Plex »

Plex is a beautiful OS X-based media center that seamlessly pulls content from your iTunes, iPhoto and Aperture libraries in real time, has plugins to included additional content sources like Netflix and Hulu. Plex will also import metadata for the music and movies in your library,

The inclusion of iOS apps enables streaming to iPhone, iPads and iPod Touches and allows those same devices to act as remotes for the media server.

TotalFinder »

A very useful utility to add tabs to the Finder in addition to other tweaks like listing folders above files in the file lists.

Optimal Layout »

"Optimal Layout takes the hassle out of organizing your application windows and helps you get the most out of your screen space, making you more productive."

My Must Have OS X Apps for Business

Application Icons - Copyright their respective owners

While I’m in the process of changing machines I’m going to document many of the apps and plugins that are on my “Must Have” list. I love a fresh start and given my proclivity for demo software and beta apps it’s positively refreshing to start with a clean Applications folder.

I’ve also collected my System Tweaks for OS X if you’re interested.

Productivity Apps

OmniGraffle

I plan to write a post with all of my must-have UX components, which will include many OG resources, so I won’t go into those here.

Microsoft Office

I use Pages, Numbers and Keynote on my personal machine, but their integration and support of the de facto workplace standard just aren’t good enough, so Microsoft Office is the suite of the day for work. Specifically, I use:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • Entourage – Mail.app’s support for Exchange is pretty decent, but the calendar integration is sorely lacking when you want to book a room or see your coworkers’ availability,
  • Entourage 2008 for Mac Web Services Edition – a free update to the Entourage client which adds some very useful functionality

Design and Development Applications

Adobe’s Creative Suite is indispensable. I spend a lot of my creative time in Photoshop and Illustrator, while others swear by Fireworks. I’ve tried many of the smaller, independent image editors, but I’m accustomed to the power and features of these pro tools.

Coda is one of many Web development applications that I’ve tried since switching to the Mac. While I used TextMate for a few years, Coda has replaced it with a combination of efficiency and beauty. It feels much more oriented to front-end development and flow than the spartan TextMate, and feels “right” to me. The built-in support for multiple sites, FTP, terminal, Subversion, preview capabilities and code snippets integrate with the code editor beautifully for a great experience. The only thing that it lacks from my point of view is code-folding, which is quite likely the most-requested feature, so I hope they’ll add it in the next release. For me, the benefits easily outweigh that one negative.

Versions is a beautiful and easy to use Subversion client, which says a lot as most SVN clients, even on OS X are convoluted and not much of a step-up from doing everything at the command line. While I have used the command line in the past, I really like having a graphical UI for interacting with version control.

MAMP stands for Mac, Apache, MySQL, PHP. It’s a self-contained install of those server technologies that I’ve found easier to configure and run than the native OS X installs. That said, I haven’t tried the pre-installed versions since 10.4, so it’s possible that my use of this app is purely out of habit.

General Utilities

LaunchBar is quite possibly the most used utility on my system. The app speeds the launching of other applications. With a simple keyboard shortcut, I open LaunchBar type a couple of letters and hit Enter to launch an application, start or stop music, find a file or even run a quick calculation (without the calculator app). It also has a setting that will keep track of multiple clipboard items, so I don’t have to run a dedicated utility for that functionality.

Evernote is my note-taking application of choice as it quickly and quietly syncs content between computers, the Web and my iPhone, guaranteeing access to information where and when I need it. The fact that I can easily add photos is killer, especially as Evernote will index the text inside the photos so it’s searchable.

Adium is a great instant messaging client that unifies the various networks, ensuring that I can communicate with anyone that I need to regardless if they are on AIM, Yahoo!, MSN or Jabber.

Things is one of countless to-do and GTD applications available for the Mac, but for me, it stands above the rest. I love its structure and the ability toe create projects, which can be grouped into areas. Additionally, being able to assign dates – both specific and general (“Someday”) – allows me to get ideas out of my head without being oppressed by an overwhelming task list.

