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My Favorite Software Applications for the Macintosh

By Heath McKnight

I've been using Apple computers for more than 14 years now. And since then, I've owned quite a few Macintosh computers, but it wasn't until the last five to six years that I really started taking advantage of Apple and third party software applications (apps). I am going to tell you about some of my favorite apps made by Apple and others, and I've broken it down into different categories.

How I Got Into Mac Software Apps
With my original Mac, a Performa I received for Christmas in 1994, I was able to write screenplays, letters, articles, and more with ClarisWorks (which became AppleWorks before evolving into iWork). It wasn't until I bought an at-the-time blazing fast Power Mac G3 that I really started getting into some other apps.

I used mostly video production software like Adobe Premiere 5.1, Boris FX and then I eventually settled on Final Cut Pro 1.0. Over the years, I've added to my collection of Final Cut Pro products, including DVD Studio Pro, and began discovering other apps that made my life easier, among other things. From professional to consumer, there are software apps for the Mac for just about anything you do.

I pride myself on keeping my MacBook running smoothly and clean by doing basic maintenance. Over the years, I've picked up plenty of tips and software advice, so I thought I'd pass them along.
Since 2003, I've been using Alsoft's DiskWarrior, probably the best software disc (you boot off the CD) to clean up and, yes, help save your Mac. I've rescued dying drives enough to pull data off, which is reason enough to buy it. Find it for $99 at

As part of a Holiday 2008 Mac software bundle from MacUpdate (more on them later), I received Drive Genius 2 from Prosoft Engineering. Among its many features, you can defrag hard drives, scan, do benchmark tests, and more. Like DiskWarrior, it's best to boot off the DVD. The cost is also $99 and you can find it at

Maintain's Cocktail ($14.95 for a single user license, is a great way to keep things clean, and I use it about once a month, unless I'm doing a lot of video editing. Then I use it twice a month. SMARTReporter (donationware, keeps track of your hard drives in case they fail via the drive's S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) status.

Don't count out Mac OS X, either. Found within Applications, Utilities are two apps I use often: Disk Utility (to check and repair permissions and external or secondary internal drives; initialize drives, and more) and Activity Monitor (to see which apps are using the most RAM and processor power). If you use Disk Utility found on the OS X install disc, you can boot up off it and check and repair the startup drive.

TinkerTool (freeware, is a powerful and flexible app, which helps you work with preferences. I use it mostly to turn off Mac OS X's Dashboard, which I know many love, but I think is worthless and a memory hog.
Lastly, check out Titanium Software's Onyx (free,, which is an all-around great utility and an app I use from time-to-time.

Video Editing
For me, there is no greater software than Final Cut Studio 2 featuring the latest versions of Final Cut Pro (read my review here, plus see the Smoothcam demo, Color (color correction, grading and more; read my review here.Soundtrack Pro, Motion, LiveType, Compressor, Cinema Tools and DVD Studio Pro (not a full upgrade-how about Blu-ray support?). I've been using FCP since version 1, for 10 years now.

Final Cut Pro

If you're running an older version of Final Cut Pro, or any editing app that doesn't have Smoothcam, Apple's amazing image stabilizer, check out iStabilize (around $75 USD, which is a standalone app to stabilize your video. I've had good success with it; check out a demo I did here.


Photo Editing
You really can't go wrong with Photoshop, whether it's version CS4 or Photoshop Elements 6 for Mac (, the latter of which I use often (review here). I also enjoy working with Adobe's Lightroom 2 (review here), and Apple's Aperture 2.1 (review here).

Looking for free or low-cost versions? I have tried GIMP ( and an online tool that's basically like Photoshop online, , along with Photoshop Express (
Unlike video editing software, there are so many image editors out there, and I own a few, thanks to buying some Mac software bundles. But for me, Photoshop Elements 6 and Lightroom 2 plus Aperture 2.1 are pretty much all I need.

Word Processing
I'm still using Microsoft Office X, which came out in 2001 (I bought it in 2002), and I have absolutely no problems with it. I've heard complaints about the latest version for Mac, but I love this "old" version. Heck, I've tried the 2004 edition and I still love version X best. You can probably find it online at eBay or other legitimate and quality e-sellers. ( is a nice, cross-platform and FREE suite of Office-like apps. Apple's TextEdit is pretty powerful, and it comes with OS X, but it's not always compatible with other systems, like Windows. There are tons of other free and low-cost word processing apps and web tools (Google Docs, out there for the Mac. Just simply do a web search.

Final Draft 7

For screenplays, I have been writing with Final Draft for about nine years now. This program is powerful and very popular with everyone from the casual screenwriter to the indie writer, from the studio pro to the TV writer (Final Draft A/V, $199). Find it for $229 at

Appshelf stores all your software apps' details and serial numbers. You can even attach the disk image, so you can easily access it if you need to re-install.

 Below is a quick list of other Mac software apps I use:

  • Synergy by Wincent (, which lets you play, pause and skip iTunes songs with a little controller on the menu bar at the top. Also, it finds album artwork and displays it and the song in the corner. One of my favorites.
  • AppShelf by KediSoft (, which stores all your software apps' details and serial numbers. You can even attach the disk image, so you can easily access it if you need to re-install.
  • LaunchBar by Objective Development Software (, which gives you access to pretty much every application and even saved websites with a few keystrokes. I'm new to the LaunchBar game, but I love it!
  • AppZapper by Austin Sarner and Brian Bells (, the best way to uninstall software. Once you put an app you don't want anymore into the AppZapper, it prepares to delete it and anything else you may not have found otherwise. Then delete it and the screen flashes white and there's a laser sound effect. Cool!
  • MacScan by SecureMac (, which scans, isolates and deletes any kind of spyware.

There are others, but I think I'll wait and write another article about them, and some new apps I recently purchased in bundles. Who knows what I'll like, love, or hate? Plus, I'll probably do a separate article detailing some games I love.

Where To Buy
You can always buy directly from the manufacturer. Most of these apps are available as downloads, even as demos, so you can try before you buy. But there are a few sites I visit, sometime daily, to get great deals on Mac software. And on occasion, they offer bundles of Mac apps for a low, low price.

I love MacUpdate ( and their daily MacUpdate Promo (, where they offer a specific software app for a discounted price. You might even win it by becoming a member and leaving a comment.
 I'm new to MacZOT! (, but it's a lot like MacUpdate. Also, check out MacHeist (, which features a major contest filled with puzzles, and you can win prizes and more, plus buy a software bundle of Mac apps.

If you haven't already guessed it, there are many, many software developers, big and small (and everything in between), making great software apps for the Mac. Check out any of these apps, or sites with the apps, and I guarantee you'll find some you'll love.

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Heath McKnight is a filmmaker and author who has produced and directed several independent feature and short films, including Hellevator, 9:04 AM and December. He is currently web content manager for doddleNEWS. Heath was also a contributor to VASST's best-selling book, "The FullHD," and has written for TopTenREVIEWS and Videomaker.

Related Keywords:macintosh software, utility software, macintosh computing


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