Apple recently announced that the Mac App Store has led to over 100 million app downloads, cementing it as the indisputable one stop shop for just about everything Mac users need or want. Today I want to place emphasis on the “just about” part, because despite these impressive numbers, there are still plenty of great Mac applications that you can’t get through this route.
Back in June, we posted an article containing 10 Must-Have Apps You Won’t Find in the Mac App Store, which included great options like the Alfred Power Pack and TotalFinder. This time we really dug deep and come up with thirty more! Some of the developers behind these great apps have simply decided not to pursue the App Store, others aren’t even allowed in due to the nature of the app. All of these apps though are definitely worth downloading and together make up a wealth of functionality and even fun that your Mac may be missing out on.
The best part? Almost all of them are free! Let’s take a look.
Adium has been around for ages and it is still one of the most popular iChat alternatives you’ll find. It’s a free, open source chat client that supports a mess of different networks including AIM, MSN, Jabber, Yahoo, and more.
It has all the standard features that you need like tabbed windows and file transfer as well as some cool features you won’t find in iChat such as the ability to theme the interface.
Skype needs no introduction, it’s the app that took casual video chat out of the geek realm and into something that everyday people use on a regular basis to communicate with family and friends.
Skype is loaded with features for text, voice and video chat and can even make phone calls if you’re a paid subscriber. Given that Skype has an iOS app on the iTunes App Store, I’m surprised they haven’t gotten anything up on the Mac App Store yet!
Price: Free (paid plans available)
Transmission is a really slick open source BitTorrent client. Some BitTorrent apps tend to be pretty clunky and not at all what you’d expect to see on a Mac, but not Transmission. It’s super easy to use and features a simple interface that’s pure Mac.
The nice thing here is that you don’t get any funny business. There are no ads or features that you have to pay to unlock, just an awesome free BitTorrent client with a dedicated team of volunteer developers providing regular updates. You see far too few projects like this these days.
You can never be too sure about how Google will handle new developments in the Apple world. The two companies have an interesting symbiotic but competitive relationship that is constantly a point of discussion. Google Earth is one of the first apps that comes to mind when I think of great Google products that should be on the App Store but aren’t. The app is beginning to age a bit but it’s still an amazingly fun way to travel the world from your desk. It’s definitely worth a download.
Dropbox is perhaps the single most important Mac application not on the Mac App Store. It’s one of the most used and most treasured applications on my Mac and I sincerely believe that every Mac owner should install it.
Dropbox makes it super easy to backup and share files. It creates a plain old folder in your Finder, and anything you put in that folder is instantly synced to your online Dropbox account where you can access it via any web browser. You can use Dropbox as a secure backup for anything you can’t afford to lose, as a way to make your files more accessible, and you can even share folders with friends for easy file transfer. I simply can’t say it enough, you need this app.
Price: Free (paid plans available)
Fluid is an app that essentially creates dedicated instances of web apps on your machine that look and act like native applications. So let’s say you want a Facebook app, simply open up Fluid and enter the URL, it will then spit out an application that can sit in your dock that takes you right to Facebook.
Fluid is extremely handy for anyone that regularly works with certain sites. For instance, I use Google Docs constantly for work and used Fluid to separate this app out from my browser. Fluid is free but you can unlock fullscreen mode and other features if you buy the full version at $4.99.
Price: Free ($4.99 for more features)
Droplr is a web service that supports apps for Mac, iPhone and even Windows. It’s very similar to Cloud.app, which is in the Mac App Store. Both apps allow you to drag items to your menu bar to instantly upload them and generate a sharing link. However, there are a few key differences. For instance, Droplr generates much shorter, prettier URLs and gives you the ability to share code snippets with syntax highlighting. However, Cloud has a cool extension system that makes it work seamlessly with many other apps.
Whether or not you think you’ll ever be lured away from the admittedly awesome Cloud.app, you should definitely give Droplr a download and see what you think.
Paparazzi is one of those utilities that you’ll either have zero use for or will absolutely love. Given that I’m a blogger who takes tons of screenshots, I fall in the latter camp.
What does Paparazzi do you ask? It takes screenshots of webpages. That alone sounds pretty unremarkable but the awesome part is that it allows you to automate this task. I can set up a list of 100 web pages that I’m using in a roundup, set the width and height of the snaps that I want, and have Paparazzi automatically generate my screenshots. It’s a huge timesaver.
Spotify recently hit the U.S. and has gained a ton of attention. It’s an awesome service that lets you listen to whatever music you want whenever you want. Unlike services like Pandora that automatically decide what to play, Spotify gives you complete control to choose the songs that you want to hear. The Spotify app’s interface is a lot like iTunes so you’ll feel right at home.
