Mac Software Bargains

Let's face it -- computers aren't cheap. After spending as much as several thousand dollars on hardware, you still need to buy plenty of software that doesn't come installed on your hard drive. But although you may not be able to live without big-ticket items from the Adobes and Microsofts of the world, not everything that runs on the Mac will set you back a pretty penny.

We've collected 60 of the best -- and coolest -- inexpensive or free applications available for the Mac: everything from essential OS X system utilities and networking and database apps to audio, video, and imaging software. You're sure to discover some hidden gems in our guide.

Audio/Video Applications

BTV Pro 5.4
4.5 mice. Ben Software, benbird\,; $45
BTV Pro is a fully Carbonized video-capture, video-editing, and stop-motion-animation application. While this app's editing functions can't compare with those of programs such as Final Cut Pro, its time-lapse and stop-motion capabilities make it a truly versatile tool. Creating a series of still images was a snap, and taking those stills and creating an animated QuickTime movie was even easier. BTV Pro also boasts a motion-detector option, which limits recording to when the program senses motion -- useful for surveillance videos, for example; an optional time stamp can be applied to video captured this way. BTV Pro works with any Mac-compatible video-input source, including capture cards, TV cards, and FireWire and USB video cameras. -- Anton Linecker

4.0 mice. Atvaark Dev., cellulo\,; free
Cellulo lets you create a playlist of video files that you can then play full-screen on your computer. This program is particularly useful when you want to play back segmented video files. Rather than tying segments together in a video-editing program, you simply put the files in the proper order -- Cellulo will play across the breaks. Program navigation is easy, as is customizing the viewer -- you can add entire folders of video with the Add button or by dropping the clips on the program. Cellulo also plays nice with the Avi2Mov utility, allowing Mac users to import and watch downloaded DivX files. For a 1.0 release, this program is quite solid, and you can't beat its price. -- Anton Linecker

Joe's Filters 3.0 for Final Cut Pro
5.0 mice. Joe Maller, joe\,; $95
Joe's Filters for Final Cut Pro is a set of 24 plug-ins created with Final Cut Pro's FXScript. Unlike many After Effects plug-ins (which haven't yet made the transition to OS X), they work in both OS 9 and OS X. Some of the plug-ins are improvements on existing Final Cut Pro filters: Joe's De-Interlacer, for example, renders twice as fast as the Final Cut Pro version and has features such as field-doubling. Original plug-ins include Joe's Blur Effects, an interesting filter that can target RGB and YUV channels separately to aid in blue-screen and green-screen compositing, and Joe's Time Bender, which lets you control a clip's speed and even reverse video midstream. Other noteworthy filters are Joe's Soft Shapes, Joe's Flexi-Smear, and Joe's Threshold and Posterize. What makes these plug-ins truly special is that they're not encoded, so you can load each one into Final Cut Pro's FXBuilder to see how the plug-in was built. On Joe's Web site, you can find an FXScript reference, which shows you how to build some effects of your own. -- Anton Linecker

Pro Tools Free 5.0
4.5 mice. Digidesign, 650/731-6198,; CD, $10; download, free
Pro Tools Free, the sole OS 9-only application in this group, definitely justifies a reboot into OS 9. Like TC Works' Spark ME, Pro Tools Free is an introduction to a family of audio products. This version provides eight tracks of real-time audio, 48 MIDI tracks, and industry-standard editing and mixing capabilities -- it's a powerhouse for musicians and video producers alike. You can output a project from Final Cut Pro via Open Media Framework (OMF), import it into Pro Tools Free, and do some sound "sweetening" with Digidesign's free OMF Tool app. When you import a project this way, the audio clips will arrange themselves in Pro Tools Free's timeline as they were in Final Cut Pro, making your work much easier. In addition, Pro Tools Free lets you edit and mix your audio to picture. Once you've finalized your audio, you can export it back to Final Cut Pro to finish the project. -- Anton Linecker

QTBatchExporter 1.0
3.5 mice. Channel D, 609/393-3600,; $24
QTBatchExporter is a QuickTime helper application that lets you batch-compress sets of video files instead of compressing them one at a time with Apple's QuickTime Pro. In OS 9, QTBatchExporter offers background conversion with a choice of system response, so you can either devote your entire CPU to the compression process (for the fastest results) or surf the Internet while compressing your video for a Video CD in the background (an option OS X users take for granted). Additional capabilities include drag-and-drop conversion of files and folders and accurate estimation of the time remaining before a set of conversions is finished. -- Anton Linecker

Slick Transitions and Effects, Collections One and Two
3.5 mice. Gee Three, 650/328-2359, www; $30 each, $50 for both
Final Cut Pro is not the only application with plug-ins available on the Internet. Each Slick collection is a set of roughly 50 transition and effect plug-ins for iMovie 2 that greatly expand that program's editing capabilities. They can add a level of sophistication to your projects -- especially if stepping up to Final Cut Pro isn't for you. The Slick Sampler, a collection of nine transitions and effects including the Barn Door, Burst, and Sweep transitions and the Film Noise, Solarize, and X-ray effects, is available as a free download. -- Anton Linecker

