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I format my Mac once a year, either because it’s clunked up with old .plist files or because I just feel like performing a zero-out on my hard disk. One good thing about owning a Mac is never having to worry about installing drivers after reformatting. So that’s one problem avoided. Having a checklist of applications to install is quite handy to get my Mac up and running as quickly as possible. So, I’d like to share the applications I consider to be essential:

(1) NeoOffice

Get right back to work! It’s an open source set of office applications (word processing, spreadsheet, presentation) for Mac OS X. It also supports editing of Microsoft Office 2007 files so you don’t need to quiver in fear when your colleague hands .docx files over to you.

Neo Office

(2) Perian and Flip4Mac

Perian is known as the ‘Swiss-army knife for Quicktime’ because once installed, Quicktime can be used to play nearly every format of video there is, except WMV. So that is why I paired this entry up. Together with Flip4Mac, Quicktime is all geared up and good to go.


[NO LONGER WORKS] VLC Player is also an option if you don’t like using Quicktime. With VLC, you can set playlists, boost the volume until 200%, zoom in and change the aspect ratio of the video, so generally it’s more powerful. However, I feel that VLC takes slightly longer to load, that’s why I choose Quicktime for everyday use.

(3) UnRarX

I can’t even begin to describe how much I love this app. Similar to Stuffit Expander, UnRarX is a .rar decompression utility. I prefer it to Stuffit Expander because I find it easier to use, it handles segmented .rar archives, and it even manages to decode archives which failed with Stuffit Expander!

(4) Adium

Feeling the shakes? Withdrawn from instant messaging? Adium is an IM app that is connects to almost all popular IM protocols (AOL, MSN, Yahoo, ICQ, Jabber, Google Talk, Gadu-Gadu etc.). It’s so customizable that you can make it match your favorite wallpaper, if you need to. Check out some screenshots here.

(5) Gmail Notifier

Normally, I use Apple Mail with IMAP to get my mail directly onto my Mac. But for those who don’t want to go through the hassle of setting up an IMAP account, Gmail Notifier is quick and easy to use.

(6) Image Shackle

Want to change your profile picture on Facebook? Darn, that photo is just too large! I use Image Shackle to instantly resize my images. It’s a dashboard widget, so wherever the photo is, just click-and-hold it, press F12 and drop it into Image Shackle, set the size of the output photo and click Shackle! Easy, isn’t it?

Image Shackle

Image Shackle only resizes a photo at a time to any default size you set. And it doesn’t do cropping, so you can’t use it for heavy-duty image processing.

(7) Transmission

A lightweight yet functional BitTorrent client that’s open source, so it will also run on Linux and BSD systems. This is an alternative to the famous Azureus, for those who don’t like the bloated-ness of Java. On the surface, Transmission seems to be simple but if you dig a little deeper, you’ll notice that it has some pretty cool features like speed restriction at certain times of the day and Peer Exchange (similar to Azureus’s DHT).


(8) Skype

Need I say more? The most popular VoIP application out there.

(9) ZIP Quick Look plugin

Leopard’s Quick Look feature is really useful when you want to preview photos, videos or even Word and PowerPoint documents. But .zip files still need to be unzipped before you can tell what is really inside. This plugin allows you to view the contents without having to unzip anything. It comes in handy after you’ve downloaded .zip files from dodgy sites and would like to check out what they contain before releasing them into your system.

(10) MenuMeters

This is normally the first application I install. It’s a set of monitoring tools and reads system information like CPU load, memory usage and network activity and it sits subtly on the menu bar. If you’re a control freak like me, then you’d want to know if a process is taking up 100% of your CPU resources.

All these applications are free and available for Mac OS X Leopard. I hope you found this list useful. If there are any other applications I may have missed or better than the ones here, let me know in the comments.

(By) Jackson Chung is a full-time med student attempting to perform a juggling act with relationship, studies and his future.

  1. Chris Farr
    July 3, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    The apps listed are great and many i use but no one uses them all the time. There are some apps that just get used constantly. Seriously, those are the ones that are really needed when they are used all the time. This is my list:

    1. iClock - replaces apple's basic menubar clock
    2. 1Password - allows you to quickly use sites that require logging in.
    3. CopyPaste - multiple clipboard utility.
    4. AppTrap - uninstaller for apps, automates everything and is free.

    I use a lot of the apps listed on this page but the ones I have listed are often forgotten because they work in the background but are the basis of getting work done.

  2. Dominic Tremblay
    February 24, 2009 at 12:13 am

    I find the iStat Nano widget to be sufficient for my needs.

