In the last five months I’ve found an armload of great OS X freeware:
For an office application suite, you can’t beat OpenOffice. Its OS X incarnation is NeoOffice.
OS X has a good set of system utilities, but there are still a few gaps here and there. For example, it’s not easy to know file and folder sizes at a glance — using ⌘-I in the Finder will only gives you one size measurement at a time. WhatSize measures your whole hard disk and lets you know, well, what size everything on it is. It’s a must when housecleaning time inevitably comes around.
Now that I have a fast computer that can read DVDs and play videos, I’ve been experimenting with ripping my DVDs to AVI files using HandBrake, and playing them (and files in practically any other video format, too) with VLC.
If I need a Photoshop-style image editor, I use The GIMP or Seashore. But honestly, iPhoto is often all I need for cropping and resizing. I’m not crazy about iPhoto’s goofy file structure, and I don’t trust it to manage my images, but it sure has nifty tools.
I use ArcGIS at work, so of course I was curious as to what kinds of geographic information systems apps are out there for the home user. ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education doesn’t have the professional-grade capabilities of its full-service big cousin, but it reads shapefiles just fine, and that’s 95% of what most people want. And hey, it’s free, which is a hell of a lot cheaper than paying per-seat licensing for ArcGIS. And although Google Earth isn’t strictly a GIS app, I include it here because it’s still an amazing tool for looking at the world and I use it just as often.
Other than the Apple apps that come pre-installed in Tiger, the only OS X software app that I’ve actually paid money for is CrossOver Mac, a Windows emulator to let me run those few Windows apps for which there isn’t a good OS X counterpart, like specialized technical software, or certain games, or even Internet Explorer (!). Rival Windows virtualization apps like Parallels Desktop require you to buy (!) and install (!!) Windows onto your Mac, but Crossover Mac works without needing an actual copy of Windows. Instead, it emulates the Windows APIs and fools the Windows apps into thinking that they are running in a Windows environment. It’s very cool, it doesn’t make you vulnerable to Windows viruses, and at $60 it’s also a lot cheaper than having to buy a full copy of Windows.
I use CrossOver Mac to run a few hard-to-replace Windows apps: AutoStitch (an awesome image-stitching tool), ACDSee 2.42 (my favorite old image browser), Picasa (potentially my favorite new image browser, if Google ever develops an OS X version), and even some technical software from work like Visual Sample Plan. I love it.