Sound Studio 2.0
4.0 mice. Felt Tip Software, 610/293-0512,; $50
Sound Studio is another two-channel audio editor targeted at sound enthusiasts who record their own sound or want to manipulate existing audio. It has a very intuitive user interface, and it provides a familiar waveform editing environment and a healthy set of effects and filters, including Adjust Pitch, Compressor, Flanger, Reverb, DC Offset, and Noise Gate. It lets you record sound with a variety of USB, PCI, and built-in audio-input sources. -- Anton Linecker

Spark ME
4.0 mice. TC Works, [49] 40 5310830, www; free
Spark ME is a free introduction to the Spark line of audio applications. This OS X-only two-track editor allows direct recording and provides the ability to import and manipulate any QuickTime-compatible audio file. It's similar in many ways to Sound Studio, but it has fewer default filters that you can apply to audio. Spark ME includes the Normalize, Resample, Fade, Gain Control, Reverse, Invert, and Spark One Band EQ plug-ins. It supports the popular VST plug-in format -- unusual in a free application -- and lets you open a QuickTime movie and edit the sound track to picture. -- Anton Linecker

3.5 mice. Bombich Software, http://www.bombich .com; free
If you listen to Internet radio, there may be times when you'd like to save what you're listening to -- an interesting interview or a great new song, for example. StreamCatcher (a graphical interface for the free Unix utility streamripper, which is bundled with the StreamCatcher download) can help you record the streaming audio to your hard drive. StreamCatcher also plays nice with iTunes -- you can drag an Internet radio station's URL information from iTunes to StreamCatcher. By enabling StreamCatcher's Local Relay option, you can also listen to the stream you're recording. Here again, StreamCatcher works in conjunction with iTunes; the relayed audio is played through that program. -- Anton Linecker

Tattoo 1.1
4.0 mice. Feelorium, info\,; $23
Tattoo is a QuickTime media-skin editor that allows you to customize your audience's viewing experience. Need a multimedia greeting card for your video company? Just drop a QuickTime movie and a media-skin image of your company logo into Tattoo's work area. You can even customize the buttons that control playing, stopping, stepping forward and backward, volume, and URL access. And because Tattoo exports QuickTime movies, your creations can be played on Macs (with OS 8 and later) and PCs running QuickTime 5. Tattoo's interface is quite straightforward and can be mastered in minutes. And at $23, it's a nice alternative to Totally Hip Software's much more expensive LiveStage Pro 3 (Reviews, February 2002) if all you're look-ing to do is create QuickTime skins. -- Anton Linecker

CatDV 2.5
4.5 mice. Squarebox Software, [44] 1789 730898,; $80
Sometimes just keeping track of all your video material can be a challenge, especially if you're a filmmaker with hours of footage. With CatDV, video producers have a new way to catalog and work with video.

CatDV can import video clips captured by another program, such as Final Cut Pro, or it can capture the video on-the-fly via FireWire. After the video is imported or captured, CatDV can subclip footage, using DV start/stop detection or frame-based scene-change detection. It can also import non-DV video formats such as MPEG-1, AVI, Sorenson, and any other QuickTime-supported format. Audio files and still images are also supported.

Within the app, you can view all your cataloged clips by thumbnail or list, play the video, and make comments and annotations. With CatDV's flexible filtering, you can quickly search through all your cataloged clips to find the shot you want. If you need to decide on the best take of a particular shot, you can group all the takes and watch them back to back. If you use CatDV to log and evaluate your raw footage before you start editing, you can output a batch-capture list, for Final Cut Pro or Premiere, of only the clips you need. You can even adjust time-code values if you want to recapture from a program tape rather than the originals.

CatDV can import CMX edit-decision lists from other programs and instantly build a cuts-only preview edit with clips stored in its database. This is useful when the original high-resolution media are offline and you want to see how a project looks. Since CatDV stores its video files in the PhotoJPEG format, you can have many hours of material cataloged on your computer without eating up too much valuable hard drive space. -- Anton Linecker

System Utilities and Finder Enhancements

ASM 2.0
4.5 mice. Frank Vercruesse, frank\,; free
ASM brings OS 9's Applications menu to the right side of OS X's menu bar, where it displays the icon of the active application. Click on the icon, and you get a menu that lists all open applications; select the one you want, and it becomes the active application. You can also show or hide applications -- ASM is one of the fastest ways to keep track of open programs and switch between them in OS X. -- Ted Landau

