15 Mac Apps I Can't Live Without

by Alan Graham

Everyone has their favorite applications, but these are 15 of my personal favorites that I've collected here because they save me time or solve a particularly unique problem. I hope you find something on this list useful.

*In the interst in saving time, I've collected all the links for these applications and you can find them on my personal blog here.

What Stickies should have been! An unobtrusive notepad that hides just off to the side of the screen...awaiting your mouse to release it. It slides out, allows you to drag and drop...cut and paste...just about anything. Quick...and easy.

Cost: Free


Snapz Pro
What can I say about Snapz Pro except this is the Mercedes of screen grab applications. From grabbing small areas to taking movies of the screen...I've found no other screen grab app that does as much as Snapz Pro, or works as well.

Cost: $69


Chax adds all the features to iChat that are missing. From tabbed chat windows, to searchable logs. Works with Growl.

Cost: Donationware


Chicken of the VNC
A lot of people don't realize it, but in System Preferences>Apple Remote Desktop is a checkbox for enabling VNC.

This allows you to login to your machine remotely and control the screen. I have a recycled Titanium in my house running as a server. I sometimes need to access it, but since I keep it in the basement rafters, it isn't easily accessible. Chicken of the VNC is a great free VNC client that allows me to control the Titanium remotely in a Window.

Cost: Free


I take a lot of Panorama shots with my digital camera. DoubleTake is a brilliant little app that lets me drag and drop the images and stitch them together with almost zero effort.

Click Here for Samples

Cost: $16


Free Ruler/SmallScreenX
Free Ruler works as a movable screen ruler so you can easily measure any item on the screen. I use it when building web pages, programming applications, and doing graphics.

But perhaps you want to get an idea of what an 800x600 window looks like and if the work you are doing will fit inside it? SmallScreenX does just that by creating a movable box that you can place around anything on the screen to get a better idea of what another screen resolution might be looking at.

Cost: Free


While the MPAA wants the government to believe that ripping movies is a violation of fair-use, shifting legally purchased content from one location to another for your own personal use...is a necessity.

I don't like having a hundred of my DVDs lying about the house, so I used Mac The Ripper to quickly rip my DVDs to a hard drive, and then HandBrake to later convert them to a smaller video file. This way I can take a 7GB file and get it under a 1GB. I stream these movies to my TV/Laptop using a NAS drive. No clutter...and my movies on demand, 24/7.

Cost: Free


DynDNS Updater
I run my own server at home for personal and business use. I also use an internet provider that likes to block web ports and I don't feel like paying through the nose for a Static IP. Using Dynamic DNS in combination with the DynDNS Updater application and a little router port forwarding magic...I'm able to keep my own server running and accessible to my clients.

Cost: Free


Netflix Freak
This app was definitely worth what I paid for it. Instead of spending time using a web browser to work with my two queues, I just use Netflix Freak to manage my movies. I like the simplicity of dragging and dropping and reordering my queue on the fly.

Cost: $15


Sometimes you just gotta edit a PDF file...and that's what PDFpen does. It gives you the power to make changes to pdfs, like adding additional pages and content, or just rearranging the pages.

Cost: $49.95


Every so often, my girlfriend and I like to sit in bed and watch movies. We don't keep a TV in the bedroom, so I simply fire up VLC on my 17" and stream them from the NAS drive.

Cost: Free


InVisibles is a handy little Applescript that does one thing and one thing only...it turns all the invisible files on your computer visible. If you don't know why you'd want to do this...you probably don't need this. But a handy tool nonetheless.

Cost: Free/Donationware


IP Scanner
Every once in awhile I need to take a peek at all the IP addresses and machine names on a network. This program scans the current subnet and returns a list within a minute. When you run a dynamic DHCP network, you often run into the need to see what's going on, and possibly don't have access to a router to view it's admin logs.