  3. baker
    January 11, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Hi again, this was actually the first post I read on MUO regarding a mac. I find I am only using 4 of these apps, but never mind because in your future article you replace some app with far better counter parts. Either way, I would add some apps to the list, for one I use NetNewsWire everyday, acquisition is always good, and for the pandora fan, Pandoraboy is an excellent adaptation.

    On the topic of brokenstones...

    As I said I am dealing with car trouble as I write this, which is very misfortunate for myself, because I am on a 2,000 mile trip touring colleges...

    by the way, my email is baker at

  4. Fidel
    March 13, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    How do you use skype on a desktop computer without a mic? I have the usb ports of course and a headphone jack in the front. maybe an input in the back. Every single headset I see is advertised for the PC only. :=-(

    • Jackson
      March 13, 2008 at 4:17 pm

      Which desktop computer are you referring to? A Mac? Headsets with mic and headphone jacks do not require drivers, so they're compatible with all platforms.

      iMacs have built-in microphones next to the iSight.

  5. Alan
    March 12, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    My first install is Monolingual to de-install all the bloat of the many many other language files I do not use.

  6. Eric
    March 12, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Check these programs out

  7. Jackson
    March 12, 2008 at 8:15 am

    I received a lot of criticism on Digg about not adding Quicksilver on the list. I found that using Leopard, while they made huge improvements in Spotlight, has almost replaced the need for Quicksilver as an app launcher.

  8. Noia
    March 12, 2008 at 6:45 am

    Why oh why didn't the most useful mac application make it to this list? I'm talking about Quicksilver of course, in my mind the best and most useful application you could install on a fresh mac.

    Quick silver can be found here:

    In brief: It allows you to rapidly execute applications and shell commands from anywhere with a one clever key binding and some nice searching functions.

    Another good application that should make this list is App Zapper. An application uninstaller that actually does a good job.

  9. what about
    March 11, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    did we forget firefox?

  10. MzK
    March 11, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    ZIP Quick Look plugin is an awesome idea! The website, though, shadyyyyyyy

    • Jackson
      March 12, 2008 at 11:05 am

      Yeah! I admit that I did manage to get lost in their website once. But all you need to look for is the download link. The site was built in Japanese, in their defense.

  11. Jupiter
    March 11, 2008 at 9:12 pm more than half of those installed and now thinking of two more. Only grumble is transmission blocking out any other Internet activity at times; guess it's jamming the routers that everyone in my building has to go through (I live in a very, very big house where the landlord provides net access).

    • Matt
      March 13, 2008 at 4:51 pm

      Try using Transmission's feature that limits the upload speeds. When I unlimit my upload speeds, it pretty much kills my internet access. But with it throttled, everything works great!

  12. Nick
    March 12, 2008 at 3:05 am

    I usually start here:

  13. yonrah
    March 11, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    A better app than menumeters is iStat menus. Its does the same thing essentially but has a nicer look. And its the made by the same people who we know and trust that bring us the iStat pro widget.

  14. Derek
    March 11, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    Thanks for the tip on Perian! I use Quicktime to make reference files so that Front Row, can import all of my downloaded videos! I had an issue with Quicktime hanging on Xvid files, but this has all the proper codecs, no hitches yet! Thanks a bunch!

  15. ua
    March 11, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    Don't know how I could get by without QuickSilver...

  16. vista bbs
    March 11, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    Very, very cool.

  17. Jackson
    March 11, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    Thanks for the suggestions, guys! Keep em coming.

  18. timmerritt
    March 11, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    ImageWell! I've never heard of Image Shackle - seems like a very nice widget - but ImageWell not only scales as easily as that, but offers lots of editing options and a built-in FTP/SFTP/WebDAV/dotMac client. I use it *constantly* to take screenshots or my own pics, quickly resize, add a drop shadow or add annotations, then upload with a single click to one of several servers and/or social networking accounts I pre-configured in it. I like it so much, I paid for the extras to encourage the developer. One of my favorite freeware apps.

  19. MikeZ
    March 11, 2008 at 7:10 pm

    I find istat menus to be very good app too, a lot like menumeter

  20. Nathan
    March 11, 2008 at 10:18 pm

    Inquisitor. Absolutely invaluable.

  21. Speedmaster
    March 10, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    Great post, and some of my fav. apps, thanks! ;-)

  22. Jackson
    March 10, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    The only problem with the Unarchiver is that it doesn't support password-protected RAR files.

  23. Famf
    March 10, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    The Unarchiver is a great program that could probably replace UnRarX. It's worked with everything I've thrown at it. Although, I don't use OS X often...

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