The Mac App Store has brought a few new fantastic releases, but the majority of software stealing the show has been around for some time. And although these brilliant applications aren’t new, they are worth mentioning once again for new Mac users, and those who need a quick reminder.
Today I’ll be showcasing ten of my favourite free Mac App Store apps. These wonderful pieces of software won’t cost you a dime, but will go a long way towards improving and refining your Mac experience. I hope you find them as useful as I do!
I love reading books on my iPad, and I’m a big fan of the Kindle app. Although I’d love to use iBooks, the content available just isn’t up to scratch yet (and the prices are often higher than the equivalent book through Amazon). Needless to say, I’ve amassed a decent collection of books over the past year. Being restricted to reading on the iPad is fine, 99% of the time.
But there’s always that occasion when you’d like to find a reference in a book on your desktop. Or you’d like to read for a few minutes on your notebook while sitting in a coffee shop. Kindle for Mac is a functional, free application for accessing all your Kindle content on the desktop. It works well, and does everything you need a simple reader to do.
Definitely worth downloading if you’re a Kindle user.
If you’ve missed all our ranting and raving about Alfred over the past year, you must be new here… If you’re looking for an application launcher that’s fast, friendly and free, Alfred is a wonderful creation. I use it countless times every day, and regular updates keep making the software ever more functional.
Although Alfred is free through the App Store, I’d strongly recommend picking up their Powerpack add-on. It’s available for £12 via the Alfred website, and adds plenty of more excellent functionality to an already stellar app.
I often find myself frustrated when my Mac goes to sleep unexpectedly – often when converting video, or downloading a large file overnight. Caffeine gives you a quick way to disable the automatic sleep functionality of your computer, and easily re-enable it when you’re ready to resume normal operation.
It sits unobtrusively in your menu bar, and performs one function exceptionally well. The sign of a perfectly crafted piece of software.
There’s no shortage of iTunes mini-players, shortcut apps, and album artwork tools/displays. Bowtie has been around for a while, and established a reputation as one of the better applications in this category.
It adds various iTunes shortcuts to your system, displays album artwork on your desktop (if you’d like it to), has a fantastic theming system with plenty of pre-built options, and integrates fully with Last.fm.
There’s also a companion iPhone application that makes it easy to control the playback of music on your iPhone using your Mac (that’s right – the opposite of a normal iPhone remote control situation). This is more useful than you’d think, particularly if you regularly play music on your iPhone as you work!
It has been a big hit on the iPad, and now Sketchbook Express is available on the Mac App Store as well. Although you’ll need to purchase the full version to unlock the full range of functionality, Sketchbook Express is still a worthwhile download. Labelled as a “fun and intuitive drawing application”, it’s a completely new experience for graphic designers and artists.
This cut-down version restricts you by not saving different layers (although you can work with up to six layers when designing). If you’d like to save your creations and keep your layers intact, you’ll need to purchase the full version.
The king of note taking and personal organisation applications is now available through the Mac App Store, and this is as good a time as any to give it a try if you haven’t already. Evernote is a phenomenally popular app, packed with functionality. You can capture and store almost anything within your Evernote database, and it’s automatically synced across all your different devices and gadgets.
All the information, documents, notes and scanned images you import are processed automatically with OCR technology. This means that everything is exceptionally easy to search, and you’ll never again be stuck wondering where on earth you saved that scan of an important contract…
Premium accounts are available for $5/month, adding extra features such as searching within PDFs, an unlimited storage allowance, unlimited file type storage, and priority image recognition.
I’ve been a TextWrangler user for around a decade, and really enjoyed this fantastic free text editor. It’s surprisingly laden with functionality, and definitely one of the best free text editors available for the Mac (if the surprisingly powerful TextEdit isn’t enough for you).
Some of the many features include grep pattern matching, search and replace across multiple files, function navigation and syntax coloring for numerous source code languages, code folding, FTP and SFTP open and save, AppleScript, Mac OS X Unix scripting support, and much more.
Feeling a bit tired of playing the same old tunes in your iTunes library? Give SoundCloud a try. It’s a thriving community of musicians and artists, all sharing their creations completely free of charge. Perfect for discovering new music, and connecting with like-minded listeners around the world.
The free application lets you search the SoundCloud archives from your desktop, see your favourite tracks and playlists, and even record and upload your own tracks if you’re a musician.
Telephone is a really simple desktop SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) client, that works with a huge range of SIP providers. If this is a technology used by your workplace/office, or you have an existing SIP account with one of the providers, Telephone is a great piece of software to download.
There isn’t much to dislike about Telephone. It fully integrates with the Address Book of your Mac, and makes it easy to make cheap phone calls over the internet without being tied to a particular commercial service (e.g. Skype).
Although I’m sure you’ve seen enough links to the new Twitter for Mac to last you a lifetime, I felt that it needed to be included to round out the list. It’s a wonderful application with an appropriately designed interface, all the functionality I need, and a user experience that’s great fun to use.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the Twitter website, and wouldn’t really consider myself a Twitter “power user”. Although I’m sure there are some people who will still relish the multi-column complexity of an application such as TweetDeck, Twitter for Mac is more than powerful enough for me. And there’s a good chance that it’s the perfect desktop Twitter client for you as well.
What Are Your Favourite Free Apps?
So, these are my favourite picks. Which free applications were the first you’ve downloaded and enjoyed from the Mac App Store? Although there’s an awful lot of poorly designed, cringeworthy software in there, I’ve stumbled across a few gems as well.
I’d love to hear your favourites, so feel free to share in the comments!