Ten Mac Apps That Make Windows Users Drool

Used to be that Windows users could admit the Mac was easy to use—they just complained there wasn't any software for the platform. Apple knew their weakness, too, so they endeavored to turn their developer tools into the envy of the industry. What they've created in the latest versions of Xcode and Interface Builder, two of the anchor apps in the Mac developer's kit, are an engineer's dream team. Their thoughtful, intuitive design beget tools for the Macintosh that are just as much about visual design—gorgeous graphics and standardized controls—as they are about ingenious, robust interactivity.

So it's no surprise that in the nearly nine years that Mac OS X has been earning converts, -the Macintosh a decade after the first iMac has become a software honeypot luring Windows users from all walks of life. While some of the apps below have counterparts in the PC realm that aim to do a similar task, the apps on this list say as much about the Apple-inspired philosophy of interaction—elegant, efficient, easy, powerful—as they do about the ideas that drive Mac developers. Below, the apps that Windows users can only wish came in .exe.

Tangerine! by Potion Factory


Tangerine! is the long lost companion to iTunes: it lets you create playlists by the beat and intensity of your music, allowing you to create purpose built lists for relaxation, exercise, parties, and work without having to slog through the tens of thousands of songs in your library. Very much in Apple form, Tangerine! has a three-pane browser that automatically culls your iTunes music and analyzes it for its musical properties, then plugs your playlists back into iTunes once you've made them. $25.

Delicious Library 2 by Delicious Monster


If you're obsessive about your media collection, Delicious Library 2 is a must-have. Hold any book, CD, DVD or video game up to the iSight camera on your Mac, and DL2 reads the barcode, storing that piece of media in your library along with all the data that goes with it: reviews, summaries, links to buy and sell on Amazon, synopses, and suggestions for similar media. (You can put in anything without a barcode by hand.) Not only is this good for remembering who's borrowed what, or providing evidence in case of an insurance claim—it also makes building bibliographies, organizing your stuff, and doing research with your own library a lot easier. The best part: you can publish your library to MobileMe, allowing you and your friends to share libraries, so you can pool your resources. $40.

Acorn by FlyingMeat


Think of Acorn as everything you need from Photoshop, and nothing you don't. For essential, light image editing, Acorn is incredibly fast, versatile, customizable and cheap at just $50. Made with care by a well-respected Seattle developer, Acorn could teach the engineers at Adobe a thing or two about interface design.

Quicksilver by BlackTree


Talk to any hardcore Mac nerd, and there's no doubt he'll admit to living and dying by Quicksilver. It's a launcher, at heart—a few quick key taps and you can fire up any app on your machine. But it's also ingeniously customizable. Hit the hotkey and punch in anything else: Filenames, contacts, URLs, iTunes commands ("pause"), and complex daisy chains of actions, and Quicksilver fires them off with alacrity. And it's free. (Thanks to Quicksilver, this writer goes hours without touching a mouse.)

Spaces by Apple


Virtual screen space isn't an idea Apple owns, but it's certainly one they've perfected. Spaces allows you to create virtual desktops and assign which apps live in which space. While the idea sounds great in concept, it'd be easy to royally botch in practice—but because of Apple's superb graphical transitions, smart commands and hotkeys, and ingenious logic, Spaces gives you more real estate, and more control over it, than a whole desk full of monitors. (Comes with Mac OS X Leopard.)

Fluid App


Fluid is a free app that allows you to create freestanding applications from any of your favorite websites. It's essentially a single-purpose browser, but allows you to assign certain sites you use a lot (like say, a CMS) to certain Spaces in OS X, and even makes them run faster. It's also light, quick-building and super-stable. (Below, a Reddit app I created for that site's technology channel.)

Billings 3 by MarketCircle


If you've ever used an invoicing app for Mac or Windows, you know that they are largely nightmarishly complex. Billings has such an elegant workflow and a carefully-considered user interface that it snagged Apple's highest honor at WWDC: an Apple Design Award. And in true Mac tradition, it integrates fully with Address Book, iCal and Google Maps all within the app. A companion iPhone app is on the way. $40.

LiveView by Ideo


LiveView is actually two apps: One for iPhone and one for the Mac. Fire it up on the Mac, and you get a big, glossy iPhone bezel on your screen. Anything that's within the bezel gets beamed to any iPhones on your LAN that are running the companion app, allowing all your buddies to pipe in on your design or programming work whenever they like. Free.

