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Guide to Great Free Mac Apps (part 1 of 3)

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Essential Mac Apps & Software – Part 1 – The Basics

I was skeptical. My loyalty to the PC over the years had wrongly copper-fastened a harsh perception of Apple’s alternative: “It’s only for graphic designers and the brand conscious.” Unlike the iPhone or iPod, in my mind the advantages of going Mac over the competition just weren’t as clear. That is until the operating system Mac OS X ‘Mountain Lion’ was released. I have been converted.

This is not a post on why you should go Mac but in fact more a post for those who already have a Mac and want to make the most of it by highlighting some great apps and features that you may just have missed. This post is part 1 of 3 and focuses on the basics. I will be covering more advanced features, apps and downloads in upcoming posts. To some part one up, how would you like your Mac to be a faster, protected, cleaner, backed-up, cloud-synced Mac that can act as a PC and use your iPhone as a mouse? Read on people!

great free mac apps

Start with two easy steps:

# 1. Get Mac OS X ‘Mountain Lion’

If your Mac is only two years old or less I strongly recommend you upgrade to OS X. Why? So many reasons but the best being that you have access to so many great apps (many being free) that will really add to your Mac experience. Also, it has much improved security features inc. Gatekeeper and backup to iCloud. Don’t miss out any longer. Here’s how you upgrade through Apple and a list of the 200+ new features

# 2. Countdown to launch

Ok. So now if you’ve got Mac OS X, it’s time to start downloading some really cool stuff. See that little grey rocket at the bottom left of your screen?

That’s ‘Launchpad’. This is where all your great apps will be kept. Now all you have to do is go the app store every time you want to download an app. Some software below can also be downloaded directly from the suppliers site.

Be Secure:

Sophos Antivirus

One of the reasons I went Mac was that there are no viruses for Mac. Right? WRONG! That is a myth. While there may be less viruses than there is for PC (currently), there are more and more viruses being made every day just for Mac. I can only foresee this increasing as the Mac gains popularity by cross selling to iPhone and iPad users. Think about this – there are now more people in the world using OS X everyday than Windows Vista.

Get Sophos AntiVirus now. It scans your files for threats the minute they launch getting rid of any nasty code. Hindsight is no use when it come to viruses. Prevention is often the only cure


Backup your files on the cloud. iCloud is a built in backup for Apple users but you should also be backing up by using a third party service. They are numerous. Google has ‘Google Drive’ and Microsoft has ‘Skydrive’. While both are good options, I use ‘Dropbox’. With up to 8GB (you can pay for unlimited space if you wish) free space, it’s the easiest to register for and is truly a great system. It sits on your computer like an ordinary folder. Just save your items in the folder and you can access them from any computer, or phone by downloading the app on the device or accessing the Dropbox site directly. It even downloads your iPhone photos automatically now.

Think about this: your Mac is stolen. Thousands of hours of work are gone. Well not if you have Dropbox. All you have to do is get a new machine and simply download the files and you will have all that was in the Dropbox folder in a mater of minutes. Alternatively you can access them remotely on other people’s machines. We’ve all heard the horror stories about thesis etc. and work docs being spread around or simply lost. Dropbox allows you to prevent this from happening.

Be Productive 


Evernote like Dropbox can be accessed and updated from a range of devices using the cloud. Why download Evernote? Simples – it allows you to create lists or shared documents that can be created and updated and are backed-up on the cloud. Evernote is free on Mac and most devices. You can upgrade to a premium version, but the standard version has plenty to get you started.

Remote Mouse

Turn your iPhone into a mouse. Yes for real. Simply download an app on your Mac and then download the same app on your iPhone. ‘Remote Mouse’ is good. Admittedly a lot of people don’t like it for really mouse-heavy work, but if you’re giving a presentation (or in bed watching movies) it’s incredibly handy. A must have.


If Mac OS X has left a Windows void in your heart, you can run two different operating systems on the one Mac… simultaneously. states, “Windows and Mac can do more than co-exist, they can be friends.” Their approach is very friendly indeed. Some older programs and competitors’ programs allows you only to choose either Mac or Windows upon boot-up – this beauty allows you to open Windows as a an ordinary window within Mac OS X – literally as simple as opening a browser. You really can have the best of both worlds. Parallel even allows you to drop and drag files from one desktop to another. It’s not the cheapest but at approx €85 it represents serious value for money.

