“Can’t Live Without” Apps– Mac & Windows Apps I Install Immediately Upon Getting a New Computer

apps
apps (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

This week at work, they replaced my ailing but valiant Dell XP laptop with a new HP Windows7 notebook for work, and then surprised me with a dual-booting iMac desktop for me to aggressively customize and evaluate the next wave of standard applications we might adopt across campus. In other words, I’ve had to start from scratch on two new computers this week, and it’s been a great reminder of all the little installs that I’ve come to depend on for my daily productivity. I thought I’d share my checklists of beloved favorites and a little about why I need them so much.

Windows

  • Chrome— the fastest, most Googly browser available. It’s just staggering how fast, flexible, and easy Chrome makes browsing the web.
  • Firefox— dependable defender of the “Open Web”. For a long time this was my main browser (all different flavors of it!) but now I use it mostly when I need to help people on all different platforms have a smooth and consistent experience. I also like supporting them because they alone have the clearest idea of what a free and open Internet needs to look like.
  • Evernote— Cloud sync’d note taking. I pay for the Pro version so I can share notebooks with friends, colleagues, and the web. Indispensable.
  • Miro— Imagine if iTunes were created by a wise and loving God. Beautiful, flexible, easy open source video & audio playback, conversion, management, and syncing to any mobile device. Also a great way to download YouTube video files for later playback and remixing.
  • Executor— It’s no Quicksilver [Mac] or Gnome Do [Linux], but it’s the best file launcher I’ve found for Windows. (And yes, I know about Launchy).
  • FilerFrog— This is a great little app that puts some very sophisticated file management operations in your right-click menu. Very useful.
  • Paint.net— Powerful free open source image editing software is right in the sweet spot where non-designers can do some real design work without learning (or paying for) Photoshop.
  • Clarify— My newest software love affair, Clarify is uniquely great for creating step-by-step tutorials with screenshots and text. Your Clarify docs can then be exported as PDFs, rich text, HTML and more.
  • Greenshot, and/or Snagit— While open source Greenshot may be all you need for taking and annotating screenshots (it was for me), I’m warming to the many nice features in commercial competitor SnagIt. Now that SnagIt does full length video capture as well as images, it’s become my new at-work workhorse.
  • NotePad++–I don’t always use a text editor, but when I do…Notepad++ is the kind of open source, extensible tool that has a rich community of developers who’ve already written every extension you might need.
  • HarooPad— As I’ve fallen in love with Markdown, I find that the best tool for working with it on Windows is the new cross platform app HarooPad. It combines HTML previewing with WYSIWYG buttons, perfect for someone transitioning from visual text writing.
  • BlueGriffon— BlueGriffon is a WYSIWYG web editor designed to create HTML5 websites. Built upon venerable open source HTML editors NVu and Kompozer, it leapfrogs these older tools by fully supporting HTML5 tags and such niceties as Google Web Fonts. Check it out before you buy Dreamweaver.
  • LastPass— I’ve gushed about LastPass before, but let’s just say that it safely and easily handles your passwords much better than you can.
  • Google video chat— This enables GChat and now Google+ to access your video camera and microphone. A great alternative to Skype if you prefer your chat in a browser.
  • Audacity— An audio swiss-army kit. Not always pretty or easy, but free and often handy for quick home recordings or clipping big sound files into little ones.
  • CCleaner— De-gunk your machine. It’s Windows. It’s full of gunk. This helps.
  • ColorCop— Whenever I’m designing, I like to be able to pick colors from other websites or designs I see with an eye-dropper tool. ColorCop simply does that.
  • 7zip– The benefit of having an open-source file compression/decompression utility is that it can open any compression format. 7zip isn’t the prettiest but it’s powerful, dependable, and ready for anything you throw at it.

Mac

  • Chrome– the fastest, most Googly browser available. It’s just staggering how fast, flexible, and easy Chrome makes browsing the web.
  • Firefox— dependable defender of the “Open Web”. For a long time this was my main browser (all different flavors of it!) but now I use it mostly when I need to help people on all different platforms have a smooth and consistent experience.I also like supporting them because they alone have the clearest idea of what a free and open Internet needs to look like.
  • Alfred— The gold standard in desktop app launchers. The deeper you learn about this tool, the more useful it becomes in your workflow. Highly recommended.
  • Evernote— Cloud sync’d note taking. I pay for the Pro version so I can share notebooks with friends, colleagues, and the web. Indispensable.
  • Right Zoom— This is a nice little tool that re-creates the Windows “Maximize” behavior on the Mac. Press the green button and your window fills up the screen, just like it should.
  • iWork— Keynote, Pages, Numbers. Sure, they’re an office suite like MS Office, but they really shine as graphic layout and design tools. Most of my design projects are created in iWork, not a fancy Adobe product. These three apps are the reason I can’t leave the Mac (not that I’d want to).
  • Picasa— As easy and feature-packed as iPhoto without the patronizing “dummyproofing”, Picasa is a full featured photo management app that’s paired with a now-limitless free cloud storage and sharing service called Google Plus. They’ve also added several hipstamatic-style filters to their already great photo retouching tools.
  • Mou— This is my favorite Markdown editor on any platform. Deliciously smooth like only a well-designed Mac app can be. Free while in beta. A steal at any price.
  • BlueGriffon— BlueGriffon is a WYSIWYG web editor designed to create HTML5 websites. Built upon venerable open source HTML editors NVu and Kompozer, it leapfrogs these older tools by fully supporting HTML5 tags and such niceties as Google Web Fonts. Check it out before you buy Dreamweaver.
  • HexColor— HexColor is a color eyedrop sampler that’s modeled after the default Apple color picker tool found in iWork. My favorite tool of this type.
  • Miro— Imagine if iTunes were created by a wise and loving God. Beautiful, flexible, easy open source video & audio playback, conversion, management, and syncing to any mobile device. Also a great way to download YouTube video files for later playback and remixing.
  • Audacity— An audio swiss-army kit. Not always pretty or easy, but free and often handy for quick home recordings or clipping big sound files into little ones.
  • The Unarchiver— It’s great to have an open-source file compressor utility that can open all of the various compression types found online– ZIP, RAR, 7z, and all the others. The Unarchiver is simple and dependable. Just set it and forget it.

 

 

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