BatChmod 1.3
4.0 mice. Arbysoft, renaud\, http://; free
OS X's ownership and privileges can cause big headaches. BatChmod can alleviate the pain. It gives you precise, drag-and-drop control over single files and entire folders. This intuitive app lets you easily change who owns a file and who can read, write, and delete it. BatChmod can even empty the Trash if it contains locked files (an action that might otherwise require gaining root access -- always good to avoid if possible). Keep in mind that changing file and folder ownership can seriously mess up a system, so take the program's warnings seriously. -- Jonathan Seff

Boot CD 0.2
4.0 mice. CharlesSoft, csrstka\,; free
BootCD almost magically does something that's otherwise all but impossible to do in OS X -- create a bootable CD that gives you access to the desktop and the Dock, complete with your personal selection of applications. It's ideal for creating a customized Emergency Startup CD. It's listed as an "unfinished" product, but it definitely works. It doesn't provide much documentation, though; for more help, especially on getting your hard drive to mount when booting from the CD, visit bootcd.shtml. -- Ted Landau

Carbon Copy Cloner 1.2
4.0 mice. Bombich Software,; free
Need to copy your OS X startup volume to a different hard drive? For-get dragging and dropping -- OS X includes numerous invisible files that won't make that kind of transition. Instead, use Carbon Copy Cloner, a simple utility that harnesses the built-in power of OS X's Unix layer to make moving or backing up a volume as easy as clicking on a button. -- Jason Snell

Default Folder 1.5
4.0 mice. St. Claire Software, support\@stclairsoft .com,; $35
Default Folder makes navigating Open and Save dialog boxes a lot more pleasant. For starters, Default Folder maintains lists of recently visited and favorite folders -- just click on a selected folder, and the Open or Save listing shifts to display that folder's contents. Default Folder also remembers the item you selected the last time you visited a folder and automatically reselects it when you return. You can even use the program to delete files without having to go to the Finder. Default Folder is especially welcome in OS X, where there is currently nothing that compares with it. -- Ted Landau

DragThing 4.3
4.5 mice. James Thomson, james.t\,; $25
DragThing combines the features of OS 9's Application menu and Launcher in one utility -- and then it outperforms both. Many of its fans use it as an alternative to OS X's Dock. You can create as many "Docks" as you like, have them all on screen at the same time, and windowshade each Dock to a minimum when you want it out of the way. Items in Docks can be divided into categories (such as applications and documents), and you have almost unlimited control over a Dock's appearance. -- Ted Landau

FruitMenu 1.5
4.0 mice. Unsanity, 877/700-7056,; $7
FruitMenu is for those who are not satisfied with the choices in OS X's Apple menu. With FruitMenu, you can remove existing Apple menu items or add new ones -- for example, one that shows your current IP address. Perhaps the best item is Fruit Menu Items Contents. Add it, and whatever you decide to place in the Contents folder is shown in the Apple menu. For example, put an alias of your hard drive there, and you'll get a hierarchical menu item that lists the full contents of your drive. You could easily do this in OS 9, but now you can do it in OS X, too. -- Ted Landau

LaunchBar 3.2
5.0 mice. Objective Development, office\@,; $20
LaunchBar must be seen to be believed. Accessible from your menu bar, it can find any file almost instantly, even if you don't remember its exact name. Just type any letters you believe are in the name, and LaunchBar will list all potential matches. When we typed aw, AppleWorks was the first program to be listed -- only LaunchBar could've figured this out. The more you use it, the better its guesses become, and of course you can launch any listed item from LaunchBar. As a bonus, LaunchBar includes its own Application menu. -- Ted Landau

MacReporter 1.1
3.5 mice. Inferiis, support\@inferiis, www; $12
MacReporter grabs headlines from all over the Web and then puts them at your disposal in OS X's Dock. You go through MacReporter's long list of plug-ins and choose the news sites you visit frequently; the application will check them for new stories at regular intervals and alert you to new items via sound, a number on the icon, or both. Select a headline in MacReporter's contextual menu, and the corresponding story will open in your browser. It's an easy-to-use tool that'll give news junkies a much needed fix; it'll be even better when Wilfried de Denterghem, MacReporter's author, releases a forthcoming utility that lets you create your own headline-grabbing plug-ins. -- Jason Snell

MaxMenus 1.1
4.0 mice. Proteron, 402/932-3894, www; $30
MaxMenus is a deceptively simple utility that installs customizable menus in the four corners of your Mac's screen. Each menu can be configured to contain any number of items -- including lists of specific files, applications, and folders; open applications (as in OS 9's Application menu); recent applications or documents; system-preference panels; and mounted volumes. Menus and menu items can easily be assigned hot keys, and MaxMenus lets you drag and drop files to copy or move them into a menu's spring-loaded folders. With MaxMenus, Proteron has taken a smart idea and filled it out with plenty of hidden power. -- Rick LePage

