5 Apps to Get More Out of Your New Mac

Ravi 22-11-2008

Sometime last year, you bought yourself an iPhone and then realised that a better user experience is indeed possible! So sometime this year, you took the next logical step and upgraded your PC to a Mac – perhaps a Mac Mini to start out small, or a laptop, or even a sexy 20″ iMac.


Now you are that insufferable know-it-all at family gatherings who descends from his Mac OS X Leopard nirvana only to lecture the rest of the brood on their miserable digital lives. In which case, brace yourself for what I am about to say: It’s true – you can make the user experience on your Mac even better!

Here, in this post, I will endeavour to purloin some of his ideas and add some of my own. If you are a Mac newbie, I hope that the suggested applications are new and useful to you. If you are an old hand, read ahead and correct me with your own better alternatives.

1. Quicksilver


This one’s so obvious that they should just ship the OS with it pre-installed. Instead, Mac OS comes with Spotlight, which is nice – for Grandma. For a slick cat like you, Quicksilver is the rare application that qualifies for that over-used metaphor: a Swiss army knife. With simple keystrokes (default invocation keystroke is Ctrl-Space) it lets you launch applications, look up contact info, navigate your directory tree, send email, and interface with other applications using plugins.

2. VirtualBox

Sure you may have taken the path to enlightenment, but the rest of the world is taking its time getting there, and you do have to communicate with them once in a while. I am speaking here of course of the Microsoft Windows world which imposes itself into your beatific world with that occasional annoying banking site that works only in Internet Explorer. For those cases, there is the free virtualisation tools VirtualBox, which lets you run Windows (a licensed copy of course) on your Mac.


Virtualbox on Mac OS X

(Image courtesy of

And while you are on the job (of making peace with the Windows world), you might as well grab Flip4Mac (Windows Media Components), a tool that will install plug-ins for the QuickTime media player on your Mac, in order to enable playback of Windows Media audio and video files.

3. The Goodies at iSlayer

Choose one or more of the free goodies (donationware) at iSlayer: iStatMenus, iStatPro, iStatNano. They are all applications that will display various useful bits of information about your system.

iStatPro iStatMenu

The first (iStatMenus) sits in your menu bar (see 5 Free Tools to Add to your Mac Menu Bar 5 Free Tools to Add to your Mac Menu Bar Read More for this and other useful menu bar add ons) while the other two are Dashboard Widgets. They all display system information such as: the utilisation of your CPU, disk and memory, the top 5 processes that are using your CPU, the status of your laptop battery, and so on.

This is useful, especially for a new user, since such information gives you a clue to those unexpected OS behaviours that even a Mac user encounters, such as slow system response. In the screenshot , you can see that Firefox is using up 20% 15.5% of my CPU even though I am not actively using it (perhaps a misbehaving Firefox extension?). iStatMenu also provides a nice little date and time display in your menu bar and a pull down that brings up a calendar.

4. Jumpcut

A neat solution to a common problem of maintaining and accessing multiple entries in your clipboard i.e., copying multiple bits of text before pasting them. Jumpcut sits in the menu bar and harvests your copy buffer as you work away on the Command-C’s.

When you are ready to paste these bits into an email message or editor, they can be access by clicking on the menubar icon or, even better, using a hotkey (default: Alt-Space) that can be used to rotate through the clipboard.


5. Freeing your Music


Remember that music you bought from the iTunes Store with your hard-earned money that Apple now refuses to give up to you, locking it into their proprietary format or making it inaccessible from your iPod? Two applications that will set that right are FairGame, which will let you convert DRM’ed iTunes Store in your iTunes library to an unprotected format, and iPodDisk, which conversely, helps rescue music stored on your iPod. To this bundle, you can add SimplyBurns which completes the loop by enabling you to burn your media to CD or DVD.

There are other useful tools (here is one example: Open With Manager) for a Mac newbie that we can explore in a later post.

Related topics: Digital Rights Management, iTunes, System Monitor, Virtualization.

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  1. U.N. Owen
    March 1, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    Yes - I know - I am writing frm the 'future' (of this article).

    Unbelievable some of the GARBAGE this idiot would 'recommend' -

    Sure - I want MORE ('Win-doze') CRAP on my Mac (I never had none - and Ive ONLY used Macs since the 80's).

    Virtual Box?

    See above.

    I don't use Spotlight - I use Alfred.

    I don't need 'virtual' anything' M'soft - and it's stuff never - ever had ANY thing to do with, etc. ANY thing on my Mac.

    So, I sure as sh-t wouln't need to allow them 'entrée.'

  2. Oohlooka ponce!
    July 3, 2009 at 4:42 am

    Oh buggery boobs

    I meant that LOL etc to go to Bad Economist. Aren't I silly?

  3. Oohlooka ponce!
    July 3, 2009 at 4:40 am

    Death to the fanatics!1!, eh?

    Loving the fanboy co-buggery here, kids.

    Less grease, more squealing...

    "If a mac does not do it natively, it is not worth doing."