Dropbox syncs files between computers, both Macs and PCs as well as my iPhone and does it seamlessly. Dropbox is elegant, powerful and amazingly enough, it’s free unless you need a very large amount of space. Many apps that lack their own ability to sync information can use Dropbox to add information sharing. For example, I use Dropbox to store my Things database, ensuring that both my work and home computers have the same list of tasks, without my needing to do anything extra to keep each up to date.

If you sign up, please use this referral link as we’ll both get an extra 250mb of space for free.

Skitch is one of the many screen capture apps released in the last year or two. It’s a great app that just works, making it easy to take a snapshot of part of the screen and annotate it if I need. Additionally, it makes it easy to upload the capture to online services, which is how I typically add interesting bits to my Web Detritus set on Flickr.

1Password is one of those applications that causes me to wonder how I worked without it. It is the best password manager I have ever worked with, hands-down. 1Password guarantees that I can use very complex passwords without risk of forgetting them, nor worry that they’re sitting around for someone to steal.

Browsers

In addition to Safari, I install Google Chrome and Firefox, which are currently battling for supremacy in my daily workflow.

Fluid is another browser I use regularly, though it has a key difference. Instead of acting as a general Web browser, it turns Web sites into desktop applications, complete with icons in the Applications folder and on your dock. My most common use for this is for Google Reader, but I have also tapped it for Web-based mail and to-do lists.

And More…

For Preference Panes, please see my post about System Tweaks for OS X.

Back in 2006, I wrote Software for a Switcher.

What are the Apps You Can’t Live Without?

Please expand this list by adding your recommendations in the comments.

Satisfying UI Design is Often Illogical

Scott Stevenson provides a very interesting essay, Satisfying UI Design is Often Illogical, discussing the impact and need for UI changes and the expectations of and reactions by the market to those changes. The entire piece is well worth a read by anyone interested in design and user experience, with many valuable insights. One of my favorites though is encapsulated in a single line: “The real goal is user satisfaction, and some of that is really illogical and messy.”

Branches in Space, Time and Code

For anyone involved in development, whether for the Web or a computing platform, Jeff Atwood’s entry, Software Branching and Parallel Universes provides an excellent description of branches and their importance within a version control system and the larger software development cycle.

Perhaps the most accessible way to think of branches is as parallel universes. They’re places where, for whatever reason, history didn’t go quite the same way as it did in your universe. From that point forward, that universe can be slightly different– or it can be radically and utterly transformed. Like the Marvel comic book series What If?, branching lets you answer some interesting and possibly even dangerous “what if” questions with your software development.

Using the concept of parallel universes and a healthy smattering of comic book industry practices, Jeff presents a very readable case to utilize the power of branching more often than many of us do.

My OS X Software Setup

It’s been about 13 months since I detailed various OS X apps and software packages that had caught my eye as I transitioned from Windows to OS X, so I believe it is time to review that list and expand upon it. I would definitely appreciate your recommendations of other applications to check out , and am also more than happy to answer any questions you may have.

I will add detail where I can, with the goal of publishing this post quickly and expanding upon it over time. I may make this a series if it grows long and/or detailed enough to warrant it.

Pre-installed / Part of OS X

Every Mac comes pre-installed with some amazing software, and I highly encourage you to check it out. Here are some of those apps that I use regularly.

