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Archive for the ‘Tom’s Mac Software Picks’ Category

by Tom Nelson

Just how fast is that new drive you have hooked up to your Mac? This may be a common question, but the answer is anything but easy to come by. Check a manufacturer’s website, and you’re likely to find yourself stumbling through a mess of marketing gobbledygook, citing performance numbers with no context.

DiskSpeedTest

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

That’s one reason why I make use of a number of benchmark utilities for testing the performance of various aspects of a Mac, including how well the internal or external storage drives perform.

With a number of benchmarking tools to choose from, one of the first ones I grab to get a quick look at overall drive performance is Blackmagic Disk Speed Test.

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by Tom Nelson

In June of 2014, I decided to do a bit of a change-up to my usual weekly Mac software pick. At the time, Apple had just officially acknowledged that Aperture would finish active development, and that iPhoto would be replaced with a new Photos app. It seemed like a good idea to use my weekly software picks column to provide some insight into photo management applications that might be good candidates to replace Aperture or iPhoto.

EmulsionIcon

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

While pieces of Photos were shown at WWDC, the actual product seemed a bit nebulous, with a great deal of work to be done before it was ready for release.

That was then; this is now. Over time, this software pick has morphed into a repository for photo management apps for the Mac. I’ll continue to add photo-related apps to this collection, which will take it well past the 5 Photo Management Apps seen in the original title. To be included, an app must have some management function to help you keep track of your images; it can’t be just a photo editor.

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by Tom Nelson

Zen Pinball 2 is an advanced pinball game engine that turns a Mac into an old-time pinball machine. No quarters are required to play, but subtle wrist action and quick fingers will be helpful. Through the use of very realistic ball physics, gameplay seems very natural, without the usual hiccups and delays often seen as complex interactions and events are calculated. Instead, Zen Pinball 2 produces smooth, natural gameplay that will keep you engrossed for hours.

ZenPinball2

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Zen Pinball 2 is listed in the Mac App Store as free. Like many free apps, Zen Pinball 2 can be expanded through in-game purchases, but it takes the high road; the Sorcerer’s Lair table doesn’t require any additional purchases to complete it. This upfront method is refreshing, unlike those that try to hide in-app purchases needed to advance in or finish a so-called “free” game.

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by Tom Nelson

Wunderlist is a to-do list and task manager that can easily keep track of all the tasks and chores you have before you in your busy life. With Wunderlist apps available for just about any device, including MacsiOS devicesAndroid, Windows, Kindle Fire, and of course, directly on the web, you can keep track of your tasks, as well as edit and update them from just about anywhere.

Wunderlist

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Wunderlist was just recently acquired by Microsoft, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on your point of view. And no, I don’t mean to say that being bought up by Microsoft is bad, only that when any large company buys a smaller one, there’s a chance that the smaller company was purchased for specific technology or patents, and that its current products won’t live on.

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by Tom Nelson

Skitch is a wonderful screen capture and markup app from the folks at Evernote. It can serve as your primary screen capture app, easily replacing the older Grab utility that’s included with your Mac. Even better, Skitch goes Grab quite a few features better, including the ability to annotate a screenshot with arrows, text, shapes, and stamps. You can even perform basic cropping, without having to import the image into your favorite image editor.

SkitchWithMarkup

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

You don’t even need to be an Evernote user to take advantage of Skitch, although you’ll need an Evernote account to make use of the cloud storage and syncing services.

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by Tom Nelson

Parallels Desktop 11 for Mac is one of the leading desktop virtualization apps for the Mac. Without too much effort, you can easily run Windows, various flavors of Linux, Unix, Chrome, and Android. You can even run versions of OS X as a guest operating system, allowing you to keep old apps available on your Mac, even when the apps no longer run under the current version of OS X.

ParallelsWizard

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

When Apple switched from PowerPC processors to Intel, it opened up the possibility of making use of the underlying Intel architecture built in to every Mac to run Windows, not in some complex emulation, but almost directly on the underlying hardware.

Parallels turned out to be the first company to produce a desktop virtualization app for the Mac, and over the years, the app has gained performance, stability, and maturity, not to mention a lot of features that separate it from other virtualization solutions for the Mac.

Parallels Desktop 11 for the Mac is the latest version, introduced in the summer of 2015 and still going strong.

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by Tom Nelson

GraphicConverter 10 from Lemke Software is the newest version of an old favorite graphic utility going back to 1992. What started out as a basic utility for converting image file formats from one type to another has expanded to a full-fledged image editor, photo browser, and, of course, image file format converter.

GraphicConverterBrowser

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

What other app do you know of that can open an image created on an old Atari computer, and convert it to a modern image format?

Of course, GraphicConverter handles more than just old, obscure formats. Because it exposes many of the options available in various graphic formats, you have more control over how you want to save your photos than with most other image editors.

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by Tom Nelson

Hard Disk Manager from Paragon Software Group was previously a Windows-only utility for handling almost all aspects of drive management. Think of it as a Windows version of Disk Utility, and you have the general idea. When Paragon released the Mac version recently, they added backup capabilities to the software, and in the process, created a very good replacement for the marginalized version of Disk Utility that Apple ships with OS X El Capitan.

HardDiskManager

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Hard Disk Manager is a drive utility that needs a new name. That’s because it works with much more than just hard disks; it also works quite well with SSDs, flash drives, just about any device you can connect to your Mac that requires formatting, partitioning, or repair of some type. It’s also able to copy data and create backups. All in all, Hard Disk Manager packs a lot of capabilities into a well-rounded utility.

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by Tom Nelson

HoudahSpot 4 from Houdah Software is a highly customizable file search service for the Mac that works with Spotlight to help you find items on your Mac. What sets HoudahSpot apart from Spotlight is its powerful filtering technology, which can sift through Spotlight results, and return much more targeted results that are far more likely to lead to actually finding the file you’re looking for.

HoudahSpot has been a favorite around here for quite a while.

HoudahSpot4

Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

In fact, HoudahSpot gets quite a workout whenever I need to track down a file that has been misplaced, or when I’m looking for information I know I’ve seen somewhere on my Mac, but I can’t remember the name of the file, or where I stored it.

This ability to find a file based on obscure recollections of its contents is one of the chief reasons why HoudahSpot deserves a place as a Mac Software Pick.

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by Tom Nelson

TableEdit is a fairly new spreadsheet app for the Mac, and that newness brings with it both advantages and disadvantages. For the most part, TableEdit is a fine app that can serve as a general-purpose spreadsheet creator for the type of activity an average user needs.

You should have no problems calculating your mortgage, deciding if you can afford that new car lease, or simply keeping track of chores, events, and schedules.
TableEditGraph

Image courtesy of CoreCode

Because it’s a new app, there will likely be features you expect, but haven’t been implemented yet, such as the ability to perform a search within the spreadsheet, use find and replace, or apply more versatile cell formatting.

Nevertheless, TableEdit hits the right notes when it comes to a target audience of Mac users who don’t already have a spreadsheet app installed on their Macs, and who only need to use an app like TableEdit occasionally. For them, the price is right – free – and the features are more than adequate for creating useful spreadsheets.

Read more on About: Macs.

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