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Columns & Editorials

by Kyle D'Addario
& Wincent Colaiuta

9 Mac OS X Apps To Get You Started
March 23rd, 2001

If you are anything like me, there has been but two things on your mind for the last couple of weeks. One, the men's NCAA college basketball tournament, and two, the wait for OS X is killin' me. Have no fear. In just a few short hours Apple will officially release the long awaited, much hyped next generation operating system to the general public.

But as the excitement wears off, and you successfully get your precious new toy home from the store or wait for the FedEx person to drop it off at your door, you are likely to have a blast of reality smack you across the noggin; You have OS X, but what now?

Fortunately, that question becomes fairly easy to answer for a number of reasons. First and foremost is the presence of the Public Beta. By releasing the PB when they did, Apple gave a whole slew of developers time to get their products ready for OS X, and users a chance to help them work the bugs out. What that means, in plain terms, is that you will be able to be productive with OS X shortly after you get it installed on Saturday.

In order to help you do that, we have put together a list of applications and utilities that are or will be available for download on Saturday. OS X is the future, but there is a lot you will be able to do with it now as well. Without further delay, here we go:

Fire – Eric Peyton of Epicware has written a wonderfully neat instant messaging application called Fire. Talk about cool, Fire allows users to connect to most of the major instant messaging services and protocols from within one simple interface. Fire supports AIM, ICQ, irc, Jabber, MSN, and Yahoo!. While Fire does not support file transfers, it is written in Cocoa, Apple OS X native language. If you are hesitant to give up your favorite messaging client, don't be. Fire has you covered.

OmniWeb – The OmniGroup has been making OS X applications since the NeXT days, and OmniWeb is their flagship product. Another Cocoa application, OmniWeb is a full featured Web browser for those that do not want to use OS X's version of Internet Explorer. While OmniWeb is not the fasted browser out there, it is marvelously thought out, and takes full advantage of Apple's Quartz imaging technology to produce truly breathtaking pages. OmniWeb is still in beta, but definitely worth a look.

rBrowser – rBrowser is actually a system for viewing files, and some even call it an alternative to OS X's Finder. While I would not go that far, rBrowser does allow you to easily view remote file systems, offering authorized users nearly as much control over a remote machine as they would have over their own. In its most basic sense, rBrowser functions as a robust and intuitive FTP application, and is in fact the best example that we have seen for OS X.

iRecall – OS X ships minus a version of the venerable NotePad, but iRecall offers all the functionality of the old Notepad and more. Providing a “table of contents” structure to the note pad layout, iRecall allows users to easily switch between an unlimited number of notes with just one click, rather than having to actually “flip” through them. If you often found yourself using the Notepad in OS 8/9 you will certainly be pleased to use iRecall under X.

OmniDictionary – Another entry from the good folks at the OmniGroup, OmniDictionary provides a simple interface for looking up words. The program connects to an online dictionary service/database, and provides users with a simple interface for doing what a dictionary does best: figuring out how to spell words and what they mean. The Mac Observer staff finds this program very useful… – Granted, this is a program that actually ships with OS X, but what a program it is. The original incarnations of were promising and disappointing at the same time. Be disappointed no longer. The interface is gorgeous, the filter system is fairly robust, the program flawlessly handles multiple accounts, and because it too is a Cocoa application it can take advantage of OS X's “Services” (which is a topic for a future article). In fact, if a user defines multiple accounts in Mail, the application is smart enough to automatically reply to a message using the account that it was sent to. While more recent versions of both Eudora and OE do this, it is great to see Mail offer this functionality as well. If, however, you do not like for some reason, you can always try…

PowerMail X – PowerMail has been around for quite some time, and was one of the first e-mail programs to be “Carbonized” for OS X. While this program is not perfect, it to has come a long way under Public Beta. The program handles multiple accounts without complaint, provides a fairly standard interface. While might shock you at first due to the Aqua interface, PowerMail will make you feel right at home with a more traditional OS 8/9 interface.

Son of Weather Grok – Definitely an application that is more fun than useful, Son of Weather Grok asks users to enter a code for the city in which they live, and then will connect to a national weather database and update the current weather at defined intervals. For those stuck at their desk way too long, Son of Weather Grok reminds us of the outside world. And the “song” it plays when and update is successful is worth the price of admission.

Apple's Software Suite – Sometime on Saturday, Apple is going to post iTunes, iMovie 2, and a preview version of AppleWorks for users to download. The first Carbonized version of AppleWorks was slightly disappointing, but Apple's in-house productivity suite will give many users all of the tools they need right off the bat. And we all know that iTunes will lack CD-RW compatibility in its first release, it is still an outstanding free music player, and combined with iMovie, brings two of Apple's most popular products to OS X.

Many of these applications are shareware, but all of them are definitely worth a look. This is only a small sample of the available OS X ready apps that you can, more or less, begin using immediately. However, this list represents the best of the bunch and should help make your first day with OS X everything you hoped it would be.

Kyle D'Addario

You are encouraged to send Richard your comments, or to post them below.

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Kyle D'Addario is the assistant editor of The Mac Observer and has logged about as much time on Mac OS X as is humanly possible. Kyle studies Computer-Mediated Communication, whatever that is, at the graduate level, and was a founding member of the original Webintosh team.

Wincent Colaiuta runs Macintosh news and criticism site,, and joined The Mac Observer team as a contributor in March 2001. He has worked with computers since 1984, and his interests in that area include Macs, PHP programming and security.

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