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When I got my Macbook Air back in 2012, I had great pleasure getting it out the box and exploring the Mac OS X system for the first time. Having been a Windows guy my whole computing life, it was fascinating to see what Mac OS X had to offer and to see first-hand what all the Mac fuss was about.

In the two years since then, I have installed (and uninstalled) LOTS of software – it comes with the job. One thing I have found is that some of the Mac’s best software actually comes pre-installed, out of the box. While many Windows systems come bloated with crap you will never need or want, Mac OS X provides these following gems.

Garageband

garageband1

I like music, but listening to it is as far as I have gone so far in my life. I tried half-heartedly to learn to play the guitar but I stopped when one of the neighbourhood cats knocked on the door and asked me why I was torturing one of their own.

Initially I ignored Garageband because I was under the mistaken impression that it was purely for writing music, or for electronic types wanting to make a noise (sorry, music). When I finally opened it up one evening, I absolutely loved what I found. As well as a variety of tools to mix your own tunes, and another to make your own ringtones, you are also given a variety of instruments and you can play them simply by clicking on the screen or better yet: using your computer keyboard. You can even strum the guitar strings and bang those drums.

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I have also discovered that by making a tremendous noise on the piano, you can drive your other half crazy. One other Garageband feature that I really like is the inclusion of interactive music lessons. You can learn how to play the guitar or the piano, simply by following along with the instructor on the screen.

At the time of writing, Apple pushed out a massive update to Garageband, so if you haven’t checked it out yet, I recommend that you do.

iMovie

My father-in-law has been patiently teaching me for years about video editing, as that is his hobby. But the software he uses is so confusing for a newcomer like myself. So when I looked at iMovie, I was struck by how easy it was. I had my first video made within 15 minutes and I have been making them ever since. My dog is probably the most famous dog in Germany.

There is virtually no learning curve to using iMovie. It’s something you can literally learn as you use it. Just use your mouse to drag and drop the video you want to use, cut out the bits out that you don’t want, add some music and an intro, and bingo: you have yourself a video. It’ll be so good Steven Spielberg will be presenting you with the Oscar.

You can even create a trailer for it using iMovie’s in-built tool!

Chess

Chess is a game that I have been playing all my life, I want to be good at it, but I am actually embarrassingly bad at it. When I discovered a chess app on the Mac, I was delighted. Now I can be humiliated at chess by my new laptop.

There are some options to choose from, as you can see from the screenshot above. You can play human vs. human, human vs. computer, or weirdly enough computer vs. computer! You can also apply some faux-pressure to the computer by speeding up its response time to your moves.

In the two years I have had my Macbook Air, I have never won a chess match. And I play several times a week. Yes, my ego is very bruised.

Quicktime

It’s weird. I have never met anyone who has shown a lot of enthusiasm for Quicktime (preferring VLC Player instead).  I on the other hand am the opposite. I am not that keen on VLC and really hooked on Quicktime. I guess it takes all sorts.

Some of the things I like about Quicktime include the ability to “pin” the screen on top of all other windows. If you are working and want to watch something at the same time, this feature is fantastic. Also Quicktime enables you to make screencasts. Another job I have requires me to make screencasts, and Quicktime does them just the way I want them. Plus of course it plays movies and TV shows. That part is important too.

iPhoto

Windows doesn’t come with a photo organiser, but Mac OS X does – so what are the advantages of using iPhoto for your photo organizing needs? Well, let’s start with the fact that iPhoto integrates with your iOS devices, and auto-downloads photos for you (you can also use Dropbox Dropbox - One Of The Must-Have Apps If You Own An iPhone Dropbox - One Of The Must-Have Apps If You Own An iPhone Ever since I went over to the Dark Side earlier this year to get my cookies and buy an iPhone, one app has been completely invaluable to me - Dropbox. In fact, I would go... Read More to auto-download iOS photos to your computer, if you prefer). It also organises photos for you by event, and allows you to organise them yourself into albums (a bit like Picasa Picasa - Still The Best & Most Versatile Photo Manager Available Picasa - Still The Best & Most Versatile Photo Manager Available How many photos would you say you have? More than a hundred? Six hundred? A thousand? Pictures are a big part of all of our lives, but there is else something which is equally important... Read More ).