Cost: Free/$25


David Battino
2006-06-28 17:14:10
Graphic Converter saves me time and time again. I also use the heck out of the Pixture contextual menu plug-ins. Thanks for the tips on the other programs.
Joel Fugazzotto
2006-06-28 17:55:35
Great list of apps! Some I've used, but most I haven't. A couple intrigued me. If you ever want to go into some detail, I'd be interested in hearing how you setup your server using DynDNS Updater. I'd also be intested in the details behind how you stream movies to your TV using a NAS. Thanks again for the app list and how you use them.
Michael Leishman
2006-07-01 17:59:51
I can't get by without Transmit or PureFTPd (server).
Thanks for the list.
You should link to these apps.
CHeers, Michael
Alan Graham
2006-07-03 09:29:30
Michael...the links for all these apps are on a blog post on my personal blog...the link is at the top of this post.



2006-07-03 16:33:20
I can't help but notice a pattern in the applications which leads me to a question.

You list Netflix Freak, so you're a Netflix subscriber.

You list HandBrake/MactheRipper, so you have the ability to copy a Netflix-rented DVD to your NAS (network accessible storage).

You list VLC, so you can watch movies stored on your NAS in bed.

I guess I'm wondering whether you and your girlfriend sit in bed and watch the same "legally purchased" movies again and again. "No Honey, we watched Blade Runner two weeks ago!!!"

Or let me just ask you for an honest answer -- do any movies that were not legally purchased end up on your NAS?

Alan Graham
2006-07-04 08:17:37
Well Bob...I don't know that I need to answer you at all...but I will. I don't rip movies to keep them...as very few movies (if any) have any replay value at all. And what's the point? I can get them in a day from Netflix anytime I like. I still buy movies...classics I want to have in my collection...The Third Man, 2001, Key Largo, etc...all those are ripped and the DVDs are in the basement. I also store my iTunes tv shows on the network which I'm able to stream via iTunes. And I also have an EyeTV and EyeHome...and those are converted to a viewable VLC format. And yes...we often replay the same movies/series from time to time...Little Brittain being one of them.

2006-07-05 13:41:07
Thanks for the list!

Your mention of "Chicken of the VNC" brings up some questions. I have a plain installation of 10.4.7 and have no system preference for "Apple Remote Desktop" that I can find. Can you suggest what I'm missing?

The whole idea of VNC and remote management of Macs appeals to me as I'm the family tech guy. I've seen notes about it and read some web pages, but I just can't seem to find out how to get started with it. Maybe the problem is that I need to buy something. Can you suggest a place to begin from the ground up?


Andy Lee
2006-07-05 23:29:21
I keep hearing how great VLC is, and once upon a time I do seem to recall it was great for viewing DVDs. But for a long time I haven't been able to open anything in it that I couldn't open in some other app. So I'm kind of disappointed.
2007-07-09 21:59:11

For a family tech guy, not even finding where to enable Apple Remote Desktop you're pretty incapable of providing any proper support, I would imagine. If you tried, your family members will probably think Macs don't work properly because of your inability to do simple things. I think you should hire someone who can actually support themselves, let alone support a family.

2007-08-23 17:02:17

Just go to System Preferences and type "apple remote" in the spotlight task... you'll see that the "Sharing" icon underneath the "Internet & Network" category is highlighted.

Just click on the "Sharing" icon and you will see "Apple Remote Desktop" available as a service under the "Services" tab.

There are a bunch of other interesting services available while you're there.

Good luck!

2007-12-14 10:02:04
I know this article is a bit old, but I was hoping you (or someone else) might be able to assist with this. I have an NAS setup similar to what you describe below for storing movies and TV shows. However, I have never been able to get good enough WiFi throughput to stream these seamlessly to an 802.11g device (perhaps 802.11n will solve my problems). All of the device connected by physical copper are able to stream data fine. Could you please describe specifically the equipment and configuration you are using so that I might be able to get my movies to stream wirelessly to my laptop without being all choppy? Thanks in advance.