Mac Software that I use regularly.

I'm no authority, but here is what I use. Most recently revised in February 2016.

Suites and Authoring Tools

Why buy one app when you can buy a package deal that works together (maybe)? If I could, I'd still be using WordPerfect 8 for long documents and HTML, but those days are past. I've also placed several writing "environments" in this category.

iLife 09 -- As such discontinued and replaced with separate components that are sometimes better and sometimes worse. They went and made some of these iOS compatible, which meant removing features, not improving the iOS versions. Some features have returned. The components:

  • iPhoto doesn't handle editing the way I like, nor do I like it for photo management, but iPhoto is great for making slideshows quickly and greeting cards. The latest Aperture is just as good for slideshows, only failing to make cards and calendars. However for easy access to photos in other Apple apps you really need to use either iPhoto or Aperture for photo management. Happily, now both programs will open the other's databases, so it's now easy to make a card from images stored in Aperture. Unfortunately bot iPhoto and Aperture are discontinued. Photos is the replacement, generally better than iPhoto but no match in capability to Aperture.
  • I use GarageBand for sound track editing. I'd love to create music and should have time for that hobby again now that I've retired.
  • I'll mention iTunes here. I'm very happy with it, even the new version, and don't miss what I used on my PCs (MusicMatch Jukebox). No longer part of iLife, but it used to be even though it was always freely downloadable from the Apple site. I like the new music streaming service, Apple Music, and have subscribed.
  • I've switched from iMovie to Final Cut Pro X. iMovie was really not up to the task of multicam editing of two hours of video in an evening of teaching.
  • The applications iWeb and iDVD have been discontinued. I rarely used them, and in fact haven't used them in years. I no longer make video DVDs and use Dreamweaver and Coda 2 for my website.
  • Keynote -- is a great replacement for Powerpoint

    Pages was a good word processor and adequate page composition tool for my needs. But the latest (now free) version is awkward to use and I've gotten scared of it's proprietary format. The latest Pages won't open Pages documents prior to 2009 (note that this was finally fixed in a release late 2015). This is seriously bad since no other program will open Pages Documents. Therefore I'm switching to Nissus Writer.

    Numbers has also made a turn for the worse, but my needs for a spreadsheet program are really basic, so it will do.

    Nissus Writer Pro -- It's got everything Pages '09 had and much more. Looks perfect for future book writing. Native file format is RTF which can be read anywhere, and Scrivener will export to it.

    Office 2011 for Mac -- Needed for that imaginary full compatibility with Windows. Otherwise avoid the Microsoft suite! But it is a must have. Comes with Microsoft standard fonts that otherwise don't appear on Macs. New "cloud" scheme has shot up the price of the suite. I really hate it! Now I've retired, I'll never need to use it again. I hope!, LibreOffice, NeoOffice -- I've actually settled on LibreOffice and dropped the others, however I still have comments about them! An interesting horserace where one of these is anxious to get "Place" to the winning Microsoft Office. These three are built from the same code base. OpenOffice and LibreOffice are the result of a split in developers, so are likely to diverge. While LibreOffice was favored, OpenOffice had a recent release (under their new ownership, Apache) so the race continues. However OpenOffice seems to have dropped WordPerfect format support. NeoOffice is supposed to be better integrated with OS X, but the author either doesn't understand the reasoning behind the features introduced in Lion and carried forward or can't figure out how to incorporate them. He did a half-***ed job of it, and the bizarre purchase scheme requires one to pay extra to complain/offer suggestions.

    A full suite but seems sluggish and has no templates, so forget its PowerPoint clone. Only use its Word clone for it's ability to import some Windows Word files better than Word as well as, thankfully, WordPerfect files. Also it can read OpenOffice files, naturally. It's free (except for NeoOffice), so no reason not to have it except for the disk space.

    Scrivener -- A great program for organizing and writing long documents. It's really a writing environment. It has many features to cover all types of writing. If you write anything book length I strongly suggest checking it out by downloading the 30 day trial. Giving it a thorough review would take more space than this page.

    Circus Ponies Notebook -- Terrible name for a program that is fairly equivalent to Microsoft One Note. Great for keeping notes. Seems a bit buggy and sluggish on occasion and commands are confusing. I've used it for work projects, class notes (where it has replaced physical 3-ring notebooks), and for record keeping of Senior Projects. This program probably gets used more than any other I've got. NEWS FLASH -- the company has gone out of business, but I'll continue to use it until it fails.

    Coda 2 -- I bought this website editor because it's well regarded. Actually suits my coding style (writing in plain-text my own HTML codes). Much faster than Dreamweaver, and I'm considering moving to this program for my websites. I'm editing this page in Coda 2 now.

