Must-have Mac Apps

New Mac Users, Start Here!

Helping Kelley get up and running with her new MacBook, I came up with the following list of apps (programs) which I think are useful for many, if not most, people.

  • Chrome, currently the best web browser (and more usable and extensible than Safari).
  • iWork, Apple’s cheap ($39 for students, $60-ish for others) but amazing alternative to Microsoft Office (mostly compatible with Office documents).
  • NeoOffice, a free Office alternative whose interface is just like Office 97 and Office XP (and very compatible with Office documents).1
  • µTorrent, a slim and useful BitTorrent client. (In fact, you can use BitTorrent to download NeoOffice from other users in a way that verifies the official download but does not put a load on the NeoOffice website.)
  • Movist, a media player that plays almost every kind of video. The traditional alternative is VLC.
  • Flip4Mac, a plugin that lets you play Windows Media files.

These applications are useful as well, but I would consider them optional:

  • Firefox, the famous open-source and extensible web browser.
  • Opera, another great browser with innovative and useful features.
  • TextWrangler, a free text and code editor, or if you are willing to pay for the best then get TextMate.
  • Twitterrific, a nice native Twitter client. Tweetie is now by far the best Mac Twitter client (and the best Twitter client in general).
  • iScrobbler, a tiny program that tells Last.FM what you are listening to in iTunes (to catalog your taste in music, find friends with similar taste, and more.).
  • iStat Nano, a Dashboard widget which shows hardware and OS stats for the curious.
  • Vuze, a powerful BitTorrent client

Some of those, like browsers and office suites, seem to have duplicate functionality, and indeed they do. I still recommend both apps in all cases because sometimes you find one tool is better for the particular job, or is more compatible with some website or document standard. (That said, sticking with NeoOffice only saves you some money.)


  1. This is the Mac version of OpenOffice.org↩︎


March 31st, 2009. (Updated: June 12, 2009 at 1:13pm.)
Alan Hogan (@alanhogan).  Contact · About