The Mac has utilities for nearly everything you can think of. There are utilities to scrub your email of junk. There are utilities like Little Snitch that do just that; they snitch on those other applications that “phone home” to their publisher without you knowing about it.
There’s utility applications that’ll backup your Mac when you’re asleep. Others will synchronize various folders, say, on your PowerMac and on your PowerBook or iBook.
Still other utilities will enhance iTunes by looking up lyrics of the song playing at the time. Others, in the form of scripts, will enhance Apple’s Mail.app, or add extra formatting to iPhoto, or special effects to iMovie.
What’s the BEST Mac utility ever? Ever?
Well, it would be a utility that anyone could use, and once they use it, couldn’t think of Mac life without it. The top utility ever would become a part of the Mac itself; it would meld so closely to Mac OS X that you’d think it was a part of Panther (or Jaguar or Tiger or “here kitty, kitty”).
While the Mac may be the easiest computer ever to navigate, Mac OS X is complex, with many, many more capabilities and “secret” functions than ever. The Best Mac Utility Ever would be an enhancement to a Mac OS that’s rapidly becoming complex.
What is this “Must Have” Mac utility? Is it something to backup your files? No, there’s a dozen of those and most of them are very good. Is it a utility to help you browse the web? Do we need another “anything” to manage bookmarks or open unlocked secrets of Safar?
No, this Best Mac Utility Ever provides a new navigation experience for the Mac that is second to none. Apple should buy it and plug it into OS X Tiger ASAP. If you haven’t tried it, try it, because, once you’ve used it for a few weeks, you won’t want any other Mac utility to help you navigate Mac OS X.
No other utility is so logical, so thoughtful, functions so well, and yet, sits and waits for your flick of the wrist before jumping to action and giving you directions to the deepest part of the Mac.
The Best Mac Utility Ever is one that gets awards year after year; four starts, five mice, top honors, best enhancement. That’s what you’d expect from the Best, right?
So, what is it Alex? What’s the Best Mac Utility Ever?
James Thomson’s Drag Thing. Since the mid-1990s, there’s not been a better written, more elegant, more beneficial Mac utility. The move to Mac OS X was seamless and the application is better than ever.
What’s DragThing do? First, it’s a navigation tool that lets you get at what’s on your Mac, well, uh fast and easy. Like Jennifer Lopez? Better but with less boogie.
DragThing is the one Mac OS utility I’ve used non-stop for about 7 years. There are a number of other “launcher” utilities available for Mac OS X, but nothing quite like DragThing. Imagine a part of your screen, a floating dock, if you will, that takes up little space, but with the flick of a wrist, pops up and gives you instant, one-click access to nearly anything on your Mac.
Files, folders, applications, disks, URLs, clips, windows. Swish the wrist and click. Everything is about a click away.
Hot keys? Got ‘em. Multiple docks? Got ‘em. Drag an application’s icon direct to Drag Thing, then move it wherever you want. That application’s now a click away. Drag a folder onto DragThing’s dock, and a single click opens the folder. A “click and hold” reveals all the contents of that folder, nice and organized.
Drag a hard disk icon onto DragThing. Now you can click and hold and see everything on the hard disk. DragThing puts a trash can on your desktop. It’ll play special sounds for certain actions, like ejecting a CD.
You can easily create docks for applications, docks for URLs, docks for documents, docks for utilities, AND the don’t clutter the screen. One dock will pop out when you use a hot key or move the cursor to a pre-determined spot on the screen; a flick of the wrist.
A tabbed interface lets you navigate to anything, anywhere on your Mac.
Move the dock. Left, Bottom, Right. Shrink it. Change colors and textures. DragThing is the most “personal” of personal computer applications.
There’s DragStrip but it’s a drag in comparison. There’s launcher after launcher for Mac OS X, but how many do you really need? And if all they do is launch an application, why not get the one that’s the best?
