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!
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.
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.
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.
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. Parallels.com 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 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.
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.
Parallels.com – 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?