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the8thark 12-29-2010 02:18 PM

A Switchers guide to recommended free Apps to download to your new Mac
Hi all,

I have been thinking. We have antivirus topics there and what to do as a new Mac user topics. But over and over in the help topics we recommend the same free software to people. So I am going to make a nice little list of what I think is some of the essential software each new mac user should seriously look into downloading for their Mac. Just to make their life easier.

Only free Apps will be listed here on the whole.

Perian - The swiss-army knife of QuickTime® components
Why to get it: This optional install allows the quicktime player (the main media player on the Mac) to play all kinds of weird and wonderful video types. And for those coming from the Windows side this will allow quicktime to play most of your media files you loved while using Windows.

Apple - Downloads - Video - Flip4Mac Windows Media Components for QuickTime
Why to get it: Perian described above is great. But it can not handle .wmv or .wma files. Those 2 file types are very common in the Windows environment. And this download allows those 2 file types to be played through Quicktime (The main media player on the Mac). There is only one catch here. Flip4Mac will only handle unencrypted .wmv and .wma files. Nothing I know of will allow you to play the encrypted ones on your Mac.

Click To Flash
Why to get it: Firstly I'd like to say the first web browser you should be using when you are new to the Mac is Apple's Safari. Even if you are a Safari fan on Windows I'd suggest to start the Mac experience off with Safari (which is included on every purchased Macintosh computer.) Then later on if you feel the need you can move to your favourite browser.

And what Click To Flash does is disables (in Safari) all the flash content when a webpage is loaded up. But as the name says you only need one click on the flash object to activate it. So with this download you access only the flash content you want to. And you don't have to waste bandwidth downloading pointless flash that is useless to you. One all but very useful download. It will enhance your web browsing experience through safari 100% over and more.

AdBlock for Safari
AdBlock for Safari
Why to get it: If you are sick of all the advertising in every webpage you visit in safari, then downloading and installing this will fix that problem. All of those ads will simply not be downloaded or appear on any page. Saving you bandwidth and making the web pages you visit look a whole prettier in the process.

Why to get it: As the website says:
"Mactracker provides detailed information on every Apple Macintosh computer ever made, including items such as processor speed, memory, optical drives, graphic cards, supported Mac OS versions, and expansion options. Also included is information on Apple mice, keyboards, displays, printers, scanners, digital cameras, iPod, Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, Wi-Fi Cards/Base Stations, Newton, and Mac OS versions."
How is this information useful you ask? Well this Application is like an encyclopaedia for every single Apple product ever released. So if you are ever unsure about any of the technical specs of the Mac computer you own now or have owned in the past, this Application has the information for you. Also if you ask a question on a Mac help website such as this one and they ask you for example "how much RAM does your computer have?" or "what CPU does your computer have?" or some other strange technical spec question you have the answers. They are all in this Application.

And as an added bonus most products listed in the Application have a detailed history of how the product came to be. Nice to know for anyone interested in this kind of thing.

Titanium's Software • Home
Why to get it: First I'll just begin by listing the website's info on what these 2 Applications are.

OnyX is a multifunction utility for Mac OS X which allows you to verify the Startup Disk and the structure of its System files, to run misc tasks of system maintenance, to configure some hidden parameters of the Finder, Dock, QuickTime, Safari, iTunes, Login window, Spotlight and many Apple’s applications, to delete caches, to remove a certain number of files and folders that may become cumbersome and more.

Maintenance is a System Maintenance and Cleaning utility for Mac OS X which allows you to run misc tasks of system maintenance: repair permissions, run periodic scripts, reset Spotlight’s Index, rebuild the LaunchServices database, delete Application, Font and System cache, check the status of the Hard disk...

Yes it true OS X (the Mac operating system) has very little issues with viruses, maleware, worms and trojans. So you can forget about antivirus on your Mac. You will not need it. But every one in a while it is nice to in a way clean your Mac and make sure it's running in tip top shape and these 2 applications do this task for you.

Onyx gives the user many different options to keep their Mac in tip top shape. And is also good as a tool if there is a very rare issue with your Mac.

Maintenance on the other hand is the same as Onyx but the Application is optimised to the point where you only have a few options. And in essence all you need to do is click start and it'll work it's magic on your Mac. This is the one of the 2 use mostly. It has less confusing options then Onyx does. Perfect for the new to the Mac person who just wants a simple one click to keep the Mac in tip top shape. I use this App about once a month give or take. It's not something you need to use every day. But every month or so whenever you can get around to it, use the Application and your Mac will thank you for it.

Thanks to TattooedMac - He suggests Main Menu.
This Application does the same things as Onyx/Maintenance does. Just another very nice free option to choose from.

