Free Mac-only applications every MacBook user should have

I’ve said it before and I will say it again – I am an application addict. I’ve also pointed out that one of the Mac’s great strengths is in the quality of it’s developers and software. With that in mind, I present to you today 5 applications, each of which is:

  1. Only available on the Mac
  2. Free (!)
  3. Especially useful for MacBook users
  4. Really great
  5. Did I mention FREE?

Check them out and let me know what you think!

1. Caffeine by Lighthead Software

Caffeine is one of those insanely simple applications that, once you use it, you find that you cannot live without. Just like it’s namesake, Caffeine’s one purpose in life is to keep your Mac AWAKE! With a single click on the menu bar, you can prevent your Mac from going to sleep, doing the pre-sleep dimming or turning on the screensaver!

Caffeine

It's better than pouring coffee on your keyboard. Trust me.

I find this especially useful when I’m watching full-screen videos where you’re usually completely hands-off of the keyboard and mouse. It’s even more when I’m running off of the battery, where default Energy Saver settings cause the screen to dim after only 60 seconds of inactivity. Sure, I could always adjust my Energy Saver settings, but sleeping the display is actually good for your computer, and I don’t want to have to continuously change them back and forth.

2. coconutBattery by Christoph Sinai

Since you’re going to be keeping your Mac awake, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on it’s battery. Any poor soul can look at the menu bar to get a rough idea of how long their battery will last, but the built-in utility isn’t always 100 percent accurate, and is meager in what information it offers you. coconutBattery offers some nice improvements here that can give you deeper insight into your energy situation.

coconutBattery - weird name, but super useful.

coconutBattery - weird name, but super useful.

Not only will coconutBattery show your your battery’s charge down to the milliampere-hour (mAh), but it also shows you how that compares to the maximum charge of your battery, as well as the original charge capacity (so you can see if your battery is getting run down). You can save this data periodically, allowing you to track your battery over time. It also lets you know how old your computer is, which is nice, in case you forgot.

3. Quicksilver by Blacktree

Quicksilver is a launcher, but calling it that is like calling a computer a clock. Yes, it can do that, but if that is all you are using if for you are SO missing out.¬†Besides acting as an application launch and file search tool, Quicksilver is a highly-extensible command interface that allows you to do almost any action or command with almost any file simply by typing a few characters. For example, I could create an email, with a recipient and attach a file to it in less than 10 keystrokes. “Why not just drag the file onto the email?”, you ask. Well, what if Mail.app isn’t running, or simply not in my Dock? I don’t want to have to always dig through my Applications folder to get to it.

The all-powerful Quicksilver

The all-powerful Quicksilver

Or what if I just don’t like using a trackpad to drag stuff around? (Hint: I don’t.) Using the trackpad for long periods of time is awkward and tiring on my hands. Quicksilver’s greatest benefit for me is that is makes so much of OS X accessible from the keyboard, without forcing you to you to learn UNIX or leave the GUI. The example I gave is a very simple view into what Quicksilver is capable of. And because it’s so extensible (it’s open source), it can “learn” about new file types and applications, expanding it’s abilities with each new extension.

Quicksilver is simple, fast and powerful, and it’s one of those applications that truly changed the way I use a computer. Download it, play with it and give it some time to sink in.

4. Cyberduck – Open Source

Most mobile computer users need a quick and easy way to upload and download data from various servers and sources, and Cyberduck is far and away the best free remote file browser around. It covers almost anything you could want – FTP, SFTP, WebDav, Amazon S3 and CloudFront and Cloud Files – and because it’s open source it could theoretically have additional functionality added as needed.

Because nothing says remote data access like a rubber duck.

Because nothing says remote data access like a rubber duck.

Let’s face it – FTP applications are more useful than they are exciting. That being said, there are some nicer features here. Cyberduck has tight integration with text editors to make editing remote files very simple and it also does a very slick job of integrating with OS X’s Spotlight searching and Keychain services. If you’re in need of a remote file browser, and don’t want to spend on something like Panic’s Transmit ($29.95), Cyberduck is where it’s at. Plus, it’s a rubber-duck on your dock…that alone is worth the download.

5. iAlertU – Slapping Turtle Software

Most of us have laptops because we enjoy being mobile, but part of the burden of taken your laptop everywhere is that you have to keep an eye on it. Have you ever been to a coffee shop and need to use the rest room, but didn’t because your MacBook was just sitting there? No more!

iAlertU is another free utility that lets you protect your MacBook if you need to step away from in briefly. With this App, you can use the remote that comes with every MacBook to enable an alarm that gets triggered if your Macbook is moved, closed, unplugged or messed with in other ways. The alarm is really loud – enough that I’d expect would-be thieves to bolt and leave your lovely computer behind. Check out the video.

There is also an additional feature that allows the built-in iSight to snap a picture at the time the alarm is tripped, and then email that picture to a specified address. I have yet to get this feature to work, but I’ve seen it work for others, so it’s likely just a matter of getting a patch. But even without this feature, it’s a great way to give you some peace of mind when you’re out and about with your Mac.

So, get to downloading! Let me know what you think in the comments below, and feel free to share your must-have apps.

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