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What to install on a Mac

I'm thinking about practicalities of setting myself up in my new PhD position, and one of the things to think about (since I'll be doing a lot of computer work) is how to set up the Mac I'll be using. So, largely for my own reference but for anyone else, here's my list of the really really useful software to install on a Mac. Most of these items are free so the whole lot costs very little.

Things to install on a Mac

The first lot allow you to install a whole range of excellent Unix software, so I install them before (almost) anything else. But skip over this bit if you're not into Unix software:

  • Apple's Developer Tools (comes on a separate CD along with your OSX installer discs)
  • X11 (I think it also comes on the same disc as the developer tools.) X11 is a way for open-source software to create graphical interfaces (windows, menus, etc)
  • Fink (depends on Dev Tools)
  • Darwinports (depends on Dev Tools)

Now the really essential software:

  • Audacity - the best audio editor.
  • BBEdit - a high-performance HTML and text editor for the Macintosh. Excellent for programming but also just for opening text files etc. (NB not free)
  • iDefrag - defragments your hard disk, improving your computer's performance. (NB not free)
  • JDiskReport - excellent graphical way to see what's on your hard disk, what's taking up all the space, etc.
  • Firefox - I like Safari a lot, but it's often helpful to have Firefox too.
  • Firefox Web Developer toolbar
  • Fetch - the nicest FTP software I ever did see. (NB not free)
  • Thunderbird - I don't like Apple's Mail software. Thunderbird does newsfeeds as well as email, and gives you lots and lots of control.

Then there's good software but not essential:

  • Chicken of the VNC - for accessing remote desktops
  • Gimp for image editing. Not Photoshop but near enough, and free
  • WriteRoom - minimalist writing environment for people who need to concentrate
  • Google Earth - sometimes you just need to look at the planet
  • Jreepad - store all the notes you ever think of in a sprawling tree-like structure
  • MenuCalendarClock for iCal - really valuable little tool which gives instant access to your calendar. (NB not free)
  • Growl - allows applications to send you unobtrusive notifications. You can get iTunes to flash up what tracks it's playing, among many many other applications.
  • Coriolis CDMaker - Comes free with iDefrag, and lets you create bootable CDs for rescuing your computer when (in two or three years' time) something goes completely wrong...
Audio things

These are essential for me. If you're into music/audio they may be essential for you too:

  • SuperCollider - programming language and environment for sound.
  • Audio Hijack Pro - allows you to grab the audio from any application and record it to disk. Useful in so many ways. (NB not free)
  • Tartini - a beautifully useable tool "designed as a practical analysis tool for singers and instrumentalists", giving highly detailed pitch contours.
  • VLC - media player.
  • MPlayer - media player.
  • SPEAR - spectral analysis of sounds.
The geeky section

Some useful unix tools I install from fink:

  • svn-client-ssl (this is needed to install SuperCollider from current source)

Useful command-line things I install from darwinports:

  • wireshark (neat tool for sniffing on network connections and seeing what's going on)
  • lame (library for creating MP3s)
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