February 23, 2006

10 Semi-Obscure Mac Programs You Shouldn't Be Without

I keep seeing lists of 10 must have Mac programs, but the lists is they are well known can't-live-without programs like Launchbar and Windowshade already installed on Machead machines. Here are some slightly more obscure programs I use every day:

1. Inquisitor. Inquisitor adds live search to Safari. You start typing it starts searching/suggesting. 90% of the time I never even have to go to the google results page because I find exactly what I am looking for right in the search window.. After installing this program Safari will feel better, smarter, better looking.

2. Saft. Saft is another Safari enhancement that adds the function of many of the most popular Firefox extensions to Safari. Think fancy ad filtering, tab restoration on quit, history search etc. My favorite addition: the ability to drag tabs from one window to another. This + Inquisitor have brought me back to
Safari after a several month hiatus to Firefox.

3. Flip4Mac is an extension that allows you to view unprotected Windows Media Player content within Quicktime. Why would you want to use this when Microsoft provides a free player? 1. Because it's better than the MS player. 2. Because the MS player is now discontinued and Microsoft is now supporting the flip4mac extension.

4. AppleJack. If you're lucky you'll never have to use Applejack. It's a little utility that hides in the bowels of your machine and gives you simple non-techie access to most of OS X's built in maintenance routines. What does this mean to you? If your computer starts acting funky you can boot up with command-S and type in "applejack" and repair a host of common OS X problems. It can be a lifesaver.

5. Growl is a utility that gives you translucent status messages from background applications. That description is deeply unsexy, but once you start using Growl, you'll forget what it was like to work without it. Basically it will tell you when downloads are done, what song is playing, etc without you having to move from your work.

6. Chax adds a host of large and small improvements to ichat.

7. Screensavers are never essential, but Soundstream is at least sort of fun. It's a screensaver that responds to the ambient noise in the room. Fun when the stereo is blasting. [Short aside] Here's the screensaver I want: Screensaver captures images from your iSight camera at defined intervals and then plays the images as a looping movie onscreen. When you return to your computer you see what happened while you were gone.

8. Are you a keyboard navigator? If so Witch will make you happy. It lets you jump from window to window easily without touching your mouse.

9. Sbook is a little notepad with smarts. Type in an address and it knows it's an address. A phone number is a phone number etc. Handy.

10. Delicious Library is probably the least obscure item on the list, but I'm surprised how few people know of it. This program lets you scan your book, cd, and dvd barcodes looks up info about the media (title, cover, etc) and stores it all in an easy to use database.

11. Here's an 11th one for free. Jumpcut allows you to keep multiple clipboards. It's simple low weight and it just works.

Update: Someone in the comments reminded me of Texpander. I use this program so organically I had forgotten about it. Texpander allows you to create abbreviations that expand as you type them. So instead of typing my name into forms I just type rrgg and it instantly expands into my full name. You can add bits of text (and images) at will. Darned useful. Also the sBook site is back up.

posted at 02:33 AM by raul

Filed under: macintosh


02/23/06 05:59 AM

I'm glad you like Soundstream!

02/23/06 09:01 PM

Decent list...although: I dislike Inquisitor (and Dave Watanabe is a total jerk). Saft is shareware but Shiira offers basically the same features for free. Flip4Mac is extremely valuable. Never had to use AppleJack. Growl's great, especially in conjunction with Adium, which sure is a lot more flexible than iChat, even with Chax. Soundstream looks fun...Witch just looks like a glorified Command-~, but I might try it. Never heard of Sbook, but it looks nice. Delicious Library is so overrated it's not even funny. Jumpcut's nice.

02/23/06 09:01 PM

I haven't tried a lot of the programs on your list other then flip4mac and soundstream. I love soundstream.

02/23/06 09:13 PM

People should also have TuneBounce if they use iTunes a lot.

02/23/06 09:48 PM

ONYX!!!!! Onyx is one program EVERYONE leaves out, I know it's not well known, but it defiantly a must!


02/23/06 09:58 PM

Hiya! I like the Witch feature, but I use Command+tab instead, same thing in my book.

02/23/06 10:01 PM

This is an awesome list! I had no clue about all but three. And one I thought you had to pay for, but it's free. Thank you!

02/23/06 10:05 PM

SSHKeychain is another great one. It enables you to SSH to other machines, which you've installed your SSH public key on, without having to enter a password. -Casey

02/23/06 10:18 PM

Not a bad list, I've heard of most of the apps, so I'll weigh in my 2 cents.