Mail.app

MAil is surprisingly powerful as I noted when I made the switch from Thunderbird. I haven’t looked back since.
Cost: Free

iTunes

Simply the best music player on any platform. If you haven’t played with Smart Playlists you are missing out on one of the most important features.
Cost: Free

iCal

The built in calendar application is as simple or feature-rich as you want it to be. It interacts with the address book and many applications.
Cost: Free

The Keychain & Keychain Access

There is no need for a separate password manager as you can easily tap into the one that the system uses. Even better, you can secure other sensitive data such as credit card numbers, PINs or important notes.Check out this great walk-through to see the power of the Keychain. The important thing is to set up separate keychains with unique passwords to ensure that logging in, which will unlock the system keychain, doesn’t unlock the keychain you use to store other sensitive data. Using separate passwords will also ensure that if someone manages to get access to your machine in a logged-in state, or learns of your password, they are unable to get to other sensitive information.
Cost: Free

Address Book

The address Book is an unsung hero of the OS, as it unifies all of your contact information across applications, ensuring they all have and use the same data. It also ensures that your contacts are searchable.
Cost: Free

iChat

I don’t use iChat too often, preferring Adium’s capabilities for day-to-day instant messaging, but every so often its great to kick start a video chat with someone. IT is super-simple to initiate and works surprisingly well. This must be a wonderful tool for independents and small firms that do not have a single office.
Cost: Free

The Console

The console is an invaluable tool for developers of all stripes, and for the power user trying to track down a system problem. It can be found in the Utilities directory within the Applications folder.
Cost: Free

Boot Camp

This is solely for Intel-based Macs. Boot Camp lets you boot straight into Windows. Beautiful! That said, I’ve opted to erase the Boot Camp Windows partition, preferring to use Parallels, which runs within OS X. As I don’t need to run any powerful Windows-only apps, and I don’t run any Windows games, I found that I just wasn’t using the functionality.

General

Quicksilver

This is a must-have for anyone doing more than checking e-mail and browsing the Web. Quicksilver make it simple and fast to search for anything on your system and then do something with it, or to it. For example, I can keep things as simple as typing the letter ‘m’, which pulls up a quick search of anything on my drive with that letter in it (don’t worry, Quicksilver is smart, and prioritizes the list), which brings up Mail.app as the first result. I simply hit enter and my e-mail program is launched. Two seconds and done, without having to move my hands to the mouse. For a more interesting example, I can type a period, which brings up a text box in which I write a note. I can then hit the tab key to decide what I want to do – I can have the system automatically create a text document with the note, send it to my To Do list application, or display it on screen in a large font, so I can see it across the room. I can also use it to look up contact info without opening the Address Book. This really should be built into OS X.

Cost: Free

The Optimized Build of Firefox, a.k.a. Bon Echo

Cost: Free

Growl

This is another great utility that should be built into OS X. Growl isn’t actually used directly, instead it provides a platform for “applications to provide you with new information, without you having to switch from the application you’re already in.” It allows you as the user to customize the presentation and ensures the notices are consistent across all applications. Examples of usage are download notifications from Firefox and FTP clients, Twitter update notices and information about the song that just started playing in iTunes.
Cost: Free

Witch

Witch provides a granular alternative to the CMD-Tab combination of application switching, making it easier to shift to different windows within the same app or access minimized windows. It has other window-manipulation abilities too, though I haven’t tested them as of yet.
Cost: Free

Actiontastic

While I have read Getting Things Done, I haven’t gotten into the whole GTD habits as deeply as so many others, but I have picked up some tips that make life a lot easier. I now follow the core practices for my basic project management and to-do lists and lucked out when I found Actionatastic, a great GTD app that works well for me and works seamlessly with QuickSilver and iCal. This will be even cooler when actionatr debuts, providing the capability to modify the tasks on-line and synced up with Actiontastic.
Cost: Free

iTerm

I like iTerm over the built in Terminal as it has a tabbed interface which is invaluable in Web Development.
Cost: Free

Parallels Desktop

Parallels is simply amazing, and with each new release impresses me even further. Not only can you run another operating system (or multiple) within a window of OS X, you can eliminate the window altogether, eliminating the separation. This is great when I’m debugging a problem between browsers, as I can run copies of IE 6 and IE 7 right next to Safari and Firefox for OS X. For those folks in an environment that requires Windows-only apps, it is a perfect compromise.
Cost: $80

Adium

The best instant messaging client on any platform. I really wish it was available on Windows as I would drop Trillian for it in a second.
Cost: Free