MOX Optimize 1.7
3.5 mice. InfoSoft, infosoft\,; $11
MOX Optimize invokes Unix's update_prebinding command, which can improve your Mac's performance (OS X's Installer also does this when it optimizes your software). There are other prebinding utilities in OS X, but what makes MOX Optimize stand out from the crowd is how much more it does. MOX Optimize can also speed up your network connection, disable start-up files, and delete unneeded language-support files to save hard-drive space. -- Ted Landau

Perfboard 1.2
3.5 mice. Pepsan and Associates, http://www.pepsan .com/contactus.html,; free
Perfboard monitors your system performance and keeps you informed via a continually updated readout. If your Mac suddenly starts acting as if it were swimming through molasses, Perfboard can help isolate the precise cause. From CPU usage to system load to virtual memory "page outs" to network I/O stats, Perfboard reports it all in one convenient display, with both text and graphs. Other utilities provide subsets of these stats, but none puts it all together as well as PerfBoard. -- Ted Landau

Pseudo 1.2
4.0 mice. Brian Hill, brianhill\,; free
Pseudo will save you time when you want to modify a file owned by the root user. For example, suppose you want to modify a text file in OS X's System folder (not that we're necessarily recommending this). You could log in as the root user or, if you're familiar with Unix commands, you could give Terminal a whirl. You might even have success by temporarily changing the file's ownership. But if you want to do it as quickly and painlessly as possible, just drag and drop your text editor on the Pseudo icon. The editor will launch as if owned by root, and you'll be permitted to make changes to documents opened within it. -- Ted Landau

Retrospect Express Backup 5.0
4.0 mice. Dantz, 925/253-3000, http://www.dantz .com; $49
Many Mac users were postponing the upgrade to OS X because Retrospect couldn't back up and restore OS X volumes. But with Retrospect Express, they now have an affordable way to back up a few Macs without paying for unnecessary features -- SCSI tape-drive and Retrospect Client support, for example. This new version includes many improvements to previous versions, including the ability to back up Mac files larger than 2GB and to work with all the writable optical drives currently shipping in Macs. (For a full review of the entire Retrospect Backup 5.0 suite, see Reviews, elsewhere in this issue.) -- Adam C. Engst

SharePoints 2.0
5.0 mice. Michael Horn Software, spamnot\@mac .com,; free
SharePoints enhances OS X's file sharing by letting you set the sharing status of individual folders. In OS X, a guest user typically has access only to your Public folder. With SharePoints, you can give a guest access to your Music or Pictures folder, for example. OS 9 has always worked this way, but OS X hasn't -- at least not at the Finder level. Like several of the OS X utilities listed here, SharePoints takes a feature that's part of OS X's Unix core and gives it a user-friendly Aqua-based interface. -- Ted Landau

SmartWrap 2.1
4.0 mice. Selznick Scientific Software, s3sales\,; $18
SmartWrap will bring a welcome sigh of relief if you spend a lot of time copying text from e-mail messages and pasting it into other applications. This program cleans up text, eliminating stuff such as > characters and hard returns. Especially useful is SmartWrap's ability to clean text on the Clipboard. Just copy your selection and click once or twice in SmartWrap, and your text is ready for pasting wherever you want. The OS X version also works via the Service menu. -- Ted Landau

Snapz Pro 2.0 and 1.0
4.5 mice. Ambrosia Software, 800/231-1816,; OS 9 version, $40; OS X version, $49; without QuickTime movie capture, $29
Snapz Pro is an essential tool for those who frequently need to capture screens. OS X's 1-shift-3 and 1-shift-4 snapshots may be adequate for some (forget the nearly useless Grab utility), but they don't come close to what you can do with Snapz Pro. Use it to save files in a variety of formats, even QuickTime movies. Scale, crop, overlay watermarks, autoselect windows, and more. Snapz Pro eliminates almost all of the need for further editing in another application. If it had a few other editing tools, it could eliminate even more. -- Ted Landau

Tinker Tool 2.1
4.0 mice. Marcel Bresink Software-Systeme, osxinfo\,; free
TinkerTool is the key to accessing an assortment of OS X's hidden preferences. It can reveal files that are normally invisible in the Finder (such as Unix files and directories), enhance your ability to choose which fonts and font sizes use OS X's font smoothing, and more. OS X has built-in settings that let you do all this, but Apple didn't provide a user interface for them -- TinkerTool fills that gap. -- Ted Landau

Watson 1.5
4.0 mice. Karelia Software, accounting\,; $29
Watson is a "think different" way of viewing Web content. Its author calls it a "desktop Web productivity application." You'll call it fantastic. You can use Watson to look up zip codes, airline schedules, stock prices, TV listings, movie times, and more. Searching via Watson's consistent interface is much more convenient than firing up a standard browser to find information on the Web. And you can customize Watson to remember your personal preferences (such as theaters in your area or your local cable channels) on your return visits. -- Ted Landau

