A Dozen Mac Gems Unearthed In 2005

by Chris Howard Dec 28, 2005

What where your favorite applications you found for the Mac in 2005? Everyone does a “top ten favorites of the year” and I’m no different - except I’m not going with the traditional “new applications” rather this is my list of applications I discovered this year.  Only a couple on the list were actually new products in 2005, the rest I didn’t discover until this year, either because I didn’t previously have the need, or they hadn’t reached maturity.

Okay, onto my 2005 honor roll (not in any order):

The year opened with Apple taking page layout and word processing to a new level with their document production application, Pages, which joined the already very successful and respected Keynote, in forming the beginnings of the AppleWorks replacement, iWork.
Review: Pages: A dusty diamond
Website: Pages

Comic Life
A cosmopolitan production team from several continents produced Comic Life which can be used by working cartoonists to make the process of finishing cartoons easier, but for the Joe Average User, it gives them a whole new realm of fun to explore with their reams of photos that had been gathering dust in iPhoto
Review: Collective thinking produces comic genius
Website: Plasq Comic Life

If you are a serious blogger, then Ecto should be high on your shopping list for productivity applications.  It works with all the major blog engines such as WordPress, Blogger, pMachine, Moveable Type and supports Technorati tags.
Website: Ecto

Opera 8.5/9
To tell you to “Get Opera” might be pointless if the feared rumor that Microsoft have bought out Opera proves true. Opera is the best browser and leaves the other browsers a distant second. Opera 9 although only in beta, is performing excellently for me and brings among other things, standardization with Safari’s keystrokes - eg Command-T now creates a new tab.
Reviewed: Is it time to ditch Safari?
Website: Opera

Jer’s Novel Writer
If you’re looking for a tool to make the writing process easier, you can’t go past Jer’s Novel Writer with it’s useful features such as excellent margin notes and the abiltiy to have different print and screen layouts.
Reviewed: Unleashing the writer
Website: Jer’s Novel Writer

I’d looked at this image utility a few times before - as it does tend to get rave reviews - and couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. Like a lot of applications, it’s not until you find a use for them that you realise how good they are. I leave Inkwell running permanently and using it for resizing images for my portable entertainment blog, Go Play AV. I’ve set upon a rough standard of a maximum of 170 pixels either horizontally or vertically for images in the posts. With Inkwell, I simply drag and drop the image to it, adjust it’s size with the slider, then drag and drop it into place in the article in Ecto. Almost too easy.
Website: XtraLean ImageWell

After my search for a low cost decent image editor proved fruitless, it was both a delight and relief to find GimpShop, a hacked version of The Gimp but with a Photoshop like interface. Obviously I wasn’t the only one confused beyond sanity by The Gimp’s interface!
Website: GimpShop

What The Gimp is to image editing, so Inkscape is to vector graphics editing. Also like The Gimp, it is an X11 application on the Mac. Still in it’s early days of development, Inkscape already displays exciting potential.
Website: Inkscape

The Battle for Wesnoth
I don’t play many games on computers, if at all, so I’ll leave the voting in the Games category to my boys, who if not for MacMinder (a godsend for limiting the time they spend on the computer), would spend every minute of their waking hours playing WesNoth if they could.
Website: The Battle for Wesnoth

There’s been a few little OS X extenders that I’ve come across this year, but the standout is definitely Textpander which allows you to assign to short strings of text, longer plain text or formatted text that can include images. For example, I’ve configured it so if I type !ahr it is expanded to the code for inserting an HTML hyperlink. Textpander is also useful for auto correcting common typos. Eg if I type “downlaod” Textpander automatically changes it to “download”.
Website: Peter Maurer’s Textpander

And finally, I must give a brief mention to hardware. In a year when Apple released several significant new hardware including video enabled iPods, flash based iPods and a multibutton mouse, the most significant hardware release for mine was the Mac mini, which is still - nearly a year later - yet to be matched for form and price in the PC world. It may have been underpowered (ram, slow hdd) but what a beauty. And when you see what people are doing with them, they’ve brought a whole new cool factor to Macs. Checkout Apple’s own site dedicated to Mac mini modding, Big Ideas

Well, there’s top ten (plus one hardware), now let’s hear what was your favorite Mac software you unearthed in 2005.

Update: I realised I forgot to update the title. I did have a dozen originally. The missing one is the FTP client, CyberDuck. It’s website was not responding and the latest version 2.5.2 was getting bad feedback (I’m still on 2.5.1), so rather than put you on to a potentially bum-steer, I cut it. Keep an eye on CyberDuck though, it is an excellent utility and my favorite FTP client.


  • My list doesn’t even reach 10.

