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Best Apple Mac OS X Software: Part One

Our Apple expert John C. Welch picks 22 lesser-known applications that can make your Mac experience more productive and more fun. Part 1 of 2.

from Bare Bones Software

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BBEdit 8.6 is billed as a professional HTML and text editor for the Mac. Bare Bones Software , BBEdit's maker, markets it with the motto, "It doesn't suck."

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There are not a lot of applications that I'm a "fan" of. I'm normally willing to change applications without hesitation if I need to. But there are exceptions, and BBEdit is one of them. It is nominally a text editor, or a programmer's editor but, really, it's a text toolbox. If I'm not writing in BBEdit, it's because I am required to use something else, or it's a blog post, and I'm using Ecto. I mentioned that I like Transmit for its integration with BBEdit. That's because I don't think it's possible for me to get through a day without needing BBEdit. A short list of the features I use: Multifile searching (I mean entire directory trees with little to no effort), GREP support, language syntax support, html previews in any browser on my system or WebKit, amazing AppleScript support, on and on. Yes, I know, again, I can replicate everything BBedit does with the command line, or other editors and tools. But for my needs, why bother when BBedit gives me everything I could ever need or want in one package? A recent UI design managed to do that which so many other applications have failed at: It made the UI not just better, but easier and simpler to use. BBEdit got me through every programming or HTML class I've ever taken, and the library of searches I've built up over the years gives me rather astounding power in a fast, easy package. As long as Rich Siegel and all the other folks at Bare Bones keep working their mad BBEdit mojo, I'll keep buying it and using it.


Missing Sync for Windows Mobile
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Missing Sync for Windows Mobile lets you easily connect and synchronize Pocket PCs and smartphones with your Mac.

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I mentioned Missing Sync already, and with good reason. It's the best Windows Mobile to Mac OS sync software bar none. I will say that about their Palm product, and based on past experience, I'll say it about their upcoming BlackBerry product as well. It does exactly what I need, and doesn't throw me surprises along the way. The Sync Services integration means that I don't have to care about application conduits. It's been such a solid application that, at this point, I refuse to buy a non-iSync supported phone that isn't supported by Missing Sync, and given the choice, I'd happily pick Missing Sync over iSync any day of the week. Even if iSync were to support Windows Mobile devices, I'd stick with Missing Sync. It's good enough to beat free.

OmniGraffle Pro
from The Omni Group
from Computer Systems Odessa

OmniGraffle Pro
(click image for larger view)

OmniGraffle is a serious tool, which can handle almost any diagramming task you throw at it.

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(Yes, I know, two products, but I don't think you can mention one without the other, and I use or have used both quite a bit.) One of the workhorse applications for IT people on Windows is Visio. I've been an off-and-on Visio user since version 4 on Windows 95, and it's consistently been one of those applications that I've really wanted on the Mac. Well, thanks to two products, ConceptDraw and OmniGraffle Pro, I don't really care as much about Visio anymore. Don't get me wrong, Visio was, and is still, a great product. But between ConceptDraw and OmniGraffle Pro, the need for Visio on the Mac has, for me at least, dropped rather low.

ConceptDraw is the most Visio–like of the two. If you're used to Visio and its ins and outs, then ConceptDraw is going to be the easier option. It's got more of a business and IT focus than OmniGraffle, and has the ability to automatically scan your network to create a diagram in the NetDiagrammer version. ConceptDraw is cross-platform, with versions that run on Windows and Mac OS X, so you see some design decisions that may not always be the most "Mac" way to do things, such as not using AppleScript in favor of its own cross-platform scripting language, some UI quirks that betray the task of serving two masters. So ConceptDraw is not the best Mac UI ever. However, if you have to deal with large, complex network diagrams, or need a diagramming tool that is at home on two platforms, ConceptDraw is a great product. I know I've never been disappointed with it.

OmniGraffle is an unabashedly Mac–only application. Written by one of the premier Cocoa programming teams on the planet, it takes advantage of every Mac OS X feature and adds a few of its own. It's beautiful and the diagrams it creates are beautiful as well. However, it's not just a pretty shell. OmniGraffle is a serious tool and can handle almost any diagramming task you throw at it. It just happens to be really pretty as well, and that's never a bad thing. Like ConceptDraw, it can handle Visio diagrams well (thanks to Visio wisely supporting an XML–based file format), and it can help you visualize your network in whatever manner you choose. As a good Mac application, it of course has a solid AppleScript implementation, which gives it a serious edge over ConceptDraw on the Mac. It's not as convenient as ConceptDraw in some ways (automated network diagrams, cross–platform), but if you're primarily a Mac user, you'll not be sorry you use OmniGraffle. That's the great thing about having a vibrant developer community that doesn't live in fear of Redmond: you get more cool toys, and for my needs, both ConceptDraw and OmniGraffle rule.

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