Inquisitor, great app. Asshole developer. I flatly refuse to pay for his applications. (and therefore I don't use them anymore)
Saft, it's nice, but I prefer Safari Stand, for other Safari plugins see Pimp My Safari
Flip4Mac is nice, I hope it gets better (namely faster)
Applejack, YES I LOVE Applejack. Trust me on this, it has gotten me out of a number of problems in the past (in fact, one just last week). It's worth an install, if you never end up using it, good for you, but for all the rest of the people like me who do stupid stuff with their computer, it's a 1 minute installer, some instructions to print out, and simply remembering the keyboard combo CMD-S on startup. It explains the rest when you boot into single user mode :-) Word of warning: It's a fixing app, not a regular maintenance app, don't confuse the two.
Growl, I've always said, the sign of a good application is the inability to comprehend living without it, and forgetting that it isn't built into the system itself. Growl fits this entirely. Oh, and if you like Growl, try Adium, I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) that they are made by the same developers, and even if they aren't, the integration is so great it's amazing.
Chax, never used it, see my comment on Adium.
Soundstream, Yay! A new fun thing to try!
Witch, I tried it once, just couldn't get used to it, I'll have to try it again some time.
Sbook, hmm, website is down, I'll have to try it later.
Delicious Library, I tried the demo and loved it, however the price is a little steep for me.
Jumpcut, trying it now...

I'd add to the list:
Quicksilver, or LaunchBar, or Butler, whichever one you like best. I personally love QS, but everyone likes something different, so I figured I would mention all three. They are file/app/whatever launchers/openers/do everythingers that you can think of. See my note on Growl for why I love them.

I know it's getting more well known, but I always love to plug TextMate, a text editor. If you code, this app is amazing. The developer is great and yes this one is worth the price (€39) to me.

I have a bunch of other apps I love, but to talk about them all would require my own blog post :-)

02/23/06 10:19 PM

How about iRooster, an alarm clock for Mac OS X that wakes you up with iTunes. iRooster is highly regarded by its users for its unparalled ease of use.

Full disclosure and all that: I wrote it, but I still wake up with it every single day.


02/23/06 10:35 PM

I use iRooster. Particularly when traveling.

02/23/06 10:53 PM

Great list. A Few I didn't know about. Two additional programs:

iClock (Rad Default Mac Clock replacement)


QuickSilver (Very Good)

Cheers, Jordon

02/23/06 10:58 PM

Fairly common but still good. Check out my list of best unknown mac apps: http://dbachrach.com/blog/?p=33

I thought yours were still a little too popular

02/23/06 11:30 PM

I like info.xhead a personal secure database and recorder.xhead a voice recorder. Both are easy to use and worth the small price.

02/24/06 12:00 AM

Sbook appears to be gone...

02/24/06 12:25 AM

Yes. SBook was Digged to death.

Re items in the comments:

1. Shiira has many of the same features as Saft. I think the interface is a bit busy and hence did not include it. It does not as far as i can tell duplicate Inquisior's killer features ie live google suggestions and type ahead.

2. Tunebounce never came up with good suggestions for me. Perhaps my musical taste is too weird for it.

3. Onyx is a fine program, but it's essential features are duplicated in Applejack which is a much cooler program and has the advantage of running in single user mode.

4. Re Witch and command-tab. Witch gives you window based control v.s. application based control.

5. SSHKeychain is a great one if you are into SSH.

6. Safari Stand is another Saft competitor. I found Saft more stable.

(Why do people have problems with the Inquisitor developer btw... regardless I love the program)

7. Everybody knows about Quicksilver/Launchbar/Butler. They are on every list.

8. TextMate is cool.

9. iRooster is cool but there are many many programs that do the same thing.

10. info.xhead and recorder.xhead are new to me, but I have many other programs that do similar things.

02/24/06 12:50 AM

02/24/06 01:08 AM

I am surprised that you didn't mention ViewIt, a relatively new and extremely fast image viewer application for those of us with tens of thousands of images. It's a universal binary, the author is extremely responsive (I've found a few bugs, but he fixes them quick!), and it's used for much different things than iPhoto would be. Just point it at a directory and voila.

ViewIt for OS X is similar to ACDSee on the Windows platform... for those of you familiar with that one. Shareware but not expensive. I have no affiliation with them except as a happy customer.

02/24/06 02:00 AM

Though Delicious Library seems like a well-written application, I still don't get what it's for. I mean, do people really not know what DVDs they own? And then after the process of entering them one-by-one into Delicious Library, do you still not know?

02/24/06 02:04 AM

Personally, I'm not a big fan of Delicious Library, it seems to be a bit overpriced, and a lot of eye-candy that I could do without, I like to use Booxter myself.

