The software industry is moving ahead at a rapid pace at the moment – particularly on the Mac. We’ve seen some brilliant new applications released this year, and a few classics updated with an impressive new feature set.
Before we forge ahead into a new year, likely dominated by the onset of the Mac App Store and everything that entails, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at the past twelve months to remind ourselves of what happened.
I’d be honoured if you’d join me in this review of Mac apps in 2010. You might just find some fantastic new software along the way!
In the fairly competitive niche of Quicksilver-esque software, Alfred has really shot to popularity this year. A beautifully designed, versatile application, Alfred has quickly become one of my absolute favourite apps.
You can use it as a basic application launcher if you’d like, but the Alfred team recently launched their commercial “Powerpack” that adds a bunch more functionality. This includes iTunes integration, filesystem navigation, clipboard history, and an iTunes mini player – a pretty incredible deal for just under $20!
Transmit has long been one of the dominant file transfer applications for the Mac, and it underwent a major improvement in the form of Transmit 4 this year. This brought an enormous series of new features, improved speed significantly, and introduced the new “Transmit Disk” functionality.
It’s rare that such as popular and well-designed application undergoes such a worthy upgrade, but Transmit 4 is absolutely worth every dollar of the upgrade price. Heartily recommended!
Knapsack is designed for organised travellers. People who need to keep track of frequent conference trips, or those who want a flexible and straight-forward way to construct and manipulate a complicated itinerary for their trip will find plenty to love about it.
Although this isn’t a new piece of software, it went through a major acquisition in 2010, and has been updated with some great new features.
Although Instapaper has been around for quite a bit longer than a year, and doesn’t have a Mac application specifically, I had to mention it here. Instapaper is one of my all-time favourite tools, and the developer, Marco Arment, took the decision to work on it full-time earlier this year.
If you regularly read in-depth articles and blog posts, Instapaper automatically saves them to your iPhone or iPad to come back to later – presented in a beautiful text-only format. It’s completely free to use, but I’d urge you to become a subscriber for $1/month and show your support to the developer.
Apple released Safari 5 in June this year, touting support for new HTML5 features (in an ongoing effort to demonstrate its supremacy over Flash). In addition to better standards support, Safari Reader was added, giving you a way to read articles in a clutter-free view.
The final major addition was Safari Extensions, and the associated Extensions Gallery, which gave developers a way to expand and enhance the functionality of Safari. I haven’t really used any of these personally – I prefer my browsing experience to be as simple as possible – but there are a few great additions available for those that like this type of thing.
The humble Mac platform is far from first choice for dedicated gamers, and has a reputation of being unsuitable for people who like to enjoy the latest graphically intensive releases. Although this is certainly still the case to a large degree, the release of Steam for Mac this year has set the process in motion for turning this stereotype around.
Various classic games are now available through Steam to run natively on your Mac. From Counter Strike to Football Manager, you’ll be surprised how competent your Mac now is as a gaming platform!
People have a love/hate relationship with Office for Mac. Some of our readers love to use it, and others would trade Microsoft Word for Pages any day. Office 2008 was widely regarded as a fairly poor release – it didn’t integrate all that well with OS X, and wasn’t a pleasant experience to use.
Microsoft has stepped up their game with the release of Office 2011. It brings a few new features, a completely re-worked application in the form of Outlook for Mac, and it’s a far more polished piece of software.
Arq is a fantastic backup utility that left beta right at the beginning of this year. It uses Amazon S3 for storage, backing up your critical files to the internet rather than a local drive. This is really secure, and a winning combination for many Mac users.
Although you’ll need to pay an ongoing fee for Amazon S3 storage, it’s a pretty great deal for most people, with the fee coming in at around $5/month for 50GB of storage. Definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for an off-site backup solution.
Version 2.0 of Soulver was released this year, bringing plenty of great updates to this already unique calculation app. Simply put, Soulver helps you work things out. It’s quicker to use than a spreadsheet, and smarter and clearer than a traditional calculator.
Version 2.0 added a sleeker interface, support for conversions between currencies, time, distance etc, the ability to use stock information, and a whole range of other great features. Well worth upgrading to!
Sporting one of my absolute favourite app icons of the year, Kaleidoscope is a tool that helps you compare files on your Mac. Be these text documents, images, or various other types of file, Kaleidoscope will quickly show you how the two files differ.
It’s really helpful for developers to compare versions of code and text, and for photographers, retouchers and designers who work with images regularly. A beautifully designed website and application, albeit with a fairly niche appeal.
