Bill’s All Time Mac App Surviors

I’m doing this as a reverse top ten list .. because its almost New Years so everything has to be a Top XX list.

I noticed a sale on an old favorite piece of software the other day and it got me lamenting all the great tools of my Mac using past. Then I realized the few that have survived the transitions from various OSes and hardware changes.

So this is my list of the ones that have been around and still have some life in them. For the purposes on this list Apple Inc Applicatons need not apply. To make the list you had to run on Mac OS 9.x, PowerPC is fine, anything 680×0 is impressive. I’m trying to remember if there was an Apple // version of any of them but that part of my brain went to mush long ago.

The List

  1. [SpellCatcher][SpellCatcher] – SoundJam/iTunes doesn’t count so something from Casady & Greene had to make this list. If someone has a version of Glider PRO or Crystal Quest for Mavericks let me know..
  2. Quickeys – Before there was keyboard Maestro, there was Quickeys. What was a little suprising is you can still buy it.. For OS X and OS 9! The CE Software petegree is now with Startly Technologies but its still around.
  3. FileBuddy – Remember Resource Forks? before you could chmod anything on a Mac you needed a tool to sort and swtich some file attributes. Filebuddy was my tool of choice for a good chunk of the late 90s and early oughts. Don’t touch it much anymore but its still around.
  4. Stuffit Remember you first 5MB harddrive? Well that sounded like a lot, right?Stuffit kept files in check and allowed you to move stuff around at 2400 baud. Its usefullness is probably long past for most people but if you installed a OS7 through OS 9 program you probably needed Stuffit Expander. One of the few third party items that was distributed by Apple on new Macs
  5. Fetch That little dog ran alot of miles on my behalf. It still has a great use as a network testing tool. It was my speedtest tool before there was Still a great way to test point to point network transfer rates. And that’s before you talk about its ftp functionality.
  6. Default Folder One of the original Apple UI hacks. When you couldn’t control the settings Apple’s UI these little useful tools came along. Many got eaten by later OS updates. Default Folder has avoided getting “Sherlocked” and still provides some useful functionality. I was never a huge user but this stands as a long running app.
  7. Hourworld This is a little bit of a one trick pony but I like the trick a lot. This was developed by a one man operation that produced a nice little time app. There were (and still are) one person operations that made very useful stuff. Most never made a living at it but it was a somewhat profitable hobby for many, I hope.

    I still like to track the number of seconds of extra sunlight I’m getting .. 34 of them today.. as the days get longer. Never found a replacement.
  8. Interarchy if you want to go back further you can track this back to Anarchie from 1993. I’ve owned both. It’s probably not a coincidence that 2 ftp clients and no web browsers made this list. Credit Peter Lewis and Andrew Tomazos for stewarding this product along. and it has been back and forth between several hands.
  9. GraphicCoverter This has truly been a long running tool that still has a regular spot in my toolbelt. It can open everything from my //gs graphics to Camera RAW. The batch processing of images is still better than most other tools I’ve got. Don’t know how much I’ve contributed to Thorsten Lemke over the years but I don’t regret a bit of it.
  10. BBEdit BBedit gets my top spot because it has pretty much stayed at the top of the heap through too many OS versions to count. And they have the coolest tag line in the software business. “It doesn’t suck.®”

The Mentions

Honorable Mention has to go to Kagi .. before there was Paypal and the App store there was Kagi. They provided the market for a lot of “Shareware“ apps and a path to software authors getting paid. I think you could say things like the Mac App Store owe a chunk of their existance to Kagi.

Another Honorable mention to OmniGroup. They predated OS X (kinda) too! There heritage is on the NextStep which became OS X. There current offerings are great and they did alot to push their Objective C advantage into the Mac world.

I while ago I wrote of my computer history going back to my Apple ][+. Well almost that old is the reading of Apple News from various sources. I must admit to have lost TidBITS in the deluge of RSS feeds that fill my reader. But last year I re-discovered them and now have them on high rotation in Google Reader.

Well TidBITS just had their 20th Anniversary. I read them throught most of the 90s as a text file in the SETEXT format with a tool call EasyView. This was a early version of Markdown that would use formatting cues to break the text document in to chapters and articles. The sidebar would have all the different editions of TidBITS.

TidBITS Inside TidBITS: TidBITS Celebrates 20 Years of Internet Publication.

I’ve always collected large piles of software, especially shareware, for my computers. Part of me just likes that ‘underdog’ role of the small developer. But the uniquely cool thing about being a Mac user is there are some mind-blowingly awesome small Mac developers. Microsoft, Adobe, and Apple all have a large chunk of my hard drives and rightfully so given the large footprint they have in the Marketplace. But more and more the software I really lean on are these little bits I’ve collected over the years.

So inspired by the regular free and cheap picks on Lifehacker, here are some of my recommendations.

First place has to go to GraphicConverter, if for no other reason that I’ve owned it and used it longer than any other piece of software. Think I’ve had it since System7 on my first color Mac. I remember it could open Amiga graphic files – probably still can. Technically I probably own 27 copies of this in various versions.