The Spotify free plan is pretty amazing and (for now at least) offers unlimited ad-supported streaming. You can also pay a monthly fee to eliminate the ads and add mobile streaming.
Price: Free (paid plans available)
Rdio is conceptually almost just like Spotify. It uses the same model of music streaming that allows you to choose from a huge library of songs, artists and albums. The Rdio Mac app is basically a native frame for the web-based service, but it’s still pretty slick and provides an even richer experience than the Spotify app.
Rdio has an unbelievable deal right now where you can sign up and listen to ad-free music without paying a cent. The app gives you a meter that shows you how much free music you have left in a given month (the number of streams is very generous).
Price: Free (paid plans available)
Handbrake is an open source video transcoder. It’s popularly used for some questionable activities, but at heart it’s a simple converter. Here’s what the Handbrake developers have to say about the project:
“HandBrake is not a ripper. It converts video, it does not rip it byte by byte. It does not crack the latest DVD copy protection schemes hatched by the studios. It converts video from nearly any format to a handful of modern ones—that’s it.”
Quicksilver is the paterfamilias of the app launcher industry. It’s been around for years, was abandoned by its original developer and eventually picked up by a hardworking team of volunteers who loved the project too much to let it die.
The project has seen renewed vigor lately with a major Lion update. Despite Quicksilver’s rough history, it’s still one of the most powerful, fully featured and useful apps you’ll find for the Mac.
When you install an application on your Mac, it doesn’t just put a .app file in the Application folder, it spreads various support files all over your system. This means that simply dragging an application to your trash can isn’t the best way to uninstall it as this method generally leaves lots of stranded pieces.
There are lots of utilities that help you uninstall apps the right way, but AppCleaner is the best free one that I’ve found and my personal choice for deleting apps from my hard drive.
CandyBar is an application from Panic, the renowned developers of Transmit, so you know it’s a quality app. The reason that it’s not in the App Store is likely that it simply digs too far into your system for Apple’s liking.
Simply put, CandyBar allows you to easily customize the look of your system. With just a few clicks you can replace your system icons and even your dock design with something that’s a little more to your liking. The best part, you can always return to the default system settings in a jiffy.
If you own a MacBook, you should download CoconutBattery. It keeps an eye on your laptop’s battery and gives you important information such as its overall health, the number of charge cycles that it’s gone through and more.
I really like that it gives you an easy to read visual representation of what your original battery capacity was versus where it currently stands. If you’re wondering if it’s time to pick up a new battery for that aging MacBook, CoconutBattery has your answer.
Cocktail is another one of those apps that Apple probably thinks that its best for you to go without due to the depth of its reach, but seasoned Apple veterans who know what they’re doing don’t really care!
Cocktail is a Swiss army knife of system utilities aimed at keeping your Mac in tip top shape. The functions that it performs are simply too numerous to list, chief among them being routine maintenance scripts, Spotlight index management, inactive memory purge, cache/log clearing, and IP configuration.
Sidekick is a really unique app that offers “geo-intelligent laptop settings,” which is a really fancy way to say that the app changes your computer’s settings and performs actions based on your location. Why would you need this? Imagine the following scenario.
Let’s say that you have your MacBook sitting on your desk at home. It’s set up to use your home network’s default printer and has the applications open that you regularly use at home: Safari, Twitter, and Spotify. Then you pack up your computer and head off to work. Once you’re there, Sidekick will automatically make your work printer the default, close Twitter and Spotify and open Photoshop and Espresso. Pretty cool eh?
Hazel is an awesome personal file assistant that performs automated tasks based on a set of user defined criteria. You set it to watch certain folders and when something happens with that folder, it triggers an event like copying the files to a network drive or applying a colored label.
Hazel performs lots of great other functions as well. For instance, you can use it to properly delete apps just like with AppCleaner or automatically empty your Mac’s trash every few days.
Though I’ve always been partial to free launchers like Quicksilver and Alfred, Launchbar has been the favorite of many a Mac user for years. It’s extremely powerful and has all the features you could want including clipboard history, file search, file browsing, iCal event creation, calculator functions and a whole lot more.
Macpilot is in a strange place right now. The app is in the Mac App Store, but where you’d normally find the description, you now get this message: “Apple will not be approving the latest version of MacPilot for the App Store as MacPilot requires access to advanced and hidden features in Mac OS X. Please contact us directly with proof of purchase and we’ll issue you a free copy directly from us.”
Fortunately, you can still buy the current version in all its glory right from the MacPilot website. It’s a lot like a visual interface to the Terminal and enables you to really dig into your system and find lots of hidden functionality.
When the developers of Default Folder X approached me a few weeks ago and asked if I could take a look at their app, I admittedly had never even heard of this longstanding and respected utility. However, I now can’t live without it (full review here).
