It’s no secret: everyone in the world is poor. There’s no sense in investing in costly software that doesn’t live up to its impact on your wallet. Here are five useful apps for Mac users that give their paid equivalents a run for their money.
An easy-to-use, versatile file transfer client, Cyberduck handles about 99% of your FTP needs. Capable of transferring via FTP, SFTP, S3, and WebDAV, Cyberduck poses a serious challenge to for-pay clients such as the powerful Transmit
and ol’ reliable Fetch
. What’s more, Cyberduck can also send/receive files from Google Docs, a huge plus if you’re a Google Apps user (see below).
Understanding audio/video formats can be a baffling endeavor. For years, I swore by VisualHub
as my go-to converter from any file format to any other file format. While VisualHub is still a viable option, the slick, well-organized Adapter has taken its place as my top recommendation for those who don’t wish to spend hours reading Wikipedia, trying to determine the difference between 720×480 SD and 720i HD. Adapter is powered by the Perian
plugins, but don’t worry, it installs them for you (given your permission, of course).
Since you’re probably doing something illegal anyway if you’re ripping DVDs, you could go ahead and get a pirated copy of some DVD-ripping software like Magic DVD Ripper
($35). But the fact of the matter is that Handbrake is simply a better program, an all-in-one video ripper and encoder with a vast variety of encoding options, batch actions, and Blu-Ray support. It hasn’t reached a version 1.0 yet, but it runs lightly on all recent Macs. You can even download optimized Handbrake presets to encode video for you iPhone or iPad.
Spotify is clearly the best of the free streaming music services, trumping Pandora and your neighbor’s Sirius subscription with its huge library and iTunes-like organization. The downside, of course, is that it plays a jarring advertisement every few songs, unless you actually pay for the service. Rather than do something so drastic as exchange currency for entertainment, you can use the handy, free app Smutefy to mute out the ads automatically. Sure, there is still a small gap of silence where the ad would be, but you can use that time to think about how much money you’re saving.
It happens less and less these days, but there are times that you just need to run a PC app or open a file in a PC-only format. Or perhaps you’re a recent Mac convert, still more comfortable with the layout of your favorite PC apps. Wine Bottler allows you to package PC apps so that they can run natively in OS X. While a bit tricky to configure, it certainly beats shelling out $40-$80 for a PC emulator like VMWare Fusion
, especially if you’re only going to use a small PC apps here and there.
Honorable Mention: Google Docs Offline (beta)
Don’t listen to Microsoft’s ill-advised “Googlighting
” ad campaign (“That’s so random!” says their target demographic, they hope). Google Docs has become a serious competitor to the long-running Microsoft Office empire. While lacking certain features, Google Docs far surpasses Office in terms of real-time collaboration. Yes, Google does frequently change the features of the Docs suite, but they are careful to roll these features out in response to user feedback and in a manner that makes adaptation easy. With its new Offline mode
(still in beta), Google seems poised to eliminate some of the final hangups Office users might have.
And don’t worry, your data isn’t just going to “disappear”. Google has proven exceedingly cautious and informative when shutting down their features (ie Google Wave), and has never nixed a project as popular as Docs.