    ^^ Wot a load of hot, dribbly sh*t, Migsy. LOL

  4. Bad Economy
    March 2, 2009 at 11:28 am

    I have not tried VirtualBox, but then I avoid windoze software, so I don't need it. If a mac does not do it natively, it is not worth doing. :)

  5. Miguel
    February 5, 2009 at 11:24 am

    How useful is VirtualBox? can someone share their experience? Thanks! Also, is there another tool out there worth a mention?


  6. sealy
    January 16, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Hey thanks allot for the list, i was about to spend like $70 on that program parallels to do the same thing that virtualbox says it will do

  7. Steaven
    December 22, 2008 at 5:37 am

    Now I understand why MAC is termed as the future of computing...

  8. Erik
    December 22, 2008 at 4:00 am

    wow…the word “upgraded” is actually the only one that has been bolded out…maaaan i hate that kind of marketing…i have no more respect for heartless corporations...

  9. Steven Frechette
    December 5, 2008 at 2:10 am

    Very nice list, the first thing I put on my Mac is Quicksilver..

  10. robin
    December 4, 2008 at 4:40 am

    I love iSlayer and QuickSilver too.

  11. mohan
    November 27, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    i love the quick silver theme....its nice and i prefer to use this.....

  12. Champions in the workplace
    November 27, 2008 at 12:29 am

    I also like smcfancontrol, it is useful when you have a laptop.

  13. Don Parr
    November 24, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    I have a group of utilities but if I were restricted to just one, it would be Quicksilver. As is it's Da Bomb, but I do admit I'd love to see Alcor's (Quicksilver developer) return. I use QS as much for word definitions and clipboard management as I do for launching apps. Quicksilver is a venerable treasure chest and, sadly, most people very seldom see below the top layer.

  14. web
    November 24, 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Good tips, my friend!


  15. harle
    November 24, 2008 at 1:14 pm

    What would have been more interesting is if you compared those five apps to their direct counterparts for Windows - some of which are, arguably, better than those available for Mac (iSlayer? I think I'll stick with Rainmeter and its far more comprehensive feature set).

    The demonisation of Windows is not productive. This article is still informative - but could have been much better. Please be a bit more intelligent next time, and not so quick to ride the same old tired band-wagons.

  16. Ned
    November 24, 2008 at 11:52 am

    Very nice list, the first thing I put on my Mac is Quicksilver.

  17. James
    November 24, 2008 at 8:26 am

    @Cody, you beat me to it.
    I 100% concur.

  18. Charles
    November 24, 2008 at 7:02 am

    Launchbar is superior to Quicksilver. Much faster, more intuitive and fewer key strokes. It's not free, but the user experience puts it far beyond Quicksilver. I tried moved to QS many times over the past several years and it's never had the polish of Launchbar. I don't believe QS is still being actively developed.

  19. kiran
    November 24, 2008 at 5:29 am

    Useful information.Thanks for sharing.

  20. Jagdip
    November 24, 2008 at 4:00 am

    Apple = Dictatorship
    PC = Democracy

    • Friendly
      November 26, 2008 at 12:26 am hit submit too quickly; next time review for mistakes...this was a big one! :) But I agree with you that Apple = freedom...freedom to just do what you want the computer to do instead of having to deal with all the problems of Windows. PCs force people into a buggy, bloated, confusing, inefficient world. Apple also supports open source and open standards, whereas Windows forces people to use their terrible proprietary formats. Fortunately, people have a choice, and that is what Democracy is all about! :D

  21. Guru
    November 24, 2008 at 1:35 am

    Now I understand why MAC is termed as the future of computing...

    Good stuff... I am now planning to shift to Mac!

  22. Cody
    November 23, 2008 at 11:47 pm

    "Remember that music you bought from the iTunes Store with your hard-earned money that Apple now refuses to give up to you, locking it into their proprietary format or making it inaccessible from your iPod? "

    Wise up before writing an Article. How about that music that you spent your money on and the RECORD COMPANIES refuse to give up to you? If you did a little research you may find out that Apple has been fighting to get DRM removed from music in the iTunes store.

  23. Aleks
    November 23, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    I love how its "logical" that a switch from Windows to Mac is considered an "upgrade" By that logic, the next logical step after that is switching from your Mac to a Linux machine. Oh yeah.

    • Macsrock
      November 26, 2008 at 12:21 am

      Er, Macs are OS-universal. On a Mac, I can install and use Windows and Linux natively, although the superiority of OSX makes them generally obsolete. But if I was going to run a web server, I might consider Linux...

  24. Chico
    November 24, 2008 at 2:15 am

    A must have app is iSquint. It'll convert several video formats to iTunes/iPod compatible formats. For some reason the developer has "discontinued" it but it is still downloadable here: [Broken Link Removed]

    Another must have app is handbrake... it will allow you to rip DVDs to iTunes/iPod compatible video. It can be found here:

  25. Cushy Co
    November 23, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    DON'T EVER use the word Grandma as a way of disparaging anyone's ability in the online or information technology world.