Default Folder X extends your Mac’s default open and save dialog with a range of helpful features that help you quickly find the folder you’re looking for: utilize keyboard shortcuts, favorites, recently used, open Finder windows and more.
If you ever find yourself sitting in front of multiple computers, say a MacBook and an iMac, Teleport is an invaluable little utility that saves you from switching back and forth between two mice or trackpads.
Simply drag your cursor off the side of the screen of one computer to see it magically appear on the other! You can even drag files back and forth between the two and share clipboards.
Carbon Copy Cloner is the way to clone a hard drive. I’ve used it several times and it makes an otherwise technical task very user friendly. It requires very little setup and works like a dream.
When do you need this? Let’s say you buy a new, larger hard drive for your Mac, but you want all your apps, files, etc. from the old drive. Carbon Copy Cloner allows you to clone the old drive onto the new one so that when you fire up your Mac, the only difference you notice is more free space!
Bodega was the Mac app store before the Mac App Store existed. I’m not sure if the Bodega developers choose not to be on the official Mac App Store or if it represents such a conflict that Apple wouldn’t allow it (perhaps both).
I’m not a huge fan of the quirky Bodega interface and to be honest I usually experience quite a few bugs when using the app. However, it is still a great place to find interesting Mac applications, many of which aren’t present in the Mac App Store.
nvALT is a popular fork of Notational Velocity, a beautifully simple note taking application for Mac. It has a ton of great features that you won’t find in the original Notational Velocity such as Simplenote syncing (with tags), a customizable color scheme, word count, Markdown support and more.
With the Mac App Store, you can manage all of your app updates in one convenient location. However, this only applies to apps that were downloaded through the App Store. Odds are, there are quite a few applications on your machine that don’t fit that description.
AppFresh was solving the problem of app updates long before the Mac App Store. It keeps an eye on your Application folder and lets you know if there are any newer versions of the non-App-Store-apps that you’ve installed. You can view and download all your updates in one convenient spot.
Design and Development
TextMate falls into the category of “oldie but goodie.” Web developers have been using this simple but powerful text editor since 2004. It contains many awesome features such as snippets, bundles, custom commands, and even custom syntax highlighting.
It’s still a great app, but it’s in serious need of a major update. In 2009, development started on the long-rumored Textmate 2, but it has yet to be released. In the mean time, you can still download the awesome original version.
Espresso is my personal IDE of choice. It’s a gorgeous, easy to use coding environment with support for tons of languages. Custom theming, syntax highlighting, lightning fast auto-complete, code folding, line numbers, reusable snippets, auto-updating live page previews; these are just a few of the reasons I absolutely love this app.
I recently reviewed Espresso 2, which incorporates the awesome features of CSSEdit and gives you an easy way to write CSS using simple visually-driven controls.
The GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP) is the go-to free alternative to Photoshop. Though not quite as powerful as Photoshop, it packs a mean punch for a free image editor. It contains a familiar tool set and palette style capable of performing many of the complex functions that you normally turn to Photoshop to achieve.
Here’s the catch: the GIMP developers don’t actually provide an OS X version. For this, you have to hit up GIMP on OS X, which provides “easy to install application bundles of The GIMP for Mac OS X.” It’s a bit of a runaround, but you can’t beat the price.
Media and Gaming
Steam isn’t a Mac app in the traditional sense. Rather, it’s an online gaming platform that can be installed on both Mac and Windows. With it, you get access to the impressive and wildly popular steam game library and community of users.
Head over to this article to get the lowdown on what Steam is and how it works. Also, if you want a quick look at what’s available on Steam, check out our roundup of 14 Awesome Steam Games Available for Mac.
Fans of old school gaming will love this one. Boxer is a DOS game emulator that gives you the ability to play your favorite games from years past on your Mac.
“Boxer takes your CDs, floppies and bootleg game copies and wraps them into app-style gameboxes you just click to play.” It even allows you to assign cover artwork and places your games onto an iBooks-like wooden shelf. Warning: downloading this will increase your perceived level of nerd by at least ten fold. Ignore the naysayers though, it’s pure fun.
Now that FrontRow is officially dead, many Mac users are on the lookout for a good replacement app that provides users with an all in one media center. This is where Plex comes in.
Plex has a beautiful, fullscreen interface that allows you to easily browse and play your media library. With it you can take control of your music, movies and even online shows. Full Apple Remote support means that Plex is all you need to turn a Mac into the perfect media hub for your living room.
What Did We Miss?
Now that you’ve read our huge collection of thirty Mac apps that you won’t find in the Mac App Store, it’s time for you to chime in. Which of your favorite apps hasn’t made it to the App Store? Do you use any of the apps above? We want to know!