Software for Your New Mac

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One of the questions I often get from people switching to the Mac is what software should they get. Over time I have put together a list of software that any new (or old) Mac user should consider.

Dropbox: If you don’t have Dropbox, get it. Dropbox places a folder on your Mac that automatically syncs to a web accessible Dropbox account. The basic 2GB account is free with paid accounts available. I have Dropbox installed on my MacBook Pro, iPad, and iPod Touch so my course files, articles, keynote presentations are available to me on all devices, and on all web connected computers. Plus, I know that if my computer crashes my files are safe in the cloud. (If you want to throw me some free referral space use this link when signing up).

Perian: Allows Quicktime to play almost any media file you throw at it.(free)

Handbrake: used to convert one video format into another. It also allows you to copy DVDs and burn them to disk. You can take a DVD, convert it to an mpeg4 or ipod format, edit the video (say you just want to show a portion of a movie or want to post a portion of a movie on WebCt) and even copy the greatly reduced file to a flash drive. (free)

Evernote: This application allows you save all web research/documents/pdf’s etc from the web to a program that resides on your computer, but it also syncs to a private Evernote page on the web that you can access from any computer. Great if much of your research is done online.(free)

Vienna: RSS reader – aggregates the most recent posts/articles from your favorite blog and news sites. (free)

Skype: At this point everyone has heard of Skype, but it is still worth a reminder that there is a Mac version. Great for video chat between Mac/PC, also has a pre-paid calling feature that lets you call landlines right from your PC. (free)

Skitch: capture the screen on your Mac or a portion of the screen (websites included) add comments to the capture and email them or post them on the web. You can also save your images in a number of file formats. (free)

Mindmapping: If you have never used mindmaps, you might want to try a couple of the free programs before purchasing. You can also try MindMeister online. I can’t imagine starting a writing project without them.

Freemind: open-source mindmapping program. Not Mac native but still nice.(free)

xMind: another mindmapping program.(free)

Mindnode Pro: My favorite mindmapping program on the Mac. Mindnode Pro is a nice simple mindmapping program. It has the virtue of exporting your mindmaps in a number of different formats including PDF and OPML. There is also an iPad version available in the iTunes store. The programmer and I have corresponded, and he offers a nice education discount. ($12.99?)

Scrivener: Scrivener has become my default research and writing tool. There are numerous reviews of Scrivener available online, and they are unanimous in their praise. At $45 it is not cheapest writing program, but it is in my opinion worth every penny.

Nisus Writer Pro: When I collaborate with my Word-using colleagues, or need the advanced formatting, TOC, comments, change tracking etc., of a word processor, Nisus is my wordprocessor of choice. Also, Nisus is usually the last step before I submit an article to a journal after doing the heavy lifting of research and drafting in Scrivener. At $39 for an academic license it is more than Pages, but substantially cheaper than Word.

OmniOutliner: great outlining program (though it will do more). Not cheap, but worth it if you like outlines. (education discount available)


Pages: A good word processor but even better for page layout. Aside from page layout, it has the virtue of exporting in the EPub electronic book format. (Mac App Store $19.99)

Keynote: much nicer than PowerPoint. Will open/save/export as .ppt, .html, .pdf (Mac App Store $19.99)

Numbers: Spreadsheets (opens/saves/edits Excel documents as well). Allows you to have multiple tables on a page and you can drag and drop tables around. It is the spreadsheet for people who have never liked spreadsheets. I use this for all my grade tracking. (Mac App Store $19.99)

BeeDocs Timeline 3D: Amazing application to quickly create 2D and 3D timelines. Also allows you to export them as .pdf, .mov, and send to Keynote to include in presentations. Watch the demos.

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