I wish I could count how many of these posts there have been over the years of blogging, but I can’t. A recent read from a friend of mine’s blog has convinced me that I need to make a list, also. These are the apps that I either love, find very practical, use most often, or all of the above.
Quicksilver – The website describes this free app as “A unified, extensible interface for working with applications, contacts, music, and other data.” Although that is true, it really doesn’t give a clear picture to the average Mac user about how useful this app is. The interface is activated with a keystroke (mine is command-space) and then you start typing. The power of Quicksilver is that you don’t have to take your hands off the keyboard to use it, so it’s always at your fingertips no matter what app you’re using at the time. The difficulty in explaining this app is that it can do so much, that it’s hard to describe what it is. So, with that in mind, here are a few examples of what I use it for.
- It’s an application launcher. I can be typing away, and then activate it, and start typing the name of the app I want to open. It finds it as I type, and then I hit return and it opens it.
- I reboot my Mac. If I need to restart my Mac for some reason, I just activate it, start typing “restart” and then hit return, and it reboots my Mac.
- Control iTunes. I can be typing an email or using another app that takes up the screen and realize that I want to skip the currently playing track in iTunes, so instead of taking my hands off my keyboard and moving around windows or apps to see my iTunes controller, I just activate Quicksilver, type “next” and hit return and it skips the track.
- FTP uploads. I really find this one useful. I frequently upload images to my server for posting on my friends’ myspace pages or other places. I activate Quicksilver, type the name of the image, then tab over to the action field, start typing “upload,” tab over to the selection of servers, start typing the server name I want, arrow over to the directory on the server I want it to go, then hit return. I know it sounds like a lot, but this action seriously saves about 2 minutes each time I upload an image.
- Bookmarks. It keeps a list of my bookmarks from del.icio.us as well as my browser, so I can activate it from anywhere and start typing the name of the bookmark, hit return, and off it goes in my default browser.
I know that still might not impress you, but the reality is that the more you use it, the more you’ll find how powerful it is and how much time it’ll save you. One caution: if you don’t know how to type by touch, you’ll probably hate this app.
Camino – This is my favorite web browser hands down. It’s a free and open source project by the same people who make Firefox. The difference is that Camino is made to fit in better with the Mac interface so you get the look and feel of a native Mac app. The part that I really like about it is how fast it is. The startup time of Camino is much faster than both Safari and Firefox. The rendering of pages is also much faster. I’ve noticed that the nightly builds are even faster than the latest stable release. It doesn’t have the addons that Firefox has, but it does come with the ability to block pop-ups and web advertising. Once you learn to live without some of the excesses of Firefox, you’ll find that it’s a lightweight browser that gets out of your way and lets you surf the web faster.
VLC – This is a video player that plays just about anything. It’s free and open source, so there’s no reason for it to be missing from your Applications folder.
ImageWell – This is a free (for basic version), lightweight image editor. It’s great for when you want to email a photo to someone. You don’t want to send the full-size image, but you don’t want to open iPhoto or worse, Photoshop, and resize it in there. This app opens quickly, lets you resize or edit your image with some great basic features, and then use the image wherever you want. It also has a great built-in FTP client that lets you hit a button and upload the image to a preset server on the Internet.
Handbrake – I don’t know how many of you watch movies on your computer or iPod, but if you do, then you’ll want this app. It’s a free and open source conversion tool that will convert a DVD or VIDEO_TS folder into an iPod-friendly MPEG-4 video file (.mp4). I use it to archive my DVDs to my iMac, which has Front Row, which is connected to my TV. Now I can browse my movie library on my TV with the remote. Nice, huh?
Adium – Some might say I’m getting too old for instant messaging, but I don’t care! 🙂 I still enjoy chatting with my friends all around the world through the various services: AIM, Yahoo!, MSN, GTalk, and ICQ. Adium is a free and open source app that connects you to all of these networks (and more) and combines all your buddies into one easy-to-customize list. It has a tabbed IM window so that you don’t have to clutter up your screen, but rather can have all your conversations in one window. There are easy shortcuts to jump from tab-to-tab so that you don’t ever have to take your hands off the keyboard. It’s still ironing out some difficulties with file transfers, but it’s come a long way in that area. Other than that, it’s the best IM app ever created.
Those are about the most frequently used apps on my Mac, aside from the standards like iTunes, Quicktime, Photoshop, and iPhoto. If you haven’t tried some of these, then I encourage you to give it a shot because you have nothing to lose. I strongly recommend that everyone download and start using Quicksilver weather you like it or not. Eventually, you’ll learn how to use it and be thankful that you took the time to get used to it.