Making The Move: “Must Have” Apps for Your Fresh Leopard Upgrade

So, as indicated, I finally switched to Leopard (went from 10.4.11 to 10.5.1 to be precise). As with previous operating system installs, I also took the opportunity to upgrade the internal drive in my MacBook Pro, this time kicking it up to 320GB with the new WD Scorpio WD3200BEVT (it has turned out to be a great drive). A defense of this process includes:

  • Get the latest, highest-capacity 2.5″ drive available (score!)
  • Do not have to “waste” time backing up the old system (and I can boot into 10.4.11 when needed)
  • No worries about upgrade hassles (i.e. the Logitech debacle)

The biggest benefit has been an early spring cleaning for my system. The plethora of excellent third-party software available for OS X makes it really easy to gather many little (and not-so-little) utilities and applications, most of which are used quite infrequently. The other bit of cruft that tends to accumulate is a host of installer downloads, PDFs, other documents and various source archives, most of which can (and should) be archived (that *is* why I bought the 1TB NAS drive, right?). This time around, I took a more tactical approach to re-building my system: load only those programs and files that generate a “Doh! I need that!” reaction over the course of the next seven days. (While I tried to stick to that “one week” rule, I wound up going into week number two.)

Given that the new year is finally upon us and we are all resolute to start afresh, I thought it would be interesting for me to post what wound up being “must haves” for my core Leopard workstation and encourage TAB readers to shout out theirs in the comments. Some elements will obviously be the same, but it should be an illuminating exercise, especially if it winds up unveiling a cool, niche app that has received little coverage.

With that in mind, here are my day-to-day Leopard “essentials”:

  • Adium – the best multi-service IM client for OS X
  • Ascent – cycling/fitness tracking app that works very well with Garmin products. If you’re into fitness and have not used this program, definitely check it out. I’m hoping to do a full review in the near future.
  • CandyBar – Leopard’s icons and Dock are horrid and this makes it pretty with zero hassles
  • Carbon Copy Cloner – you *do* do backups, right?
  • EVE Online – while the OS X client is *still* buggy, I am holding out great hope (get with it Cedega!)
  • ExpanDrive – a.k.a. Unison (still in beta); great way to get secure remote drive access
  • EyeTV – Heroes, LOST and Numb3rs in OTA HD with iPhone goodness added in…need I say more?
  • Firefox 3.0 (beta) – an *outstanding* browser
  • Flip4mac – full (paid) version; I need codec compatibility
  • Garmin Training Center – filling in the gaps Ascent still has and ensuring 100% compatibility
  • Growl – universal notification done right
  • Handbrake – good conversion utility
  • iLife ’08 – it’s a keeper (though I would like the old iPhoto back, please)
  • iWork ’08 – simplicity, speed and style (albeit missing a few features)
  • MarsEdit – not as perfect as it needs to be, but a good blogging client nonetheless
  • MenuMeters – because it’s good to know when Windows XP (running in VMware) is eating up 90% of both CPUs
  • OmniGraffle Professional – way better than Visio with all the diagramming functionality I require
  • OmniPlan – mostly to manage projects in my day job
  • Quicksilver – I tried relying solely on Spotlight as a launcher, but realized I actually use some of the QS power-user features
  • Radioshift – because I’m a conservative who is also an NPR addict with time to kill on the bus ride home
  • Remote Desktop Connection – sigh, I still need to get to Windows remotely almost every day
  • Skype – great for cross-platform video chats with folks back east
  • Snapz Pro X – I take lots of screen shots, movies, etc
  • TextWrangler – lets face it, TextEdit sucks & BBEdit costs too much
  • Transmission – because I download, uh, lots of Linux distros…yeah…Linux distros
  • Twitterific – I like to think I’ve got friends out there…somewhere…(@hrbrmstr, btw)
  • VisualHub – for putting those…ah…Linux distros on my iPhone/AppleTV
  • VLC – it can play *anything*
  • VMware Fusion – for security tools, running XP, testing Linux & BSD
  • WriteRoom – this has helped my writing immensely (though TAB readers may disagree)
  • Xcode 3 – because garbage-collected Objective-C rocks my dev-world

Here’s a short-list of what didn’t make the cut:

  • ecto – if we could only, somehow get the best features of ecto and MarsEdit combined into one with a few other essentials added in…
  • iTerm – Leopard’s new, tabbed Terminal give me almost all of the functionality of iTerm without the need for another app
  • Juhu – if Google manages to do something cool with Jaiku, maybe this will make it back
  • MenuCalendar iCal – Leopard integration was sketchy and – with iCal showing the day correctly in the Dock – there was little need for this anymore (at least how I was using it)
  • Miro – formerly Democracy Player; I rarely used it (one can only stomach so much public content)
  • NeoOffice – iWork does all I need for now and I will sadly be using Office 2008 for Mac for work Exchange compatibility
  • NewsFire – Google Reader is where it’s at for me, especially with the slick iPhone interface
  • SubEthaEdit – no need to collaborate this way and no need for yet-another-text-editor at the moment. It’s a very good app, tho.
  • VoodooPad – another very nice app that I wound up never using
  • Parallels – took them way too long for consistent Leopard compatibility then got all ‘Microsoft’ with features/pricing; may come back someday, but gone for now