    Photoshop Elements 3.  Not an exciting choice, but I’ve scanned in a lot of very old family pics and the new healing tool saves hours when touching up the pictures.

    iPasteboard.  A simple app that lets me paste whatever for use later.  Not earth shattering, but nice to have.

    pedias.  Started with Bookpedia and added CD & DVDpedias.  I tried Delicious Library, but prefer the simplicity of the pedias.

    Typeit4me.  At 61 I’m still a poor typist - can’t figure out why they put i between o & u, but I always manage to hit it.  Also great for shortcuts.  I use “qqq” for Australia as I need to type Australia a lot.  Like Auto Correct in Word, but system wide.

    Check Off.  A quick little check list for the menu bar.  Reminds me of what I need to do IF I remember to check it.

    http://osx.hyperjeff.net/Apps/.  Not an app, but an ad free site listing almost 14,000 OS X apps - everything from freeware to full commercial apps.  (Found the apps above there.)  It’s fun for anyone who wants to dig around for something new to do with their Macs, or to find a specific app.

    Burning Monkey Mahjong.  Everyone needs to have their favorite game and this is mine, even if I seldom win.

    MacKen had this to say on Dec 28, 2005 Posts: 88
  • Hello.

    I found this page from a link at MacSurfer. I returned to the Mac fold earlier this year after a long absence. Anyway…here’s my short list.

    MAC MINI…It’s hardware, yes, but this neat little machine was (is) the primary reason that I’m now using a Mac. It fits right in with our existing Windows laptop…sharing a display, keyboard and mouse. The Mini is quiet, takes up little space and has been very reliable.

    MICROSOFT OFFICE 2004…I know, I know. But let’s face it: if not for Office, more than a few people simply wouldn’t use a Mac. I like the package. It is powerful, flexible and the various parts all share a consistent design. My biggest gripe with OS X is the near onslaught of dissimilar looks and inconsistent designs. Office allows me to avoid most of that. I much prefer Entourage over any type of iCal/Address Book/Mail/Stickies arrangement.

    PREVIEW…finally, a simple and fast replacement for the god-awful Acrobat Reader. Preview now has a basic set of image editing tools as well…all that I would really need. It allows me to avoid iPhoto.

    SYSTEM PREFERENCES…a simple and clear application for setting up my Mac to my taste.

    DASHBOARD…at first I found it to be just more OS X eye candy. But, unlike Expose, I’m actually using it now.

    iCLIPlite…a free Dashboard widget providing space for multiple clipboard items.

    MACJANITOR…the Mini sleeps at night so this utility can be run at any time.

    Lucky13 had this to say on Dec 30, 2005 Posts: 11
  • I believe you mean ImageWell instead of InkWell. Speaking of InkWell, I want a tablet Mac.

    As for my gems ..

    1. Adium | adiumx.com
    So customizable it’s crazy. Easy to use, plugins and themes downloaded right from their website, great integration. Simple the best AIM client.

    2. Desktop Manager
    One of the best ideas ever. And free, too.

    3. You Control: Tunes
    Great menu bar control of iTunes, also free.

    4. OnyX
    I got tired of the dashboard, and turned it off. OnyX did that and more ... it’s also free.

    5. the iBook
    I got one for school, it’s great and I love it. Even the simple things, like a LED battery monitor on every battery. I always know what the charge is, even when it’s off.

    shrimpdesign had this to say on Dec 31, 2005 Posts: 16
  • Thanks Shrimpdesign. Will fix that right away. I think I actually had one instance right and one wrong when I wrote the article then changed the right one to be wrong when I meant to do the opposite. Oh well!

    I’m a big DesktopManager and OnyX fan too - but discovered them last year other wise they would have been on my list.

    I hope we get a few more replies to this article coz everyone is putting up some great apps - and hardware. Plus there seems to be a pattern developing which a few more would confirm or not.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Dec 31, 2005 Posts: 1209
  • I didn’t find them this year but no one’s mentionned them and they are so good that I have to.

    First, Mellel is by far the best Word Processor that I’ve ever owned. It blows the doors off all the others. Start using it and, little by little, you will come to understand what I’m saying.

    Second, MacJournal just keeps getting better. The more I use it the more I realize that it does exactly what you want a journal to do, no more and no less. I just hope the new developer doesn’t get too ambitious and spoil it with new features. This one works so well because it adheres to the KISS principle.

    Third, Voodoo Pad is an really usefull application for quickly and intuitively building a WIKI on your computer; connect all the cool things that you didn’t realize were connected. It isn’t as irreplaceable as the previous two apps, but it’s quite cool.

    These three applications are enough by themselves to keep me firmly committed to OS X.

    yukonchris had this to say on Jan 20, 2006 Posts: 1
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    Hadley Stern had this to say on Jan 21, 2006 Posts: 114
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