Switcher Software Summary

At the last count I had nearly FIFTY Windows applications that are pretty much essential for using my PC. Sounds a lot but it’s probably no more than average when you look at everything rather than just the major applications like PhotoShop. While I’ve seen sites that give examples of a few alternatives on the Mac, I thought I would list everything I use, and how I’ve faired in migrating the things I do to the Mac. Not every application is a success story, but this may hopefully give you some ideas to build on. Naturally I haven’t listed Windows security software (ESET Smart Security, Webroot SpySweeper and Primary Response Safe Connect – which I consider the bare minimum) as there really is no need for equivalent software on the Mac. So here goes…

KeyWallet and KeyPass – I use these for storing user ids and passwords, even software license details and1Password short notes. KeyWallet had a lovely simple interface and the ability to drag fields onto web forms. Alas it’s not supported beyond XP so I started using KeyPass instead. On the Mac I settled on 1Password, easily the most functional password manager there is for OS X, in fact in some respects it also contains features similar to thos in AI RoboForm. A word of caution – there is a Mac version of KeyPass, however it lacks the functions of it’s Windows counterpart and the databases between the two versions are incompatible, so you can’t migrate your data from KeyPass on Windows to KeyPass on the Mac sadly.

TrueCryptTrueCrypt – Great for creating encrypted files, folders or even whole drives. Good news is that there’s a native OS X version that has exactly the same functionality.

PeerGuardian – Useful if you use a bittorrent client, as it keeps potentially undesireable connections at bay. Again, there’s a native version of this for Mac OS X that functions in just the same way.

VMWare Workstation – If you need to ask what it is then you probably don’t need it. Anyway, Mac OS X hasVMWare it’s own version called VMWare Fusion, the latest version of which (v2.0) is rapidly catching up with the Windows version in terms of features. Equally capable is Parallels, then of course there’s always BootCamp for the more adventurous or if gaming is your thing. Don’t forget that whichever solution you pick you’ll still need a Windows license and installation media.

uTorrent – Probably the best bittorrent client for Windows. A popular client for Mac users is Acquisition (shareware) which has a slick interface, although it lacks many of the advanced features that uTorrent users will be used to. My preference is Transmission (free), another Mac bittorrent client sporting a variety of useful features. Alternatively, if you’re an Azureus user then you can run it natively under Mac OS X as it’s a java application.

Skype – Everyone must have heard of the ubiquitous VoIP/IM client by now. Good news is that there’s an OS X version of it as well, although a few features are missing from the Mac version. Incidentally, if you have a Logitech QuickCam Pro 9000 it’ll work fine with Skype on the Mac although you lose things like face detection and auto zoom.

AdiumMSN Messenger – (or Live Messenger as Microsoft now like to call it) yes believe it or not, Microsoft have a Mac version available. Be prepared to give up some features though (including audio/video support). Personally I use Adium on the Mac. Although it doesn’t have proper audio/video support either (in the pipeline) it’s a feature-rich IM client that connects to most IM systems and has a wealth of add-ons for almost every purpose.

MSN Messenger Plus! (aka Messenger Live Plus!) – If you use Messenger then you really should use Messenger Plus as it adds all those useful things that Microsoft forgot (or didn’t want you to have). There is no real equivalent for the Mac version of MSN Messenger, although if you use Adium you’ll find that it has a lot of these features built-in or available as add-ons.

Firefox – ’nuff said. The native Mac OS X version is just as good!

RocketDock – An excellent launchbar for Windows. Of course the Mac OS has it’s own ‘dock’ although it’s nowhere near as customizable as RocketDock. For a whizzier application launcher on the Mac then check out QuickSilver – loved by thousands!

FastStone Screen Capture – An excellent screen grabbing tool with lots of features, and the earlier freeware version of it is still available if you look hard enough. The built-in screen capture utility in OS X (Cmd+Shift+4) is pretty good and has served me well so far. There are more powerful screen grabbing utilities available for OS X, so I’ll update this when I find one I like.

NewsGatorFeedDemon – Up there amongst the most popular news feed readers for Windows. Well, NetNewsWire is the Mac equivalent, and even supports sync’ing with FeedDemon via the free NewsGator service.