    PDFpenPro 6 -- PDF file editor, much like Adobe Acrobat but much easier to use. Preview has some similar capability, and I use it when it is enough because it is so lightweight. But PDFpenPro is there for "heavy lifting."

    Adobe Creative Suite 5 Design Premium -- I previously bought CS3 just for Photoshop, but with the academic pricing I could get, went for the whole suite. I upgraded to version 5 Premium, which has Dreamweaver that I want and some Flash apps I'll probably never use. You can't beat the power of the Adobe apps, but none of them are easy to use. Photoshop is basically a must have for photography, and Dreamweaver is a perfect replacement for an old IBM product I used to use for HTML. Illustrator is overkill for my vector graphics needs, but I've got it if I need it. I wanted to learn InDesign, but decided that it didn't really offer anything for me (although the latest version is good for EPUB, apparently).

    Note that the new rental policy will not work out for me, especially after retirement, so I am attempting to mover away from Adobe. Coda 2 has replaced Dreamweaver, I don't need Illustrator or InDesign, so Photoshop is the only real problem and the problem is compounded by the demise of Aperture. I'll probably get Lightroom plus Photoshop for $120/year, but I can't say I'm overjoyed. I'm still using Aperture.

    Vector Graphics

    EazyDraw 7 -- All I really want is MacDraw. I ended up with EazyDraw. It does what I want but for my needs does too much which makes it too complicated. Still much better than Adobe Illustrator. OpenOffice has a drawing program that is dreadful, and as far as I'm concerned the drawing capabilities of iWork or Microsoft Office in their presentation packages just doesn't hack it.

    OmniGraffle -- As EazyDraw is to MacDraw, OmniGraffle is to Visio. By far the easiest way do draw charts (flow charts and state diagrams in my case), but EazyDraw has better drawing tools, so if I had to pick one it would have to be EazyDraw. I don't have the latest version and since I don't really use it that much I'm not upgrading.

    Mathtype -- generates equations that look nice. While a commercial product, it can be used indefinitely for free if you are satisfied with a limited mode that matches the functionality of the OEM versions formerly shipped with Microsoft Office and AppleWorks (but not iWork, for some reason). It's integrated into Pages and Scrivener

    Bitmapped Graphics

    AutoDesk SketchBook Pro -- easy to use drawing program that I occasionally use as a "white board" with a projector in class. It's gone to a subscription model, but I've got the older version which works fine for me. I really hate these subscription models. I'd go broke if everything I use required a subscription.

    Skitch -- Fast screen capture utility. When version 2 came out it was too tied to Evernote, which I don't use. Luckily they eventually fixed it so that it works just fine again.


    I use Photoshop CS5, Bridge CS5 as mentioned above. But Bridge CS5 won't work with my Nikon D810 and Adobe Camera Raw (part of Photoshop CS5) won't either. Also:

    Aperture 3.5.1 -- I bought this because I had been using 1.5 to access my photos (which are "reference copies" so I can access the same photos with iPhoto or Finder). 1.5 doesn't run under Snow Leopard. 2.1 was supposed to be faster, but I didn't notice any difference. 3.0 became a different story. Of course, it is now discontinued. It still works fine with OS X El Capitan, but since the handwriting is on the wall I'll probably replace it with Lightroom and the new Photoshop later this year.

    Hugin -- A panorama stitcher that is feature rich, confusing, but great results. It's also free.

    Nik Plugins -- The Nik suite of plugins does a fantastic job of pulling marginal photos back to life. Perfect when the conditions were not quite right and you don't have an alternative shot. Recently purchased by Google, the suite has had a major drop in price. It integrates with Aperture as well as Adobe software. There are some rumors that it may be discontinued, Google being so fickle.

    Photomatix Pro -- For HDR photography. Hard to beat. I also have the Aperture plug-in.

    imageMagick -- command line programs for image manipulation


    Now that I've retired from teaching, I'm not sure what I'll be doing with the first four programs. I barely used them since June 2015. Perhaps I'll get involved with personal videos.

    Final Cut Pro X, Motion, and Compressor -- I use for my classes, producing 2-4 hours a week during the school year. I used to use iMovie for this, but the multi-cam editing in Final Cut had me change.

    iSHowU HD Pro-- video screen capture. I use this all the time. Will capture Parallels Windows screens. Fast operation. Flexible. Low cost.

    VLC Media Player -- plays video formats not handled by QuickTime. Plays DVDs outside of region 1.

    Plex -- Media server and player. I use this all over the house.

    Handbrake -- format conversion from DVDs for viewing on PCs (without DVD drives) or iPods. I also use it for FLV conversion. 64-bit version is very fast.

    MPEG Streamclip -- Has replaced Quicktime 7 Pro for quick edits of Quicktime movies.