App Cleaner 

App cleaner is pretty self-explanatory. If you wish to remove an app, App Cleaner literally takes away everything to do with the app. ALL of it. Similar to PC downloads some code and small files may not be removed in an uninstall – app cleaner takes care of this. The result? A cleaner, faster machine.

The Recap

OK, so if you’ve followed so far, you should have downloaded and be using the following:

Mac OS X – your machine is now up to date with the latest Apple operating system

Sophos (FREE) – your machine has a healthy immune system which will keep nasty viruses out

Dropbox (FREE) – your files are backed up and you can access them from numerous devices

Evernote (FREE) – you are updating and creating lists and documents shared and just for you

Remote Mouse (FREE) – your iPhone means that you just turned your Mac into a portable desktop experience. As someone that has a Macbook Air, I can’t rate this highly enough

App cleaner (FREE) – You’re downloading apps? Great but keep your machine clean. Use app cleaner. – still missing windows? Parallels allows you to run windows within Mac OS X. You can even drop and drag files from one to the other.

Next time, I’ll be covering a range of apps that will improve your browsing experience and really increase your productivity across all Apple devices.

Your Mac should now be a faster, protected, cleaner, backed-up, cloud-synced Mac that act as a PC and use your iPhone as a mouse. What apps and software would you add?

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Images:  ”Cloud computing concept with desktops, notebooks, netbooks and smartphones on the clouds /

ME: Marketing Manager, SaaS; co-founder of; Social Media Junkie; MSc in Strategic Management; Opinions my own and they may offend (not intentionally of course).

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  • Hi Connor

    Well done on a great post, but I would like to clarify for your readers some of the issues around so called “virus” for Mac

    To date there has been a profusion of misleading and erroneous articles on this topic written by so called experts in this area. Most of these articles are written by Windows users who have absolutely no knowledge of, or experience with, the Mac operating system.

    Many of those writers do not understand that “Virus” and “Trojan” are terms that were given to describe two very different types of “malware”.

    A PC ‘virus” is just like a human virus. You can catch it and spread it to others without knowing it. All that it takes is simple exposure.

    A “Trojan” or “Trojan horse” is just like the fabled Trojan horse. The Greeks left the Trojan horse outside the gates of Troy. Troy was heavily fortified and securely protected against the Greeks, but it was the Trojans’ foolishness that opened the gates and purposely pulled the Trojan horse into the city of Troy.

    There has been to date NO virus on a MAC, malware, yes and the odd trojan. The closest thing to date has been the fabled MacDefender. Even the security software companies who make a humongous amount of money selling anti-virus software to Windows users (and who would love to do the same thing with Mac users) have stated clearly that MacDefender and its variants are NOT a Mac OS X vulnerability!

    Peter James, spokesperson for Intego (the security company that discovered Mac Defender) has said: “This is not a Mac OS X vulnerability, but social engineering, taking advantage of users who are unaware of what is happening.”

    In other words, no amount of “anti-virus” software would stop a gullible user from purposely installing this type of application on their own computer if they are determined to do this. But since this software is a simple application, once the naive user learns of his/her mistake, it’s easy to get rid of Mac Defender by merely trashing the application.

    Yet some Windows users think that they know better than the experts, calling Mac Defender a “Mac virus” and remaining in denial about the fact that Mac OS X has NEVER had a single virus.

    No operating system, including Mac OS X, can claim to be totally impervious. But even if Mac OS X does get its very first virus sometime in the future, it will be like comparing a drop of water to the ocean of literally hundreds of thousands of Windows viruses that Windows users have to contend with.

    I agree with you that prevention is absolutely much better than curing the problem, but the problem has to actually exist.
    Your advice to upgrade to Mountain Lion is spot on, by doing that you have installed as much protection as you need.

    Again, great post and keep up the good work!

    Happy New Year.

  • As a pretty new Mac user (I got a MacBook from my brother, 2 years ago), I want thank your for this post. I will use it as a guide for my next Mac product.

  • Thanks so much Noel. Much appreciated re: the clarification. As mentioned, although there may be no virus to date and while malware may be very rare, I would hate to think that I or indeed a reader would be that drop in the ocean. Great advice. I would still advocate getting Sophos. It’s free so what harm. Thanks a mill for reading and Happy New Year 🙂

  • Much appreciated. I have two more on the way so stay tuned. Happy New Year

  • following part 2

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