WindowShade X 2.0
4.5 mice. Unsanity, 877/700-7056,; $7
WindowShade X is a one-trick pony with one great trick -- bringing OS 9's windowshade effect to OS X. Double-click on a window's title bar, and up it rolls. Windowshading is often better than minimizing windows to the Dock, especially when you want to quickly see what's behind a window. If you don't like windowshading, you can set windows to become transparent or completely hidden. You can even have your cake and eat it, too, by using the minimize button for one method and the title-bar double-click for another. -- Ted Landau

X Font Info 1.0
3.5 mice. Vincent Software, vjalby\,; free
X Font Info fulfills yet another "I wish OS X could do what OS 9 does" wish. In OS 9, double-clicking on a font suitcase in the Finder reveals the contents of the suitcase. Double-clicking on a font file displays a sample of the font. If you try the same things in OS X, you get error messages. But if you instead drag a font file to the X Font Info icon, you can see a sample of the font (or fonts) in all sizes and installed styles. Even better, by selecting X Font Info from the Open With Application option in a font file's Show Info window, you can get X Font Info to launch whenever you double-click on a font. X Font Info's one weakness is that it does not accurately display Unicode fonts. -- Ted Landau

Zingg 1.1
4.0 mice. Rainer Brockerhoff, rainer\@brockerhoff .net,; free
Zingg adds a contextual menu item that lists every application the OS believes can open a selected document. Yes, you could get the same list from Show Info's Open With Application listing, but Zingg is a great shortcut. Even better, Zingg can be customized so that certain applications always appear in the list (useful for utilities, such as BBEdit, that can open many files they don't officially support) or never appear in the list. It's even smart enough to list OS 9-only applications only if Classic is running. -- Ted Landau

XRay 1.0
5.0 mice. Rainer Brockerhoff, rainer\, www; $10
XRay is a much enhanced version of OS X's Show Info command. For starters, it solves one of OS X's more frustrating problems: an inability to move or delete a file because you don't have sufficient permission. The Show Info window does provide a way to view and edit a file's permissions (called privileges in Show Info) -- if you're the owner of the file. But too often, it's precisely because you don't own the file that you have the problem. XRay bypasses this catch-22 and lets you easily change ownership -- or any other file attribute -- as long as you are an administrator. It gives you access to all Unix permissions (read, write, and execute), not just the subset that Show Info includes.

When you double-click on a document from the Finder, does it open in the wrong application or refuse to open at all? Show Info's Open With Application options can resolve this dilemma, but once again, XRay goes the extra mile. With XRay, you can modify a file's Type and Creator codes. These carryovers from OS 9 link documents to applications without requiring that the document have a file-name extension. And you don't even need to know what the codes are: XRay's pop-up menus include every application on your drive. Just select the program you want, and XRay will fill in the code.

XRay can also create Unix symbolic links and assign colored labels to files (an OS 9 feature not included in OS X). And it's extensible via plug-ins, so you may be able to add functionality to the program. If you'd rather not use Terminal, XRay is the way to go. -- Ted Landau

Networking, Database, and Business Applications

AtWork 2.4
4.0 mice. IGG Software, 909/328-0712,; $9
AtWork is a time and billing solution for designers, consultants, and anyone else who needs to track and bill for projects and time. This application takes full advantage of OS X features such as sheets, live data updates in the Dock (the clock glows green when you're billing for time), and a fully customizable toolbar. You can predefine clients, events (projects), and even currencies. An optional timer alerts you when a certain amount of time has passed. When it's time to create invoices, you specify settings for your company, whom to pay, and when payments are due, and you then hit the Invoice button on the toolbar. The result is a professional-looking invoice, ready to print. Although documentation is light, AtWork is a feature-loaded bargain at only $9. -- Rob Griffiths

eTraquer 1.5
4.5 mice. Network 23 Canada, 800/231-0062,; site license, $50
eTraquer is an office in-out board for Mac users. One machine on the network runs the ePlanet server software, and users run the eTraquer client. Launch the program, enter the server's address and your name, and you're marked as "in." When you're unavailable, change your status to "out" and then add a reason, return time, and optional note. Administrative users can broadcast messages or change the status of other users. The eTraquer interface is very easy to understand and requires almost no training. eTraquer does only one thing but does it quite well. -- Rob Griffiths

MaxBulk Mailer 2.6
4.5 mice. Max Programming, support\,; $35
MaxBulk Mailer handles high-volume e-mail tasks with ease. Via the program's tabbed-window interface, you compose messages, specify recipients, enter account settings, preview messages, and view logs. Messages can contain placeholders that are replaced with values at send time. User lists can be imported and exported, and messages can be saved for future use. As the battle against spam rages, the legitimate need for tools such as MaxBulk Mailer is often not understood. But if your business relies on e-mail for customer interaction, MaxBulk Mailer may be worth a trial. -- Rob Griffiths