  26. Manuel M
    November 23, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    What definitely is missing are online backups. I have tried the free version of Mozy, that comes with 2 GB, and really like. Gives you a good feeling, when you know your data is safely backuped.

    Right now the have a special offer. I anybody signs up with my referral we both get an additional 512MB storage space. Just use the following link or go to the website and enter the code: 742EE0


  27. Andy
    November 23, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Apple ads make fanboys, and this post proves it...

    • Ash
      November 26, 2008 at 12:17 am

      Close...Apple *Macs* make fanboys, and for good reason. When you use the best OS on the best machines, it's hard not to preen with joy.

  28. skemez1
    November 23, 2008 at 6:24 pm
  29. sith lord
    November 23, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    I finds these apps so useless...

    • Bob
      November 23, 2008 at 5:21 pm

      "I finds these apps so useless…"

      Perhaps you are better of with Vista.

    • kenny
      November 24, 2008 at 3:11 am

      I also..

  30. Bryce
    November 23, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    I'll be the first to admit there's condescending pricks in every camp (Windows, Linux, etc...), but here's a clear-cut example of the Mac variety. Good job, douche bag!

  31. wabbit
    November 23, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    wow...the word "upgraded" is actually the only one that has been bolded out...maaaan i hate that kind of marketing...i have no more respect for heartless corporations

  32. phs
    November 23, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    You don't need Jumpcut, nice utility that it may be, because of the aforementioned Quicksilver. It has two, count 'em, two ways of saving clips you want to paste. It will keep track of a (user-configured) number of clipboard entries which you can recall with a key combination. It also has a feature called the Shelf, where you can keep oft-pasted things (like a return address) permanently.

  33. Patrick
    November 23, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Does anyone know what theme is being used in the quicksilver screenshot? It looks really good and I can't seem to find it anywhere. Would really appreciate it if someone could post it here.


    • Justin
      November 23, 2008 at 9:12 pm

      I believe the theme is Bezel with a different color scheme. It's the one I use on mine.

      I have most of these and now I just can't seem to live without my quicksilver.

  34. Marc Leith
    November 23, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    I love iSlayer and QuickSilver too.

    But honestly, as a switcher (over 2 years now) virtualization which used to matter a great deal to me is something I rarely use. I'm even seriously debating whether Parallels 4 is worth buying..

  35. jose blas
    November 23, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    I would not recommend to install any of islayer software, it will just cause problems to your fans and how the computer works, not to mention you will became another paranoid looking continually at the temp of your mac.

    I had it installed and I told my friends to install it, within one month the fans in my friend's MBP stopped working, and my own MBP was making funny noises. After a bit of internet research I found that this application (iStat menu) could be the reason of the noises and high temps. I uninstalled it and I never looked back. My friend also got rid of the app and the fans started working again, magic!

    Quicksilver must be quick but I prefer to use Spotlight and I am very happy with it. I think more people should learn how to use the tools that come with OS X and they will be really surprise to see the things you can do out of the box.

    • Juan A Gonzalez
      November 23, 2008 at 12:43 pm

      Had a similar problem with my MPB and iStat Menus, Fans would go nuts all the time, since i've removed it, no problems.

      As with Quicksilver, how do i get that cool mac UI interface, cause i can't find it in the plug-ins. I primarily use it as an application launcher, and for me Spotlight is just too cluttered, i get more in a search query than i want. I'll still use it to search for just files i can't find easily. Also Quicksilver is actually way more powerful than spotlight, just google "quicksilver custom triggers" and you will learn a whole lot about how to really use it. check this out ,. Quicksilver is definitely a power app. and hit up for a whole lot more on Quicksilver.

      • b0nn3r
        November 23, 2008 at 6:21 pm

        Took forever to actually find his new homepage but here's a working link with a few cool appearance plug-ins.

    • dMorrow
      November 23, 2008 at 2:10 pm

      Thanks for telling me. I've had those installed since I got my launch Santa Rosa MBP. The fans failed twice, only problem I had with the unit.

      Just uninstalled them. It's going to be weird being in the dark about CPU usage and temperature.

    • scott
      November 24, 2008 at 12:41 am

      I've never had a problem with anything from iSlayer (iStat Menus) on either my iMac or MacBook.

      I'm just sayin'

  36. nicknack
    November 23, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    I too love QuickSilver. It makes things so much more efficient and is much more than an app launcher / search tool (Spotlight). has some great articles on how to tweak it to it's full potential.

    I also wrote up an article that has plenty of mac tweaks/tips/tricks:

    Glad I read some of these comments about iSlayer. I was about to install it. I guess I won't anymore. I don't really want my fan going out. Yikes!

  37. John
    November 23, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    The original developer of QuickSilver stopped developing it and is now recommending LaunchBar instead. Good choice.

    Also, [Broken Link Removed] provides more functionality than Jumpcut.

  38. PeterVk
    November 23, 2008 at 2:35 am

    Definitely an interesting list. FairGame is a great little utility.

  39. Ravi
    November 22, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    A small correction: the Firefox CPU utilisation is 15.5% (not 20% as I write).