Welcome, Mac Geeks

Software for Mac OS X

MacHeist Logo
Lately I’ve discovered and started using quite a few (to me) new Mac OS X applications. Some of this I got through the MacHeist nanoBundles (1 and 2), which I heard about through TUAW. The first bundle was free and gave me the applications: ShoveBox, WriteRoom, Twitterific, TinyGrab, Hordes of Orcs and Mariner Write. In nanoBundle 2 I got the following applications for $19.95: MacJournal, RipIt, Clips, CoverScout, Tales of Monkey Island, RapidWeaver, Airburst Extreme, Tracks, Burning Monkey Solitaire and Tweetie. Pretty good deals! :-)

I haven’t really played much ant of the games (Hordes of Orcs, Airburst Extreme, Burning Monkey Solitaire and Monkey Island.) I don’t have time for too much playing—I prefer doing other stuff. And I have been addicted to certain games in the past ... As for other apps I haven’t used much: The Word Processors (WriteRoom and Mariner Write, more on these beneath), TinyGrab (not sure why I didn’t end up using it, I removed it from memory resident programs/login items), RipIt (haven’t ripped any DVD’s after I got it, it’s told to be good) and Flow (which might come in handy soon, for FTP stuff).
So now, I’m waiting to see what MacHeist nanoBundle 3 will bring.

Word Processors

When it comes to word processors, I have never really found any I liked—until recently. I’ve learn, used and taught various word processors over the years: Word Perfect (DOS and Amiga), Word for Windows, FrameMaker, Applixware for Linux/UNIX, Star/OpenOffice.org Writer, AbiWord and a bunch of others, but I never really liked any of them (even if FrameMaker had it’s certain strengths, forcing good habits). To explain my aversion/bad relationships to all these word processors briefly, the problems has been that the programs tend to obstruct me in the creative process. I tend ti either get lost/use a lot of time on technical details (I’m a perfectionist in certain areas) to get it right, or I get frustrated by a lack of functionality.

Lately when I was about to write a paper at school, I got tired of OpenOffice.org Writer. I don’t really lack functions, but it “got in my way”—got me focused on solving technical details. (And it is also not very quick on Mac OS X. The same goes for NeoOffice.) I don’t own a Microsoft Office licence and I didn’t consider getting one, as my experience with Word was not the best (based on previous encounters with it and with helping others with it). I tried Hog Bay Software’s WriteRoom (MacHeist), but that was too stripped down for me—I need to add structure/styles, footnotes and such as I type. I tried Mariner Write, from the same MacHeist bundle, but I found the interface to be a little old fashioned and not very smooth, and I had certain interoperability issues (I think it was RTF files not being imported/exported with the desired results). Then I tried some free alternatives, like the Linux/UNIX apps AbiWord and KWord, neither being optimal for my use (not too tightly integrated on OS X, and in some ways “getting in my way”, just as many other word processors). I also tried the free Bean word processor, but there I was lacking the ability to work with styles (structuring the text, instead of just changing fonts and such). Working with styles, it’s easier to concentrate on the text and them format/reformat the text later on. I have also used Apple’s Pages ’08 (from iWork ’08) previously, but that was more like a lightweigth desktop publishing (DTP) program and also lacked some features I wanted (or maybe it was just more inconvenient to do certain things, I don’t remember). One feature I like, which Pages lacked (if I remember correctly), is the possibility of importing and exporting ODT (open document text) documents, which is a format I encounter a lot.

Nisus Writer Pro Logo

Nisus Writer vs. Mellel

So, making a long story short, I found that the two most suitable alternatives for Mac OS X seemed to be Mellel and Nisus Writer (Pro/Express). So, since I had just writing my school paper, I tried out both Mellel and Nisus Writer. First I wrote some in Mellel. It was OK, but I was not convinced. (Sometimes you don’t know if taking the time to learn the ways of an application is worth it for later efficiency or not.) So I switched to Nisus Writer Express and continued writing my paper. And I liked it very much, all the functions I wanted (footnotes, endnotes, styles, header/footer, page numbering, tabs, margins, separate first page header/footer, languages, word/character count and more), it was all there, and easily available. And before I knew it, I had completed my entire paper in this demo version of Nisus Writer Express.