Outlook 2007 – Love it or loathe it, Outlook is everywhere and the 2007 version has a pretty impressive feature set. Microsoft have crafted an alternative called Entourage 2008 (as part of Office 2008 for the Mac), just don’t expect it to have the same feature set. Entourage 2008 is the functional equivalent of the Outlook Express that originally shipped with XP. If you just can’t bear to take the Microsoft route any longer then there’s the Mac’s own Mail.app mail client built right in to the OS, which while quite simple has a wealth of add-ons and scripts to give it that extra oomph. Mozilla’s Thunderbird can also run natively under OS X.

Xobni – an almost indispensable free add-on for anyone using Outlook, it tells you more about your mailXobni and contacts than you ever imagined. Xobni say they will develop versions for other platforms, but given that the Windows version is still in beta (as of May 2008), don’t expect a Mac version any time soon. For now you’ll just have to be envious!

Word 2007 – Who hasn’t heard of the ubiquitous word processor from Redmond. If you want to stick with Microsoft then Word 2008 (as part of Office 2008 for the Mac) is pretty good. However, Apple have their own equivalent in the form of Pages as part of the iWork suite. Which one wins is anyone’s guess so take your pick. Of course OpenOffice is also available for the Mac with a slicker v3.0 nearing release, sporting a much improved interface amongst other things, and native OS X support.

iWork NumbersExcel 2007 – Word 2007’s partner in crime for number crunching. Excel 2008 in the Office 2008 for Mac suite is the obvious choice but of course there’s the equally impressive Numbers (catchy name huh) from Apple as part of iWork suite.

PowerPoint 2007 – Ok, how many people have fallen asleep to a PowerPoint presentation then? Come on, own up (I know I have!). Well if you want to bore an audience to death without too much effort then check out Microsoft’s native Mac offering of PowerPoint 2008 (part of Office 2008 again). Arguably the better bet is Apple’s own KeyNote application in the iWork suite.

ABF Outlook Backup – Great for backing up your Outlook mail and settings, and a must of you want to transfer Outlook from one PC to another. A similar Windows product is OutBack Plus although it can catch you out with some of the registry settings it transfers. On the Mac there’s Email Backup and Email Backup Pro, although I haven’t tried them out in anger yet, so watch this space. Of course there’s the excellent O2M if you’re looking to transfer Outlook mail to your Mac. If you’re an Entourage user then there’s a couple of gotchas where backing up your mail is concerned (I wrote about this is an earlier post). Basically you should exclude your mail file from TimeMachine (if you use it), shut down the Microsoft Database Demon process if it’s running, then just copy your mail file & settings to a suitable location (from where it could be backed up by TimeMachine or whatever backup software you use).

Google Cal Sync – Google’s recently released application lets you sync to and from Outlook, so wherever you make your updates, they’ll be transferred to the other. Sadly there isn’t a version that sync’s Google Calendar to Entourage and I’m still looking for the perfect iCal/Google sync tool, so more to follow on that one.

Foxit Reader – If you want to view PDF files under Windows then you should be using the slim and free Foxit Reader rather than the bloated monster that is Adobe Acrobat Reader. On the Mac you get Preview built-in which will let you view PDFs and there’s always some QuickLook plug-ins too.

ActiveSync – Syncing Outlook with your Windows Mobile phone couldn’t be easier than with ActiveSync if you’re running XP. Of course if Vista is your bag then the feature is built-in (as well as the bugs!). For Mac users there’s the MissingSync which supports loads of devices and clients if the built-in Sync tool can’t do the job.

WinAmp – has been the premier alternative to Windows Media Player for as long as I can remember. While primarily a music/video player, it has library and other media functions too plus a whole host of plug-ins. iTunes on the Mac is the natural alternative, although something of a heavyweight for just playing tunes. Flip4Mac will give you Windows Media capability and Apple’s own Quicktime takes care of the video side of things.

VLC – if you’re a fan of this very capable media player then you’ll be pleased to know there’s a native Mac version available as well.

SyncBackSE – is what I use for backing up, sync’ing, copying and generally moving data around. It has aChronoSync wealth of features allowing you to build anything from very simple to very complex tasks that can be scheduled. The natural alternative on the Mac is ChronoSync which, while not quite as feature-rich, does a reasonable job of sync’ing folders on a schedule. SuperFlexibleFileCopier is another similar tool I’ve been looking at, though currently still in beta it’s showing promise.

Yahoo Widgets – I prefer these to Google Gadgets or the Sidebar if you’re into Vista, but then it’s a matter of taste. Mac OS X Leopard has the ‘Dashboard’ for which there’s a huge variety of widgets available. Got a favourite Yahoo Widget you can’t do without? No problem as Yahoo have made a Mac version of their Widget engine which supports pretty much all the widgets the Windows version supports.