A fairly fascinating application, Alarms adds a bar to the top of your screen that shows a visual representation of your day. You can quickly drag items, files or text into Alarms, and schedule them to be worked on during a certain time of day.
It’s full of handy features – such as “snoozing” a to-do with a shake of your mouse – and can work well for reminding yourself of things throughout the day. It’s certainly no replacement for a dedicated task manager, but definitely worth taking a look at.
Another app that underwent a fantastic update this year was MarsEdit. Version 3.0 shipped with support for “WYSIWYG” text editing, support for WordPress Pages and Custom Fields, improved syntax highlighting, integration with iPhoto, and plenty of other improvements.
If you regularly contribute to a blog, MarsEdit is definitely worth considering. It makes writing and drafting posts a really pleasant experience, and can be a major improvement over using your web-based blog administration area.
Although I’d hazard a guess that almost all our AppStorm readers use Gmail or Google Apps Mail, I know that many people don’t particularly enjoy using the Gmail web interface. I know I don’t! Apple’s Mail.app is a great application (and my mail client of choice), but for casual email users, Sparrow offers a nice alternative.
Released a few months ago, Sparrow sits in your menu bar and gives you a minimalist way to access Gmail. It supports threading, notifications, multiple accounts, and is actually a fairly powerful little app. If you’re a fan of the Tweetie interface, you’ll love Sparrow.
Although Firetask has been available on the iPhone for quite some time, it only made the jump to OS X in August this year. It follows the classic “Getting Things Done” methodology for a task manager, and is a great option if you’re looking for a fairly powerful to-do manager.
Although it isn’t quite as feature-packed as an app like OmniFocus, it’s stylish, syncs with the iPhone version (Wi-Fi only for now, unfortunately), and works pretty darn well!
This alternative Mail client has seen a flurry of updates over the year, and has recently become my email client of choice. It’s fast, lean, pretty, and an all-round pleasure to use. I don’t see myself going back to Mail.app in a hurry, and would strongly recommend Postbox if you’re undecided about desktop email.
I particularly like the ease of setup, and the quality of integration with Gmail – something that I always struggled to achieve perfection with in Apple’s mail client.
Apple’s yearly iLife release cycle was enacted a couple of months ago in the form of iLife 11. This brought new versions of iPhone, iMovie and Garageband (while iWeb and iDVD were left somewhat out in the cold).
New features include widespread full-screen views (a pre-cursor to this becoming fairly ubiquitous in OS X Lion), hollywood-style movie trailers, and some funky groove matching for Garageband. It isn’t a “must have” upgrade, but it might be worthwhile if you’re hankering after one of the new features.
Released toward the end of the year, Fake is a new browser for Mac OS X that makes web automation simple. Think of it as “Automator for the web” – possibly something that doesn’t interest you at all, but a real life-saver for web designers and developers.
Fake is a very versatile tool that can work in any way you’d like it to. If you think the idea sounds interesting, I’d recommend downloading it and taking it for a spin. Anything that stands to save you a few minutes of time a day is a winner in my book!
Do you ever sit looking at Mail’s search results, struggling to find what you’re looking for? No, me neither. But it seems that some people do. For them, Rocketbox will be a fascinating application. It’s more advanced than Mail’s search, with highlighted search previews, a sophisticated query language, and a blazing fast engine.
You can also intelligently search by person, and set up powerful filters that can sift through lots of email very quickly to find what you’re looking for.
Courier allows you to share files, images, photos, movies, and more with all your favourite online services – including Flickr and Facebook. It’s a beautiful application from Realmac Software, works with over 30 different services, and is packed with fun and interesting features.
Ever wondered where your files are going geographically when they’re uploaded? Courier attempts to show you this, in a fascinating metaphor of throwing files around the globe.
Launched in April, Cockpit is an interesting little app with a really gorgeous interface. It gives you a place to launch apps, control multiple aspects of popular software (iTunes, iPhoto, Safari etc), run scripts, and set up custom hotkeys to do all of these tasks.
It’s a tool for Mac geeks, undoubtedly, and it could be a really interesting app to try out if you’re a keyboard shortcut junkie (or just like faux aluminium interfaces).
If you find yourself occasionally needing to convert video, but are baffled by an array of applications, settings and frame rates, Permute is for you. It’s a one-window app that takes any media you throw at it, and quickly converts it to work on a particular device.
