Updated: The A-List of Mac Software

Yesterday I updated my listing of the best Macintosh apps, tools, and utilities in the first significant update in over a year. The research is ongoing, but I just didn’t make the time to update this page, known as The A-List of Mac Software. There are quite a few new additions to the list. I’ve also knocked some long-standing stalwarts off the list (programs I remove are also listed under the Considered but Rejected subhead.

My plans for the A-List include continuing to update it as I evaluate and add programs to my essential list of Mac apps, and also to broaden the information offered on the list with information like what each app costs, if anything, and a little summary of reasons for selection.

I’m pretty ruthless about ripping products off the A-List when I’ve decided they’re no longer valid, are outdated, or have been beaten by a competitor. You’ll notice that in some product categories, there is more than one contender. In that case, I like them both and am still considering between the two.

The A-List is based on real-world research. In other words, I’m not setting up bench tests to assess Mac software. I’m living and working with these products, and when they succeed or fail in real world use, that’s when I make changes to their status on the A-List.

Feel free to send me suggestions for new Mac apps to consider. There’s a specific email address for doing so toward the bottom of the page.

7 Responses to “Updated: The A-List of Mac Software”

  1. rickogorman Says:

    Hi Scot,

    Always great to get some output from you on your newsletter. As a recent switcher, I have been keeping a particularly keen eye out for your thoughts (I know you’re extra busy these days). But can we hope for some commentary on your A-list changes? Otherwise, I’m in the dark.

    Also, I am wondering about the value of Drive Genius–as my wife points out, a lot of what it does can be achieved using either the OS or freeware tools (for example, to strip out the extra languages, Monolingual will do this). Other new features seem tied to steps forward in the OS (on-the-fly partitioning). Yet DG costs $99, which is very pricy for such a utility (compare to similar types of utilities on Windows).

    Finally, a suggestion–for virtualisation, how about also looking at Virtualbox from Sun? As I’ve previously posted, I tried out Fusion and Parallels and found it hard, for my needs, to split them. But then I cam across VB, which is FREE, and found a winner. It doesn’t allow you to use your bootcamp partition from within OS X, but I actually decided that was okay. Running one of the others (I think Fusion), I made a change that messed up my bootcamp install. Can’t remember what I did, but it wasn’t something I thought should have screwed things up. So a queasiness that had been growing in me for a while came to a head.

    I have also found that VB works just as reliably as the other two (I had both Fusion and Parallels crash on me), if not better. Its not quite as simple to set up, so a complete non-techie might prefer to splash the cash for Fusion/Parallels, but anyone else should be able to handle it. It also doesn’t create cross-over links–shortcuts in each OS to run something from the other. I think it’s Parallels that does this and its really annoying.

    The other drawback might be game-playing: I don’t think VB supports either OpenGL or DirectX, but neither do the other two do a fantastic job here; seems to me that if you want to play a Windows game, best place is in Bootcamp. That’s mainly the only reason I have retained it. I have found VB fine for using specialist programs (SPSS, E-Prime).

  2. Scot Says:

    I’m working on a version with brief comments — you may be able to catch it while I’m working here. If it’s a dead link, sorry. It won’t be there forever.

    Drive Genius’ main advantage is that it does dynamic non-data-destructive partition creation and resizing. It’s the closest thing to Partition Magic for the Mac. I also tried iPartition, but ran into an issue with a partition it created. Drive Genius is not marketed very well, IMO. But after trying it for about a year now, I love it. DiskWarrior is also an excellent disk repair and data recovery tool. I wouldn’t be without DiskWarrior. They both cost $100, so they aren’t cheap. May be hard to justify for a home user. But in a business environment, these products pay for themselves quickly.

    — Scot

  3. rickogorman Says:

    The link is dead, but I can wait for the finished product. Re. Drive Genius, doesn’t the new Apple Leopard Disk Utility also do dynamic resizing/creating without destruction? That’s how I made my bootcamp and also a third partition (I have two Mac OS X partitions and a bootcamp one).

  4. Scot Says:

    The link is dead because the revision went live:


  5. rickogorman Says:

    Scot, that’s great. A question and a comment. If you don’t use Mail, Eudora, Thunderbird, or Entourage as your email client, what do you use?

    Comment: If you haven’t tried Quicksilver yet, I have to strongly recommend it. I don’t use a fraction of it’s power (and it is a bit tricky to use some of the deeper buried features) but just as a launcher, its great. I hardly ever even use the dashboard, unless my hand is on the trackball anyway.

  6. Scot Says:

    I use Eudora. (It actually says that at the bottom in the Rejected area in the A-List). I use it because I’ve been using Eudora for 15 years and it does things no other email application does that I’ve grown accustomed to. But I can’t in good conscience recommend Eudora (esp. the Mac version) to others. And that’s not just because it’s unsupported. It’s because Eudora fatally flawed in several ways.

    I did try QuickSilver and didn’t love it. But I haven’t given up on it (yet). Remember, though, the A-List is one man’s opinion. I’m not very keyboard centric, and I didn’t love QuickSilver’s UI. I can appreciate what it does, though.

    I think the enormity of its power is what turned me off to it a bit. It seemed overly complex. I’m looking for simpler solutions. Also, though, I really like the Dock a lot and don’t really have big problems with launching. It’s probably QuickSilver’s power features that might eventually hook me.

    — Scot

  7. rickogorman Says:

    I should have seen that it says used by the author. My brain just didn’t process it right, preumably biased by the ‘rejected’ part of the section. D’oh.

    As for Quicksilver, I just use it as a launcher and it works well for that. Maybe there are other simpler ones, but it’s power hasn’t gotten in my way. I have tried to use some of the power features but like all these tools, it takes repeated use to get familiar and I can’t wait to learn it when I have other ways to do what I want. I also found getting some of the power features working required turning on other features, which isn’t obvious, and I found only by going to the web.

    I have become frustrated with Thunderbird lately because it won’t deal with docx. I don’t think my install is messed up (but perhaps someone can set me straight if it is). It doesn’t recognise docx as a file type, even though I have Office 2008 installed. Instead of letting me choose an app to open it with, it only allows me to save it. From what I can glean from TB’s wiki support page, it’s because Tb is interpreting docx as being an executable, and by design won’t allow me to open it directly. Very annoying, as I get a lot of docx attachments and don’t want to always save, and then hunt for the file.

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