NetNewsWire

NNW is a great RSS reader, though I tend to use the Web version far more than the desktop version as I can access it from anywhere. Luckily, the purchase of NetNewsWire guaranteed that the two are synced up.
Cost: $30

Twitterific

For those who use Twitter, this little app makes life much easier. With its integrated Growl support and ability to set the time between updates, you can see what your friends are up to whenever they post an update.
Cost: Free

iBackup

What a great backup application! I use it to run regular backups of my system. It allows me to choose what I want backed up, and it only copies files and directories that have been modified since the last backup. I’ve set up two tasks – the normal backup that ensures I always have a copy of my files on an external drive, and a rolling archive that takes a copy of the backup and creates a snapshot, allowing me to keep older versions of files around.
Cost: Free

PandoraBoy

As I discussed on my post Pandora on My Box, this is a great little app that brings the joy of Pandora out of the browser, encapsulating it in a small app.

Web Development & Design

TextMate

A powerful text and code editor that continues to reveal more features and capabilities as I use it. as their site puts it, “TextMate is not an IDE but by using its powerful snippets, macros, and unique scoping system, it can often provide features that even a language specific IDE lacks. It has enough project management features to keep most users happy, but is otherwise kept lightweight with a clean and minimalistic GUI.” Depending on how you like to work, TextMate may not be your cup of tea – it is purely a text editor, do not expect the ability to drag pictures around or resize DIV with your mouse. If you prefer a more visual interface, check out Panic’s Coda, which recently debuted and looks amazing.
Cost:

Headdress

Headdress makes it simple to work with virtual hosts on your Mac, which is invaluable when you are developing sites locally prior to pushing them to production. With Headdress you do not need to worry about file paths changing when you upload, as each site is treated separately, accessible through separate URLs (using port numbers). I used the demo version of Headdress for quite a while as I was only working on two sites at the time. Then I started to dig into other code branches and realized that the convenience that the app brings to my life was well worth the small amount of cash, so I bought it. Not only is this a great app, the guys at Twinsparc are genuinely good folks.
Cost: Free for two sites, $15 for unlimited

MAMP

MAMP is a handy package that allows you to effortlessly install Apache, Mysql and PHP on your Mac and start the servers with just a click of a button. It doesn’t screw with the built-in functionality that ships with OS X. This is an indispensable tool for PHP Web Development.
Cost: Free

Locomotive

Locomotive provides a super-simple way to install a Ruby on Rails development environment. It eliminated a lot of stress I experienced compared to the first time I set up RoR on my box and had to resolve all of the configuration hoo-hah. If you are interested in Ruby on Rails, download this app, it will make life much much much easier.
Cost: Free

Adobe Creative Suite

I currently run CS2, though I beta tested Photoshop CS 3 and was blown away by its performance on my MacBook Pro (the CS2 apps were never compiled for the Intel-based Macs, so they run slower than they should). The new palette system was a major step up for those of us on laptops.
Cost: Ranges depending on the apps/package you choose

Yummy FTP

I tried out a bunch of FTP apps early on, and as I wrote in my post about Yummy FTP, the app is “fast and has a wealth of features, including FTP Aliases with Autorouting to make it easy to upload files without opening a connection to the server and then navigating to the proper location. Sweet! The smooth integration with other apps (like TextMate for remote editing) and the command line are just a couple of other features worth the price. Yet, even with all of the functionality it packs, Yummy FTP feels good to use – unlike so many apps from my Windows past.”
Cost: $25

The Console

Yes, this is a repeat, but I want to ensure you see it if you’re a developer. The Console provides a handy way to keep an eye on your log files as you are writing/debugging server-side code. It works with all of the different log files you may deal with (Ruby on Rails, PHP, Apache etc.) I open it automatically when I start working on PHP or Ruby code.
Cost: Free

