So you just unboxed that shiny new Mac, fired it up and heard the glorious chime. Now what? It can be a little bit overwhelming to start from scratch and build a library of useful applications but we’re to help!
Today we’ll take a look at 50 awesome apps that are perfect for new OS X users switching over from a PC. As I’m sure your new Mac has cleaned out your savings, I tried to focus on primarily free apps. There are a few thrown in that will cost you but the vast majority won’t set you back a single cent. I’ve seen a lot of users ask for more screenshots lately so we’ve piled them into this roundup!
Stuff You Had on Your PC
If you’re just getting started on a Mac it’s safe to assume that you’re probably used to Windows-based machines. One of the biggest questions you’re likely to have is whether or not you’ll be able to run all your favorite software.
Fortunately, many popular software developers create multiple versions of their leading apps so they can be used on any major operating system. Below are a few that you might want to check out.
Yep, your favorite browser is available on the Mac as well with all the bells, whistles and plugins you could ever want.
In case you’re not a Firefox fan, Macs have Google Chrome too. And don’t forget to click on Safari in the dock and give that a shot as well!
Of course, the quintessential software suite for PC users everywhere is also available on the Mac. You might be surprised to find out that the Mac version has some unique features and looks a lot better than the Windows version!
For the most part you can use Preview to open and view PDFs but if you prefer Adobe software, Reader is a free download and an excellent app.
If you used Dropbox to sync all your files on your PCs, just download the Mac version, log into your account and those same files will be transferred to your new computer.
If you’ve never used Dropbox, start now. It’s the easiest way to backup, share and sync files across computers.
The same story as for Evernote applies here. Just grab the free download and sign into your account. The same data you’ve bee collecting for years will seamlessly sync with your new Mac.
Mac users tend to use iChat to IM and video conference but unfortunately it won’t pull in all your Skype contacts. To keep in touch just download Skype for Mac.
I know how Windows users love solitaire and are often saddened to not find it preinstalled on their Macs. Here’s a free Mac version that looks pretty decent. Now you can officially be confident that you’ll survive the big switch.
Admittedly, there is still going to be plenty of Windows software that you won’t be able to find available for Macs. In these situations, you’ll need one of the applications below to help you run actual Windows applications right in your native OS X environment.
Apps like these make Macs the single most powerful computers on the market because they can run nearly any major application in existence and aren’t confined to software created specifically for the Mac operating system.
One of the better free options available, Wine Bottler packages Windows applications in such a way that they run right in the native OS X environment. It’s a little techie but if you’re confused check out our how-to article.
“Run the most demanding Mac and Windows applications side-by-side at maximum speeds without rebooting. With more than 80 new features in VMware Fusion 3, including 5X better 3D graphics performance and 35% faster end-to-end performance in version 3.1, it’s never been easier to run Windows on your Mac.”
“Mac OS or Windows? Parallels Desktop 5 for Mac lets you seamlessly run Windows and Mac OS X side-by-side, drag-and-drop your files between operating systems, and run Windows software on your Apple computer without rebooting.”
“CrossOver Mac allows you to install many popular Windows applications and games on your Intel Mac. Once installed, your application integrates seamlessly in OS X. Just click and run your application directly from the OS X Finder.”
Resist the urge to put every app you own in your dock. Put the most important stuff there and leave the rest to quick launchers that allow you to access all your apps in a matter of seconds via keyboard shortcut.
The built-in Spotlight application is a great launcher as well if you want something simple but the applications below tend to be a bit more robust.
Quicksilver is the mother of all launchers. It has a rich plugin system that no one else has come close to replicating. Unfortunately, it’s supposedly out of development permanently though it has unexpectedly received a recent Snow Leopard update.
Rumor has it that the guy who created Quicksilver is now working on GQSB for Google. It has a modest start towards a similar plugin system and is definitely a great looking launcher.
Alfred is the new kid on the block in the launcher game but is making a big splash with its awesome interface, impressive feature set and extremely user friendly workflow.
Like Quicksilver, LaunchBar seeks to be much more than an application launcher by providing a quick access interface to a great deal of your digital life.
Unfortunately, this much control comes at a price and you’ll have to shell out $35 if you want to play.
The apps above use a keyboard shortcut to bring up a window to begin typing an app’s name and subsequently launch it. If you’re looking for something a little more direct, Apptivate launches any app on your hard drive instantly with a predefined keyboard shortcut.
FTP and Torrent Apps
If you’re the techie sort, one of the first things you’ll probably want to do on your new Mac is get plugged back into the rest of the world. Here are a few free FTP and torrent apps to get you going.
Simply the best free FTP application available for the Mac. It has all the features you need and is a breeze to setup and use.
I’m not big on torrents as the bounds of legality are so easily stretched but I have tried Transmission and it’s an excellent little app.
Limewire has been the gateway for so many teenagers to discover the thrill of downloading pirated music. I’m sure you can think of some much more legitimate uses though.
“Vuze Meta Search offers you the most comprehensive entertainment search experience on the web. By aggregating results from a variety of top sites, Vuze delivers the best torrent search results on the web.”
Below is a random gathering of web related tools and applications to help you get the most from your Mac internet experience.
Fluid is an awesome app that lets you quickly turn any website into a standalone Mac application. This is great for any website that you use daily such as Gmail, Facebook or Pandora.
“Simple to use and packed with features, NewsFire makes it a joy to keep atop the constant flow of information on the web.”