It’s a full non-destructive image editor, that preserves the original files while allowing you to adjust, crop and further improve your shots. iPhoto also includes iCloud integration, so you can back up and share your photos, as well as being able to make slideshows. Finally, by using an iPhoto library you can import photos into iMovie and other Mac applications far more easily.

Safari


Safari is a fairly lightweight browser, especially compared to Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox (although some may prefer Chrome, due to its superior syncing function Google Chrome Can Now Sync Multiple Browsing Profiles [News] Google Chrome Can Now Sync Multiple Browsing Profiles [News] Do you often use Chrome’s ability to sync all your bookmarks, extensions, apps, etc. across computers? It’s a pretty handy option which lets you use your own configuration of Chrome anywhere you go. But what... Read More  and its close integration with Google services). As you’d expect, Safari integrates with iCloud so you can access tabs open on other iOS or OS X devices 10 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do With iOS Safari 10 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do With iOS Safari Even if you're already familiar with Safari's basic features, there are bound to be things you haven't yet realised the iOS browser can do. Read More , record interesting links to Reading List and access all your bookmarks and history through your iPad.

Safari has some decent extensions, though the list is pretty small compared to the other offerings out there. Safari is set for a big update come the arrival of OS X Yosemite What's New In OS X 10.10 "Yosemite"? What's New In OS X 10.10 "Yosemite"? OS X is evolving both in terms of looks and features, and just like last year's Mavericks update, Yosemite will be another free download. Read More .

Messages

Ah, Messages! The bane of mobile phone companies everywhere, who can’t charge iPhone users sending messages to other Apple users because of the free iMessage service. You can send and receive Messages on your iPhone to other Apple users and also from your Mac Bye Bye iChat: Getting Started With The New OS X Messages App [Mountain Lion] Bye Bye iChat: Getting Started With The New OS X Messages App [Mountain Lion] As the dust surrounding Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion release settles, it’s time to evaluate whether those killer features announced earlier this year are really that good. For me the most exciting addition when I... Read More  using te Messages app. This is useful if you have your phone on vibrate and you don’t hear an important message coming in. You will receive an alert in Notification Centre too.

You can connect to other IM services including Jabber, Bonjour, Google Talk/Hangouts, and AIM. OS X Yosemite even comes with new continuity features that allow you to send SMS messages to non-iPhone users by using the redesigned Messages app.

Advanced Tools

And that’s not all! These might be some of the most basic apps included with OS X, but we’ve also tackled plenty of advanced tools too. There’s a whole folder of Utilities on your Mac 9 Useful In-Built Mac OS X Utilities You've Probably Never Used 9 Useful In-Built Mac OS X Utilities You've Probably Never Used While you're not forced to become familiar with them, there are a handful of useful utilities included with Mac OS X. Read More you might never have used, including tools like Automator 3 Easy-To-Create Simple Automator Workflows For Everyday Use 3 Easy-To-Create Simple Automator Workflows For Everyday Use Read More for hacking together a better workflow 10 Automator Hacks You Can Create & Use Today [Mac] 10 Automator Hacks You Can Create & Use Today [Mac] Read More ? If you’re really serious about automating OS X Learn to Automate Your Mac with AppleScript [Part 1: Introduction] Learn to Automate Your Mac with AppleScript [Part 1: Introduction] Read More , check out our AppleScript tutorial How To Use Applescript's UI Scripting [Mac] How To Use Applescript's UI Scripting [Mac] Read More .

Before you all go for my throat in the comments, I know there are many more goodies that I didn’t mention and these were just a few of my top favourites.

Do you use any Mac freebies? Which ones and why? Make yourself heard in the comments, below.

  1. fkboi
    July 27, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    No, mac is shit.

  2. Fire Boy
    June 25, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    safari suck because it so anyone
    :p

  3. Tim
    August 15, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    There's not much good to say about the Mail Client. I have a list of 9 problems with Mail that prompted me to call AppleCare. Yup, they knew about them. Nope, they haven't fixed them.