Belkin Network USB Hub – a very handy device that lets you share USB devices over the network (without the need for a host PC). Belkin have thoughtfully provided a Mac version of the software that works just as well, so you Mac and Windows PCs can share the same devices.

EverNoteEvernote – great for taking notes as well as clipping web pages and other types of media. There’s a Mac version of the software available in beta which has pretty much the same functionality although there are one or two glitches. You should also check out MacJournal or SOHO Notes 7 both of which do an admiral job of organizing your snippets of information.

LightZone – is a great photo enhancement tool if you don’t want to load up the well-known (but bulkier) alternatives such as PhotoShop CS3. Good news is that it’s Java-based so it’ll run equally well on your Mac.

Adobe LightRoom – is the photographers workflow tool of choice for many under Windows. Adobe are good at supporting Mac OS X in a lot of their software so check out the Mac version if it’s one of your favourites. Apple of course have their own solution which is Aperture 2, and this was the very first piece of new software I bought for my Mac, it’s that good!

Adobe PhotoShop CS3 – needs no introduction as the ultimate in image creation and editing, and if you’ve bought the Windows version then you can ‘cross-grade’ to the equivalent Mac version without too much trouble. Just notify Adobe and they’ll sort it for you.

Helium Music ManagerHelium Music Manager (HMM) 2008 – if you have a collection of music files (mp3, ogg, flac, etc.) on your Windows PC then there really is nothing that can match the sheer wealth of capabilities of HMM. A music database, tag editor, player, browser, you name it, HMM can do it and then some. Sadly there’s nothing that comes even close on the Mac platform. Sure iTunes lets you play music, do a certain amount of tagging and browsing as a library, plus the purchasing stuff, but compared to HMM it has a long way to go. I plan to elaborate on music collection management and tagging in a future post as I see this as one area where Mac OS X seems to be lagging behind.

Of course this isn’t an exhaustive list of what’s available on the Mac for your current Windows applications, it’s based just on what I currently use on a weekly basis. However, for the more common applications that I don’t use such as movie making, music creation, databases, etc., I’ll search out the alternatives and add another post in the future. In the meantime, have fun.

6 Responses

  1. Nice Site layout for your blog. I am looking forward to reading more from you.

    Tom Humes

  2. Found this chat program called gotachat while surfing toady. It has some unique features. It not only combines the feature set of MIRC/IRC, in that you can create chat channels and ategories as well as private message guests, but you can also create a friends list, just like you can in AIM and MSN Messenger. It can be installed on webpages, blogs, social sites like myspace, facebook and others. This I found rather interesting because it doesn’t confine your chat to either your deskop or a particular webpage, you have the option of both. Yes, they do have a desktop version as well. Cool stuff. You can find them all over the web, or at their website, http://www.gotachat.com

  3. Good list of *stuff*. I’ve found iusethis.com for a source of popular apps and such. Off the top of my list would be the Unsanity products HERE, of course, as you’ve listed it already, Flip4Mac, and a few other good ones…for back up, Superduper
    ….and an excellent vital info database, info.xhead, and another one by the Flip4Mac people, Drive In.

  4. @Tom – Many thanks, I shall endeavour to entertain 😉

    @Ryan – Gotachat looks interesting and I can see how it can give extra focus and depth to things like blogs and other websites. Maybe one to investigate further when I get myself organized!

    @Antonio – Thanks for the ‘iusethis’ link, it’s a useful addition to things like MacUpdate and VersionTracker that I’ve been following. Unsanity make some nice apps, and their ShapeShifter is like WindowBlinds for the Mac. Will be interesting to try when they get Leopard support sorted. SuperDuper is an excellent application, I clone my Mac Pro boot disk using this, in case of emergency – only reason I left it out is that I hadn’t got around to implementing something similar on my Windows machine so cheers for the nudge 😉

    Info.xahead looks useful too, in the same vein as 1Password but with maybe a more flexible structure to it, so more like RoboForm on Windows. Think I’ll definitely be checking that one out.

  5. Entourage in Office 2008 will not import Outlook data so it is yet another dead end application from Microsoft. And so there is also no reason not to get Open Office instead of Microsoft Office to gain a word processor, spreadsheet, and database apps.

  6. @Bruce – Yes, seems like a major omission that Microsoft didn’t provide any sort of data transfer facility between Outlook and Entourage. Why, is anybody’s guess. Still, there’s always O2M to help fill that gap.

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