Subversion

I use Subversion for version control in my local development environment, and it has saved my butt a couple of times already!
Cost: Free

svnX

I use svnX to interact with Subversion instead of relying on the command line.
Cost: Free

FontExplorer X

This free font manager from the fine folks at Linotype, is much more powerful than the built-in FontBook and unlike the expensive font packages (hello Extensis), hasn’t given Sarah, nor I any problems.
Cost: Free

CocoaMySQL

A great MySQL database manager.
Cost: Free

Widgets

It took me a while to discover the usefulness of Apple’s Dashboard and the widgets it contains, but once I found a few of the truly useful little apps I was hooked. They stay out of the way but are available at a key-press. Please note, these are not all of the widgets that I’ve installed, just the ones I find useful. Also, I do not run most of these all of the time as each Widget takes up a bit of processing power, so I’ve indicated my “always on” widgets by making them bold.

  • Airport Radar is a “free and convenient tool for quickly scanning the area for AirPort and other wireless networks.”
  • App Update automatically checks for “updates to your installed software. It supports Apple’s software directory, MacUpdate and Version Tracker. It will present you with a tidy link list of all the updates found, enabling you to read release-notes and download the the updates quickly and painlessly.”
  • Calculator
  • Calendaer
  • Capture is a great tool for snapping screen shots.
  • ColorBurn displays “a new color palette every day, along with the hexadecimal color values for web designers and developers.”
  • ColourMod is a handy color chooser, which works with and convert between Hex, RGB, CMYK, and HSV values.
  • Corporate Ipsum “is a Lorem Ipsum generator Peter Gibbons might use in a TPS Report…if he were a graphic designer and had a need for a Lorem Ipsum generator.”
  • CSS Tweak provides “CSS optimization with the drop of a file.”
  • Dashalytics “offers quick access to Google Analytics statistics.”
  • Dashflix / Dashflix Mini provide a view into your Netflix queue – the only difference is the size of the widget.
  • Delivery Status provides an “all-in-one delivery tracker”for those of us who can’t wait for oru packages to arrive. “The status will update automatically for you, and even count down the days! It also works with Growl to give you pop-up message, email notifications, and more, whenever your package status changes.”"
  • Dine-O-Matic is a “fun Dashboard widget for Mac OS X that randomly selects a place to eat out when you just can’t make up your mind.”
  • Gamer Card let’s you see “your XBOX Live Gamer Card”
  • Gas “delivers information from GasPriceWatch.com in order to provide you with the most up to date gas prices available.”
  • Image Shackle
  • iStat Pro is “the ultimate system monitoring widget, consisting of nine sections which can be shown or hidden.”
  • Kuler displays “color themes from kuler (kuler.adobe.com), an online application where members explore, create, and share color harmonies.”
  • MAMP Control makes it easy to “start and stop the Apache and MySQL server provided with MAMP. Also you can switch the PHP versions”
  • Minutes is a “countdown timer widget featuring simple interface, polished graphics and many functionalities”, including iTunes integration
  • Photo Drop let’s you “[d]rop or paste a photo, resize & trim it, and export to another application or widget directly by mouse dragging with outstanding 8 effects. You can also take a screenshot of windows behind Photo Drop (excluding your scattered desktop).”‘
  • SeeSS “is a quick and handy reference sheet for 140 CSS (1, 2 & 3) properties (proprietary extensions are not included). Each property includes information on its inheritance, CSS compliancy, Safari support, all values (including defaults), some examples and an extensive description.”
  • Stop Dashboard “allows you to stop the Dashboard. All running widgets will be removed from memory. Re-enable the Dashboard via F12.”
  • Symbol Caddy keeps “HTML entity codes at your fingertips. Just click the symbol to have the HTML code copied to your clipboard.”
  • Type Cast “allows you to quickly move through font families, styles and sizes using only your keyboard. In addition, Type Cast offers helpful information such as font type, family and can even reveal font files in the Finder.”
  • Unit Converter
  • Weather
  • Web Monitor “[m]onitors your servers or any other web site. The widget checks the response time periodically with a HTTP HEAD request ” I discovered this as I was writing this post, so I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks very useful!’