    I was told that the fixes have been made to Yosemite, but no commitment was made regarding Mavericks. I'd consider Thunderbird again, but I've bought two extensions for mail that are very useful and don't want to give them up so I continue to work around these NINE APPLE BUGS IN MAVERICKS' MAIL CLIENT. ? PLEASE FIX IT APPLE!

  4. Saumyakanta S
    August 15, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    windows includes most of the tools........you should say that you're an apple fan ..thats it ..

  5. CJ Cotter
    August 14, 2014 at 11:08 pm

    I'm sending the link to this article to my girlfriend, who just bought a MAC Mini with a Thunderbolt monitor. I'm a PC.

  6. Aquadeo
    August 14, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    They are all just computers and most of them help us complete pretty much the same tasks. I liked Apple products back in the 80's-90's but dropped them for the more ubiquitous Windows systems. After spending a time experimenting with various Linux Distros, I've recently switched back to Apple with an iMac, MacBook Pro, iPad, and iPhone.

    I found your article intriguing and hope to try out some of your suggested software. I presently use Mail, Safari, Contacts, Calendar, Notes, FaceTime Audio, Messages, and iPhoto. I like that they are available across all of my devices. I also use VLC, Evernote, Dropbox, Chrome, and Word on both my own hardware and my work (ThinkPad) hardware.

    I really gave a good effort to using an Android phones and tablets as well as the ThinkPads, but always find them a bit clunky compared to the sleek Apple products.

    Thanks for a great article. It'll motivate me to try some new software!

    Just my dimes worth. :)

  7. Charles
    August 14, 2014 at 12:37 am

    I find Office for Mac simply awful. Finder is abysmal and please don't get me started on the mail app. Love imovie and Garageband. Certainly lots of room for improvement. I too was a new convert with my purchase of a 2012 Macbook air. The environment was new at first but my transition was quick. Can't beat the build quality.

    • likefunbutnot
      August 14, 2014 at 12:18 pm

      @Charles,

      Sure you can beat the build quality. I'd take a Thinkpad T or X series or a Surface Pro any day over a Macbook.

      I like OSX. It's a solid commercial UNIX. But there's nothing special about Apple hardware or support and most of Apple's non-OS software is downright awful.

  8. likefunbutnot
    August 13, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    The first thing I do is remove itunes. It's a pain in the ass to do it, but I hate it THAT much. Then I pull all the crap I never use (including Safari, Facetime, Message and the standard Apple Calendar and Mail apps) off the dock.

    After that, I head over to GetMacApps.com and install Firefox, Thunderbird, Google Drive, VLC, Handbrake and the Unarchiver. I normally play music with WinAmp and that's something I have to grab separately.

    My personal /bin folder of techie tools and scripts are sitting on my Google Drive and once that synchronizes, I'm probably golden.

    • Wendy L
      August 14, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      So why have a Mac at all if you are pulling all the software? Serious question not a slam.

    • likefunbutnot
      August 14, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      @Wendy L,

      I maintain some Apple desktops and I have an employer provided Macbook Pro and iphone. Sometimes I'll put together Hackintoshes.

      It truly doesn't matter to me what operating system I use and there's nothing special about either Apple hardware or software. I like OSX just fine as a desktop UNIX variant, but I dislike Apple's one-size-fits-all approach to computing enough that I'd prefer to use other things.

      I pull almost all the Apple Provided software in favor of the applications I'd be using on Windows or *nix.

  9. Jan F
    August 13, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    While I personally prefer Office for Mac from Microsoft I think it's also worth mentioning that Apples entire office suite, iWork, is free for all new Mac owners. So on top of Garageband you also get Pages, Keynote and Numbers free on the Mac App Store.

    Unless Apple has a change of heart all new operating system versions are free too, no need to purchase an upgrade.

    So as long as your hardware is supported you can have a fully up to system and software for your basic office and media work.

    Quicktime is a nice player, especially when they added functionality that was previously only available with a Quicktime Pro license.
    But ever since Perian (basically a codec pack for Quicktime) stopped being developed and stopped working I barely open it at all. It's actually not about not being able to play files - QT does support the most common codecs used these days. It is more of a prevention thing ~ I don't want to get to the point where it doesn't play a file when there are free alternatives like VLC which can play pretty much everything you throw at it.

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