10 Mac alternatives to Windows utilities

I’ve been spending an extended time on the Mac in order to explore Snow Leopard. As far as possible, I’ve done all my work on the Mac since its release. The trial will be over soon … but in the meantime I’m sharing notes on some of the utilities I used for tasks I normally do on Windows, in no particular order.

1 Capturing screenshots

On Windows I press PrintScreen or Alt-PrintScreen (for the current window), then paste into an ancient copy of Paint Shop Pro 5.0 for trimming and re-sizing. No, it’s not PhotoShop, but it loads in a blink.

For the Mac I use Ctrl-Command-Shift-3 (whole screen) or Ctrl-Command-Shift-4 (selectable area) which adds a screenshot to the clipboard. Then I use the latest Preview, which has a File – New from Clipboard option. I love Preview – it has tools for further trimming and resizing, and when you save it shows the file size as you select different formats. Since I often want to minimise the size for a web page, it’s ideal.

2 Secure file transfer

I avoid FTP for security reasons, so on Windows I normally use WinSCP for secure file transfer.

On the Mac I use Fugu, and of the two I prefer it.

3 Word processing

On Windows I use Microsoft Word. On the Mac I mainly use NeoOffice, which actually felt a bit nicer than its parent, OpenOffice. I also spent some time with Word 2008 (good for compatibility, but slow) and Apple’s Pages from iWork 09. One nice feature of Pages, for journalism, is the stats window that shows the word count as you type.

4 Web browsing

I used Safari, in order to get the most complete Apple experience. I’m getting to like the Top Sites feature, though it’s hardly essential, especially the way it shows at a glance which pages have changed.

5 Sound editing

On Windows I use Audacity. On the Mac I use … Audacity, though for some reason I found it slightly less smooth.

6 Playing FLAC

Apple is still stubbornly refusing to support FLAC in iTunes or Quicktime. My solution was Songbird, a great alternative, which supports FLAC straight out of the box, or rather download.

For converting to FLAC I used MacFLAC, though I found it less than robust. I missed dbPowerAmp (Windows).

7 Remote desktop

I find Remote Desktop invaluable for managing servers. On the Mac I used the official Remote Desktop client, which worked well though it falls slightly short of the Windows version (perhaps this is a policy!).

8 Twitter

I use Twhirl on both Mac and Windows, an Adobe AIR application. One oddity (getting picky): the font spacing is slightly better on Windows. In the word Blog, for example, there is too much space between the B and the l, but only on the Mac.

9 Email

I never thought I’d say I missed Outlook, but I did. The thing is, after much experimentation I’ve found a permutation that works really well on Windows: 64-bit Windows and Outlook 2007 SP2 in online mode (only for a desktop, of course).

On the Mac I use Mail, but I’ve found it less than satisfactory even though I run Exchange 2007 with all the required configuration.

10 Blog authoring

On Windows I use Live Writer, which is superb.

On the Mac I write posts (like this one) in the WordPress online editor. I don’t like it as much, but it does the job.

11 Bridge

Now this one is a problem :-). I find JackBridge ideal for those moments when I need a break from work. It won this year’s World Champion computer bridge contest.

The Mac is not so well served, but I have trialled Bridge Baron and found it not bad at all.

8 thoughts on “10 Mac alternatives to Windows utilities”

  1. I use Windows most of the time (Delphi developer), but have been using OSX a lot more lately (writing iPhone apps during my commute).

    The big things (as a developer) I think are missing from your list are:

    Beyond Compare. I’m using DiffMerge, but I’ve not found anything anywhere near as good as even version 1 of BC (let alone V2 or V3).

    A decent RDC server. VNC is “ok”, but it’s very slow. Even connecting to Windows 7 running under VirtualBox on OSX is quicker than connecting to the OSX host’s screen.

  2. @Craig if connecting to a Windows box (or vm) why not use the Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection as mentioned above?


  3. @Tim, Craig is after an remote desktop server not a client I think Tim. For that purpose I think you would need Apple Remote Desktop (ARD).

    I wouldnt (dont) run virtualbox as I think performance wise it isnt on a par with Parallels/vmware fusion.

    I’m a Delphi dev who uses a Mac so nice to see someone else in the same boat! XCode is a great tool but ObjectiveC seems a little quirky compared to good ol’ Delphi.


  4. SFTP: “On the Mac I use Fugu, and of the two I prefer it.”

    My Mac-using colleagues tell me that Fugu is getting a bit stale and now prefer Cyberduck which is still being developed?

  5. @Gary Correct.

    I was connecting from my Windows machine (with 22″ screen) to my Macbook. Partly so I could develop on the big screen, but it also meant I could use Beyond Compare from Windows (via a shared projects folder on my Mac). It also meant I could just plug the Macbook into the power anywhere in the house and access it via wireless without having to clear desk space or plug anything else in.

    I ended up buying a DVI adapter which I use with a DVI-HDMI adapter to plug into the monitor. It’s a pain to have to fiddle with cables, but VNC is too slow and I get a resolution upgrade from 1280×800 to 1680×1050 (and dual screens) as part of the deal.

  6. re: Beyond Compare – I did hope that the existence of a Linux version of BC would mean a Mac version might emerge.

    Another alternative is Araxis Merge – that has a Mac version.

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