MySQL 3.2
4.0 mice. MySQL AB, info\,; free
MySQL is the most widely used open-source database server -- and it runs on OS X. Although documentation isn't included with the program, the Web site has excellent documentation in various formats and includes reader comments. MySQL's interface won't win any design awards, but this powerful and flexible database server is available at a great price -- free. Combine MySQL with the PHP scripting language, and you can turn your OS X Mac into a tool that allows you to create and serve dynamic Web pages. If you visit Marc Liyanage's site ( macosx/), you can download double-click installers for both MySQL and PHP. -- Rob Griffiths

OmniOutliner 2.0
4.0 mice. The Omni Group, 800/315-6664,; $21
OmniOutliner 2.0 is a free-form outliner that can help you track projects, manage to-do lists, take notes, or create a book outline. You start with a blank white window and add text and columns as necessary. As the outline builds, you can indent subitems under lead items, group tasks together, and add comments. Columns can be defined for text, duration, date, and more. Reorganizing your outline is as easy as dragging the items around within the list. When your outline is done, you can easily export the data to plain text, RTF, or HTML. -- Rob Griffiths

phpMyAdmin 2.2
4.0 mice.,; free
phpMyAdmin is a browser-based tool for creating and managing MySQL databases -- it adds a browser-based front end to the command-line-only MySQL interface. It supports all standard MySQL functions and provides easy point-and-click access for basic tasks such as browsing, selecting, inserting, and deleting records. It also lets you easily view database schemata and import and export data to and from text files. phpMyAdmin won't help you learn MySQL, but if you already use it, phpMyAdmin can make managing your databases much easier. Installing phpMyAdmin requires a basic understanding of the Terminal application and Unix. -- Rob Griffiths

PTHStockTicker 1.0
5.0 mice. PTH Consulting, pthstockticker\@pth .com,; free
PTHStockTicker is one of the best stock trackers available, and it's free. Launch it, and a rolling ticker appears in your menu bar. Click once on the ticker to activate the program (it has no Dock icon, in keeping with its minimally intrusive style), and you can edit the preferences to control the stock list, the display style, the number of factoids displayed about each stock, and the speed at which the ticker scrolls. A double-click on the ticker display brings up a window showing all stocks at once. Elegant and easy to use, PTHStockTicker is the perfect workday companion. -- Rob Griffiths

Sambucus 2.0
4.5 mice. Logiciels Malus Softwares, logiciels.malus.softwares\,; $20
Sambucus is a project-tracking program for anyone who bills by the hour. Use Sambucus to create projects and tasks, set unique billing rates for tasks within a project, track task time, add multiple notes to projects and tasks, and quickly generate reports. You can also define documents as "activation files" for tasks. When one of these documents is dragged onto Sambucus's floating timer window, the clock starts for the associated task. Reports are generated by an XML parsing system, so you can easily define and create customized versions to meet your own needs. -- Rob Griffiths

chartConstructor 1.0
3.5 mice. headshack, support\,; $30
chartConstructor is a simple program for constructing PERT and Gantt charts. To create a Gantt chart, enter a description of the task, and then click and drag in the timeline area to set the duration. Click anywhere in the bar that's created, and the percentage of completion is established. Dependencies between tasks are created by 1-dragging from one task to another. chartConstructor is short on documentation, and its features don't compare with those of high-end project-management packages, but if all you need is a quick chart, it may be the perfect tool for the job. -- Rob Griffiths

Sharity 2.6
3.5 mice. Objective Development, office\,; hobbyist version, free; home license, $50
Sharity provides a CIFS (Common Internet File System) browser in the Finder, making browsing and using shared volumes from most versions of Windows as easy as using local files. Although OS X has a built-in capability to see Windows volumes (via Connect To Server and a smb:// string), Sharity provides true Finder integration. There are some limitations (such as no support within the Classic environment), but for many users, Sharity can provide a painless method of accessing Windows volumes. A hobbyist version is free; other license costs vary depending on usage. -- Rob Griffiths

SnapTalk 2.0
3.5 mice. Glass Bead Software, 978/263-9956,; $24 and higher
SnapTalk is an IM (instant messaging) program designed to improve your company's internal communications. Unlike free Internet-based IM programs, SnapTalk chats take place inside, not outside, your local network. This means higher security and less load on your Internet pipeline. SnapTalk has a lot of nice features, including easy file transfers (with resource forks), groups, predefined responses, and a message logger that records messages received while you're away. SnapTalk supports every Mac OS from 7.5 through X, so older machines aren't left out of the conversation loop. -- Rob Griffiths