I did some more research, checked functions like template handling, pictures and such and I read some reviews/forums and found that many people endorsed the application. Some complained about instability, but I have never, ever had a program crash. The I read more about the differences between the Express and Pro versions, and decided I need comments, indexes and more filters, so I bought Nisus Writer Pro. And I am still very satisfied, a couple of months later. This is the first time ever that I have looked forward to writing. I am actually enthusiastic about a word processor, for the first time in my life. My only problem with Nisus, is that there is no Linux version. (And I am working with both Linux/UNIX and Mac OS X.)

Nisus Writer is hereby recommended! :)

Other Nice Applications

Tables Logo

Tables and Other Spreadsheets

After I started using Nisus Writer Pro and ended up positively surprised and enthusiastic about having found a Word Processor I really liked, so I started thinking maybe I could find a spreadsheet application to my liking as well. I have used OpenOffice.org Calc and NeoOffice Calc, and they work fine, but the Office Suite itself is a little heavy/slow. So I started googling for alternatives, and I found a nice overview at pure-mac.com and a longer article on Musings from Mars (from 2007). I checked out Mariner Calc, but didn’t like the user interface too much (reminds me of older M$ Windows software) and my imported test file looked a little weird (colors being wrong). Then I downloaded Tables, and I liked it. The user interface was nice and un-cluttered, and I found all I need reasonably easy and I liked the ability to easily copy formatting to other cells. And when I discovered it could export to Open Document Spreadsheet (.ods), I was happy.

I have also used Numbers ’08 a while back. There I couldn’t figure out how to work mostly with the keyboard (like in Tables, Excel, Gnumeric, OpenOffice.org/NeoOffice Calc you press F2 to edit the contents of a cell), and I had some issues with importing/exporting. As for Gnumeric, which I like and have used on Linux, it requires X11 and lots of GTK/Gnome stuff, so it’s not very integrated/smooth on Mac OS X.

My conclusion was to buy Tables. The only function I could miss, is the ability to LinkBack to Nisus Writer Pro (or other LinkBack capable applications), but it’s not vital for me. The response I got to a support question was also very quick and very good! Tables is nice and easy to use and imports and exports all the formats I need (Excel, Open Document and CSV + export to PDF). So I give Tables thumbs up and my recommendation! :)

MacJournal Logo

Mac Journal

Mariner Software’s MacJournal is an application I have come to like more and more. (I was surprised that the user interface was so much smoother than Mariner Write.) I use the program both for updating a Blog and for sorting different kind of thoughts and notes, yes, even a sort of a Journal (which I never ended up writing on paper). The ability to add tags and Smart Journals (filter by tags, keywords and more) makes this very useful for me. A physical paper journal is very inflexible compared to this. Electronically I can sort stuff into ideas, prayer, frustrations, praise, notes and more, and one single entry can fit many tags. And I can add pictures, audio memo/recordings and more ... Awesome! :)

I also just installed the iPhone app ($4.99). At first glance it looks nice. It's nice to be able to write stuff on the iPhone and sync it to the desktop/laptop later.

RapidWeaver Logo


With the MacHeist nanoBundle 2, I got RapidWeaver, a program for maintaining/developing Web Pages. (Inspired by the Windows program DreamWeaver, maybe?) The program is well designed, and there’s lots of 3rd Party Themes and AddOns. As compared to iWeb, the program is much more flexible. (You edit stuff in a less WYSIWYG mode, but can also control much more.) Most stuff I wanted/needed to do, was availble in the Site Setup and Page Info windows. It seems to have a good structure, and I found some good themes modified the CSS myself.

I have always wanted good source code, and for a long time I’ve maintained all my pages manually. Then I tried a couple of different CMS solutions and then I wrote my own simple CMS solution in Ruby. But now I’ve decided to just use this nice program for a while. It’s both powerful and flexible, and the code it generates is nice and clean. This is the only program of this kind I have tried in later years, beside Apple iWeb ’09. I don’t like iWeb too much, it’s a little more messy, both the user interface, site management and the code produced. And I found that the code iWeb produces doesn’t work well for people using MSIE on Windows.