MacTubes makes it easy to watch and even download your favorite YouTube videos.
“iStumbler is the leading wireless discovery tool for Mac OS X, providing plugins for finding AirPort networks, Bluetooth devices, Bonjour services and Location information with your Mac.”
Now Mac users have access to one of the largest gaming networks on the planet.
There are tons of Mac Twitter clients but Nambu is a great place to start and is packed with features.
With Expose and Spaces built into OS X, you already have a powerful system for managing your open windows and applications. However, if you want to push the limits of your control to the extreme, here are a few apps to help you out.
Divvy is by far my favorite window management app. The unique interface lets you quickly create the most complex window arrangements you can dream up in seconds flat.
“SizeUp allows you to quickly position a window to fill exactly half the screen (splitscreen), a quarter of the screen (quadrant), full screen, or centered via the menu bar or configurable system-wide shortcuts (hotkeys). Similar to “tiled windows” functionality available on other operating systems.”
“Cinch gives you simple, mouse-driven window management by defining the left, right, and top edges of your screen as ‘hot zones’. Drag a window until the mouse cursor enters one of these zones then drop the window to have it cinch into place.”
“With Witch installed, a pop-up panel shows all open windows—even windows in other Spaces, if you’re running 10.6. From the panel, simply select the window you’d like to activate. There is no step two!”
“With SnapRocket you can easily navigate between desktop windows with just a couple of keystrokes. No more fumbling for your mouse or scrolling through a long list of window names to switch windows.”
Below are apps of all kinds that every Mac user should give some thought to checking out. They cover everything from system maintenance to DVD ripping.
“AppCleaner is a small application which allows you to thoroughly uninstall unwanted apps. Installing an application distributes many files throughout your System using space of your Hard Drive unnecessarily. AppCleaner finds all these small files and safely deletes them.”
“CleanMyMac represents sophisticated all-in-one-suite utility that helps keep your Mac clean and healthy. With just two simple clicks you can delete useless files that basically pile up and waste your valuable disk space.”
“Black Hole is a powerful application that allows you to clear sensitive information from your Mac with a single click. Black Hole automates many operations such as quitting applications, removing recent items from application menus, emptying the Trash, and more. More time for you!”
“AppFresh helps you to keep all applications, widgets, preference panes and application plugins installed on your Mac up to date. All from one place, easy to use and fully integrated into Mac OS X. AppFresh works by checking the excellent osx.iusethis.com for new versions and lets you download and install available updates easily.”
“CoconutBattery isn’t just a tool which shows you only the current charge of your battery – it also shows you the current maximum capacity of it in relation to the original capacity your battery had as it left the factory.”
“Easily expand and decode all the files you download from the Web or receive in your email. Expands over 30 archive file formats!”
“The Unarchiver is a much more capable replacement for “BOMArchiveHelper.app”, the built-in archive unpacker program in Mac OS X. The Unarchiver is designed to handle many more formats than BOMArchiveHelper, and to better fit in with the design of the Finder.”
“Spinning for years at 75MPH, your hard drive’s catastrophic crash could really hinder your productivity. Use CCC to make a bootable backup of your digital life today!”
ClipMenu is hands down the best free clipboard manager for OS X. You can not only use it to store your recently copied items but also manage and insert frequently used text snippets.
If you type a lot, download this app as soon as possible and smile as it changes your life. TextExpander can save you loads of time by automating the process of typing frequently used snippets. Simply type a few preset characters and they will automatically expand into the snippet you want!
“MacTheRipper is a DVD ripper (extractor). It removes CSS encryption, Macrovision protection, sets the disc’s region to ‘0’ for region-free, and is capable of removing RCE region checking. It can also copy ARccOS copy-protected DVDs. This is to backup your legally-purchased DVDs onto your hard drive.”
Growl is a system-wide notification system. It lets you know when things happen. You can set it up to notify of anything from Tweets and Emails to downloads and uploads. Definitely one of OS Xs top must have utilities.
LittleSnapper is a screenshot utility on steroids. Think of it as iPhoto for your screenshots.
“Mactracker provides detailed information on every Apple Macintosh computer ever made, including items such as processor speed, memory, optical drives, graphic cards, supported Mac OS versions, and expansion options. Also included is information on Apple mice, keyboards, displays, printers, scanners, digital cameras, iPod, Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, Wi-Fi Cards/Base Stations, Newton, and Mac OS versions.”
“CloudApp allows you to share images, links, music, videos and files. Here is how it works: choose a file, drag it to the menubar and let us take care of the rest. We provide you with a short link automatically copied to your clipboard that you can use to share your upload with co-workers and friends.”
“Perian is a free, open source QuickTime component that adds native support for many popular video formats.”
BetterTouchTool adds tons of functionality to the MagicMouse, MacBook Trackpadand MagicTrackpad.
“I don’t know about you, but I use my computer in only one (human) language — English. And I’m willing to bet that you do too, albeit perhaps not English. So why do you have a bunch of localization files for the Mac OS X operating system filling up your hard drive? Enter Monolingual, a handy utility for reclaiming your space for more useful things… like international mp3 files, email or whatever you like.”
What Else Do You Need?
The apps above should definitely get you off to a great start with maximizing your Mac experience. However, there are no doubt a few apps that you’ll still miss from your PC life. Leave a comment below and tell us what apps you miss the most and the Mac community here will no doubt pitch in to help you find a suitable OS X replacement!