Coming in at a close second is BBEdit. Owned that one for a while to, can’t remember when I first got it but it predates OS X by a while. Plus I love the “Software that doesn’t Suck” tagline.

An honorable mention to Dragthing which I used sometime starting with System 8 and is still on my machine. Unfortunately it has lost the battle to LaunchBar which continues to have new tricks I continue to learn. Recently started using the clipping history for copy and paste – very nice.

Around for a good long time as well is Fetch and Interarchy, two file transfer utilities I keep around for slightly different reasons. Fetch I still use to speed test downloads because I like the transfer rate displays. Interarchy (nee Anarchie) is an all purpose file utility that I use for Web site updates and backups. Its mirroring and Netdisk features are still the best bridge between a GUI and the Unix world of ftp/sftp. Fetch comes from the pedigree of Dartmouth college alongside some other great Mac Software like Intermapper. Interarchy was another University derived software effort started with Peter N. Lewis which begat Stairways Software and was joined by Andrew Tomazos.

Got to go back to the folks at BareBones, owned just about all their software too, Mailsmith, Yojimbo, in addition to BBEdit. And I could still be using them all with their free lifetime support.

A newer connection is the folks at SmileonmyMac who have a lot of great stuff but TextExpander just works like nothing else I have. It must be hard to sell a little utility like that but this is a lifesaver. And I’ve got it on my iPhone. PDFpen is also the best PDF tool on the Mac. The number of times I’ve had to deal with a form or document and I just type on it and paste in a TIFF of my signature – that is what paperless was supposed to be about. Own just about all their stuff too.

Almost last but not least a special bouquet to HourWorld – a classic example of Mac Shareware. It lasted from OS 9 to OS X and still works on the latest machines – all be it in Rosetta compatibility mode. This bit of work has been on my Macs, and around my family of Macs for over a decade, through 3 major process migrations and at least 4 operating system architectures under Classic Mac OS and OS X.

And I add an “In Memorandum” section to some old software houses that aren’t producing anymore. The folks at Cassidy and Greene who did iTunes before Apple did with SoundJam and the classic game Glider. A morsel of their work still survives with SpellCatcher. A nod to Karelia Software who did desktop search before there even really was search. And Arlo Rose the original Widget-teer before Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Face it if these folks can make something useful for less than $29.95 chances are I’m going to buy it. If for no other reason than they will probably take the $29.95 and make something even better with it. Oh and I probably paid about a million dollars for all those $29.95 pieces of sofware, wonder how far back the records at Kagi go?? Maybe I can find it in my Eudora mailbox somewhere.

After about 4 months of trying out a MSI Wind (Windows and OS X) the experiment is over. The MSI will make way for a 13″ Macbook Pro. It was an interesting test and it certainly had its pluses but in the end it turned out to be too much compromise for too little benefit.

The first hit was portability. While the netbooks are small, I don’t think I ever took mine anywhere I didn’t take my last laptop. The form factor may look compelling but in the end it simply wasn’t a ‘carry anywhere’ device. Here is a quick comparison

  • Height: Macbook 0.95 inch vs  MSI Wind 0.748-1.24″
  • Width: 12.78 vs 10.23″
  • Depth: 8.94” vs 7.08″
  • Weight: 4.5 lbs vs 2.6 lbs
  • Weight with power adapter 5lbs vs 3.3lbs

The weight is the clear win for the MSI but the +/- 2″ doesn’t really matter as much as you might imagine. By the time you back up either with the power brick and a few other bits an pieces you aren’t saving any space at all. If you include the power bricks the Macbook closes the gap by 0.2lbs and just about all the dimensional differences.

Once you get past these specs, all the others go to the Macbook (unsuprisingly). The biggest is the screen, keyboard, and the battery life. In the end the MSI wind was a casual device. Anything more than a twitter update or a short email started to become a pain. In the corners, the special characters and cursor keys are especially small so typing and correcting things like URLs was really frustrating for my hands.

Now on the cost front, the two devices couldn’t be more different. So you could argue the comparision isn’t fair on that basis. If I was happy with Windows there were a number of laptop options similar to the Macbook. They couldn’t compete with the Wind on price but both would be sub-$1000.

As a Hackintosh, the MSI was pretty much a get-what-you-payfor operation. It could run the OS capabily but things like the webcam, bluetooth, and audio was problematic. After the initial ‘interesting’ period I was more likely to go to the den and use the ‘big’ machine rather than finding the Wind.

The final measure was battery life. You buy a portable to be portable and my experience with most PC/Windows devices is they are frequently ‘tethered’ not portable. If the Macbook with the new built-in battery can delivery anywhere near the 7 hours promised that will be the biggest measure of portability. As an example – I can shave another 0.5lb off the weight difference if I can afford to leave the Macbook’s power brick at home. And the carry-weight is down to about 1lb difference from the 2lb difference between the machines themselves.

Again as a cost analysis that is a completely different matter but in the end value is driven by how much you use it.