Mac Essentials Part 2
This is the second entry in my mac essentials series. Yesterday I covered applications every System Administrator should have on his Macintosh. And today I will present my favourite day-to-day apps, wich make using the Internet with my Macintosh a bit sweeter.
I spend much (sometimes too much) time surfing the Internet. And I have high demands on my browser. While I was a Linux user, I prefered to use Firefox. After switching to the Mac, I tried Safari and Firefox, both are great, but Safari rendered some pages different than I expected (that about was 3 years ago ...) and Firefox doesn't had the best user experience - the interface was not enough "mac-like" for me. So because my favourite render engine is Mozilla's Gecko-Engine I tried Camino. Camino uses the same render engine as Firefox (Gecko) so pages look exactly the same, but the UI is really mac-like.
On Linux I used KMail for all email activity, and what I really liked was the way KMail showed me HTML mails - it just showed the source code (this behaviour can of course be changed). Mail.app on the Mac - the obvious choise for doing emails on the Mac - prefered to show me the rendered HTML Mail, no chance to change this behaviour, or at least I didn't find it. I want to read my emails in plain text and I want to send my emails in plain text, so I tried Thunderbird and I'm still using it, so I would say it's a valid alternative to Mail.app.
OpenOffice, or in short OOo, is an approach to implement a free alternative to Microsoft's Office suite, and I would say it does a pretty good job. On the Mac you need to install the X11 package to use OOo. If you prefer to use a native Aqua GUI try NeoOffice instead, it's a port of OpenOffice to Aqua. I used it a long time, but switched to OOo as I needed features of OOo 2.0 and NeoOffice always lags a version behind or at least needs time to catch up. If you want to pay for your Office suite you might consider iWork or even Microsoft Office for Mac, but I think OOo or NeoOffice will fullfill your needs.
Update: OpenOffice Version 3 has a native Mac OS X Version. X11 is no longer needed.
Have you ever heard of LaTeX? LaTeX is an advanced typesetting system, and if you ever need to write documents with more than a few pages and need an automatic table of contents and self updating references in the document LaTeX is for you. And if you want to write and process LaTeX documents on your Mac TeXShop is for you! If you never heard of LaTeX you might skip this tool, because it's just a GUI for writing and processing TeX files, not a WYSIWYG tool.
I was not sure if this tool belongs in the Sysadmin part or in the User part, but as I had more than enough applications in the first part of this series I decided to feature CCC in this part. CCC is a tool which can make a verbatim copy (or you can say backup) of any disk. I like to do a full backup of my PowerBook's internal harddisk onto an external disk. And the best thing is, the external disk is bootable and fully functional. So if your internal disk dies - just hook up the external disk and you are back at business in less than 5 Minutes. Ok this is a rare scenario, but imagine the following situation: lets say you want to try out some modifications to your operating systems core components or the boot process. Instead of hosing your system make a copy, boot from the external disk, make the changes, reboot and - still on the external disk - test your modifications, if everything works fine you can savely make the same changes to your "real" system. CCC is not a solution for doing daily backups, but it is really helpful in some situations. I for example do a carbon copy of my laptop's harddisk once a month.
CCC was also extemely helpful in a situation where I hab to install about 20 identical iMacs with loads of application software. I set up one "master" machine and then booted the other iMacs in Target-Disk-Mode (Command+T at boot) and deployed the image with CCC - this was really fast.
So you already know: I'm an IRC junkie. There are only two approches to IRC. The first: using a commandline client like irssi or bitchX on a server and run it in a screen session. The second: use a bouncer and a GUI client. (ok: commandline + bnc is also possible, but it doesn't make much sense) I went along the second path. On Windows and Linux (yes I already used IRC, when I was still a Windows user) I always used X-Chat, so what makes the most sense was to use X-Chat Aqua on the Mac.
I you want to visualize something as a diagram, OmniGraffle is for you. It's a bit like Microsoft Visio, but I would say much better. Building flow-charts, UML diagrams or any other diagram you can think of is just so easy. OmniGraffle has everything Visio lacks. I would say you have to try it to see what I mean. OmniGraffle is a nice companion to Keynote (covered later) to fullfill all your presentation needs, or to TeXShop - just export your drawings as PDF and include them in your TeXShop documents - for all your documentation needs. (Be aware: it's commercial, but it's worth the money.)
Adobe Reader also has a nice print feature: you can zoom into a document (makes only sense if the contents are vector-based) and then print the part you are seeing in it's zoomed size (not the whole page). I used this to make big printouts of logos or other vector-based artwork.
Reading RSS feeds is a daily task of me. I struggled a long time until I found a feedreader which fullfilled my needs. NetNewsWire is a great piece of software and it does exactly what I expect from a feedreader. Because they only accept credit cards for payment and no PayPal I wasn't able to buy a license and had to downgrade to NetNewsWire Lite after the trial period, but in my opinion even the lite version does a better job than some free feedreaders. NetNewsWire Lite is so great because it's so simple and just works.