Apps that I Don’t Use, But Have Good Reputations

There are so many applications out there that it is hard to try every one that I hear about, plus there are certain apps that that app grabs you and there isn’t a desire to check out the others. So, here is a list of software that I’ve heard good things about, but do not have personal experience with, or that I have tried but opted for a different package (you’ll see some great freeware apps in here that I ultimately passed up for an application that I paid for). Give ‘em a shot if you have a chance.

  • Fugu – FTP utility [Free]
  • Cyberduck – FTP utility [Free]
  • Coda – Web development package [$]
  • Open Office – A multi-platform, open source office suite. [Free]
  • Delicious Library – This program harnesses a Web cam (in this case, the built-in iSight) as a barcode scanner. Simply point the camera “at the barcode on the back of any book, movie, music, or video game. Delicious Library does the rest. The barcode is scanned and within seconds the item’s cover appears on your digital shelves filled with tons of in-depth information downloaded from one of six different web sources from around the world.” I’ve wanted to play with this for quite a long time! [$]
  • VirtueDesktops – virtual desktop manager. [Free]

Handy Tips and Hacks for Working in OS X

Here is a list of good things to know in order to improve your workflow and/or enjoyment of the world o’ Mac.

Web Sites

Important Note

All prices listed are accurate at the time of writing, so don’t be surprised if they’re different by the time you hit their sites.

Yummy

Yummy FTP iconI don’t know what it is about the Mac, but I actually get excited about software again. I’m not talking about the big packages like Adobe’s Creative Suite or games, which I loved on the PC. I mean the smaller pieces of software like TextMate, Parallels or iTunes. This is a very interesting time in the software market for those of us running OS X. The products coming out of so many small software shops is beautiful and highly functional. Hell, they’re fun! Point in fact, I’ve been evaluating FTP apps for the last couple of months – nothing intense, just checking out different ones as time allows. After reading a bunch of reviews, and trying various products, I downloaded Yummy FTP and was blown away. It is fast and has a wealth of features, including FTP Aliases with Autorouting to make it easy to upload files without opening a connection to the server and then navigating to the proper location. Sweet! The smooth integration with other apps (like TextMate for remote editing) and the command line are just a couple of other features worth the price. Yet, even with all of the functionality it packs, Yummy FTP feels good to use – unlike so many apps from my Windows past.

Plus, I lucked out and received a discount on the purchase via MacAppADay., taking the already-low price of $25 down to $10. Nice! I had initially downloaded a fully functional, though un-upgradable copy as part of that same MAAD promotion, but like so many others, didn’t realize that I had to register it immediately, so I didn’t get one of the 5,000 licenses. That said, after trying it out, I would have purchased a copy anyway to support the developer and get future upgrades.

Yummy indeed.

Experimentin' with Mail

Thunderbird and Mail.app icons Let’s get down to it, I like Thunderbird, having used it since it’s early beta period, but my will has been overcome by the siren song of Apple’s Mail.app. The loudest and clearest voice in the chorus emanates from Hawk Wings, a site dedicated to Mail, its plugins and tips that will improve the experience.

So, a week and a half ago I pulled Thunderbird from the Dock, forcing myself into full time usage. I like it. The shift isn’t drastic, and I don’t recommend that people change on a whim unless, like me, they like to tinker with apps, diving into the details that most people don’t think (nor care) about.

I do have one gripe so far: I lost a few of my outgoing messages as Mail didn’t detect the existing Sent folders, nor did it create a new one for its use. So, until I figured out that I could specify a folder to act as the Sent box, my messages went out, but were not copied to an archive for my later reference.
In an effort to sort all of this out for myself, and possibly provide a useful, though small resource for others, I’m writing up my experiences with Mail and documenting the changes I’ve made, the plugins I’ve installed or uninstalled and my general thoughts on the matter. There isn’t a lot of detail yet, but this entry will expand as time allows.