    MKVToolNix -- This utility will clean up sound synchronization issues playing videos on PLEX after using MPEG Streamclip (or Quicktime 7 Pro) to edit down a video, such as removing commercials from recorded TV shows. The issue with PLEX is actually an incomplete H.264 implementation there and not a problem with the editing tools. But at least MKVToolNix cleans it up, is fast, and free.


    XTools -- must have on OS X. Free from Apple. I've never written a Cocoa or Carbon application, but I've used the C compiler for command line apps. Yes, there is a command line! This package also provides support for Subversion version control.

    Netbeans -- I'm a big fan of Java, and this gives me a good cross-platform development tool. Free. I preferred the old Borland JBuilder, but dropped it after they went to being Eclipse based. BTW, I hate Eclipse. They have also dropped Mac OS X support. And then Borland sold the product and it's now a very expensive commercial offering. I've also been using Netbeans for Qt development.

    Epsilon -- programmer's editor. Comes with Mac (using X11), Linux, and Windows versions. Earlier versions existed for DOS and OS/2. It's been around for many years and I've used it for at least 25. Not cheap, but I couldn't live without it and use it on all the platforms. EMACS without warts.

    BBEdit -- A long time contender in the Mac world, I recently bought it thinking of going all native Mac (my favorite Epsilon editor isn't native but uses X11). While it has many strong features, it's missing the ability to do smart indents (and reformatting) of code which every other programmer's editor seems to be able to do. It also doesn't have tags which I've found indispensable. But it does open quickly and I've set it to be my default editor when I click on a C source file. It also looks good for HTML, but I've got Coda and Dreamweaver for that.

    Personal Finance

    Moneydance -- after using Quicken under Windows in Parallels for years, the latest upgrade being forced won't run on Windows XP, the OS I use for the virtual machine. So I've decided to go sort-of native. (Moneydance is a Java program so isn't truely native). I've been testing it out. It has some warts compared to Quicken, but it only has to be bought once and won't require running the virtual machine on our server system. Quicken for Mac is basically useless.

    H&R Block TaxCut -- I used it on my PC and now they have a Mac version, so tax time is a bit less taxing.

    Information Management

    Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Reminders -- Does what I want and elegantly. Now that I use an iPhone as my PIM, it syncs the addresses, notes, and calendar with ease. I used to use a Palm, but syncing was erratic with a Mac and I switched to a iPod Touch until I ended up with an iPhone. I used to use Thunderbird for mail, but OS X Mail is much nicer. Part of OS X distribution.

    OmniFocus -- a project organizing and scheduling tool. I've also got the iPhone version. I wish I had discovered this years ago unstead of 2015 when my life should be becoming simpler.

    Spotlight -- searches and finds everything. Also provides a quick dictionary and calculator. The feature I miss most when I'm on a Windows machine or Linux. Part of OS X, so I can rely on it being on every system, but most of the time I use Alfred.

    Alfred 2 -- I've mainly switched to this from Spotlight. With the (paid) Powerpack add-on it's a really nice tool. Fast, easy to use, and more powerful than Spotlight.

    Hazel -- I'm going "paperless" and bought a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner. Hazel looks into the scanned documents (and statements downloaded from websites where I've gone paperless), renames, dates, and files them into the appropriate archival folder. I also scan receipts both with the ScanSnap and with my iPod Touch's camera (and transfer using DropBox) and Hazel files them away, too, and deletes them after 3 months. It also does housekeeping, cleaning out old Mail Downloads, color tagging the download folder on file age (so I can manually clean out old downloads), and emptying the trash when it starts to smell.

    Chronosync -- I use this utility to synchronize data files between my MacBook Pro and my iMac. It has been working flawlessly for many years. Cost feels a little high, but worth it to me.

    TimeMachine -- Not so much of a backup tool as it is a version management system. Go back in time to recover an earlier version of a document or some files that you thought you wouldn't need. Not a replacement for true backups.

    SuperDuper! -- Stupid name for a robust backup (to external drive) program. I keep backups "off site". I've paid for this to get the fast, synchronizing backup mode.

    FileVault II -- Disk encryption which is part of OS X. I have it enabled on my MacBook Pro and on the server to secure personal information.


    Safari -- Has become my primary browser because of speed and ease of use. Part of OS X. I use the Click-to-Flash and Ad Block plugins.

    Chrome -- alternative browser. Fast.

    1Password -- excellent password vault.

    Dropbox -- shared files across systems, synchronized over Internet. I don't like to use Apple's iCloud.

    CrashPlan -- cloud backup service I use for most of my computers. There was a major price increase January 2013, but still inexpensive when backing up multiple systems. Recently got another price increase when they dropped multiyear renewals, so I may be looking at alternatives in a couple of years. I've got it backing up 4 computers, about 2 TB.

