Slideshow: 10 Killer Mac Applications

Jul 24, 2010 (02:07 AM EDT)

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Let's face it, there aren't a lot of options when it comes to operating systems for computers, particularly if you want to run Mac applications. But Mac OS X is as good as it gets. Sure, there are things to be said for Windows and Linux. But in terms of malware risk, ease of use, and elegance, Mac OS X is largely what makes Mac applications worth using.

Adobe may be getting kicked around a lot these days, but Photoshop CS 5 is still pretty great. Sure, it could cost a lot less and could do with a more user-friendly UI, but if you're doing serious work with images, Photoshop still rules. The new Content-Aware Fill feature alone is almost enough to merit an upgrade from CS4.

Rogue Amoeba makes some really strong Mac audio software. Its Fission audio editing program is terrific. Apple's GarageBand has its uses, but Fission feels snappier and is much easier to use for editing sound. As an extra bonus, Fission makes it easy to save sound snippets as ringtones.

Time Machine, the backup software that Apple includes with Mac OS X, is a good start. But if you really want to guard against a file-wrecking disaster, you need off-site storage. Mozy gives you unlimited storage for just under $55 per year. It's the best insurance you can buy for your bytes and bits.

One thing that Time Machine doesn't do is make your backup disk bootable. SuperDuper! is a great little backup program that will create and maintain a bootable backup of your main hard disk. This is more useful than it might seem -- if you primary boot disk dies, you'll be glad you can just switch to a mirror image.

There are quite a few good text editors for the Mac. MacroMate's TextMate tops our list. It comes with useful bundles designed for work in specific programming or markup languages. It works well with Transmit. And it supports macros and all sorts of customizations. It's simple enough to use, but deep enough to satisfy the pickiest programmers.

So you're planning to take a trip. Why not take your DVDs with you on your iPhone? Just download a copy of HandBrake -- it's free -- and burn copies of your favorite DVDs to your computer. Drag the files into iTunes, sync, and you've got a portable movie library.

You might think a browser is enough for managing remote files, but Transmit is far better. It's fast, intuitive, and speaks a variety of protocols beyond FTP, such as SFTP, WebDAV and Amazon S3. It can synchronize files across servers and it's scriptable via AppleScript.

Programming mobile applications isn't easy, particularly in the case of games. Ansca Mobile's Corona strikes the right balance between ease of use and power. The forthcoming Corona Game Edition, in alpha testing as of early July, adds support for a physics engine. It's not the right tool for major studio 3D game project, but for 2D mobile games -- the sort you might have used Flash for had Apple CEO Steve Jobs not warned you against it -- Corona can put your project on iPods, iPads, iPhones and Android phones faster than you'd expect.

You spend most of your time using a Web browser more likely than not, so pick the best. Sorry Safari 5, your extension center doesn't launch until later this year. Firefox 4 Beta 1, you're just not stable or complete enough. Opera and IE...keep trying. For the moment, Chrome is where it's at, in terms of speed, stability and extensibility.