Windows PC users have flocked to the Mac by the millions in recent years. One question they ask is, “What software do you recommend for the Mac?”
Last week I gave you my list of The Top 12 Tools Your New Mac Must Have Now. The only caveat to that excellent list is that all the software came with a price tag. This week it’s time for free. The Top 20 FREE Tools Every Mac User (experienced or recent switcher from Windows) Must Have.
Skipping The Obvious Free Choices
Any list of recommended software for Mac users needs a caveat or two. Or three. Allow me the liberty of not including obviously free software on the list.
This would include all the software that comes with your Mac.
Safari, iCal, Mail, Address Book, iChat, Time Machine, even iLife. Sorry. Not on the list.
Yes, they’re free. But they’re Apple’s software which helps to make a Mac what it is. My list is the best 20 free utilities which make your Mac easier to use, more productive, more fun.
Free Is The Basic Criteria
Duh. But that’s not the whole criteria. First, free is good. Useful, handy, efficient, beneficial, and valuable gets stirred up in the mix with free.
Second, I use these tools on my Mac and recommend them to family, friends, and neighbors. That means I’m confident that they’ll do the job and not cause me any relationship strain.
Finally, I wanted those utilities on the list to be used. And liked. And worthy. And needed—for the vast majority of Mac users, from newbies to experienced.
#20 – MenuMeters
No list of free Mac software is complete without a few superfluous titles. MenuMeters isn’t necessary, but it’s always nice to know what’s going on inside your Mac with just a glance.
MenuMeters sits in your Mac’s Menubar and checks on CPU usage, network connections, memory, and a few other things. Handy? Yes. Necessary? No. Useful and fun, though.
#19 – AppCleaner
Trying out Mac software is a hobby, but it also means plenty of leftover files from apps, utilities, and games. How do you get rid of all that crap? The Mac has many commercial tools which delete apps and their related files.
AppCleaner is one of the best and it’s free. It finds leftover preference files, and support files, and moves them to the trash.
#18 – NeoOffice
New Mac users switching from Windows often ask if there’s Microsoft Office for Mac. Yes, of course. Is there anything else that incorporates a word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation package?
Yes, NeoOffice is one of a number of Mac office suites. Slow, cumbersome, feature laden, and with a long learning curve. It’s just hard to beat the price if you’re on a budget.
#17 – SMARTReporter
The data on your Mac is valuable. All those photos, music, video clips, documents, and files are on hard disk drives and they fail.
SMARTReporter is a simple utility that resides in your Menubar and checks your hard disk drive’s S.M.A.R.T status and gives you a warning if anything is amiss. Better safe than sorry. Check out the detailed review on How To Know When A Mac Hard Drive Is Dying.
#16 – Firefox
I know what you’re thinking. “Alexis, why is this on the list? Isn’t Firefox a given?” Yes, of course. But the reasons may not be obvious.
Your Mac already has Safari, which is a blazingly fast, very good browser. Why add Firefox? Because Firefox, with all those add-on extensions, does a lot more than Safari, that makes it valuable, and—it’s free.
Wouldn’t you agree that Firefox should be on every Mac? By the same logic, should I include Mozilla’s very good Thunderbird as a replacement for Mail?
No. Mail doesn’t need a replacement. Firefox is not replacing Safari, just adding more functionality to the browsing experience.
Part 2 tomorrow.