Adium - Download
Why to get it: Social networking is a bug thing these days on the internet. And most people would be familiar with how you can chat to your friends on windows messenger or Yahoo chat IM or their favourite chat Application. For those who don't, this is a way through typed text to communicate to your friends or family be they next door or on the other side of the world. And you can have an almost real time text chat to them As long as they have an internet connection and a computer you can contact them.

But there are many many different chat programs/applications out there to chat to each other via the internet. And you need the same APplication as they do to chat to them. And this can get annoying as then you have to download the Application each person has and learn to use each different one. Annoying at the best of times. But Adium on the other hand can communicate to 18 of the world's most popular chat programs (or networks). So any of your friends or family are using one of these 18 applications to chat (and it's most likely they are) you only need to have this one Application Adium to chat to them all.

App Cleaner
Why to get it: Sure it's nice to install Applications. And use them, and have fun doing so. But there are times you want to remove APplications from your Mac. And sure you can drag the application or application folder to the trash and hit Empty trash from the finder's finder menu. But often little random files associated with the application are left on your Mac.

Most times these little files pose to threat to your Mac if they stay there. But it is nice to have the removed too. So all you have to do is drag the application you rant to remove onto the App Cleaner App and hit delete and it will remove the unwanted Application and all of it's associated files into the trash. You will still need to then go into the finder's finder menu and hot empty trash to permanently rid your computer of the files. But using the step with App Cleaner makes sure all of the unwanted parts are removed. A very handy service I would recommend.

AppDelete and AppZapper are in essence different Application with the same functionality as App Cleaner. But those two Applications are not free. I mention them as some people swear by them. I would say try the free one first and if you are happy with it's results then there's no need to purchase the paid applications. Personally I prefer AppZapper. But for 95% of things (in essence most of what people will do) App Cleaner does the job just fine.

Colloquy: IRC, SILC & ICB Client
Why to get it: Read the first post in this link below. It tells you exactly how to use and install Colloquy.

Also read the first post on this link below to explain the Mac-Forums IRC room.

This Application lets you enter internet chartrooms and chat to many people all at once. Like a big friendly chat. Our forums have one of these chartrooms set up. So if you are interested ask about it on the forums and I'm sure someone will be willing to help you through it all if you are interested.

the8thark 12-29-2010 02:19 PM

Disk Inventory X
Disk Inventory X
Why to get it: As the website says:
"If you've ever wondered where all your disk space has gone, Disk Inventory X will help you to answer this question."
This Application will give you a very nice visual representation of the contents of your hard drive. So you can find out if you have any files taking up too much space or anything. A very nice tool to have at your disposal.

The Unarchiver
The Unarchiver
Why to get it: I think the website explains this well.
"The Unarchiver is a much more capable replacement for "Archive", the built-in archive unpacker program on Mac OS X. The Unarchiver is designed to handle many more formats than Archive Utility, and to better fit in with the design of the Finder. It can also handle filenames in foreign character sets, created with non-English versions of other operating systems. I personally find it useful for opening Japanese archives, but it should handle many other languages just as well."

This Application can expand almost every type of compressed file archive you will ever come across in your travels on your Mac. It's my unpacker application of choice.

UnRarX - Mac OS X RAR Extraction Utility
Why to get it: If you need to expand passworded .rar archives this is one of the only applications that constantly works for me. If you have no need to expanded passworded .rare archives then don't bother downloading this Application. As The Unarchiver above does pretty much everything. I and a lot of people I know need this app "UnrarX" for this one feature. That's why it's listed here.

istat Pro
istat Pro, a dashboard widget by iSlayer
Why to get it: From the website:
"iStat Pro is a highly configurable widget that lets you monitor every aspect of your Mac, including CPU, memory, disks, network, battery, temperatures, fans, load & uptime and processes. iStat Pro can do it all."
So if you need to check things like fan speeds or chip temperatures or bandwidth being used you can do it very easily.
And the link below explains exactly what a widget is and now to use them.
Mac OS X 10.6 Help: Dashboard and widgets

Why to get it: here is the wikipedia article on the application. This explains exactly what the Application is and does.
I know this Application os very popular and is widely recommended. But personally I would try to learn and understand the Mac system if you are new to it before trying this Application out. And when you are relatively familiar with how OS X (The Mac's System) runs and how to use it then you can try this application. It's a personal thing. Some people love it. Others don't ever use it. But this Application very often tops the best free Mac application lists over and over. And for a good reason too. It's a darn good application. Just not for everyone.