It really couldn’t be any simpler to use, but has plenty of power under the hood. A solid replacement for VisualHub, if you’re still mourning the loss of that handy little app…
Released right at the end of 2009, I think Eon qualifies to be included here. It’s a time tracking application that supports a huge range of different online (and Mac-based) invoicing apps—19 at the time of writing. It’s simple to use, automatically notices idle time, and lets you break your time down into projects.
If you use several different invoicing/client management applications and would like a central place from which to track your time, Eon is for you.
Every time I ask Mac users about the software they use for managing clients, projects, and time tracking, one name always comes up. Billings.
The basic version of Billings is perfect for freelancers and small companies – but if you run a larger organisation, it’s definitely worth taking a look at Billings Pro. This advanced version offers powerful time tracking, synchronization between different computers, and the ability to review and approve invoices. It’s a powerful beast.
If you’re unsure about the best way to treat your MacBook battery to prolong its life, you need to take a look at Watts. Released this year, it offers a simple menu bar interface for walking you through a battery calibration process on a regular basis.
Along with an improved battery indicator, it can accurately time how long you should keep a full charge, and will tell you when you need to run your battery down to a low level to calibrate it. Fun and functional.
Receiving a major update this year was 1Password, now in its third major incarnation. I use and love this application every day—it’s a tool that you can’t live without after using it for a few weeks.
Version 3 brings plenty of new functionality, most notably improved synchronisation across all your devices. Whether you’re on your Mac, iPhone, iPad – or even Windows box – you’ll have all your passwords right at your fingertips.
I’m bundling these apps together because they all essentially work with the same service – Simplenote. This, coupled with Notational Velocity on the Mac, has had a huge impact on the way I write this year. The seamless syncing across all your various devices is fantastic, and means that you can easily work on a document from anywhere, using any Apple device.
If you regularly write—whatever medium it’s for—you owe it to yourself to take a look at this combination of software.
It’s been around for much longer than a year, but I had to include Dropbox as one of my favourite applications of 2010. It’s simple, understated, and really changed the way I use my Mac and iOS devices.
Take a couple of minutes today to investigate a few methods for really making the most of this fantastic service, by reading a couple of articles we’ve posted on Web.AppStorm over the course of the year:
- The Ultimate Dropbox Toolkit & Guide
- 15 Awesome Dropbox Tips and Tricks
- 10 [More] Killer Dropbox Tips and Tricks
Last, but certainly not least, I wanted to mention the very recent release of the Reeder for Mac Beta. This has immediately become my RSS tool of choice for the desktop, and it’s a real pleasure to use. Though the beta is still missing certain pieces of functionality, it shows a great deal of promise already.
I think it’s a good example of bringing iOS to the Desktop, and I’m looking forward to seeing this trend develop and evolve over next year.
What’s Coming in 2011?
So, 2010 has been a great year for software. From fantastic updates such as Transmit 4, through to beautiful new apps like Courier, there’s a lot to reflect upon! But as the year draws to a close, what lies in store for 2011?
The first thing to look forward to—indeed, something that may arrive before the end of the year—is the Mac App Store. This seems set to change the landscape of Mac software development, and will no doubt lead to hundreds of interesting new software releases over the coming year. We’re going to have our work cut out!
In addition to the forthcoming store, we also have OS X Lion to look forward to—the next release of Apple’s operating system. So far, we know that this is going to bring a range of new iOS-like functionality, the “Mission Control” dashboard, and widespread full-screen support. Of course, Apple wouldn’t be Apple if it didn’t have a few surprises up it’s sleeve.
One thing I’m really hoping for is some form of improved “cloud” service from Apple. Dropbox is a fantastic tool, but I can’t help yearn for something that’s integrated directly into Apple’s own iPad and iPhone applications. By the end of 2011, I would love to kiss goodbye to the clunky file-synchronisation method currently employed by iTunes.
Last but not least, we’re expecting to see a new iPad release at some point next year—most likely around April—that will add a few new features. I’d expect these will include a camera (or two) to provide FaceTime support, along with the Retina Display used in the iPhone 4. Though not directly Mac-related, it’s certainly an announcement that I’m looking forward to with great anticipation!
The Best iOS and Web Apps of 2010
If you’re a fan of the iPhone, iPad, or web apps (and let’s face it, who isn’t?), you may also like to take a look at the companion posts published across the AppStorm network. These include some seriously amazing software, and it’s a good way to quickly see what you might have missed over the course of the year.
Take a look at:
Thank you so much for reading AppStorm in 2010. We’re really excited about everything that 2011 has in store, and I hope you’ll take a minute to subscribe to the site if you haven’t already!