Aperture by Apple


For photographers, there simply isn't anything remotely as robust for photo management. What about Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, you say? Well, that's a great combo for heavy editing—but when you have a library of 50,000 RAW-format photos to manage and circulate, Aperture is the clear winner. Its dead-simple organizational system makes it easy to sort and stack, and because of its robust backend, it can handle and back up photo collections that number in the hundreds of gigabytes. Got MobileMe? It can auto-publish certain albums to the Web, too. Bonus feature: you can order professional quality prints up to 20 inches by 30 inches for a fraction of what a print shop would charge. $200.

MarsEdit 2 by Red Sweater


Blogging used to be a light, simple endeavor, but with the advent of Tumblr, embedded media, and reblogging, these days it takes a desktop app to do it right. MarsEdit 2 lets you build posts, preview, publish and edit without touching a browser, speeding up what can otherwise be a painful Web-based chore. It feels a lot like Apple Mail, to its credit, and lets you set up custom macros so you're not constantly re-typing the same stuff. $30.

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  • john john

    Putting all windows vs mac arguments aside, here are some of my favorite apps along with these (especially because I love free software)
    1. Adium, a chat client that encompasses all but skype (which i use seperately) FREE
    2. Stainless, a similar to safari browser, without any features besides tabbing, and full featured process manager FREE
    3. Alarm Clock 2, self explanatory, and you can have music to wake you up which is nice FREE
    4. Quicken, which is just beautiful on a mac, the extra UI makes financing a little more comfortable (which is worth a lot to me) $60
    5. Nocturne, a screen inverting/darkening app that allows for better screen viewing in the dark FREE
    6. Sapiens, you draw a circle anywhere on your screen, and an instant dock (like quicksilver, except a circle) comes up and your most used apps are displayed in an ergonomic fashion, or you can type to search for your app $30
    7. iCal and Mail - Has everything outlook has, and more – and is actually usable. 'nuff said.
    8. Anxiety and Stickies - quick notes on your computer that don't look bulky and disappear (anxiety) when you're not using them. Much unlike the desktop hogging windows 'widgets' that they have now on vista, and also that google desktop app.
    9. Time Machine, this, I've never used... but really.. it's just so pretty and easy to navigate...
    10. Parallels. Sure, windows computers now can run hackintosh and linux too if you partition the hard drive and all, but this app allows you to run both windows and linux at the same time as your mac. Not to mention, if you really want, you can do the Boot Camp thing whenever you'd like without any extra software.

  • bhatnaturally

    How about DVDpedia and Bookpedia? And for Facebook fans there is Photobook

  • Charles Roper

    @Predrag Very good points re. what makes these apps drool-worthy. As a Windows user many of them are, initially at least, certainly enough to make one drool. Apple understands the importance of design and provides developers with the tools to create great looking apps easily. Although Microsoft's development tools are great, they definitely don't have the out-of-the-box design intelligence built in, thus Windows app tend, on the whole, to possess less pizazz than their Mac brethren.

    Having said that, I would challenge the assertion that Windows is not *capable* of doing some of the things that Cocoa provides. Windows Presentation Foundation [1] enables much of the same 'magic', although it hasn't been widely adopted, and I think that is where the real problem lies: Windows developers just don't appreciate or care about eye-candy - the attractiveness - of applications in the same way OS X developers typically do. Although that could be changing, slowly. Just look at something like Stylizer for an example of a good looking Windows app [2]. Windows 7 has also made significant strides towards good looks and ease-of-use.

    Having said all that, there are plenty of apps in this list that aren't exactly jaw-dropping, or have equivalents available on Windows that are just as good. MusicIP Mixer is a great substitute for Tangerine. Windows Live Writer takes on MarsEdit nicely. Dash Command is a worthy competitor to Quicksilver. Still, Apple developers do, on the whole, create better looking, more user-friendly apps. Let's just hope Windows dev see this, understand it, and start really competing, because that ends up being good for all of us.

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W...
    [2] http://www.skybound.ca/

  • Dmitry Gorshkov

    OMG, MarsEdit?? Blogo blows it out of the water! (It's also Mac-exclusive.)

  • James Philip

    i prefer photoshop and bridge to aperture, but i can see how some would like it more, my main mac apps are mostly internet apps.

    For light photo editing i use Gimp, cause its free.
    although i never use my mac for any design work because it's a macbook and its not terribly powerful.
    still mac os will never replace windows, so sorry, mouth not watering here.
    I've used virtual desktops like spaces on linux years ago, nothing newthere, but it's nice to see in the os x clean interface.

  • Paul Miller

    Mac just keeps coming up with more and more apps that are easy to use. When they come down in price they will surely give Windows a run for their money. online casino

  • Adrian Wills

    Good few applications, although personally I'd swap out Quicksilver for Launchbar. QS, is no longer supported / developed and as such, I've found LaunchBar is now streets ahead. It'll cost you, but is well worth the cash. And I was a thoroughbred QS user for some time, but having made the switch, I've never looked back.

