My next door neighbor bought a new iMac. I introduced them to Macs a few years ago, first with a MacBook and a bunch of my favorite Mac utilities, most of which were never used.
Now they have a new Mac and want to know what utilities they should use. Since I’m supporting half the neighborhood Macs already, I said, “None.”
Part of my reluctance was born of selfishness. I would have devoted considerable time and effort installing, updating, and training my neighbors on utilities that they’re not likely to use. Ever.
Part of my reluctance was born of a pragmatic desire to help my neighbor enjoy the Mac experience without mucking it up learning how to use utilities of nominal value for the average Mac user.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t know too many Mac users with as many applications and utilities on a Mac as me. Sure, there are the big ones, like Microsoft Office (I loathe Microsoft), and Adobe CS4 (I loathe Adobe), and almost everything by Apple (I love Apple).
Beyond that, I have at least 120 additional apps and utilities on my Macs, all of which get used from time to time (at least within the six month ‘use it or lose it’ season rules). All of which require updating, maintenance, learning, and so on.
So, for my neighbor I chose a different path. After all, it’s a Mac, right? What else do they truly, really, need beyond what Apple gives them?
For example, I have a couple of FTP utilities. I installed one on my neighbor’s first Mac. You know, in case they need to FTP a file somewhere. My neighbor took notes. But still can’t spell FTP.
I added Handbrake on their first Mac. You know, in case they want to rip a DVD and play it on their Mac. Instead, they stuff DVDs into the DVD player and watch ‘em on TV. It’s hard to argue with that logic.
I added NetNewsWire, the great and free RSS reader, and populated it with a dozen or so RSS feeds for sites they might find interesting. Instead, they use Safari for RSS. Why? It’s easier.
I added a utility to keep all their Safari bookmarks nicely synchronized between Safari and Firefox and Camino, all of which I installed on their original Mac. They use Safari and nothing else.
True, they use PhotoBooth, Front Row, Grab, TextEdit (I installed Microsoft Office), and Preview. Plus, iPhoto and iTunes. They don’t use the scanner software or Photoshop Elements. Why? It’s too complicated.
Repeat that similar process a dozen times more on other cool, and nifty, and handy, and mostly free utilities I stuck on their Mac, which never saw the light of an LCD display, or a a reflection in the eyeballs of a user.
You can understand why, when it came time to set up their new Mac that I was reluctant to go down the utility path again. Talk about diminishing returns.
That brings up the question, “How many utilities do Mac users really need?”
Time Machine and SuperDuper! come to mind, but does the average user need both? I do, but, admittedly, I’m not so average any more. I showed them Hulu, the free utility that lets Mac and PC users watch television shows over the internet.
My neighbor smiled and said, oh, we have a TV. It’s hard to argue with that logic.
Faithfully, religiously, I buy the MacHeist and MacUpdate bundles. If it’s decent or free, I’ve probably got it. But how many utilities does a Mac user really need?