I really get a kick out of trying out new software, even if it ends up being something I don’t like or can’t find a big use for – I try at least a couple different wares out each month to see what they’re all about and there are a few that make the cut and end up being a permanent part of my computer set up. I thought I’d share with you some of the wares that I use regularly, some free, some available more than just Mac and some better quality replacements for software that comes stocked on your machine.
VLC Player (better than Quicktime Player) This free media player is all I use. I haven’t opened Quicktime in years! VLC plays more file formats and opens faster than Quicktime. VLC is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.
I know I have mentioned Virtual Box on this blog before, but it really deserves another mention! This software available for free is an alternative to doing a dual install on your computer. You can instead run a 2nd operating system within your native one using this virtual computer. For example, I have a Mac running OSX 10.5, I have an installation of Windows XP on Virtual box – so I am able to open it at any time to use a Windows program without ever leaving OSX! The software is free, but be aware if you would like to run Windows in it you will need to obtain a copy of that.
This is a Twitter client that runs on AdobAir and is ideal for the serious tweeter. If you are only following your closest 15 friends and you don’t do any hash tagging then this app is going to be more than you need (but you might want to check out Twirl) Tweet Deck allows you to organize your friends into groups, view direct and @messages in a separate panel and has built in features to shorted URLs, upload TwitPics and update your Facebook status without ever opening a new browser tab.
Now, I am a big fan of Dreamweaver – that is, Dreamweaver as a text editor, I think that for the most part, the code that Dreamweaver creates when you build within the WYSIWYG is atrocious, but if you are versed in markup, Dreamweaver offers some awesome time saving features that have saves me from tasks that could’ve been unbearably tedious in a bare bones text editor. However – sometimes you NEED a simple bare bones text editor. When I just need to do some quick hand coding, instead of opening up Dreamweaver (which is a monster of a program) I pop into TextMate. It’s simple, offers a few bells and whistles, bt for the most part is just a nice straight forward text editor than any web developer will find handy. A single user license is $53 and well worth it! Sorry Windows and Linux users — TextMate is only available on Mac.
Now, I’ve only been using Songbird for a few days, so I am not yet ready to say it is BETTER than iTunes, but it is definitely a great alternative! Songbird offers a lot of the same great features as iTunes, but supports more file types and even have some cool extras that iTunes does NOT offer like tabbed browsing, tour searches for bands in your library, plugin integration with sites like Last.fm, and a bunch more. Plus, it’s icon is WAY cute!
Senuti allows you to rip the media from your iPod onto your computer. This is great if you misplaced the original file or (knock on wood – loose your backup.) It’s only $18, but there is a 30 day trial if you want to use it once for a quick backup of your iPod. To me this is a feature I feel like should b part of iTunes, but I understand why Apple doesn’t agree with me on that. Sorry Windows and Linux users — Senuti is only available on Mac.
This one I have also mentioned before. Screenflow allows you to capture video of your desktop activity and record audio from your computer or from a microphone. I use this to make tutorials for clients and to communicate briefs to developers. The UI is intuitive and sleek and although it is $99, I recommend this above many of the free alternatives for screen video capture that I have tried out. Sorry Windows and Linux users — ScreenFlow is only available on Mac.
Name Mangler is my latest favorite addition to my software arsenal. While the name makes it sound like a German Metal band, what it actually is you will find even more epic! Name mangler performs batch renames on designated files. This is a must have function for anyone doing web development and I can see it being helpful to print designer, photographers or any one who is looking to clean up messy file names in their image library! Sorry Windows and Linux users — NameMangler is only available on Mac.
Another one I only got turned onto recently is Dropbox. This is the hands-down WAY BETTER alternative to yousendit.com. With Dropbox you can share large files without having to deal with email attachments or handing off FTP information. Dropbox creates a directory on your hard drive where you simply drop the files you would like to share, those files get assigned unique urls and you just send out the url to give people the ability to download it, it really is THAT simple! I love it!
I’ve used a few FTP clients over the years and Cyberduck is my favorite (much btter than Transmit or Fetch.) It’s sleek, simple and you gotta love that little rubber ducky when he bounces up and down in your dock! Cyberduck offers features like bookmarking file paths, point and click quick launch pages on your server in Firefox (meaning you don’t have to type out the location) Also you can quick launch files in TextMate to make quick code changes live fast. Cyberduck is free, but sorry Windows and Linux users — Cyberduck is only available on Mac.
This is one of those wares that isnt really essential. In fact, I can’t even tell you exactly why you should be using it, I’ll just let you know what I like it and you can be the judge. Now, my Mac gets frickin’ HOT sometimes and being the worrier that I am, this makes me paranoid sometimes. SMC FanController gives you information on how hot your machine is runnung and at what RPM your internal fan is spinning. It allows you to force the fans speed up or slow down, however — I never use that feature since I figure my computer knows what it’s doing. So like I said I’m not even sure why FanController is so facinating to me, but it is. For instance, I know that my machine tends to run between 119 to 160 Degrees Fahrenheit. If you enjoy know what your computer inards are up to, you can try this one out.
This one seems pretty obvious, I know. Firefox is the best browser for a few reasons, but to me – it’s mainly because of the plugins available to it which make my work in web design much more efficient and enjoyable. If you’re using Safari and don’t work in web design then you may not see what’s so hot about the Fox, but any and all of you out there still rocking Internet Explorer, need to get on board! After many many years of trying to coax my 65+year old mother into making the switch from IE she finally listened earlier this year and said “I couldn’t believe it — the internet is faster and it looks better! Who knew?” Well Mom, I knew and I told you that how many times?!
Linotype FontXplorer was my pick back in November when a dozen Design/Devs shared their favorite resources. Font Xplorer is a must download if you’re using FontBook to manage your fonts and it is, in my opinion (and may others) BETTER than Suitcase for Font Management. This Font Manager includes integration with the Linotype Foundry Store, so you can purchase and organize your typefaces all within one interface. The newly released Font Xplorer Pro is $79 and has a server version available.
I should be using this program more than I do, but the sheer fact that I need it is also the reason why I have a hard time using it. AntiRSI is the web designer and internet nerds guard against Repetitive Strain Injury. AntiRSI can be set to custom intervals and will remind you to take keyboard/mouse breaks by fading out your screen and displaying a countdown clock. The only problem with it is that the type of person who really should be using this is also the type of person who will get into the groove on a project and turn AntiRSI OFF so that they can code non-stop for 5 hours.