My Mac starter pack

Last year I posted my essential free downloads for new Mac owners. With the arrival of the Mac App Store this year, and the fact that my dear friend @ImTheBigOJ has finally bought a Mac, I thought that I would revisit this topic, whilst also including a few paid apps you will love.

Applications are free unless stated.


I mentioned Alfred last year, over the past year it’s become absolutely essential, and I’m lost on any Mac without it. Be sure to create a system-wide Alfred hotkey (i.e. ⌘ + Space). Alfred can be a supercharged Finder, app launcher, and if you learn the system commands, a terrific GTD tool.

You need Caffeine. Fact. A simple task bar icon that overrides your Mac’s battery management and stops the screen dimming/going off.

CloudApp — share screen-grabs easily.

FormatMatch — copy and paste sans formatting (like shift-ctrl-v on a PC).

Dropbox — what do you mean you don’t use Dropbox?

TextExpander — accelerate your workflow. Warning! Once hooked, you will need miss this like crazy if you use a machine without it ($35).

1Password — brilliant password management software ($50).

What I said about Growl last year:

It’s amazing that Apple hasn’t just built Growl into the Mac. I couldn’t imagine a Macintosh without it – it just wouldn’t feel like a Mac. It’s an app that displays messages to alert you of changes to programmes you’re running. New emails, IM updates, or that a download is complete. It might sound a bit intrusive (not-to-mention anti-GTD), but the levels of customisation are insane, and you can create a version that suits your needs perfectly.


Three of the apps I mentioned last year are still worth having: Perian, VLC, and Handbrake.

In addition to this list I would add the great video player MPlayerX, which is my go-to video app whenever we watch anything. It will play almost any format you will throw at it. Aces.

Other Apps

MarsEdit — the best blogging software on any platform ($40).

Twitter for Mac. YoruFukurou is ace, but I prefer the official application (for now) — at least while it still resembles the original Tweetie app.

Sparrow — I prefer this lightweight IMAP client to Apple’s Partner with a Gmail account for email perfected ($10).

If you want a simple task list for your Mac, Wunderlist is probably the best option, as it syncs with Windows, Android, iOS and Mac.

If you have a Kindle you need Calibre.

Reeder is the perfect Mac RSS reader ($10).

I think that is pretty much it for must-have apps. If you know of any application that I absolutely must add, drop me an email and I’ll add to the list (and give you a credit). If there is a specific type of app you’re after, email me and I’ll help if I can.



Sparrow for iPhone

I have just spotted some excellent news over at Business Insider, the Sparrow team are working on a Gmail client for the iPhone.

I’ve been using Sparrow on the Mac for over a year and it’s by far the best mail client I have used for OSX. I can’t wait to see what they do with an iPhone app. I can move all my Gmail accounts over to Sparrow, and leave the stock mail app for Exchange.

Over in the States, Google have released an official iPhone app, and apparently it’s cat-meat. Shame, the Android app is fab.

Fanboys. Bite me

Comic Book Guy, a Tad Pensive, don't you think?

Image by Pocheco (Creative Commons).

I’ve been going to write this post for a while. It’s about fanboys. As someone who’s always been into gaming and tech, I’ve had long exposure to fanboys.

I remember just before Christmas when I was a young teen (thirteen or fourteen), I had asked my parents for a Commodore Amiga — which subsequently, they kindly bought for me. I was looking forward to Christmas morning, but every evening on the way home from school, my friend Adam would run-down the Amiga, and list all the reasons his Sega Megadrive (AKA Sega Genesis, which he had asked for) was going to be so much better.

I never challenged Adam. Not because the Amiga was inferior (it wasn’t), but because even then I knew it was a waste of time. I don’t enter debates when someone is fundamentally unwilling to compromise. This is why I no longer write a politics blog.

There was no-way I could say anything that would make Adam concede even the slightest point in any discussion, so why bother? To Adam the Megadrive was the dog’s dangly bits, and nothing I could say could make him think otherwise. Adam was a fanboy.

A year later and Nintendo’s SNES had been launched, and the second console wars had begun. If you’re a man of a certain age, you know all about the SNES vs Megadrive hostilities. I got a SNES the following Christmas and Adam switched to Nintendo, and somewhat ironically, we were “allies” for a short time. This certainly made the walks to school less combative.

I imagine the N64 vs PlayStation debate was similarity bloody, but by that time I was at Uni and more concerned with getting laid. I did get an N64 though, and we had a shared PlayStation in the digs.

As regular readers will know, I’ve been an Apple Mac user for many years. Naturally I’ve also had significant exposure to the Mac vs PC debate. At work I use Windows, at home a Mac. I prefer a Mac, but I don’t have any appetite whatsoever to get into an argument about it.

Probably the most vicious debate these days is about smartphones. You read the most ridiculous bullshit about smartphones. Most of the comments and tweets I read about the iPhone, are by people who’ve clearly not spent more than a few seconds in an O2 store with one. Likewise the idiots who claim that Android phones are over-complicated, or that there are no good apps available.

I use Macs, Windows and I have a Linux netbook. I have an iPhone 4 from work and my personal phone is a Samsung Galaxy SII rocking Android. They’re all really good devices and great operating systems. And for a long time I totally loved BlackBerry.

If you like your phone, games console or computer operating system, then great. And by all means tell people how much you — personally — really enjoy using it. But if you’re going to spend your time on Twitter or in the comments of a popular tech blog, commenting on devices or software you’ve never actually used seriously, then you Sir, are a moron of the highest order.

Fanboys are like the X-Factor or tabloid newspapers, they’re diverting but ultimately pointless.

We’re all capable and guilty of prejudice. But if you allow your loyalty to a brand (think about how stupid that sounds), to consume your ability to have a rational discussion, then you really should find a better outlet for your repressed insecurities.

This is not a blog for fanboys, this is a blog for rational geeks.

Apple investors demand dividend


[Apple VP & FCO Peter] Oppenheimer had heard the request before and explained that Apple is keeping its powder dry for “strategic opportunities,” without elaborating on what those could be, Rao said. The stock had almost doubled in the year before that meeting, and Oppenheimer argued Apple has been a good steward of its cash and investments, currently worth $76.2 billion.

Unsurprisingly, an investor is looking to tap into Apple’s vast cash reserves following Steve Jobs’ demise. Personally I think Steve’s greatest legacy, will be just that: his legacy. Apple will not forget Steve Jobs.

There will be no rash acquisitions. Whatever Apple does with its cash will be consistent with the roadmap Steve and the board will have committed to before he stepped down as CEO. Fear not, Kishore Rao, you can be confident your money is safe.

Marco Arment on Screen Size

Marco Arment on Screen Size:

As a four-year iPhone user, I’ve never thought, “You know what I don’t like about this phone? The screen’s too small. I’d like to reduce my battery life, and I’d like my phone to protrude from my pocket in a larger and more conspicuous rectangle, to achieve a larger screen that I cannot comfortably use one-handed. That would be completely worth it.”

I dunno. I’ve made my thoughts clear. I think a 4″ screen is the sweet-spot for a phone. But it’s a personal thing, I guess.

(Via The Brooks Review)