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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Top 10 Mac Apps of 2010

So as the year 2010 draws to a close, I know that many people will start
compiling their "best of" and "worst of" lists for various things.

I'm no exception it seems, as I'm sitting here thinking of some
of the apps on I use regularly in my day job as as a
Certified Mac Systems Administrator, a video enthusiast,
or just a guy who loves to have fun on his Mac, iPod or iPhone.

So, today, I'm posting my 10 favorite apps I use quite often.
I'll break them down into three categories: Productivity,
Entertainment, and Enhancement.

Productivity: Applications that help me to be more productive
in my day and accomplish more in a shorter time frame:

1. Apple Remote Desktop : I live in this app for about four out of 9 hours
in my work day, and I've managed to get very good at making it handle
a lot of tasks that otherwise would take me much manual labor  to handle.
It is the go to "smart app" for Macintosh Systems management, and though
long overdue for an update, it still is robust enough ( and can be extended
mightily with Unix scripting and Automator actions) to get the job done.

Think of any task that would require you physically touching a mac to do:
Changing IP addresses, naming the computer, getting the serial number information,
Setting up DNS and web filtering, installing software updates, etc....
ARD as it is known, can handle all of that and more.

2. VisualHub
Yes, I know it is discontinued. Yes, I know it is very hard to find on the web,
if you can find it.
But it is well worth the search if you can find it.  When I need to convert
some tutorial videos to put on my iPod for later viewing, this is the app
I turn to. When I have a problematic flv or wmv file that I just need a clip
of to put into Final Cut Pro, or to use for a DVD menu
in DVD Studio Pro, this is the app that transcodes those problem videos
into workable clips.
Or, when I have a few movie or tv shows ripped from my DVDs
and I want them to get put into xvid files for copying to my WD TV Live box,
and I want it to be run in a batch overnight leaving me free to worry about other
things right now...well, you get the idea.

3.  Alfred
What is there to say about Alfred that many other multi-taskers haven't said already about this wonderful app? Once installed on your mac,
Alfred enables you to open apps, folders, perform finder tasks much faster
than click and drag, double clicking, or even using the dock
( for me, it cuts waaay down on my dock being cluttered).
What it saves in keystrokes and mouse clicks, adds back time to my busy day.

4. Mail
Apple's Mail client is the best email client for me period. I can check multiple
email account's and with Rules setup, I can get important email brought
to my attention, semi-important emails flagged for a later read, and I
can forward emails to another email account
( like my mobile me or gmail account) to read on my iPhone while traveling.
I leave it up and running on my mac at home, & it handles all my
emails and attachments without fail. It's like having a dedicated assistant for email.

Entertainment: Applications that might be considered time wasters,
as I often spend what free time I have glued to the computer
or my iPhone immersed in these applications;

5. Peggle
I can't help it: I'm addicted to this game! A game of skill, that as you clear levels,
you get deeper and deeper into playing it...I've once played for 3 hours straight!

6. Zombie Attack Second Wave:  
 Another great game that I find myself addicted to on my iPhone.
The various combinations of building weapons of destruction to take
out the zombie hordes is both entertaining and coming up with ways to
survive while building as many guns to destroy the zombies  that seek
to eat you and destroy your structures can cause
you to lose track of time. I somehow manage to find time to play
this even at 5 to 10 intervals and still manage to get lost in the game.

Enhancement: These applications enhance my ability to get tasks done,
often tasks I do in Applications that should be able to natively to do the
task I want to do, but either the manufacturer of the app was short sighted
on that functionality, or they left the app open-ended so that someone
could come along and enhance it:

7. Automator
Apple's built in app builder is essential for creating little applications
that can (a) cut down on repetitive tasks, (b) create short "auto launchers"
for frequently used apps, and can also be used as a "middle man" app
between other apps, by utilizing Folder Actions.

Want to have a sequence in Final Cut Pro, when exported to a folder, then
have that item sent to Visual Hub to convert to iPod format?
Automator can help with that.
Want to create an "internet" launcher that launches Safari or Firefox to a
specific website, without having to remember the url? Automator to the rescue!
Or one of my often used favorites:
Have several web pages saved from the internet as pdf files, and I have an
Automator Folder Action set to (a) open the PDFs in acrobat pro, and then
(b)make a copy of them to my external drive for backup. Automator has
several uses, and the internet has many tutorials
on how you can use it.

8. Perian, Flip4Mac, and QT Mpeg-2 add-on:
I'm lumping all three here but that's because they all do the same thing:
each extends the functionality of Apple's Quicktime architecture to enable
Quicktime Pro,  or MpegStreamClip, the ability to handle various filetypes
you'll encounter outside of Apple's default .mov file type: .flv , .mkv, or xvid files
(Perian), Windows Media Files ( Flip4Mac) and DVD compliant Mpeg-2 streams
(QT Mpeg-2 addon). If you ever have a relative bring you his mini-cam and want
his files taken off the camera and made into DVDs for your cousin, you'll be glad
you have the QT Mpeg-2 addon. If you have someone send you a video link
from Vimeo or Youtube of your nephew's soccer game, and you want to
convert it to put on your iPhone or iPod touch, you'll be glad for Perian.
If you have a friend on a PC (& we all have those :) ), and they send you
a video they made on their  Compaq and they want you to tell them what's
wrong with the color red on it, you'll be glad for Flip4Mac.

9. R-Name
A great utility that enables you to rename files and folders on volumes quickly.
You may not have to do this often, but the first time your faced with
the task of doing more than 25 individual files that reside in 50 different
individual folders, you'll be glad you had this tool handy.

10. Automatic
Lastly, is this little add-on that helps with my time shifting of tv content
on the mac.
As often busy as I am with work and family, I don't have time to catch
my favorite shows when they come on cable. Luckily for me, this little
add on to my favorite bittorrent client Transmission, allows me to set
up "show lists" that fetch and download my  shows for me to watch
to watch later when it's convenient for me.

Well, those are my choices, Compare them to what you use often and
create your own top 10 apps list. Post it below in the comments,
I'd love to hear what your choices are.

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