app, it’s pretty terrible, but as a novelty piece, it works pretty well.
Isn’t it great how quickly apps open in OS X? Well, what if they didn’t? Wouldn’t that be amazing? MegaMan Effect plays a fullscreen introduction to your app in the style of 80s classic NES game Mega Man, complete with retro 8-bit music.
This is fun the first time you use it, but gets old pretty quickly, especially if you forget it’s on and try to open an app in a hurry.
Developer: Clickable Bliss
No “useless but fun” app list is complete with PhotoBooth, everybody’s favourite timewaster. If you don’t know what PhotoBooth is, it allows you to take pictures with your iSight camera (yes, that again), and add plenty of “fun” features and effects along the way. These range from the relatively sensible “Black and White” and “Sepia” to the utterly pointless “Thermal Camera” and “Twirl”.
PhotoBooth is one of the few on the lists that you can return to and be vaguely amused by, so don’t delete it just yet.
Price: Free (Comes with OS X)
GarageBand Auto-Tune Feature
Auto-tuning is a system where the pitch in vocal and instrumental performances are corrected. You hear Auto-Tuned vocals every 5 minutes on the radio these days, but the full software, developed by Antares, costs $649.
Never fear, as GarageBand has some very basic Auto-Tuning features built-in. It won’t make you the next Lady Gaga (not that you’d want to be) but it’s certainly a noticeable change, and quite fun to play around with.
I’m guessing that everyone will know about these, but it’s still a great feature of iTunes. Hit Cmd + T to bring up the visualiser in iTunes, and sit in awe whilst you listen to your favourite songs.
Probably the most pleasing visualiser is the default “iTunes visualiser”, but there are plenty of other great ones around the web, such as these.
Strictly speaking, this is a feature for accessibility, but is equally useful (and I use the term “useful” very loosely) for anyone. All you have to do is press Cmd + Alt + Ctrl + 8, and all the colours on the screen are inverted.
You can see a black and gold Facebook, a black Finder, and a grey and orange Mac.AppStorm. In fact, iTunes visualisers, mentioned above, look great in negative too. To get out of it, simply press Cmd + Alt + Ctrl + 8 again.
Freeze Window Minimisation
In theory, this is basically crashing your Mac in a very minor, fun way which is easily fixed. It does, however, require a bit of a tutorial…
- Firstly, open Terminal, and type in “killall Dock” (without the quotes), but don’t enter it yet.
- Go to another app, and hold Shift whilst hitting the minimise button. This will, as you may well know, cause it to minimise in slow motion.
- Whilst this is happening, switch back to Terminal and enter that “killall Dock” command. This will freeze your window halfway through minimisation, with all of the features still working fine.
There are a number of apps that this works well on – My favourite being an app with a long list of things you can scroll through, such as Twitter for Mac or NetNewsWire. You get a great, 3D scrolling effect.
To return to normal, press minimise again and bring the window up again.
ASCII Star Wars
Everyone loves ASCII art, right? And everyone loves Star Wars too, right? Well, imagine, if you will, an ASCII version of Star Wars Episode IV, right in Terminal. Guess what – It’s real, and can be accessed by typing “telnet towel.blinkenlights.nl” into Terminal (without quotes).
You’ll need an internet connection, however, but that’s not exactly a huge ask these days. Then just sit back and enjoy some Sci-Fi entertainment.
Games in Terminal
I would imagine that almost everyone reading this has played Snake, the classic arcade game, at least once. Now, you can play it again – this time in Terminal.
To do so, type “emacs” (as always, without quotes) into Terminal. Then, hold Esc and press X.
You are now free to type any game you wish to play into Terminal. You can try “Angry Birds” or “Call of Duty”, but you probably won’t be successful. Try “Snake” or “Tetris” instead, as they certainly work.
So there you have it, ten apps, tricks and features which make your friends sit back and applaud your new computer. Or at the very least, they’ll smile.
Some, you may want to use again and again (Delicious Library, PhotoBooth, Terminal games), and some you may never want to see again (FluidTunes, MegaMan Effect).
Hopefully this post will provide you with a bit of enjoyment, and then you can get back to your all-important alphabetically ordered histogram in Numbers.