Free is good, right? Do you remember how you felt the first time you installed a free utility on your Mac and it turned out to be great?
Free Mac software is alive and well despite the Mac’s continued sales growth. Here’s my Friday list of six Mac utilities—tools every Mac user needs, and will love.
There are hundreds of excellent free Mac software titles available. Mac users on a budget will appreciate the wide variety of tools that can be applied to so many different jobs.
What are the top Mac utilities that every Mac user should have? They’re utilitarian, seemingly innocuous, yet indispensable. They range from obscure to invaluable.
These are Mac utilities that I keep on my Mac and use regularly. Each has a free competitor. Each has a commercial competitor. Yet, each stands alone as the best in their respective categories.
One of my favorite Mac utilities is Skype. It’s iChat for the masses, offering chat capability, Mac to PC audio and video, even direct dialing to a telephone land line. Skype didn’t make the cut.
True, there’s Thunderbird and Firefox from Mozilla. Many Mac users have both as excellent alternatives to Apple’s own Mail and Safari.
Firefox’s ubiquity speaks for itself. Neither made my list.
One of the most common commercial applications on the Mac is Microsoft’s venerable and powerful Office. Not only is it compatible with Windows Office, Mac Office is loved by millions of Mac users.
Maybe NeoOffice, the OpenOffice Microsoft Office compatible suite should be on the list. After all, NeoOffice is free and powerful. Nope. Sorry.
#6 – Handbrake
Your Mac is a good place to play DVD movies. Without Handbrake, your Mac just plays DVDs.
With Handbrake, “an open source, GPL-licensed, multi platform, multithreaded DVD to MPEG4 converter,” your Mac becomes a collector of DVDs, ready for export to your iPod or iPhone.
Simply put, use Handbrake to make copies of your DVD movies, including those with CSS protection methods.
#5 – Transmission
Are there other sources of movies besides the DVDs you buy at Walmart?
Enter the world of bit torrent, a euphemism for a new way to share files; peer-to-peer, if you will. Transmission is one of many Mac utilities which let you, uh, um, “share” files from others and to others.
Transmission is like most good Mac utilities. It just works. It’s fast, doesn’t hog your Mac’s processor, and basic settings get you up and ready to uh, um, share files online within a minute.
#4 – AppleJack
Amazingly, sometimes your Mac gets all wonky and the reasons can be many. What do you do?
There are kinds of tests to perform. Open Disk Utility and repair permissions or validate a hard drive. What if you can’t even start your Mac or Disk Utility won’t launch.
Hey, it happens. That’s what makes AppleJack so good. It does absolutely nothing—until nothing else works.
AppleJack is what you use to start up your Mac when all else fails, then run those special tasks which are essential to finding out what’s wrong with your Mac and fixing it.
#3 – PTH Pasteboard
One of the benefits of cutting and pasting is the ability to transfer information from here to there in an instant. However, cut or copy and paste can be tedious and troublesome.
How many times have we copied something, then pasted, and realized we had copied the wrong thing, and the original copy was deleted? It happens.
With PTH Pasteboard, your Mac gets multiple clip boards. That means everything you copy gets saved; text, formulas, graphics, URls, whatever. This should be built in to OS X.
#2 – Onyx
The Mac has a dozen utilities which provide various maintenance chores, and Onyx is one of many. Still free after all these years.
What sets Onyx apart is the ease of use of each function, and the thoroughness with which Onyx works on all Macs from Jaguar to Panther, and Tiger to Leopard. Unhiding hidden system preferences is easy.
Honorable mention should go to the similar TinkerTool, also free, also indispensable.
#1 – Tie: Pastor & Carbon Copy Cloner
Sorry, it’s just not easy to come up with one single free Mac utility that tops all others, but these come so close, they make the top of the list.
We live in perilous times with security issues of prime concern for Mac users. Pastor is a simple utility to master, a tool that stores all of your passwords, login IDs, and serial numbers. Safely. Securely. Encrypted.
There are dozens of similar utilities for Mac users, some free, some not so much. If your budget is limited Pastor will not disappoint.
As important as secure information is, it doesn’t mean much if your Mac’s hard drive dies a quick and sudden death. It happens.
Carbon Copy Cloner helps put your mind at ease with block-level back ups—clones—of your Mac’s hard drive to another hard drive. The first back up takes awhile. Subsequent incremental back ups go quickly.
CCC is so good that your back up hard drive can be used to start up your Mac. It’s bootable. Back up to another Mac, or across the network, or to another hard drive, or simply to a disk image.
Use the scheduler to perform the back up when you’re not sitting in front of your Mac. Set it. Forget it.
I know, I know. That’s actually seven top free utilities, with a couple of honorable mentions thrown in. Hey, chalk it up to the inflationary times in which we live.
I’m sure you have a favorite Mac utilities which didn’t make my list. Enlighten me and other Mac360 readers and share your favorite in the Comments section below.