MARCH 30, 2004
Ten Programs I Can't Live Without (This Week, Anyway)
The latest list of free/cheap Mac OS X apps that make life a lot easier
Kevin Schmitt
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6) Hydra (OK, OK, "SubEthaEdit")
Yeah, I know that this program is no longer named Hydra because of legal issues, but I just can't bring myself to call it SubEthaEdit (outside of this article, anyway). Regardless of what it's known as these days, it's one of the best text editors out there on any platform. You've got all the niceties any good editor should have, like syntax highlighting (which is extensible for any number of programming languages, from PHP to ActionScript and beyond), support for various encoding types and file endings, and line numbering. There's even live HTML previewing through the embedded WebKit engine (the same one that drives Safari). But you've also got something completely unique: Rendezvous-enabled collaboration (fig. 6). Multiple authors can work on a single document simultaneously over a local network or even the Internet, bringing a whole new twist to the concept of "extreme programming."

Developer: The Coding Monkeys
Price: Free
Available for download at:

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Fig. 6: Here is this very article open in SubEthaEdit, where I'm working on it in Rendezvous mode on two different machines. Changes that each user makes are color-coded so you can root out the slackers.

7) CSSEdit
I've become a fan of using CSS as much as possible when doing Web design projects, and this niche program does one thing (CSS, of course), and does it very well. CSSEdit lets you build styles either graphically or textually (fig. 7), all the while conforming to your preferred formatting style. Styles are previewed instantly within the program itself, with additional previews available in whatever Web browser you happen to have floating around on your system. Nice organizational touches like grouping and commenting round out this slick little app. Between this program and SubEthaEdit, I've relegated Dreamweaver and GoLive more or less to table building and special character reference.

Developer: MacRabbit
Price: $24.99 Shareware
Available for download at:

Fig. 7: CSSEdit is a very slick way to build stylesheets.

8) Zingg!
This nifty little Contextual Menu seems redundant at first, as it's yet another "Open With" menu akin to the one found in Mac OS X since 10.2. But one glance at Zingg!'s configuration panel (fig. 8) was enough to convince me to pretty much blow by the built-in OS X functionality in favor of this. You can set Zingg!'s menu to display (or not display) applications in the context menu on a case-by-case basis, with more behavior options than you can shake a stick at. So, for example, if you are annoyed that Final Cut Pro keeps showing up as an application to edit XML files, you can tell Zingg! to never show FCP in the menu, and problem solved.

Developer: Rainer Brockerhoff
Price: Free; Donations accepted
Available for download at:

Fig. 8: Zingg!'s configuration panel lets you customize your own "Open With" menu.

9) NetNewsWire Lite
Using a mere browser to check frequently updated sites is so last year. RSS/XML/Atom feeds are all the rage these days, even though the idea traces back to the "push" days of the mid-1990s. In any case, a good feed aggregator is vital these days for those who are addicted to frequently updated news and community-driven sites, and you can't do much better than NetNewsWire Lite. Find a feed, add the URL, set the update frequency, and you're off and running in browserless bliss. A handy Dock indicator tells you how many articles are waiting for you after an update (fig. 9).

Developer: Ranchero Software
Price: Free; Donations accepted; $39.95 Pro version also available
Available for download at:

Fig. 9: Only 48 unread articles to peruse this morning. Nothing like a little light reading.

10) Meteorologist
I realize that I'm torturing myself, especially as the weather begins to improve here in the Shenandoah Valley, by constantly subjecting myself to the forecast that I'm not outside enjoying as I work. But you don't have to be a weather junkie to appreciate the always-on simplicity that Meteorologist brings to your menubar. Fire it up, plug in a city or three, select a weather server, and you've got current conditions and local forecasts always at your fingertips (fig. 10).

Developer: Open Source Project
Price: Free
Available for download at:

Fig. 10: Looks like it's going to be a beautiful day. Too bad I have to work. Why do I like this program again?

11) Default Folder X
To paraphrase Nigel Tufnel, this list goes to eleven. I couldn't stop at just ten, so Default Folder X is the perfect app to fill the bonus spot. DFX takes your normally lame OS X open and save dialog boxes and adds several snazzy enhancements to them. Features include file renaming and trashing from the dialog box, setting the default folder on a per-application basis, shortcut keys to favorite folders, quick-clicking on open Finder windows to select a desired location, rebounding to previously selected files and paths, and a whole lot more.

Developer: St. Clair Software
Price: $34.95 Shareware
Available for download at:

Fig. 11: In addition to all the other stuff it does, Default Folder X lists currently open Finder windows for quick jumps to different locations.

In conclusion...
The moral of the story is that you don't have to spend a bundle to put some really high-quality programs to work for you. Plus, every one of these apps is available on at least a trial basis, so you don't have to guess how useful each would be for you. And please, pay the authors if you find value in their work!

Now it's your turn. If you have your own personal list of must-have utilities, use the email link below and let me know what floats your boat (in the shareware/freeware realm, that is). I'm always happy to give new things a try and to help bring attention to smaller developers and their often excellent work in future articles.

When not fleeing the paparazzi or spending his vast fortune associated with the fame and notoriety of being a DMN contributor, Kevin Schmitt can be found with his eyeballs glued to his computer screen, attempting to use some of the hardware and software he rants so incoherently about. An award-winning animator, artist and multimedia producer, he is currently a freelance designer located in the enormously bustling megalopolis of Waynesboro, VA. Whether you're looking to "give him the business" of either the figurative or literal type, feel free to drop him a line. He's ready to believe you!

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