8 Free Apps Every Mac User Should Know About

2007 – During my time as a Mac fan and user, I have accumulated a suite of free applications that all serve a purpose for me. I use the ones that I list here on regular basis, and theyare perfect at performing the jobs they are designed to do.

If you’re new to OS X or are just trying to find the right app that fits the job just right, this little list should help you.

Opera

I stopped using Safari because I became dissatisfied with its lack of updates and features. It was falling behind Firefox on both regards, but I heard bad things about its resource usage, and that helped me stumble upon Opera. It’s a browser that’s had a lot of history, and since becoming totally free, it has finally started to make a dent in the browser market share data. [At Low End Mac, it was the #4 browser with 3.5% last month. A year ago it only accounted for 1.5% of our traffic, which put it behind Camino. dk]

I use Opera mainly because of the way it handles tabs. In Safari, I often had 8 or 9 tabs open – only for it to stop responding, meaning I had to force quit it (Cmd-Opt-Esc). As such, I lost all of my carefully arranged tabs upon restart. Not so with Opera, as it automatically saves your last set of tabs as a session. If you have to restart for whatever reason, you will return with all of you tabs intact. Perfect!

Also, unlike Safari, which eventually has to be restarted when it starts to slow OS X down to a crawl due to a bloated cache and history, Opera will happily continue for days with no such effect on performance.

There are many features to be discovered in Opera, and if you’re looking for an alternative to Safari. you should give it a try.

iBackup

iBackup does exactly what it says in the title, it backs up! Upon launching the app. you simply select the folder or folders that you wish to back up and specify where you want to save the backup. The program does all the work for you. It’s a great way to ensure your files and folders are copied, as it works with external hard drives and has a very simple interface. If you have a large enough hard drive to accommodate it, you should simply tell iBackup to copy your OS X home folder – that way you’ll have absolutely everything from your OS X installation backed up.

A program like this is a potential lifesaver!

FFmpegX

As great as iMovie and iDVD are, I find them very limited. They only work with a select few types of video files, and they export to even less. I often find myself needing to convert video files obtained through a download or captured through EyeTV to a format that can be read by my PSP or DivX DVD player.

FFmpeg does this and more. It’s like the proverbial Swiss army knife of video applications. It can import practically every type of video file in existence and export to just as many. You can use the advanced options to tweak and tinker the quality of the output, in terms of video and audio. You can even use it to author basic DVDs by converting your video files and making a Disk Utility burnable DVD image file.

In addition to its conversion functions, you can split, join, compress, and separate audio from video with FFmpeg. If you deal with a lot of differing video file types and find iMovie too limiting, FFmpegX should be the answer to your needs.

VLC

In my opinion, VLC is the best media player for OS X – and indeed any of the many platforms it’s available for. With VLC you can play pretty much any kind of video and audio file. It has a lot more options to tweak than QuickTime that can help streamline playback of your media to suit you. It even has a full screen mode that doesn’t require a “Pro” license, as well as support for the Front Row remote to allow control from the other side of the room.

VLC handles playback of DVDs better than Apple’s own DVD player.

If you’re struggling to get a video or audio file to play with QuickTime or iTunes, you can guarantee that VLC will do the trick. Awesome application.

Mactracker

If you’re reading Low End Mac (LEM) regularly, there’s no doubt that you’re Mac obsessed – and Mactracker is the perfect complement to a daily dose of LEM. Featuring a database of every Mac ever released as well as detailed system specs and history, it’s a vast resource of Mac knowledge. If you ever wanted to know what the RAM limit of a PowerBook 3400 was or the native screen resolution of a slot-loading G3 iMac, you can find it here. The only thing it lacks is the personal touch that LEM provides. With both resources in your arsenal, you can’t lose.

The Unarchiver

So your PC owning friend has sent you a file compressed in .RAR format that you can’t open with Mac OS X’s default BOMarchivehelper app. Not too worry, because The Unarchiver serves as a replacement for OS X’s archive utility. It has much more functionality than the built-in app, as it can handle .zip, .rar, .7zip, .sit, .hqx, .gzip, and many more obscure archive formats that you probably haven’t heard of. Install this baby and kiss your compressed file woes good-bye.

DOSBox

Ever wanted to play Wolfenstein 3D or Frontier Elite 2 but can’t find a Mac version? Or you wish to go back to those naïve days of PC ownership when you knew nothing other than inferior and clunky user interfaces like MS-DOS and the (admittedly) great games it provided. If you experienced either, then DOSBox is for you. It’s essentially an MS-DOS emulator, and it’s primarily used to emulate old DOS games not supported by newer systems, Mac or otherwise.

As a Mac owner, this means the door is open to thousands of classic DOS games that were never ported to the Mac, such as the Lucasfilm adventure games, Sensible Soccer, Elite and its sequels, Mortal Kombat, and tonnes more besides. It can even run games straight from their original CDs and floppies if your Mac is so equipped.

DOSBox runs on both PowerPC and Intel Macs, but performance is greatly increased on Macintel due to the fact that MS-DOS ran on Intel chips throughout its lifespan. The interface takes a bit of getting used to, but there are plenty of tutorials on its use if you Google them.

ClamXav

There are a few OS X antivirus solutions, and none are free – with one exception. None of them keep things as simple as ClamXav. ClamXav is an OS X port of ClamAV, the widely used Linux virus scanner.

Okay, I hear your say “OS X doesn’t have any viruses.” That’s mostly true (although there were a couple of scares last year), but that doesn’t mean they can’t be downloaded to your Mac’s Internet cache folder should you access a malicious website. ClamXav will help you weed out files that are harmless to a Mac but could wreak havoc when transferred to a friends PC.

ClamXav has a vast virus database that can rival any from a commercial app, and its regularly updated so new threats are accounted for. I use ClamXav to scan my OS X library folder, where the app will catch any potentially PC killing viruses that could be stored in the many caches Opera and Safari use for temporary downloads.

With ClamXav, you can ensure that PCs can exchanges files with you safely, and it’s amusing to keep a quarantined folder on your Mac to contain the captured virus files.

Further Reading

Keywords: #operabrowser #ibackup #ffmpegx #vlc #mactracker #theunarchiver #dosbox #clamxav #freeware

Short link: https://goo.gl/Pr1IJl

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