How many applications are installed on your Mac? How many are from Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe? How many apps are from 3rd party developers? The total should be a few dozen.
What are the most important Mac apps of all time? This is my list of 28 Mac apps of historical and popular notoriety. Part #1 lists the top 14 apps from Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe. Part #2 lists the top 14 apps from 3rd party app developers who have helped make the Mac what it is today.
The Apps You Know And Love
The first list is 14 of the major apps that define (or, have defined) the Mac experience. From geek to Mac newbie to recent switcher to long-time Mac user, these apps make the historical grade.
The first difficulty in creating such a list is knowing what doesn’t belong and why.
Literally, there are dozens and dozens of Mac apps that through the years have graced our screens—for better or for worse—and have played a part in the Mac’s illustrious history.
The second difficulty in creating an all Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe list is prioritizing—which apps had or have the greatest impact. Frankly, prioritizing was the most difficult of the two tasks.
#14 – Final Cut Pro: FinalCut has been around for 10 years and redefines non-linear video production and value in ways that Adobe and Avid never did. Grab any iMac or MacBook Pro and slap Final Cut Studio on it and you have a video production house. Talent not included.
#13 – Fireworks and Dreamweaver: I put both of Adobe’s (once from Macromedia) powerhouse web development apps together. The web is a better place because of Fireworks. Dreamweaver has seen better days but still has a massive and devoted user base. There’s a lot of power in these apps, and a long history of Mac development.
#12 – Filemaker Pro: Filemaker is owned by Apple and has prospered for the past decade as a powerful but easy-to-use relational database system. Filemaker is on Mac, Windows, iPhone, and now iPad, not to mention a hearty database for hundreds of thousands of small businesses worldwide. If not for Filemaker, database apps would be ruled by Microsoft.
#11 – Terminal: Since the early days of Mac OS X, Terminal has been the app of choice for the geekier user. Terminal is the gateway to OS X’s guts, the doorway to the command line interface abandoned by the masses, beloved by those of us who like to know a little more than the rest.
#10 – iPhoto: Where would digital photography be on the Mac without iPhoto? Sure, there’s Aperture and Lightroom and a few other apps that store photos and let us tweak color and delete the red eye. Only iPhoto gets used by the masses.
#9 – Illustrator: Professional graphic designers know that Adobe is their bread and butter. Illustrator is the vector graphic tool shop for the designer; aging, complex, but with a lengthy Mac history. Indeed, if it were not for Adobe’s millions of Mac customers, it’s possible the Mac wouldn’t be around today.
#8 – QuickTime: It’s hard to imagine a Mac without QuickTime, which traces roots back to the very early 1990s. QT is the framework that plays all the major audio and video formats on both Mac and Windows. QT was so important to Apple’s multimedia future, and so hated by Microsoft who wanted to knife the baby back in the day.
#7 – Safari: Remember when you could number all the Mac browsers on a finger? Safari gave Mac users a regularly updated, fast, stable, and elegant browser that was so good Microsoft dropped Internet Explorer for Mac. Today, Safari is Apple’s platform for the web—in the Mac, iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, and, via WebKit, forms the basis for standardized web browsing in many other browsers, Mac and Windows, and on many mobile devices.
#6 – Flash: Love it or hate it, Flash cannot be ignored. Macromedia and Adobe maintained Flash development tools on the Mac, and the Flash browser plugin remains one of the most popular additions to Mac browsing. I’m convinced that Flash has outlived its usefulness, but de facto standards don’t die easily.
#5 – PageMaker: I cut my Mac publishing teeth on PageMaker back in the mid 1980s when it was an Aldus product. PageMaker defined the desktop publishing revolution a decade before the internet became public.
#4 – Microsoft Word: Talk about roots. Word goes back to 1983, pre-Mac, and was one of the first major apps to be ported to the Mac. Over 25 years later Word remains one of the Mac’s most popular apps.
#3 – Microsoft Excel: For most of the past two decades the spreadsheet of choice, Mac or PC, is Excel, which actually began life on the Mac first. My reason for entering into computing back in the day was a spreadsheet (VisiCalc running on an Apple II). What a great app. How many businesses have failed or prospered based on spreadsheet projections? I gave up Microsoft Office two years ago and haven’t looked back.
#2 – Photoshop: You know you’ve got a hit on your hands when the product name becomes a verb. Would the Mac be alive today if it were not for Photoshop?
Today, Photoshop is officially Adobe Photoshop CS. CS5 is the 12th release of Photoshop, which started life on the Mac back in 1990. Great app, does everything, horribly complex.
#1 – iTunes: Surprised? Don’t be. iTunes is a monster application. Not only does iTunes play music and movies and TV shows, Mac or Windows, but it acts as the seamless gateway to synchronize a few hundred million portable devices (iPods, iPhones, iPads). It’s also one of the world’s largest store fronts for applications and media purchases.
It could be argued that Apple’s success since the iPod is attributable directly to iTunes. What single Mac or Windows application competes well with all that iTunes does today?
Wait. There’s more. Those apps are pure Apple, Microsoft, or Adobe. Nearly every Mac user is familiar with at least a few on the list. What’s missing? Apps that are not from Apple, Microsoft, or Adobe. Click Here for Page 2, and the Top 14 Most Important Mac Apps Of All Time, Part #2.
Other readers suggested more Mac apps from the past. Add to the list Switcher, HyperCard, ClarisWorks, Netscape Navigator and others. Clearly, a longer list would be better. What apps would you add?