Top 10 Downloads That Enhance Mac OS X’s Built-In Tools
Mac OS X has a ton of great features, but there's always room for improvement. Many developers have felt the same and created a bunch of great apps to enhance OS X's capabilities. Here are our top 10 apps that can power up your Mac to the next level.
Wish this post was about Windows downloads? It was last week!
When you have a bunch of drives connected to your Mac—whether they're mounted via the network or physically attached—it can be annoying to have to manually go through and eject them all. UnDock solves that problem by adding a global hotkey, plus an option in your menubar, to eject them all at once. This is super helpful when you're running out the door and need to disconnect everything safely and quickly.
Previously known as Visor, TotalTerminal is an enhancement to Terminal, the OS X command line app, that makes a terminal window drop down from underneath your menubar on command. You just pick a shortcut, press the relevant keys, and a Terminal window will drop down. It works just like any standard Terminal window, allowing you to add tabs and choose a style.
OS X Lion brought us Restore, a great feature that lets you reboot your Mac and watch all your apps restore themselves to the state they were in before you restarted. In many cases, this is very nice. With some apps, it can get kind of annoying. RestoreMeNot is a system preference pane that allows you to choose which apps will not restore when you reopen them or restart your computer.
OS X offers some really handy pre-configured function keys with its laptop and external keyboards, but some apps (like Adobe Flash) make use of function keys for their keyboard shortcuts. This means you either have to press the Fn key along with the desired function key at the top of your keyboard or temporarily turn off Apple's function key features in the Keyboard system preference pane. Both options aren't ideal, but Palua solves this problem by offering up a hotkey that toggles the mode of your function keys. If you need to switch modes often, this is an enhancement you should download.
HyperDock enhances your dock by adding several types of awesome previews. It can preview app windows, display iCal events, and even control iTunes. All you have to do is hover over a dock icon and it will work its magic. HyperDock also allows you to easily resize windows by holding down a modifier key and moving your mouse, can let you snap windows to the edge of the screen, and offers plenty of handy shortcuts to save you time.
ScreenSharingMenulet is one of my favorite enhancements in Mac OS X. It displays available machines on the network that can be controlled via Mac OS X's built-in screen sharing functionality (a.k.a. VNC). You can also manually add remote computers so you can easily connect when you're away from your local network. It's a very simple utility, but if you do a lot of screen sharing it will become your new best friend.
Spaces is OS X's built-in virtual desktop feature, and it is pretty nice on its own. If you use it and love it, you'll want to check out Hyperspaces. It'll let you name your spaces, assign different desktop pictures to each space, add labels, and assign specific keyboard shortcuts as well. It also provides tons of built-in shortcuts so you can easily manage your spaces from the keyboard. If you want more out of your virtual desktops than OS X can provide, give Hyperspaces a try. (Note: Hyperspaces doesn't work in OS X 10.7, but ReSpaceApp does.)
Cobook is our top pick among the Address Book apps for OS X, but while it's definitely its own app it is also an enhancement to the OS X Address Book. Cobook uses the same data already in Address Book, but helps keep it up-to-date by syncing with social web apps like Facebook and LinkedIn. It also provides a quick access from your menubar and is smart enough to understand what you're typing. This makes it easy to add a phone number to a contact or search for specific information without having to worry about telling Cobook what you're typing. It makes contact management on your Mac much easier.
Perian is known as the swiss-army knife for Quicktime because it takes Quicktime's paltry codec support and makes it capable of playing pretty much any video file you can throw at it. This not only boost Quicktime Player's capabilities, but any Quicktime-compatible application. Even if you use another player, such as VLC, it's really helpful to have Perian installed so OS X doesn't refuse to work with a video file when needed.
Wish that the OS X Finder offered tabbed browsing, a dual-window viewing mode, was able to display folders on top of files in lists, and offered proper cut and paste support? TotalFinder does all of that, plus quite a bit more. If you're not satisfied with the Finder as-is, it's the best OS X enhancement you're going to find. It'll make your $18 poorer, but that's a small price to pay for a number of features the Finder has been lacking for many years.