No, I’m not getting paid to write this. I wish. I write about what I like and what I don’t like and what I use regularly and not the stuff in between (more on that later).
DragThing I bought and have used for many years. Why? It works. It becomes a part of the OS so well it’s hard to imagine it not being there.
What does DragThing need? Not much. I’d like to see traditionally invisible files (as an option, of course) when drilling down a few levels. I’d like to see some automated and scheduled launches of some applications or scripts, too.
Outside of those quibbles, DragThing is the Best Mac Utility Ever.
James Thomson’s Drag Thing is only $29.00 and comes with a free, full featured evaluation. Try it. Tell me what you think. Try it for a week, though.
That being said, what shows up on my list for #2, #3, #4? Here’s the rest of the Top Mac Utilities. Ever.
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#2 on my list of Best Mac Utilities Ever is Photo to Movie by LQ Graphics.
Photo to Movie is, as you’d expect with good Mac utilities, an elegant application. It’s simple and does what it does better than any other. Photo to Movie takes a digital photo (from your iPhoto collection, a scan, whatever) and turns it into a motion movie segment.
Slow Zooms. Pans. Tilts. Dissolve from one still photo to another while adding beautiful motion at a single speed, varying speeds. Zoom in. Zoom out. Change the zoom speed to fit your mood. Pause. Change it all again whenever you want.
Think of this as “Pan and Zoom” on steroids. Suddenly, still photos come alive with personality and emotion.
What’s the deal? Pay $49 for an application that Apple includes FREE with iMove? The Ken Burns effect is free, right?
Yes. And it’s worth $100 less when compared to Photo to Movie. Check the number of stars that users give it on VersionTracker and you’ll get an idea why this little utility is so well loved.
Yes, love. Photo to Movie takes your digital still photos and turns them into snippets of motion video that you can import right into iMovie.
Wait. There’s more.
Photo to Movie also does sound tracks. And it’s drag and drop and exports to a QuickTime movie.
Wait. There’s more.
Need character generation (text overlayed on top of the digital photo)? Yep. It’s like Prego. It’s in there. Now, let’s get serious: Keyframes. Motion Paths. Titles. Transitions. Soundtrakcs. Rendering. It does to still digital photos what Final Cut Pro does to digital video. It makes it MUCH better.
Guess what? You can download Photo to Movie for free and try it out.
Try it out.
What could they do better with Photo to Movie? Not much, but I’d like to see faster rendering (you get impatient because it works so well), and movement of the titling on screen. TV ads have text moving all over. That’d be a great touch.
OK, what’s #3 and #4 on my list of Best Mac Utilities Ever?
My favorite Backup Utility is Super Duper from Shirt-Pocket Software. We did a review just a few weeks ago. Yes, there are a few dozen back up utilities around. SuperDuper does the job as it says. Super.
#4? This one is hard to argue with. It’s one “techie” reason to switch from a PC and Windows to Mac. BBEdit from BareBonesSoftware.
It’s a text editor. It’s not a word processor. It edits text. And it does it so well on the Mac that many coders use Macs because BBEdit is just that good. It’s not Dreamweaver. It’s not TextEdit.
It’s the best text editor you can get for the Mac. For coding, for scripting, for editing HTML or CSS. It’s what you use on the Mac when you need to work with text. Web site. Write a program. Write scripts. Search log files. Pull data. BBEdit makes it easier. Better. Faster. Simpler.
It’s a reason to buy a Mac all by itself. And, yes, you can get a Demo Version of BBEdit that’s full featured and gives you a chance to see what driving a Mercedes of Editors is really like.
Is BBEdit perfect? What else does it need? Color integration would be nice. It takes too many clicks to get to an HTML color code. There’s too many menus (probably what happens when an editor becomes the editor that does everything very well).
What are your favorite utility applications for Mac OS X? What other utility would you like to see Apple have in Mac OS X “Tiger?” Share your experience, thoughts, perspective on the state of Mac utilities and click the Comments link below.