My Mac Programs of Choice

I’ve spent the last couple of days ramping up my newly-returning iMac, which comes back to me from the shop with a new hard drive and a new SuperDrive. The machine seems to moan and burr and grizzle a little more than it used to, but it’s zippy, and it has a really, really big screen, which I realized I missed a lot.

Part of the “getting to know you again” process involves installing my set of everyday tools. Here’s what I’m using at the moment:

  • Camino — the best web browser on any platform. Simple. Fast. Never crashes. Standards-compliant.
  • NetNewsWire — a great RSS newsreader.
  • MacSFTP — lets me securely transfer files to a from various servers.
  • OmniDictionary — simple and wonderful, and something I couldn’t write without.
  • BBEdit — simply the world’s greatest text editor. Period.
  • OmniOutliner — a useful tool for keeping track of almost anything.
  • AppleWorks — Who’d have thunk? It turns out to be a capable word processor, spreadsheet and presentation program. Much less bloated (and evil free!) than Office.
  • GraphicConverter — Like PaintShop Pro on a Windows machine: munges images in various ways.
  • X11 — Lets me run programs on remote servers like they were running locally.
  • Virtual PC — Alas, I’m still wedded to Quicken for Home and Business, which only runs under Windows. Everyone needs a little evil.

Put all of the above together with Apple’s own tools like Terminal, iChat, Safari and Sherlock, and you’ve got my toolbelt stocked.


Lou Quillio's picture
Lou Quillio on October 31, 2003 - 13:53 Permalink

Thanks for this list, Peter. I’ll be switching very soon, and this sounds like the kit I’d take months to stumble onto (Matt Mullenweg’s not switching, btw).

‘Course “switching” isn’t accurate because there’ll always be a Windows box (or three) around. Guess it’s a matter of going multi-platform — bi-platform, for those comfortable with their PC orientation. Actually, the best part is that by adding OS X one gets FreeBSD on the Q.T.

Tri-platform. Don’t tell my folks. I’ll break it to them.

Daniel Von Fange's picture
Daniel Von Fange on October 31, 2003 - 14:56 Permalink

Could you tell a little why you prefer MacSFTP? I’ve always used Transmit…

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on October 31, 2003 - 16:44 Permalink

MacSFTP has one of the most responsive developers I’ve ever encountered. He deserves my support. The program is simple, and it works. I don’t like a two-paned design.

Dale's picture
Dale on October 31, 2003 - 17:35 Permalink

Hey Peter. I was just wondering about your Quicken comment. Is there something that Quicken 2004 for Mac is lacking? I am not sure why the Virtual PC is required. Thanks for any input.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on October 31, 2003 - 18:30 Permalink

Dale, Quicken for Home and Business is sort of “QuickBooks Lite” — it does what Quicken 2004 does, but also has accounts payable, invoicing, etc. I’ve looked at QuickBooks for Mac, but it won’t export to QuickBooks for PC, and my accountant, thus, can’t eat its data.

Lou Quillio's picture
Lou Quillio on May 4, 2004 - 12:09 Permalink

I’ve followed a lot of this advice. Went for the entire OmniGroup Bundle (especially enjoy OmniGraffle — but note that Visio import/export requires Visio XML, and the files are huge). On the evil side, MS Office X has turned out to be a swell investment: OpenOffice on OS X is still quite behind. The “Student & Teacher” version of Office X is US$149 (street price slightly less) and comes with three licenses. Why do I qualify? I have kids in school. It’s not like they check, anyway.

Also like Transmit for SFTP. Tried quite a few before settling there.

BBEdit has worked out well, and GraphicConverter was a no-brainer at US$30. But I’ve spent too much time with PaintShop Pro to give it up; just not productive without it. Evil loomed again, in the form of VirtualPC.

Yet this is only a G4 iBook and US$249 is a little steep, so I took another route: TightVNC server on the Win2K box, VNCThing on the iBook. Very peppy (and looks good) over the wireless LAN. Lets me duck-into an essential Windows app, saving-off to the Mac over an SMB share if I like. Now the Windows box can sit in the corner and fulfill its true destiny as a file store, yet still give up a few drops of M$ goodness once in a while.

It’s a little more awkward remotely: there’s port-mapping to do and an IP to scribble, and things are certainly slower than in-office. Still, it works nicely for me and costs nothing.


Isaac's picture
Isaac on May 4, 2004 - 16:47 Permalink

May I suggest Remote Desktop Connection instead of VNC. The mac client is free, rock solid, and I find its way faster than VNC. On a local network its like a local machine (VNC is still laggy). And with ssh port-forwarding you can safely use it remotely, and perfomance is still great.

As far as support, I think win 2000 and XP both have RDC services built in.

Isaac's picture
Isaac on May 4, 2004 - 16:49 Permalink

Oh, and may I suggest Interarchy 7 as a great ftp/sftp client. It by far matched my needs for remote editing of files, and has all the same views finder does as well.

Lou Quillio's picture
Lou Quillio on May 4, 2004 - 18:49 Permalink

May I suggest Remote Desktop Connection instead of VNC.

Thanks for the suggestion. I’d prefer RDC, but it’s a Win2k *Pro* box that I’d like to act as a server (to access it from my iBook). As far as I know, Terminal Services aren’t available on Win2k Pro. Easy enough to set up a client, but I want to go the other way.

Isaac's picture
Isaac on May 5, 2004 - 01:16 Permalink

XP has a terminal services server built in for sure, I use it all the time. So you might want to double check 2k Pro just to be sure.

Lou Quillio's picture
Lou Quillio on May 5, 2004 - 15:28 Permalink


Believe me, I’ve checked. Every rock you turn over on this subject has plenty of folks underneath it asking the same questions and getting the same answers. The upshot is that XP Pro (or better) has terminal services availability. So do Win2k Server and (maybe) NT Server or better.

The client will run on almost anything, but the server requires terminal services and it just ain’t there below these versions. Alternatives are Netmeeting Shared Desktop (slow, Windows only) and SMS 2.0 (overkill). VNC or a commercial solution are all that’s left for my configuration — short of an XP Pro upgrade.