The Power of Mac

Back to School Software: 2002 Edition

Eric Schwarz - 2002.08.01

About a year ago I did an article on essential software for students going to school (either K-12 or college), and now that I'm running an almost-current Mac, I'm going back to see what counterparts of apps I suggested earlier are on my iBook's hard drive. I'll list the current program, as well as last year's in brackets.

Mac OS X (Mac OS 8.1/Mac OS 8.5/8.6)

I've pretty much switched all my day-to-day things over to OS X not only because of its power, but also for its stability. Not only does my iBook rarely crash, but things that used to drag the processor down (burning CDs is a good example) are given enough processing power to work, but you can do other work as well.

AppleWorks 6 & TextEdit (AppleWorks 5)

Since AppleWorks 5 wasn't OS X native, I decided to use the copy of AppleWorks that came with my iBook (6) and have had a very satisfying experience with it. All my AW5 files open fine, and the interface is more cleaned up, rather than tons of buttons. On slower Macs, it takes longer to load than AW5, but compared to Office v.X, it's still a much better program for all but the most demanding tasks.

I also found that Apple's built in TextEdit app can be customized and can be quite useful for some things that don't require lots of fancy features at all (like these articles and HTML code editing). And, since it's Cocoa, it takes advantage of all the built-in goodies of OS X.

OmniWeb (Internet Explorer 3 & 5)

I don't like IE that much anymore. I'm tired of Microsoft's games, and a while back I switched to iCab (IE 3 is still my favorite, since it wasn't 100% Microsoft and had a little of its Mosaic heritage in it). Although iCab for OS X is a fine piece of software, it's still a Carbon app, so I decided to try OmniWeb, and even though it doesn't conform to every standard, it's the best-looking Web browser I've used. It's also quite fast and compliments Apple's Mail program nicely.

GraphicConverter (PaintIt! and ColorIt!)

I use GraphicConverter a lot. It's basically like PaintIt! in terms of features and capabilities, except that it can read/write a lot more formats. For simple, fast graphic editing, GC is an excellent program.

nothing (HyperCard)

I've dropped the use of HyperCard, but I think I'd still use it if there was a Cocoa/Carbon version available.

PCalc 2 (TI-81 Emulator)

PCalc 2 came with my iBook and isn't a graphing calculator, but it works quite nicely, and it's free.

Mail (Internet Mail & News 3 / Outlook Express 5)

I dropped Outlook Express in favor of Eudora. Eudora for OS X was still in beta when I got my iBook, and it felt kinda slow. When the final version was out, I was kinda disappointed in the lack of taking advantage of OS X's power, so I gave Apple's Mail app a try. Lots of people hate it, but I find it to be quite fast, and it takes care of my many email accounts, both POP and IMAP.

iTunes (GrayAMP)

Well, it only seems natural that I'd replace my old MP3 playing software with the only major one (and the best one) for OS X. I'm talking about iTunes 3. I have all kinds of playlists, covering all the CDs I've ripped and the other music I've accumulated. Lots of features - just go to Apple's site to read about 'em.

LiteSwitch (LiteSwitch)

One of two original apps I still have (in updated form), LiteSwitch is a control panel that allows Command+Tab, Option+Tab, Control+Tab program switching (just like Windoze). This is all it does, and it does a good job at it. You can download it from The dock does this now, but I still like the switching box that appears (it's translucent and can be resized).

Palm Desktop (Palm Desktop)

The other old app whose counterpart I use now is Palm Desktop. I used to use it as an organizer, but now that I have a Palm Vx, I use it to sync my handheld and organize things. The OS X version is just like the older versions, just with an interface to match OS X. If you don't have a PalmOS handheld, you may still find this useful.

Adium (AOL Instant Messenger)

I didn't mention AOL Instant Messenger the first time, but I used to use it. Now that I have OS X, I use Adium, and you can read about the virtues of instant messaging in one of my previous articles.

Well, that's it for this week. Be sure to change and add to this list to create your own software list of "must-haves" for your Mac, whether it be an old 68k (look at last year's version of this article) or a new dual-processor G4 tower (read this year's version). LEM

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