Speed Download 1.8
4.5 mice. YazSoft, info\, www; $20
Speed Download is a useful tool if you have a high-speed Internet connection. It accelerates your downloads by opening multiple connections to the download site and then joining together the resulting pieces. If the server and your connection have extra bandwidth available, the result is a much faster download. For example, downloading a 75MB demo from resulted in an average speed of 74K per second on a cable modem. Downloading the same demo with Speed Download, set at six connections, resulted in an average of 174K per second, more than twice as fast. -- Rob Griffiths

SQL4X Manager 2.0 Basic (MySQL Edition)
4.5 mice. MacOS Guru,; $49
SQL4X Manager is an OS X-native MySQL database manager. The package offers three primary user areas: a database navigator for creating users, tables, indexes, and databases, as well as for viewing database schemata and data; a DBA tool that provides a ton of information about your databases and tables and allows editing of the table values; and a SQL console through which you can execute various queries on your databases. With its elegant interface, intelligent use of OS X features such as sheets, and thorough coverage of MySQL commands, SQL4X Manager is a solid database-management tool. -- Rob Griffiths

StickyBrain 2.0
4.5 mice. Chronos, 435/615-7335,; $40
StickyBrain could be described as "Stickies with superpowers," but that doesn't begin to explain everything it can do. StickyBrain is more of a brain assistant. It has calendars, alarms, categorizable stickies, checkbox buttons, text-cleanup tools, and search features -- grasping everything StickyBrain can do for you will have your hands full.

StickyBrain ships with nine predefined information categories (Calendar, Documents, Friends, Miscellaneous, Passwords, Receipts, Tasks, and Unfiled). Each category has a predefined set of associated settings. For example, you can choose a window-background color, the size and formatting of text, default text to be added when a new sticky is created, and sticky size. If you come across a type of information you'd like to start collecting, just create a new category and start pasting data.

To get a feel for all the things that StickyBrain offers, open its Sticky Browser and select All Categories. Chronos has included a number of utility stickies with information on everything from popular baby names to world time zones to U.S. zip codes organized by state. By looking at the examples, you can get a feel for the various ways you can store your information.

But the real power of StickyBrain shows through when you begin to organize your data. An included contextual menu extension lets you grab text from most OS X-native applications (text in other applications must be copied and pasted). The same contextual menu also lets you search the StickyBrain database for selected text or look up Web passwords you've stored. Once data is stored in a sticky, contextual menus in StickyBrain let you set alarms, reclassify the sticky, and more.

As your collection of information grows, Sticky Browser may become the StickyBrain tool you use most. Type a few letters of the phrase you think you're looking for, press return, and then browse the results until you find exactly what you wanted.

It can take some time to adjust to the StickyBrain interface, but it's time well spent. We are inundated with information on a daily basis, and StickyBrain is an excellent tool for keeping track of it all. -- Rob Griffiths

Imaging Applications

BetterHTMLExport 1.6
3.5 mice. Simeon Leifer,; free
iPhoto is a fine free tool for managing your photos, but its built-in Web-page-export features are extremely limited. Fortunately, BetterHTMLExport gives you more control over your Web-based image libraries than you'll probably ever need, from image size and JPEG compression levels to an intricate template language that lets you make your pages look however you want them to. Learning to use BetterHTMLExport to build templates can be a little frustrating, but you can't argue with the program's results or its price. -- Jason Snell

GraphicConverter 4.3
4.0 mice. Lemke Software, lemkesoft\,; $30
GraphicConverter is an excellent tool for people who work with different image formats and want high-powered automation features that speed up work on multiple images. GraphicConverter can read more than 145 file types -- from those created by old Mac and PC programs to newer ones used by cell phones and PDAs -- and it can export files in more than 45 formats. It also has a suite of painting and editing tools, an image browser, and a batch mode (with AppleScript support) that makes quick work of adjusting or translating a folder of images. Its interface can be a bit dense in places, but for its price, GraphicConverter is hard to beat. -- Rick LePage

ImageRodeo 1.2
4.0 mice. Clyde McQueen, info\,; $30
ImageRodeo is a cool application for automatically generating Web sites from image collections. ImageRodeo comes with five well-designed templates for creating hierarchical sites to show off your pictures, and the app's drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to create a site with 10 or 100 pictures in just a few minutes. Some of the templates even include a link to Shutterfly's online print service, so the relatives can purchase those snapshots without your having to do anything. And when you get tired of the stock templates, you can use ImageRodeo's scripting language and XML commands to create your own. -- Rick LePage

iPhoto Librarian 1.0
3.5 mice. Scott Schroeder, scrufmeister\;; free
iPhoto Librarian is an AppleScript application that lets you work with multiple iPhoto libraries. This can be extremely helpful if you want to keep your pictures in separate groups -- or on separate hard drives. It's also a boon if you have too many photos for iPhoto to manage without running into performance issues, but you still want to have access to all of your images. -- Rick LePage

