The Practical Mac

Indispensable OS X Wares

A 'Best of the Practical Mac' Column

- 2002.04.09 - Tip Jar

Mac OS X is almost everything you could ask for in an OS. If "almost" is not good enough for you, here are ten programs that help make your OS X experience complete.

1. VueScan

One area well behind the curve in making the move to OS X is scanner drivers. VueScan fills the gap by providing connectivity for a host of different scanners.

2. PageSucker

PageSucker is a tool for off-line browsing. Put in a URL, tell the program how many levels deep to download, and away you go. PageSucker downloads complete Web pages or even entire sites in a format that allows it be copied to disk or CD and viewed later, after disconnecting from the Internet.

3. Palm Desktop

For owners of Palm PDA's, the wait is over. The Palm Desktop final release is finally here for OS X. Even if you don't own a Palm, you may find the Palm Desktop a fine Personal Information Manager in its own right.

4. Samba Sharing Package

Samba (included with OS X) allows you to share your files on a Windows network, but setup can be daunting. Samba Sharing Package simplifies setting up a basic Samba server.

5. BrickHouse

BrickHouse, which has been featured prominently in this column in the past, simplifies the configuration of the firewall which is built into OS X.

6. CookWare

This program includes over 700 built-in recipes. If you would like to add recipes to CookWare (and an unlimited number can be added), you can find recipes with one click by using the built-in Web resource helper. If you need to convert Serving Sizes or Ounces to Liters you can use the built-in conversion helper. You can also send a recipe to your friends via e-mail with just a couple clicks. CookWare automatically formats the recipe for e-mailing and remembers e-mail addresses and subjects.

7. Tea Timer

One's first impression of this program might be, "minimal." It is, as its name implies, a countdown timer. I have used this program for years, first in Windows and now on the Mac. I have come to rely on it when I have popped something in the microwave, am allowing tea to steep or preparing instant soup. I am often working in another room, away from the microwave or other appliance, and may not be able to hear bells or buzzers. With Tea Timer, I can always keep track of what's cooking.

8. VNC

VNC is a free remote-control program produced by AT&T labs in England. Similar in features to Timbuktu, VNC is completely cross-platform. Control a Mac from a PC, a Unix machine from a Be box, etc. The possibilities are endless, and the price is unbeatable.

9. InterMapper

InterMapper is a network monitoring and alerting program that monitors a network and the servers connected to it. It notifies the network manager when there are problems. InterMapper can test many different kinds of servers, as well as displaying traffic rates, WAN utilization, and other critical network information. InterMapper can send notifications using sounds, email, or pages - or by running scripts and programs. It also has a built-in Web server, so you can view the health of the network remotely using a standard browser. An indispensable tool for Network Administrators.

10. OmniGraffle

OmniGraffle helps you draw beautiful diagrams, family trees, flow charts, org charts, layouts, and (mathematically speaking) any other directed or non-directed graphs. From the makers of OmniWeb, the fine OS X web browser, this program could be called, "Visio lite comes to the Mac."

As I was compiling this list, I noticed how many of the programs were now downloadable directly from Apple's site. Upon further investigation, I discovered that this was the case with every one of them and changed all links (except VNC, which has separate client and manager programs) to point to the download link on apple.com. Kudos to Apple for providing this valuable service to make the transition to OS X a little easier for everyone. LEM

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Steve Watkins is the Vice President for Information Technology for a mid-sized bank, an attorney, and an Army Reserve JAG on extended active duty. He has been a Mac user for about 12 years. He has owned some PCs along the way - but always came back to the Mac. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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