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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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).
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 is a fairly lightweight browser, especially compared to Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox (although some may prefer Chrome, due to its superior syncing function 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, record interesting links to Reading List and access all your bookmarks and history through your iPad.
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 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.
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 you might never have used, including tools like Automator for hacking together a better workflow? If you’re really serious about automating OS X, check out our AppleScript tutorial.
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.