02/24/06 02:42 AM

All very well, but most of these "add ons" are hacks that either use InputManagers or even kernel extensions.

Both of these may seriously destabalize your computer.

Saft, for in stance, is an InputManager which is loaded into EVERY app, not just Safari. It simply does nothing when other apps are launched, but is in your system's memory all the time.

I NEVER used any "handy add ons" ever since APE manager caused massive kernel panics and fscked up my system.

More info about InputManagers: http://daringfireball.net/2006/01/smart_crash_reports

02/24/06 04:17 AM

Soundstream is great, but if you are looking for a large collection MacOSX screensavers visit:


02/24/06 04:31 AM

You can get a list of the top 100 OS X applications from http://www.creationrobot.com

02/24/06 06:21 AM

These lists are always very personal.
I happen to like Tofu. It makes it much easier to read large amounts of text that are in formats like rtf or txt. You read the text in narrower columns and scroll to the side just as you do when you read a magazine or newspaper article.

02/24/06 06:36 AM

Why do people not like Dave Watanabe? I'm just curious. I really like his RSS app Newsfire:


02/24/06 07:15 AM

Re: Witch. How about command-` (backtick) which allows you to switch between windows in an application?

Nth motion for Quicksilver, BTW. And I'd add Desktop Manager to the list, though I don't know how "unheard of" it is.

And this is great since it's finally going to convince me to give Growl a real shot.

02/24/06 08:37 AM

You forgot to mention that Delicious Library will export your library to an iPod so you will always know what you have no matter where you are. I LOVE this feature as I am prone to impulse purchase new DVDs at BestBuy without remembering if I have the movie or not.

02/24/06 09:28 AM

How about Shomi? http://www.goat.demon.co.uk/shomi.html

Used it for years, an image viewer with a contextual menu plugin.

02/24/06 10:51 AM

flip4mac is WEAK! Don't dump Win Player for OS X just yet...it wilk play some Win Media streams that Flip4mac still has problems with

02/24/06 10:53 AM

Soundstream wanted to use my keychain to get online - is it broadcasting my audio? This could be a very clever way of spying on people...

02/24/06 10:58 AM

These apps/addons are pointless, not one of them is remotely useful. And there are already better apps and even OSX itself that does the same thing.

02/24/06 01:51 PM

Came back today to say thanks. Inquisitor is worth it's weight in gold. Great stuff. Saft, Flip4Mac, Growl, and Witch were also all very helpful. Growl in particular I think is going to be a fav. I have CopyPasteX which does the same thing as Jumpcut but I like the idea that Jumpcut will be open sourced so I will probably switch. Thanks for the list. I download shareware daily but rarely find programs I use daily.

Do you have any worry about system stability with the input manager based hacks?

02/24/06 02:02 PM

I think FLIP FOR MAC is the most important thing on the list,
but is it not yet Universal, or does it need to be for the new mac! (intel)

02/24/06 02:38 PM

Also, Vienna - a freeware and open source RSS/Atom newsreader - http://www.opencommunity.co.uk/vienna2.html.

02/24/06 02:39 PM

Thanks for the kind words re: Jumpcut! I need to do a code cleanup, figure out the licensing status of some code that I borrowed from elsewhere, and put it up on Sourceforge so that other people can play with it. There's never enough time, you know?

02/24/06 03:05 PM

I'm in love with, and wrote up Textpander in my own Blog.

Cruise on over for the write-up as well as macro examples on Flickr.

02/24/06 03:06 PM

Thanks for the list, using!

02/24/06 04:01 PM


John Siracusa's Paths in the grass article is another good read about the issues you mentioned.

02/24/06 05:01 PM

to bigMacdaddy

There are certainly stability worries to using input manager hacks (like saft) and haxies (like windowshade), but at least for me they are more than offset by the benefits of those programs and (knock on wood) my system is rock solid. I only reboot when there's a system update. I honestly can't remember the last time I've had a freeze or a system wide crash.

02/24/06 05:03 PM

I just wanted to say thank you. Witch is a program I've wanted ever since I've left Windows/Linux behind but never thought of going to look for. I got used to the command-tab and command-` combo,but one program to do this is something I've wanted for a while.

02/24/06 05:27 PM

How about Basecamp- do you know about it ?

Just my two cents, but it looks great for projects-


02/24/06 07:30 PM

good list i've heard of most of these i'll off er a couple of my favs all on versiontracker:

desktop manager - pager for osx (changing desktops) you'll love it

sidenote - very cool note taker

02/24/06 09:04 PM

Delicious library I tried it but never really found it useful, however I've discovered the joy of scanning my books CD's games with my video camera or webcam using it. That takes it into a completely different area as it makes it all fun amd damn efficient, my whole CD collection and detailed on my mac yipee, bring 'em on.