    Forklift -- I got this program at a steep discount, so tried it out. I use it for FTP/SFTP. It has features for file manipulation so it can replace Finder functionality as well, but I never use it for that.

    Microsoft Remote Desktop -- remote desktop client for accessing Windows screens.

    Skype -- I use this for video conferencing.

    Daily Comics -- widget for Dashboard.

    Yosemite + Server -- I should mention it somewhere other than my server page that I use a Yosemite server for many services. I'll eventually upgrade to El Capitan + Server. It's my last system still running Yosemite.


    Parallels 11 -- I've tried VMWare Fusion but Parallels seems to be better integrated into OS X. Early versions of Parallels were flakey, support has been lackluster, and each interim upgrade a hazard, but they finally have their act together with a smooth running product.

    VirtualBox -- I use this for Linux virtual machines which it seems to support better than Parallels.

    TextExpander -- A text substitution utility considerably more advanced than what OS X provides.

    Bartender -- This has nothing to do with beverages but everything to do with tending the Menu Bar at the top of the screen. That row of icons on the right gets so big as to interfere with menu items. Bartender merges the ones you don't want to see all the time into a secondary bar. Probably the most useful utility I've obtained in recent years.

    Onyx -- a good way to do system cleanups and set hidden options.

    Disk Inventory X -- graphically view disk utilization. Many programs will do this, but this one is free.

    iStat -- widget for DashBoard that shows system status. I use the Nano version on the MacBook and the Pro version on the iMac. This program has been discontinued by the manufacturer but patched versions (necessary for Mountain Lion or later) are available on the Internet. I've tried MenuMeters looks like a good substitute which runs in the menu bar.

    A Better File Rename -- I used to use Renamer4Mac, which was free. I got this one from a MacUpdate bundle. Runs as a service. The built-in batch rename (added in Yosemite, I believe) suffices so I don't think I'd buy this today.

    BetterTouchTool -- provides the capability to program additional multi-touch gestures and modify existing gestures in the MacBook touch pad and the new Magic Mouse. Also will snap windows to edges and corners of the screen, like on Windows 7. Particularly dramatic for Magic Mouse users since that mouse has less built-in features than the previous Mighty Mouse. I use the similar BetterSnapTool on my MacBook Pro.

    Should I Sleep -- really more "should I stay awake" this program uses sensors such as the camera to determine if the computer is actively being used and needs to be kept awake. You set the System Preferences for quick sleep (I use 2 minutes) and Should I Sleep does the rest. This used to work like a charm but doesn't work right (frequent "silent" crashes) on modern Macs that no longer allow time to sleep as they've gotten more sophisticated.

    Boom! -- boosts volume of speakers. Really needed on my MacBook Pro when watching a movie with my wife so we can sit back.

    CheatSheet -- when you hold down the command key in any application it puts up a window showing all the keyboard shortcuts for that application. It's a great way to find out what shortcuts are available and what keys they are assigned to.

    f.lux -- changes display color temperature and brightness as evening approaches so one sleeps better at night. Free.


    QUICKSILVER -- I don't use this anymore, instead settling on Alfred. I never got into the advanced features of this program.

    Encyclopedia Britannica -- Wikipedia is free and surprisingly faster to use. I contribute (money) to Wikipedia and suggest that you do too if you use it.

    Coconut Battery -- A free utility to display everything you want to know about your battery. But I've discovered all that information is available in "About This Mac".

    DockStar -- shows count of unread messages in different categories on the dock. This should have been built-in the Mail program. However I decided it wasn't really necessary.

    Calico -- a panorama stitcher that is easy to use but has few controls -- either it does the job or it fails miserably with no recourse. I just think Hugin is better because it handles the tricky situations that keep coming up.

    Stomp -- format conversion (transcoding). I got a good deal with this when I bought iShow U Pro, but it isn't reliable and I mostly use Handbrake now.

    Cyberduck -- A nice FTP/SCP program but I've switched to using ForkLift.

    Stuffit Expander -- I haven't seen a Stuffit file in years.

    MenuPop -- makes the top menu bar a popup. This is very convenient when working on a second display in a multiple monitor setup or on a single large display. Useful on my iMac which has a second display. Works from keyboard, which is also a plus. This won't be needed at all for Mavericks.

    QuickTime 7 Pro -- upgrade from Apple adds editing and other useful features. Inexpensive. The new QuickTime X is missing most of the QuickTime Pro features, so isn't a substitute. Luckily QT7 Pro is still available and supported. I have found that MPEG Streamclip is easier to use so have switched to that.

    Huey Pro -- display calibration hardware and software. Doesn't seem to work properly with Mountain Lion so will need to replace.

    Perian -- plug in for Quicktime. Handles all common formats not done by Quicktime alone. No longer works and no longer supported.