This entire site is now
Made With RapidWeaver

CoverScout and Song Genie

CoverScout 3 came as a part of the MacHeist nanoBundle 2, and it’s program for helping you find missing album art. It greatly simplifies the process of search, copying and pasting the correct album art into the correct program for the correct files. In addition to often finding the correct images by itself, for you to choose directly from, it has the option of launching a web browser and letting you choose from graphics on web pages. (The only annoying part being if you wanted to click the links/images in Google image search, it just chooses the thumbnails.) And it also enables you to crop and edit pictures directly in the program and it’s easy to apply album art to lots of files/songs. Thumbs Up!

The CoverScout program is also integrated with another program from Equinux Software, called SongGenie. This program recognizes lots of songs/albums and helps you identify artist, album and song title. I found this to be very useful, so I bought this program as well. At first, in version 1 of the program, I did miss the ability to edit more tags than just Artist, Song Title and Album Title. But SongGenie 2 was released in March 2010, with the ability to edit genre, track number, year and even lyrics. It has built in search for song lyrics, just as CoverScout searches for album art. So all in all, a nice program.

It would also be cool if the program could/would rename files (e.g. “Track01.m4a” to something more descriptive). But I am all over very satisfied. I only have 15 tracks that SongGenie didn’t recognize. (I started out with 2-300 tracks with missing info, and more than 50 totally unknown.)

Image Manipulation Software

DrawIt Logo


While reading some article from TUAW in Instapaper one day, I saw DrawIt from Bohemian Coding mentioned. I was curious and downloaded it. After playing around with it for a while, I found it cute and funny. While there is still stuff that’s not availble, that you could do in more full feature rich vector drawing programs like Inkscape, I found DrawIt’s predefined shapes and intuitive interface to be fun and inspiring. I didn’t really have a need for a drawing program, but ended up buying this one. Good Work.
(It is partly based on Sketch, which some of you migth know.)

Image Tricks, Seashore and GIMP

Seashore Logo
I was also playing
around with this website’s banner logos the other day. Traditionally I have used GIMP for stuff like this. (Mainly GIMP on Linux.) Now I wanted to check out tools for OS X, and GIMP for Mac works pretty well, but it is a X11 based application, so it’s not as integrated as one would hope. Seashore is based on GIMP technology, but more native to OS X and much quicker and smaller. But it also lacks features that is present in GIMP. (For example I couldn’t find the scripts generating logos and other stuff.) I ended up using GIMP for some scripted magic, and then I could continue in Seashore.

Image Tricks Logo
Then I found Image Tricks from Belight Software, and I found that it offers some cool features—for free! :) In particular I like the “Mask” feature, a toolbar drawer on the right with masks to apply to your picture, making it easy/cool to blend into other pictures.

So, for my logos, I ended up using both DrawIt, Image Tricks and GIMP/Seashore.

I am no pro, and have no intention of becoming one, so there os quite a few image editors out there I didn’t check out. I downloaded Flying Meat’s Acorn, but I never got around to try it out. (Since I know GIMP, I just started there ...) I might try Acorn next time around ...

DVD Ripping/Video Encoding Software

Handbrake Logo
RipIt Logo
many years now, I have used Handbrake to rip DVD's, and on Mac (but not in Windows or on Linux) that often works without any extra program to rip the DVD to the hard drive (at least with my external firewire DVD-RW). For those DVD's that didn't rip right away, I have tried a program called Mac The Ripper (search the Web to find a recent version), and that worked for me in 2 out of 3 cases. Lately I have gotten a RipIt license, which reportedly works very well for ripping to the hard drive. If you want encoding to a different format, RipIt doesn't, at least not at the time of this writing, support selecting subtitles and what to include and not.

Video Monkey Logo
DoubleTwist Logo
for encoding to for example MPEG-4 (.mp4/.m4v) format—like if you want it on your AppleTV or on an iPod or iPhone—I usually use Handbrake. (I usually just use the “Universal” preset from the presets drawer, adjust audio or video track or quality and select my wanted subtitles.) If you find Handbrake to be a little too technical/advanced for your taste, check out VideoMonkey or DoubleTwist. (VideoMonkey's homepage looked very similar in design to the first site I made in iWeb, by the way ...)