02/25/06 08:30 AM

Adding my own to the list....

Share My Clipboard lets me send my clipboard from Powerbook to G5 and back again. And I can recall previous clipboards. Wonderful!

Another big one, which has saved my Dashboard experience, is Dashboard Jumpstart, which keeps Dashboard from taking 10 seconds to wake up every time I want to use it. Excellent.

02/25/06 05:00 PM

Another vote for Desktop Manager. I use it at work and have 10 virtual desktops setup. I use CodeTek virtual desktop at home which I paid for but Virtual Desktop is free and has VERY cool transitions between desktops. 10 virtual desktops plus a dual monitor setup at work is awesome.

02/25/06 07:13 PM

Cellulo, ffmpegx, menumeters, Qcdesktop, cocoajt, Democracy Player,

02/27/06 09:45 PM

Here are some of my favs:

DeskShade (I love swapping desktops a lot)
Peripheral Vision

Also, a quick plug for mine, which I use a lot: Pukka

03/04/06 03:38 AM

Soundstream wanted to use my keychain to get online - is it broadcasting my audio? This could be a very clever way of spying on people...

That's very strange, Soundstream involves nothing related to passwords or keychain items. It uses RSS to check for a new version, but that is the only online resource it uses. Soundstream's source is freely available; you can open the file with Quartz Composer and verify the code yourself. I had also anticipated this issue on the Soundstream FAQ; please consider reading http://web.mac.com/pcheese/iWeb/Soundstream/FAQ.html

04/05/06 09:35 PM

Just got my first mac this week. It's a MacBook Pro. I'm visiting the web pages for all the programs listed here. is it safe to assume that if a program does not say "universal" or "intel mac" or somesuch that it only written for powerpc macs?

(I'm trying to only install universal/intel programs on my new MBP)


04/05/06 11:25 PM

It is a pretty safe bet that if universal is not listed then the program is PPC only.... of course it's no big deal to download something and use get info to check the file...

04/17/06 04:17 AM

What about VooDooPad and SubEthaEdit. Those two rock.

04/17/06 08:41 AM

Hi there,
I just want to agree with an earlier poster who suggests that Onyx should be added to the list. It is excellent, effective, regularly updated and free, and I use it myself. I recommend it to anyone who is trying to get best possible performance from their Mac.

05/06/06 12:53 AM

Classic menu is a good one! It brings back the apple menu from OS9..

05/06/06 01:23 AM

good, but not obscure..

06/03/06 06:43 PM

Supercharged Spotlight searches HoudahSpot

06/27/06 03:44 PM

Why do people not like Dave Watanabe? There are many reasons, some of the main ones are: He is a total asshole. He is a thief. He pads the reviews of his software with his own comments, hiding behind his many online personages. He is a thief. When customers publicly ask for help for his software, he is completely rude, even to the point of attempting to embarrass the customer. He is a thief. He has never heard of "constructive critizism," rather considers it a personal attack worthy of counterattack. He is a thief. Read what his customers say about him at, for instance, VersionTracker. Remember, many of the reviews and comments you will read were actually written by David Watanabe himself. Did I mention that he is a thief?

11/19/06 09:51 PM

Well the guy writes great software... and inquisitor is now free.


Dave (not watanabe)

11/20/06 11:17 AM

Solid list.

Wanted to mention TextPander again. It's fantastic once you get it dialed into your workflow.

I'm enjoying Overflow. I've emptied my Dock of all apps except Overflow to give it an honest try. So far, I'm finding that the keyboard shortcuts give Overflow the edge over the Dock.

If you own an Intel-based Mac portable, you've got to take a look at smcFanControl. I've got my black MacBook set to 2200rpm and find that it rarely gets hot anymore.

Many more, but there's a couple.

11/03/07 01:22 AM

i didnt see anybody mention quiksilver. yes its more popular, not really obscure.. but it blows any launch programs out of the water.

07/08/08 10:30 AM

Why do people not like Dave Watanabe? I'm just curious. I really like his RSS app Newsfire:

11/13/08 04:53 PM

Textexpander is the greatest thing ever created!

06/23/11 01:07 AM

I love Jumpcut too. In fact, I love it so much that I forked it and made it a web service that stores and indexes all of your clippings in the cloud so that you can search through them later from anywhere on any device.


Its in beta right now, but check it out and let me know what you think - I'd appreciate the feedback.

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