Top 22 Mac OS X Products: Part Two - InformationWeek
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Top 22 Mac OS X Products: Part Two

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

Snapz Pro X
from Ambrosia Software

Snapz Pro X
(click image for larger view)

Snapz Pro X is a great way to capture screenshots, but it can also do menus, windows as objects, random areas on the screen, and more.

view the image gallery
Snapz Pro is one of those applications that you could easily spend your entire Mac life not using, and not ever need to. But, when you need to make screenshots or full-motion screen captures, you'll wonder how you survived without it. Snapz is in essence a one-trick pony. But it's able to do that one trick better than any other pony in the stable. I've used it to create presentations, tutorials, heck, at one point, I used it to help create a tutorial DVD set.

It's not just the ability to do screenshots better than Mac OS X's built-in feature, it's that you can do menus, windows as objects, random areas on the screen, scale down the shot, save it as a wide range of file formats, make movies of what you're doing on the screen and either capture audio then, or re-do the audio in some other application. It's not the cheapest, but it is the best, and there's reams of work that I'd not have been able to do without it.

Boot Camp
from Apple

Boot Camp
(click image for larger view)

Boot Camp is the already famous tool for running OS X and Windows side-by-side on an Intel-based Mac.

view the image gallery
While I am not the biggest fan of dual and multiboot (mostly because I spent almost three years having to live that life, it's highly overrated), there are times when virtualization won't do and you need-full on native speed. (Mostly for games, but there are other reasons, too. 3-D acceleration in VMs is still not soup yet on the Mac.) For that, there's Boot Camp. It's a really simple way to turn a Mac into a Mac/Wintel box in a fairly painless way. Run the Boot Camp assistant, then use your trusty Windows XP SP2 CD, and 70 or so updates later, you're done!

While it is completely unsupported, you also can use it with Vista, although the driver install is more tedious than on XP. In all fairness, Apple isn't yet supporting Vista in Boot Camp, so if you do this, it's a bit of a science project. But, once you get it on there, Vista runs just fine, and both Oblivion and Neverwinter Nights 2 run just peachy on a MacBook Pro. So if you do need to boot Windows, Boot Camp is a pretty nice way to do it.

created by Adobe Systems

Note here that I'm saying "PDF", not "Acrobat" or any other application. It's a bit strange for this list, but it's also something that I use every day, and it has, since its introduction, made my life a lot easier. The amount of time I spend worrying about documentation formats has dropped to zero. It's going to be PDF: Sun's gonna shine, bird's gonna sing, documentation's gonna be PDF. I can tell you that when documentation is not in PDF, I get really put out.

PDF is one of those things that scales from the simple to the hideously complex. How complex? Well, I live in Missouri, and while the IRS allows you to directly enter your yearly income tax data into a PDF, ("Fillable" PDF), Missouri takes that one step further. OK, it takes it on a long plane ride and a nice hotel further. With the Missouri State Income Tax form, it does the calculations for me, brings up any additional forms I need, and then correctly prints and even bar-codes the PDF for me.

It can do this because Adobe had the foresight to make the PDF document format scriptable à la Word, but instead of VBA or AppleScript, PDF uses JavaScript, and it uses the heck out of JavaScript. This allows you to take a PDF from just a static representation of a form to something that's interactive and quite useful. It also can be digitally signed, so you don't have to worry about tampering, and you can use it in some pretty serious document review and approval workflows. The biggest problem with PDF sometimes is getting Adobe to tell you about it in a way that isn't focused almost exclusively on big enterprise. But even with that, PDF makes my life tons easier than it would be without PDF.

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