iPhoto Toast Export Plugin 1.0
3.5 mice. El Gato Software, toastexport\@elgato .com,; free
If you want to get your pictures from iPhoto onto a CD, you can sort of do it with Apple's Disc Burner utility and a bit of work. But if you own Roxio's Toast Titanium, you should download iPhoto Toast Export Plugin. Burning photos onto a CD is all this plug-in does, and it does it well. -- Rick LePage

iView MediaPro 1.5
4.5 mice. iView Multimedia, info\@iview-multi,; CD with manual, $90; download, $50
There are many good, low-cost image-cataloging utilities out there, but iView MediaPro is perhaps the best. It quickly catalogs just about every type of graphics file imaginable and displays files cleanly in one of three customizable display modes -- text list, thumbnail view, or full-size image. It fully supports AppleScript and drag and drop, can display the EXIF (Exchangeable Image File Format) data recorded by your digital camera, and has lots of shortcuts for navigating your catalogs. It also has a full-featured slide-show mode, can build simple Web pages of your images, and provides an archiving feature for moving images to CD. iView might not be free, but it's better than iPhoto in just about every way. -- Rick LePage

PhotoFix 3.4
3.5 mice. Microspot, 800/622-7568, www; CD, $59; download, $53
If your image-editing desires are in line with Photoshop, but your budget won't even allow you the $100 Photoshop Elements -- or if you want an inexpensive OS X-native photo editor -- turn to PhotoFix. It looks and feels like a miniature version of Adobe's app, offering tools for painting, cloning, masking, and more. It's nowhere near as fast or complete as Photoshop, but it will do the trick for many image-manipulation needs -- it also makes a nice complement to PixelNhance and iPhoto. -- Rick LePage

Pic2Icon 1.3
3.5 mice. Sugar Cube Software, mike\, http://www.sugarcube; free
Pic2Icon does one little thing: it makes 128-by-128-pixel icons for image files so you can browse a folder of images in OS X and see photo-realistic representations of your pictures (something even iPhoto doesn't do). Pic2Icon can read a wide array of file types, including TIFF, JPEG, PDF, PICT, PNG, and Photoshop images, and it can quickly process folders of images. It can even automatically add a drop shadow or dog-ear corner to an icon. -- Rick LePage

PixelNhance 1.5
4.0 mice. Caffeine Software, 408/249-1290,; free
iPhoto is great for managing your pictures, but there are times when you want to do a little more than fix red-eye or crop a photo. If you're not sure how much image editing you really want to do -- or you don't want to plunk down the funds for Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements -- check out PixelNhance, a great utility for basic image enhancement. PixelNhance has a straightforward interface with a live preview of the photo you're working on. It can perform brightness, contrast, levels, and saturation adjustments; sharpening; and noise reduction. It also offers extensive controls for adjusting color in an image. It's the perfect complement to iPhoto for the occasional editor. -- Rick LePage

Photo-Printing Applications

A program such as iPhoto is fine for creating the occasional 4-by-6-inch print, but if you want to maximize the use of costly photo paper -- or if you want to print lots of images or multiple copies of one image -- look for a photo-printing application.

All of the utilities mentioned here make quick work of printing large groups of photos. You can print images at multiple sizes, from wallet-size pictures to full-page prints. Printing is as simple as dragging a folder of images (or a selection from iPhoto) into the program's window and choosing the appropriate layout.

It's hard to pick one that's better than the others in this group; they all do a good job and are extremely easy to use. Choosing the right one for you depends as much on how you work as it does on the feature set. -- Rick LePage

PhotoPress 1.0
3.5 mice. ElectricFish, photopress\,; $25
PhotoPress is the most straightforward program of the bunch. It can print as many as 36 photos per page, and it has three built-in photo sets. It has tools for cropping and renaming images and building Finder thumbnails.

ImageBuddy 2.1
4.0 mice. KepMad Systems, imagebuddy\,; $15
ImageBuddy has a clean interface and a deep feature set. Building pages with this program is more interactive than with either of the others, and it has options for adding captions, backgrounds, drop shadows, masks, overlays, and more to your pages.

Portraits & Prints 1.1
4.0 mice. Econ Technologies, info\,; $20
Portraits & Prints has 12 built-in layouts and tools for cropping, sharpening, removing red-eye, and adjusting saturation and brightness. If you want to build layouts, Econ's Template Maker is a great $10 companion to Portraits & Prints.

ROB GRIFFITHS runs the Mac OS X Hints Web site (, Contributing Editor TED LANDAU runs the MacFixIt Web site ( and wrote Mac OS X Disaster Relief (Peachpit Press, 2002), Editor in Chief RICK LEPAGE specializes in imaging, and ANTON LINECKER is a video technical advisor and writer. Contributing Editor ADAM C. ENGST, Associate Editor JONATHAN SEFF, and Editor JASON SNELL also contributed to this article.

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