  • Snapper Cridge

    It always leaves me a bit tickled when I read or hear things like "I use both PC and Mac, and really cannot tell the big difference that both sides seem to talk about". I have been doing a lot with computers for as long as I can remember and switched from a PC to a Mac last year. My only gripes were watching the price drop on the 24" iMac this year and not switching to a Mac 3 years before when I purchased what would become my last PC (which I still have and use for IE testing).

    A few apps that should have made the list (IMO): MacRabbit's CSSEdit, 1Password from Agile Solutions, and one mentioned, but worth mentioning again...Adium! I could list quite a few more, but don't feel like typing anymore right now.

  • Jerimy Dulay

    LOL, I don't use ANY of these applications. Here is my top ten mac specific (ok and a couple windows/mac applications). :) Also remember I mostly do graphic and web design..

    1) Adium (an all in one chat application), this application will carry all your different chat logon's (facebook, messenger, aim etc) AND it has a great minimalist interface so it isn't big and bulky.
    2) Art Director's Toolkit by Code Line, in ANY designing I do I use this application to do things like color matching to measuring graphics for websites.
    3) iLife (all the apps are amazing and don't have a replacement on the windows side). I can create music, create websites, edit and publish family videos, manage my photo's.
    4) Circus Ponies Notebook. I use this application for everything from goal planning to journaling.
    5) Snapz pro by Ambrosia Software - Great application for print screens and creating desktop videos.
    6) Path Finder by Cocoatech, this application is everything finder should be an everything that windows explorer is not.
    7) Spotlight -Apple, this application is built into OSX and all you do is click on the search icon and type in what you are searching for. It will search EVERYTHING and anything on your computer to get you the information. I use this to search my email all the time for important emails. The search is always instantaneous and has exactly what I was looking for (I have a 2 GB + email with tons of folders)
    8) OmniFocus by Omnigroup is the ultimate software to get things done
    9) OmniGraffle by Omnigroup (again) is the ultimate in graphing software to create org charts, mind mapping to software maps. You can also use this to create application interface planning (what your application will look like).
    10) Suitcase Fusion 2 by Extensis, the ultimate in font management. It will not only help you manage your fonts it includes Font Doctor which will fix broken fonts.

    Ok, and real quick here are the runners up:

    Adobe CS4 (it is on both but it is AWESOME on the mac)
    Fetch (the ultimate FTP software)
    Backdrop (ever want to just have a solid color as a background while you work on graphics?)
    HandBrake, it does everything to get your DVD's to iTunes
    Textmate, you can build websites on this. I use it as my basic text editor.
    Corel Painter X, just a fun application to release your inner artist

  • Moe Pinhas


    It's clear to me that you are not getting Evan's point. I get it, you all like Mac's, there the greatest, blah, blah, blah. I use both PC and Mac, and really cannot tell the big difference that both sides seem to talk about. In the office I prefer PC and at home I am probably split between a PC (for games) and a Mac. So getting back to the core of Evan's point is that rather than have a Mac writer write what makes PC users drool about Mac, it would be better to expose a PC user to many top rated Mac apps that are exclusive and have them say what makes them drool. The PC user in me yawned at this article: "yet another article about how spending your time tweaking and playing with your media files is better on a Mac". It should have been titled "Mac applications that make Mac users drool". And all the articles are "shots off the bow", so they should expect to get a shot fired back. Another writer could have writen "10 PC apps that prevent a Mac from being used at your business", but that is not even what Apple is going after, they don't want all the PC users, just the Mac users who bought a PC -- that's who they are trying to convert.

  • Chris Owens

    Great list of apps. I really think Quicksilver's listing should be replaced with Google Quick Search Box though, with a reference to the foundation Quicksilver provided. Google QSB is really the future of that project.

    I also agree about Panic. Transmit is such a pleasure to use.

  • Chris Dannen

    @Cris -- I actually considered putting several Panic apps on here, but Coda didn't cross my mind. More people seem to be in love with Transmit. Candybar is also terrific for visual customization.

  • Gary Boodhoo

    Lightroom on either platform seems on par w Aperture for image management, editing and distribution.

  • Paul Fountaine

    as a lifelong PC user who has been oggling Mac's for a while now, Aperture alone has me drooling. It's just about time, now which Mac will it be...

  • Chris Dannen

    @Predrag: thanks for explaining, you got it exactly. We can't force people to read the introductory paragraphs, I suppose...