As a Mac user, I'm always on the lookout for fresh programs and simpler and cheaper alternatives to expensive bloated software. Here are some of the Mac gems I've discovered over the years that have been particularly useful. Best of all? Theses are all free.
Alfred is a relatively recent addition to my Mac's software repertoire. It fills the space that long ago was occupied by Quicksilver. It now serves as my launcher in lieu of the native Spotlight option. However, Alfred is much more than simply a lightning-fast launcher. It also allows users to search and manipulate not only information on their local machine, but also on the web. For a full overview of the power of Alfred, check out the Features section. You can get a lot out of its free version and even more out of its Powerpack (which sports the strangely exact price of $23.84). It still makes me smile every time I hit my hotkey of choice and a wonderfully simple search bar with that classy bowler hat pops up.
Bean is a pared-down word processor. If you're looking for a free alternative to options like Microsoft Word, try Bean. While it does not sport the array of options that hefty programs like Word give you, it does offer a cleaner and simpler interface. It can't really be considered a full word processor, but that isn't its purpose. Bean cannot do footnotes or some of the more complex formatting functions of Word. But it isn't meant to. It was never supposed to play in the major leagues. It's meant to serve some, not all. If you find that Word just doesn't mesh with your writing or word processing habits, give Bean a try.
Caffeine (also available in the Mac App Store) is a wonderfully simple utility that does just one thing. It keeps your mac awake (in metaphorical parallel to the way that coffee fuels a struggling college student's all-nighter). Once installed, a tiny empty coffee cup icon sits in your menu bar, waiting to be called upon. When activated, coffee and steam fill the cup and Caffeine prevents your Mac from going to sleep, dimming its display, or activating the screen saver. Simple as that.
Dropbox is a cloud-based service that allows you to store, sync, and share just about anything. After registering for an account, installing Dropbox on your Mac will automatically create a Dropbox folder in your home folder. Anything you add to your Dropbox folder is synced to the cloud and then accessible from any machine or compatible mobile device. You can populate your new folder with sub-folders and files until you reach your space limit (a standard free account tops out at 2 gigs). You can always upgrade your account (for a price) if you want to enjoy luxurious amounts of space. Sharing folders and files is easy (and often gets you a free storage space boost!). There are also a variety of options for increasing your Dropbox space without shelling out for an upgraded account. However, upgrading is $10 per month for 50 gigs or $20 per month for 100 gigs.
HandBrake is an app that began as a simple DVD ripper. However, it has now expanded into an incredibly-versatile video converter as well. Though the interface can seem overwhelming at first with so many options and drop-downs, it doesn't take too long to become familiar with its workings. It's perfect for mobilizing, backing up, and converting your movie collection and can handle almost any file format you could think to throw at it.
Notational Velocity is one of hundreds of list apps. However, it stands out among the competition. It is open source, saves and syncs all changes automatically, and is designed to be used with only a keyboard. As a note app, it brings together your mac and mobile device in a way few other apps can. You name a list or note, you put whatever text-based content you want in it, and then that content is accessible anywhere. Think of it like a Dropbox for lists that has no space limit. To sync your lists to a mobile device, try an app like Simplenote. Whether you make changes on your mac or mobile device, your content is always up to date.
VLC is the one-size-fits-all king of video players. It can handle virtually any format you can think of and works simply and beautifully without having to download extra software or add-ons (codexes, etc.). If you don't have VLC, get it.
What are some of the best freeware apps that you've found for your Mac? Feel free to share in the comments section.