My Setup

OS: 10.4
Platform: Intel (MacBook Pro)
Mail Version: 2.1.1 (752.3) – at time of writing
Account Type: IMAP – this is important as it directly impacts some core functionality as all of my mail stays on the server.

Modifications

Stamp icons for Mail.app

Configuration Changes

Plugins

  • Letterbox provides a three pane view for Mail, much like Outlooks layout.
  • IMAP-IDLE adds the ability for Mail to communicate with the mailserver so it can be told when new mail has arrived instead of connecting with the server ever N minutes to check. Efficiency is a good thing.
  • MailActOn makes it easy to set up simple or complex chains of commands available at the touch of a key. I haven’t put this to any real test yet, but I think it will be a core component of how I use Mail. Works with MailTags.
  • MailTags provides the ability to assign keywords, priorities and other meta data to messages. Combine it with MailActOn for even more powerful capabilities.

Wishes

I’d be even happier if Mail would:

  • automatically set up or detect and use an existing ‘Sent’ folder for my IMAP account, and
  • allow me to define how long a message should be viewed before it is marked as ‘read’, allowing me to quickly arrow through messages to find the one I want without losing the unread status of the others, and
  • allow me to dock the activity viewer, or provide a small status bar.

I’ll expand this as I learn more, and welcome any feedback, suggestions or questions that you may have!

Apple Delivers Speed Boost to Creative Suite

My copy of Adobe Creative Suite CS2 arrived last night (woohoo!), making me a very happy man. This morning, as I perused my feeds, I came across the great news (via John Nack, via JD on EP) that Apple’s release of the 10.4.8 system update includes significant improvements to Rosetta, the software that ensures older applications will continue to run on newer platforms (like my Intel-based notebook). These improvements, according to Macworld’s benchmarks, provide a 34% improvement for the CS2 suite on the MacBook Pro! The tests specifically relate to image manipulation, so that number actually matters. The same improvements had only a minor impact on non-graphics oriented applications like MS Word, which gained a tiny bump of 3%.

While this isn’t quite as good as Intel-native versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, et al, it is a much appreciated and unexpected improvement. Thanks Apple!

Virtual PC set free – further thoughts

After my initial post about Virtual PC and subsequent mailings to a couple of Web dev lists that I am subscribed to, I had a couple of interesting conversations on what this release means and why/if it is important. The question also came up as to whether or not the release is related to Apple’s BootCamp, which I asserted.

I do see a connection to BootCamp and Parallels. Virtualization is a powerful tool for develoeprs on any platform and I think Microsoft has recognized this about a step behind Apple, which has started to push this feature in one of the new commercials.

While Virtual PC won’t allow folks to run OS X software on a Windows box, it will provide a lot of folks the ability to set up a very cheap test environment for multiple operating systems and browsers, which will be important with the coming releases of IE 7 and Vista.

As a developer, I had been pondering the jump to OS X but held off for quite a while as I didn’t want to maintain a PC and a Mac at the same time. Once the Intel-based Macs came out and people started hacking the system to support XP, the need for a separate box for secondary/multiple OSes was gone. Now I can run multiple versions of Windows on my Macbook to test various OS/browser combos in addition to the Mac ones. Ultimately that means that Microsoft, and Windows-centric software makers will get less of my money (I won’t need to buy anything but the OS licenses) and Apple will gain another ardent user who has the ability to ensure his sites are compatible with their software.

This is an interesting battle as Apple sees itself as a hardware company that makes software and Microsoft views itself as a software company that produces products to work on most any “standardized” machine.

This may signal a new front in the war for computer market share; one that I hope will translate into more competition and improved features for all of us.