My recommendation hereis play with the finder first as it is out of the box. Give it a week or so. Maybe longer, it up to you. Then feel free to try this application if you want to.

the8thark 12-29-2010 02:19 PM

If you feel another application needs to be in this guide let me know soon (before the ability to edit posts goes away for the original posts, and I'll add your app in).

louishen 12-29-2010 03:11 PM

have a look at these links, and see if any make the grade

15 Must-Have Free Apps For Your Mac & Giveaway
Most Popular Free Mac Downloads of 2010

the8thark 12-29-2010 03:20 PM

Thanks louishen.
I'll take a look at those links now. And to let you know I'm aiming at the free App market here for my posts. But if anything from those posts stands out I'll be sure to add it in. And thank you :)

And as a specific point of interest. I don't use Quicksilver. But I know a lot of Mac users do. But I'm not 100% certain it's the best thing for a "new to the mac" person. As you get the Quicksilver interface and not Apple's standard interface. I could add it in as a note to say learn the default finder interface and become familiar with it first. But I dunno. I'll have to think about that one.

DaFlake 12-29-2010 05:19 PM

Excellent post! :)

chas_m 12-29-2010 05:24 PM

Yes, bravo!

I'd like to add the suggestion of Skype to the list. I personally prefer iChat and FaceTime for video-calling, but Skype works very well with PCs -- particularly older ones -- and offers the option of calling real phones (and more) for a nominal fee. I've just now switched my entire home telephone setup to Skype, and bought an incoming number AND unlimited North America calls -- for a grand total of $60/year.

TattooedMac 12-29-2010 06:12 PM

Ill have to add on MainMenu 1.7.4.

MainMenu is a lot like OnyX~Titanium Software. This .v is the free version so dont update it as it will update to the 2.1.1 paid version.
The reason i add this is because i believe for a *switcher* MM is so much easier to use than onyX. To many times a switcher has said they dl it and didnt know how to set onyX up and now there system isnt working ....

MM is easy to set up and then just sits in the menu bar for quick accessibility.

I liked it to the point of buying it. onyX i believe is for people that know what there doing ... Still a great App though.

.. Don't have time to run all the various tools and scripts to keep your Mac running smoothly? MainMenu makes these tasks quick and easy, right from your menubar.

Rebuilding your Spotlight library for faster searching, repairing permissions, cleaning caches to improve application performance, and even more advanced settings - such as enabling and disabling the Dashboard - are no more than two clicks away.

MainMenu is full of powerful maintenance tools to keep your Mac running like new, within a slick, simplistic interface.

the8thark 12-30-2010 07:57 AM

TattooedMac - I added in Main Menu in my first post.
And I agree with your point with Onyx about how it can be a little complicated for the new to the Mac user. That's why for them I recommend Maintenance over Onyx for them.

IvanLasston 12-30-2010 08:40 AM

Quicksilver is a great launcher and it is what I use all the time. Two really good articles on how powerful Quicksilver actually is (beyond a launcher)
Hack Attack: A beginner's guide to Quicksilver
(this second one has other programs but he uses a combo of quicksilver, dropbox and geektool to display his todo list)
5 Amazing Mac Apps for Getting Things Done (Plus a Custom-Rigged Setup) | zen habits

More free stuff

Windows Utilities you might miss when switching
Better Touch Tool
Downloads (SecondBar & BetterTouchTool) » BetterTouchTool & SecondBar
Tired of just the default gestures that Apple gives you? Better touch tool allows you to configure multitouch to your heart's content. Also has the windows snapping of Windows 7.

For all the windows 7 taskbar lovers. In beta currently but works well.

istats menu 2
Monitor your Mac like your Windows Box.
iStat Menus 2.0 for Mac free Download
Free version is 2.0. 3.0 adds a lot of good features but is rather steep in price. They had a sale when it first released.
iStat Menus, a Mac app by Bjango
They also make dashboard widgets
iStat Pro, a Dashboard Widget by iSlayer
iStat nano, a Dashboard Widget by iSlayer

FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, Cloud Files, Google Docs & Amazon S3 Browser for Mac & Windows.
FTP,SFTP,Webdav client. One of the few I've found that uses rsa key authentication

*NIX and Free/Open Source stuff
Macports and Fink
For the Linux switchers. Package managers - gets you a lot the FOSS software for your Mac.
The MacPorts Project -- Home
Fink - Home
And for Linux switchers you'll want to install xcode and X11.
Apple Developer

Shell Here
To get a shell in the directory you are in try Shell Here.
Download ShellHere 1.0.5 Free - Open a new Terminal window from Finder - Softpedia

