Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, the founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, one half of Viewport Industries, and an electronic musician.

5 apps for a new MacBook Pro

Posted on 13 July 2007 Comments

Article illustration for 5 apps for a new MacBook Pro

As I fired up my new Carson Systems MacBook Pro for the first time on Monday and began to fill it with loads of wonderful apps, I noticed a pattern emerging with regards to which apps I installed first. Besides the regular heavyweights (i.e: the Adobe Creative Suite), there are a number of the ‘little guys’ – lesser known, cheaper, and produced by very small software houses – that I give preference to, and it got me thinking: what do web professionals consider to be the essential apps for a new Macbook Pro?

Over the next couple of days, my list evolved: no longer an essential apps list, it’s more of a hey, check these out list. It’d be great to hear about other people’s lists in the comments section!

1. Parallels ( parallels.com)

Article illustration for Essential apps for a new MacBook Pro

I’ve been aching to install Parallels for ages but couldn’t bare to cough up the cash to pay for the necessary Windows license(s). Luckily, as we’re all Mac-based at Carson Systems, it was essential that we got Windows on our Macs. Now, although Parallels can’t compare to Boot Camp in terms of performance (general performance isn’t great, audio support is poor, and a complete lack of Direct X support means no gaming and no Google Earth), you just can’t beat Parallels for its immediacy: having as many virtual machines as you like, all running simultaneously with OSX. For browser-testing (which is the sole reason Parallels, XP and Vista were necessary), you just can’t beat this set-up.

In my geek-tastic excitement (hey, Sam was out for the night!), I uploaded a few screengrabs to this Flickr set and you can see some of Parallels’ latest features. Coherence in particular is pretty special: you can now have your Windows apps appear totally OS-less, floating alongside your OSX apps like they were Mac natives. And the tighter integration between operating systems doesn’t stop there: Windows app icons now appear in the OSX dock and the app switcher (complete with live previews if you so wish). And again, that applies to all virtual machines running. Wow.

2. TextMate ( macromates.com)

I still can’t rave enough about this wonderful little app; a €39 text editor that renders Dreamweaver obsolete for any web designer who cares about their code. I recently attended an Adobe conference on AIR (formerly Apollo) and the even the speaker ( Daniel Dura, an Adobe developer, at an Adobe conference, demo-ing Adobe apps) was using TextMate to edit his files. Nuff said.

3. Versions unreleased

Now, how can I recommend an app that hasn’t even seen a public beta yet? In truth, I can’t, but I will say that this is going to be one to watch, and for two reasons:

1) Versions comes from the same software house that brought us Disco, one of the most beautiful and forward-thinking Mac apps out there today. Its attention to detail and outright sexiness (in spite of its total disregard for the Aqua GUI) never cease to amaze me.

2) The existing SVN clients for Mac are crap. At Carson Systems we use RapidSVN but its lack of support for standard OSX keyboard shortcuts make it rather cumbersome to use. Aral Balkan recommends Syncro SVN, but I think it’s ugly and looks like a Windows app.

I’ve got a lot of faith in this one.

4. Flock 0.9 beta ( flock.com)

Hold your horses: I’m not recommending this app. Flock 0.9 beta is in the list purely because I want to draw attention to it and open up a discussion about it, because I’m just not sure where I sit with this one. I’ve always liked Flock because of its tight Flickr integration, but my gripe was with the slightly cartoony, over friendly interface. Well, version 0.9 beta has a whole new layer of unnecessary interface icing, and is dripping with being over designed… in my opinion. But there are some bits I really like: the new media bar, with its black sleekness, is just lovely, even if it is a little reminiscent of ‘the Vista look’. The tabs, too, have got some lovely shadow effects going on. Check out my annotated screengrab on Flickr.

The thing that worries me about Flock’s new look is that it reminds me of the way Netscape went: there’s just too much in there, there’s no breathing space, and it’s totally missed the point of beautifully minimalist interfaces such as that of Safari (pre version 3). The worst travesty, however, is the new Flock website: they’ve scrapped the wonderful work Brian Veloso did and created something just plain ugly.

5. Three Dashboard widgets

Number 5 is a bit of a cop-out, because I’m using it to recommend my three favourite Dashboard widgets. Although the term ‘widget’ has now become as overused and meaningless as “Web 2.0”, there are a small amount of widgets that are still relatively useful, even in our professional lives.

The widget I use every day without fail is Screenshot Plus, which gives you far greater control over screengrabbing than the default tools built into OSX. A variety of output formats, a timed shutter, and the ability to take grabs of selected application windows or widgets – all complete with full alpha transparency – makes it an indispensable tool.

My next most commonly used Dashboard widget is Amazon Album Art, which fixes the gaping hole left by iTunes when it can’t find artwork. Amazon Album Art searches – as you may have guessed – the Amazon databases (a variety of countries are available) for matching artwork, and then sets the images in iTunes without you ever having to leave the widget.

I’ll never stop praising Shaun Inman’s Mint stats app, and his Junior Mint widget allows you to see your major stats at a glance. Simple. Beautiful. Perfect.

“David, it’s over to you”

I want to hear about your favourite apps and / or widgets! Leave your lists in the comments and let me know your thoughts on the ones I selected. Come on, don’t be shy – everyone loves a good list…

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