Virtual PC Set Free

Microsoft has set Virtual PC free. Makes me wonder if the folks in Redmond have taken notice of Apple’s free BootCamp or Parallel’s Desktop app. Use Virtual PC to “run multiple operating systems at the same time on the same physical computer. Switch between virtual machines with the click of a button. Use virtual machines to run legacy applications, provide support, train users, and enhance quality assurance.” This is great news for those of us wanting to test IE 7 (or for that matter, Vista) without installing the beta on a production system. It will also prove useful once the full version is out, and we want to keep a version of IE 6 handy.

Software for a Switcher

Update

I’ve published a new list of software: My OS X Software Setup

In the not-so-distant future I’ll pick up I’ve just purchased a MacBook Pro, cementing my switch from the world of Windows to that of OS X (well, with occasional visits to the land of Gates). The switch brings the opportunity to try, and adopt new software, so here’s a list that I’m compiling of software that I will install, or at the very least, try on my new Mac:

  • Quicksilver – “A unified, extensible interface for working with applications, contacts, music, and other data.” Additional info available:
  • Firefox – The ultimate browser
  • Camino – Another great browser that “combines the awesome visual and behavioral experience that has been central to the Macintosh philosophy with the powerful web-browsing capabilities of the Gecko rendering engine.” I look forward to running it through its paces.
  • Thunderbird – My favorite e-mail client on any every platform!
  • Adium X – A great chat client that I’ve used on the battered ol’ beige Mac in the past. It is the equivalent of the Windows-only Trillian.
  • TextMate – Considered the editor for developing with Ruby on Rails on OS X
  • Apple Developer Tools (Xcode)
  • DbVisualizer – “a feature rich, intuitive and cross-platform database tool for developers and DBAs, providing a single powerful interface for a variety of databases. DbVisualizer supports simultaneous database connections, it lets you explore and manage database objects, execute SQL queries, visualize information and a lot more.”
  • Netflix Freak – “a full-featured Mac OS X application for managing your rental queue that enhances the Netflix experience. The program offers many unique features not available on the Netflix website.”
  • Dock Dividers – Visual dividers to organize the dock.
  • BootCamp – Dual boot windows XP and OS X!!!!! The last piece has fallen into place.
    • Windows XP Home – Seein’ as I won’t be running my ol’ PC any longer, I can just move the install over to the Mac.
    • IE 6 – For testing
    • Mozilla Firefox – For testing, though it shouldn’t vary much, if at all compared with Firefox on OS X
  • Web Development
  • Open Office – A multi-platform, open source office suite, compatible with the big boys.
  • Delicious Library – This program harnesses a Web cam (in this case, the built-in iSight) as a barcode scanner. Simply point the camera “at the barcode on the back of any book, movie, music, or video game. Delicious Library does the rest. The barcode is scanned and within seconds the item’s cover appears on your digital shelves filled with tons of in-depth information downloaded from one of six different web sources from around the world.” I’ve wanted to play with this for quite a long time!
  • Open Terminal Here – An AppleScript that sits in the tool bar of finder windows, allowing an easy way to open a terminal session in the directory being viewed.
  • FontExplorer X – A free font manager from the fine folks at Linotype. This is another app that I’ve wanted to use for quite a while, but have been unable to as it’s Mac-only.
  • Carbon Copy Cloner – Creates an exact replica of your hard disk. Ideal for creating a restore-image.
  • RSync – RSync already comes with OS X, but I’m noting this for the helpful tutorial.
  • NetNewsWire – I’ve used the light version of this news aggregator in the past, and am looking forward to trying out the full version.
  • Disk Inventory X – ‘[S]hows the sizes of files and folders in a special graphical way called “treemaps“.’
  • Fugu – A spiffy little FTP utility.
  • Cyberduck – Another FTP utility I plan to try.
  • Launchd Editor – Launchd replaces cron in OS X. This app is a “graphical editor for launchd’s property list files. It makes sure that the proper keys are of the proper values and lets you enter in whatever information you want in those keys.”

Useful Customizations & Recommendations

I’ll be adding more over the next few days, and appreciate any suggestions you may have!