Monday, February 15, 2010

Seven FREE (and quite useful!) applications for Mac OSX

You will rarely find me turning down something free. But even more than a love of free things, I love free things that are USEFUL. I’ve compiled this list from other lists, videos and blog posts that I have found online. I have not been paid to use any of these programs, I haven’t contacted any of the developers, they haven’t contacted me. All of these opinions are solely my own, and I actively use ALL of these programs- and find them useful. That being said, here is a list of my favorite seven free (and I’m talking COMPLETELY free- no trials or hacks) programs for Mac OSX in alphabetical order!

1. Audacity is a program compatible with both Macs and PCs, which provides a very basic audio recording experience. It is not basic in a bad way, it is simply to straight forward and easy to navigate. All that you have to do, is open the application and press the big red button to record. There is a nice list of effects that can be added to your audio recording, such as echo, pitch and speed change, as well as fade in and fade out functions. I have used Audacity to work on speeches, voice notes, and it is especially helpful when creating custom ringtones. My only issue with the application is that it doesn’t have mp3 encoding built in, but that problem is easily remedied with a download of the necessary file from their code library- and Audacity even provides you with a link to the download page!

2. Bean is a fully operating word processor for Mac, and a what I consider to be a FABULOUS substitute for Apple’s TextEdit, a program I never warmed up to. One of my favorite features is the full screen function, which is similar to Write Room, allowing you to customize alternate screen colors, and fill up the entire screen with your text, removing any excess distractions, which is very useful for someone like... me! Bean allows you to save your document with over 9 different extensions, so you never have to worry about your formatting translating from, say a Mac to a PC. Bean is a solid program which is flexible and great for everyday use. Oh, and did I mention that it’s coffee themed? HUGE plus!

3. ByteController is like a three year old, (stick with me here) meaning that it is tiny, but powerful! Byte Controller places a small, three button icon in your menu bar which plays, pauses, fast forward and rewinds songs in iTunes. Some people use the mini player from iTunes, but this is smaller, more inconspicuous (obviously) and the buttons are fully customizable! I like the fact that you don’t have to open the iTunes window every time you don’t like a song, or need to pause. There is honestly no downside to this app!

4. Caffeine I really love Caffeine, both the drinkable kind, and this application! Caffeine, like ByteController and the next application, Perian is small, but useful. Caffeine’s use is simple; it keeps your screen lit up to full brightness, while you’re doing something like watching a YouTube video, or reading a document, and not constantly touching a key or the mouse. It comes in the form of a small coffee cup sitting in your menu bar, and can be turned on for anytime from five minutes to five hours, and indefinitely. Again, like with ByteController, I have nothing negative to say!

5. Perian is the only program that I have listed here, which runs fully in the background. Perian is a group of “plug in” type codes for Quicktime, allowing you to view nearly any file type without downloading extra players. Perian has saved me money and time that I would have spent buying other players, or converting files. A must have!

6. Quinn Do NOT download Quinn if you like games, especially Tetris... and have a tendency to become distracted. Quinn is Tetris. For free. With full customizations. (Can you tell I really like personalization?) Yeah, it’a addictive, and you can basically make it as pretty as you want. Downside? Three hours later, you wonder what on earth happened to your afternoon!

7. SketchUp can be downloaded from Google, and us available for use on both Macs and PCs. SketchUp is a full-scale digital 3D modeling software. It lets you design the exterior of houses and buildings, down to tiny things like pens and books, and furniture. It takes awhile to really get the hang of the program interface, but once you’re familiar with how things are laid out, you can create neighborhoods and cities... Whee!

So that’s it! Those are my seven “staple” programs. There are a few others that I like as well, but this “Super Seven” will get any Mac user (new or old) on the way to creating and listening to music, creating and editing documents, designing 3D models, playing games, and watching videos, with both obscure file extensions and for long periods of time without the screen dimming. If you know of any other freeware programs, post them in the comments, or let me know via Twitter, at ‘theknittingnerd’. :)


  1. Wow! SketchUp looks addictive and useful for cementing nebulous ideas of story settings. A lot of these (especially Bean and Perian) make me wish for a PC equivalent! Thanks for posting these.

  2. I am probably a bit late, but in Perian's case, you can grab VLC for Windows, a free/open source media player that plays pretty much anything you throw at it.

    For Bean, there are a number of alternatives, including AbiWord, which I used to use before I obtained Word 2007, and, which is a full office suite, and may be a bit of overkill.

  3. Wow. Thank you for the help!


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