Text editors for masochists and linux switchers
macvim - Project Hosting on Google Code
Aquamacs: Emacs for Mac OS X

Tag files with keywords - makes it easier to find files in Spotlight

For laptop users: to set the video card you want
gfxCardStatus - cody krieger

Access your Exchange 2003 server through OWA. Allows you to use any CalDav, CardDav, and IMAP or Pop email client. Although there is built in support in iCal, Address Book, and Mail for Exchange 2007 - there is no support for 2003. This allows you to use the default apps in Mac with Exchange 2003. (Or you could use Thunderbird, Eudora, Sunbird, etc)
DavMail POP/IMAP/SMTP/Caldav/Carddav/LDAP Exchange Gateway

Remote access
Chicken of the VNC
Chicken of the VNC | Download Chicken of the VNC software for free at
Or Mac screensharing
cmd-space -> screen sharing

Windows RDC
Remote Desktop connection is Windows' way to view your desktop from another computer.
Remote Desktop Connection Client for Mac | Office For Mac

Team Viewer
TeamViewer - Free Remote Access and Remote Desktop Sharing over the Internet

Keyboard/Mouse share between any computer/OS.
Synergy - Welcome - Synergy
Mac OS X Synergy Configurator | Download Mac OS X Synergy Configurator software for free at

VLC media player
Play just about anything. Perian and Flip4Mac also cover this for Quicktime - but I have VLC on every computer no matter the OS.
VideoLAN - VLC media player for Mac OS X

XJ-linux 12-30-2010 09:18 AM

Handbrake - convert video to to .mp4 and .m4v iTunes format
Applejack - clean the OS cache, fix disk permissions, etc in single user mode
NeoOffice/Open Office Org - free office platform
Virtual Box - free virtualization software (run Linux, Windows, etc without rebooting)
Gimp - photo editing application with many Photoshop features
Thunderbird - email program that can allow you to import MS Outlook .pst files into Apple Mail
doubleTwist - sync your iTunes library and play lists with your Android device

schweb 12-30-2010 10:32 AM

I really like this, thanks everyone for adding to it.

I'd like to make it a sticky since I do think this is a valuable resource, but I want to wait until the Mac App store is released to tie the links to that (if it's possible...not sure yet?).

But let's keep adding to the list so we can have a good, comprehensive overview by mid-January.

wavinwayne 12-30-2010 10:45 AM


the8thark 12-30-2010 11:20 AM


Originally Posted by schweb (Post 1161075)
I really like this, thanks everyone for adding to it.

I'd like to make it a sticky since I do think this is a valuable resource, but I want to wait until the Mac App store is released to tie the links to that (if it's possible...not sure yet?).

But let's keep adding to the list so we can have a good, comprehensive overview by mid-January.

I can only add so much to the list before I can't edit the original posts anymore. And the posts can only hold 10k characters. That's why I had to have 2 posts for it.

Secondly I wanted to do more then just a simple list of apps. I wanted to tell the people new to the Mac what each App does and why they should download it. Sure you can google up many app lists. But very few go into detail as to why a new Mac user should have them.

Thirdly I'm not putting in things like firefox or thunderbird. Sure they are great apps. But as many people have said in many switcher topics here it's best to use the Apple versions (safari and mail for example) first. So they can get a good feel as to how things are done on the Mac. Later on they can switch to whatever apps they want. But as an initial learning tool having all their apps with the same layout can help them more easily become familiar with the OS X layout of things.

I could have a separate list for Alternatives to Apple Apps. And have FF as the safari alternative and TB as the mail alternative etc etc. That might work.

And lastly all of the apps on my list are free. We could have a paid list too if you wanted.

XJ-linux 12-30-2010 11:36 AM


Originally Posted by the8thark (Post 1161104)
Thirdly I'm not putting in things like firefox or thunderbird. Sure they are great apps. But as many people have said in many switcher topics here it's best to use the Apple versions (safari and mail for example) first. So they can get a good feel as to how things are done on the Mac. Later on they can switch to whatever apps they want. But as an initial learning tool having all their apps with the same layout can help them more easily become familiar with the OS X layout of things.

While these are wonderful intentions, you might consider the whole package of who your target audience is. Switchers - the name itself implying that they are coming from something else to Mac OS X. It is likely that these people would be coming from Windows or Linux. You might consider that in either of these cases, Thunderbird has a somewhat special (and free) capacity to allow importing of Outlook (and Mozilla) mail into the Apple you are favoring. You might consider mentioning this, at least in passing, as a Switcher intending to switch to may well need an application to import their messages to their new Mac.

Or don't. It really doesn't effect my paycheck one way or the other...

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