I converted to Apple’s Mac and OS X in 2007 after returning from a mission trip to Cameroon (in West-Central Africa) with about 1800 photographs.  When I began working with them on the PC, things were slllloooooowwwwww, and Windows did not support my camera very well, even though it was one of the top consumer DSLR cameras.  Here are my “must have apps” for the Mac.  Note that ($) indicates that you must pay for the application.

Instant Messaging & Social Media

  • Adium: This is a great instant messenger client (program) that can connect to over 15 instant messenger services, including AOL Instant Messenger (AIM), Yahoo, and MSN/Live Messenger.  It will even connect to Facebook and Myspace!
  • Skype: Want to make PC to PC voice and video calls for free?  This is one of the best ways to do it.  It has good audio and video quality, and you can make calls to landlines for a small fee.
  • Tweetdeck: Connect to and monitor Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Twitter.  Post messages to one account or all accounts, and more!  Also available for the iPhone.

Internet & Network

  • Chicken of the VNC: This program allows you to connect to any computer running VNC Server.
  • Cyberduck: This is a great graphical interface for FTP, SFTP, Cloud Files, and Amazon S3 services.
  • Firefox: A great alternative browser with a lot of add-ons.  I use this as my primary browser.
  • Remote Desktop Connection: If you work in an environment with Windows PCs or servers, this will allow you to connect to Remote Desktop or Terminal Servers.
  • Safari: Apple’s web browser comes pre-installed on your Mac, and is available for Windows as well.  This is my “backup” or secondary browser.


  • MacGourmet Deluxe ($): I am a foodie, and this cookbook allows me to keep track of my recipes and wine pairings easily.  The software will even allow you to get recipes off of popular websites!
  • Macjournal ($): As a member of Toastmasters and a speaker/trainer, I use this to journal about my day and to capture speech ideas.  You can also use it to write blog posts offline and upload them when convenient.

Multimedia & Imaging

  • Adobe Photoshop CS4 ($): This is the “must have” image editor for Mac or PC.   While it costs money, it is the industry standard for professional photographers and artists.
  • Aperture ($): The battle rages between Apple’s Aperture and Adobe Lightroom, and for now I’m using Aperture.  This software is able to handle thousands of images, can tag people in photos, and has quick adjustments built in.
  • EyeTV ($): Looking for a TV-Tuner for the Mac?  Check out Elgato’s products.  Their EyeTV software does a great job for recording television or other sources.
  • Gimp: This is a great Photoshop alternative for the Mac.  The GNU Image Manipulation Program will allow you to make most adjustments and even supports plug-ins.
  • iTunes: Pre-installed on your Mac, it is by far the best audio/video organizer, plus it provides easy access to the iTunes store.
  • Pandora: If you love music like I do, you have to check out Pandora.  It allows you to listen to music over the internet, and, using information from the Music Gnome Project, it will play songs that you may like.  You can then vote “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” to help it learn your likes, dislikes, and interests.  You can even create your own stations.  Listen free with ads, or pay $36/year for no adds, an awesome desktop application, and more benefits.


  • DimDim: Free web conferencing for up to 20 people.  Pro and Webinar versions available.
  • Keynote ($): Part of Apple’s iWork suite, Keynote is an alternative to Powerpoint on a Mac.
  • Mousepose’ ($): If you do any kind of presntations, check this tool out!  It adds features to make your mouse more visible on the screen, and can even pop keystrokes up.
  • Remote Buddy ($): You do not need to purchase an expensive presentation remote if you have the Apple Remote.  This application will allow you to control any application on your Mac.  Great for training and more.
  • Yugma: This software allows you to host online meetings with up to twenty people.  Pro versions available.


  • NeoOffice: An alternative to Microsoft Office products that can read and write Office 2007 files.  Also consider trying OpenOfice.
  • Numbers ($): Part of the iWork suite, this is an alternative to Microsoft Excel and should do the job or home users.
  • Pages ($): Part of the iWork suite, this is an alternative to Microsoft Excel and should do the job or home users.


  • TextWrangler: If you dabble in programming, scripts, and website development check out this text editor.  It offers a substantial feature set and, if you need it, a paid version.
  • TrueCrypt: An open source software that can encrypt drives or file containers.  This is a great/free way to protect your data.  To see how to encrypt a drive, click here.

Virtual Machines

  • VMWare Fusion ($): Run Windows and Windows applications without leaving OS X!  One of the best benefits of using VMWare is that you can run just about any VMWare “guest” on your mac!  A 30 day trial is available.
  • Parallels Desktop ($): An alternative to VMware.  A 30 day trial is available.

Many of the applications are free, and are great alternatives to “paid” software.  While not the definitive list, it should be a good start to becoming productive with your Mac.