Editors' Choice Awards: General Mac

Utility Software

Winner
PGP Security's PGP 7.0 Desktop Security Enterprise Edition ($74; www.pgp.com, 888/747-3011) is more than just an encryption utility. The latest version provides -- among other features -- e-mail and volume encryption, a personal firewall, and intrusion detection. Most important, it's the only Mac client to support the IPsec network encryption standard for Virtual Private Networks.

Runners-Up
Connectix's CopyAgent 1.0 ($39; www.connectix.com, 800/950-5880) resurrects the most compelling feature of Connectix's old Speed Doubler 8, namely, the ability to duplicate only new or changed items. CopyAgent goes further to offer speedy network copying. Intego's NetBarrier 1.6 ($70; www.intego.com, 877/946-8346) offers comprehensive firewall protection for individual users. NetBarrier filters incoming traffic, and it is the first utility to check outgoing traffic, as well, to protect your personal data from theft.

Business-Productivity Software

Winner
Even hard-core Microsoft haters will have to admit that Microsoft Office 2001 for Mac ($499; www.microsoft.com, 800/426-9400) is a top-notch Mac product. Containing Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Entourage, it remains the only serious choice for serious business use. From the applications' uniform interface to a host of Mac-only features, this Office clearly laps its competition.

Runners-Up
AEC Software's FastTrack Schedule 7.0 ($299; www.aecsoft.com, 800/346-9413) is simple enough to make first-time users productive but feature-rich enough to keep sophisticated users happy. Voice recognition on the Mac platform still needs some work, but IBM's ViaVoice for Macintosh, Enhanced Edition ($141; www.ibm.com, 800/825-5263) improves on the original ViaVoice by adding direct dictation into any Macintosh application, AppleScript support, and a USB-ready headset.

Data-Management Software

Winner
After a five-year absence from the Mac market, SPSS's SPSS 10.0 ($999; www.spss.com, 800/543-2185) returns with a vengeance. No other program can compete with SPSS in terms of the number-crunching power that it brings to your desktop. SPSS includes a wealth of statistical and charting options, extensive help, and excellent tutorials.

Runners-Up
MYOB Accounting Plus Version 9 ($199; www.myob.com/us, 800/322-6962) remains the best accounting program for small and midsize businesses. Enhancements include multiuser support, recognition of foreign currencies, and improved search functions. AEC Software's powerful Details 3.0 ($299; www.aecsoft.com, 800/346-9413) is a specialized project-tracking database that serves novices and experienced users alike.

Education Software

Winner
Every desk needs scissors, tape, and Grolier's Multimedia Encyclopedia 2001 Deluxe Edition ($30; www.grolier.com, 800/353-3140), from Grolier Interactive. Multiple navigation options make it easy to search for and find what you want. And the program supplements the extensive information on its two CD-ROMs with links to the Internet.

Runners-Up With guided tours of 25 rooms and 3,000 images and illustrations, Montparnasse Multimedia's Louvre: The Virtual Visit ($50; www.montparnasse.net, 800/843-2665 for Barnes&Noble.com distribution) is the next best thing to seeing the French museum in person. The DVD-ROM software is easy to navigate and offers a wealth of information about art and history. Edmark's Talking Walls ($80; www.edmark.com, 800/362-2890) successfully blends text, audio, and video to teach kids the history of topics ranging from cave painting to the Vietnam War.

Resource Software

Winner
Writers with visions of Oscars and Emmys couldn't ask for a better resource than Screenplay Systems' Movie Magic Screenwriter 2000 ($269; www.dramatica.com, 800/847-8679). In addition to a wealth of sample scripts, the program offers useful tools such as a character-name bank and a chat feature that lets you work with a remote writing partner.

Runners-Up
For people who make their living writing, producing, and creating, Official Software's Official Copyright 1.5 ($71; www.officialsoftware.com, 888/325-5445) is a straightforward and informative tool for protecting intellectual property. ISI ResearchSoft's EndNote 4 ($299; www.isiresearchsoft.com, 800/554-3049) is an improvement on what was already the best bibliography-management application available. This version adds some welcome interface changes and beefed-up search functions.

Game

Winner
Few games have generated as much buzz -- or have proven to be as addictive -- as Aspyr Media's The Sims ($50; www.aspyr.com, 888/212-7797). There's a reason for that: the game combines a seemingly endless variety of situations and characters with great sound effects and fun graphics. The Sims is the first game to re-create real life with this much detail. Some people find it more compelling than their own lives.

Runners-Up
Surpassing the original Diablo might seem like a nearly impossible task, but Blizzard Entertainment's Diablo II ($45; www.blizzard.com, 800/953-7669) pulls it off. This sequel improves upon the original's lush graphics and adds new adventures and characters. Activision's Quake III Arena Mac ($46; www.activision.com, 800/656-5426) doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it is a masterful first-person shooter game. Great graphics and network play help this game stand out from the crowd.

Storage Product

Winner
Storage area networks have been primarily the realm of server clusters and graphics professionals with lots of dough. All that changed with MicroNet's SANcube X-stream ($4,099 for 270GB; www.micronet.com, 949/453-6100), which uses your Macintosh's built-in FireWire port to connect as many as four users to a six-drive RAID array.

Runners-Up
EZQuest's Boa CD-RW 12x10x32x FireWire PM ($369; www.ezq.com, 714/694-0031) takes the fear of ruining discs out of CD-R burning by using a Plextor mechanism with BURN-Proof technology. Microtech International's IBM 1GB Microdrive ($499; www.microtechint.com, 800/626-4276) is impressively small on the outside but big on the inside. IBM introduced this PC Card-size drive last year, but pushing it to an amazing 1GB capacity this year puts it in a class of its own.

Personal Digital Assistant

Winner
Our winner, Handspring's Visor Prism ($449; www.handspring.com, 888/565-9393), boasts a processor that's significantly faster than its predecessors, plug-and-play expandability via its Springboard expansion slot, and the ability to display more than 65,000 colors. The unmatched screen quality and built-in photo program make the Prism a great portable photo album.

Runners-Up
The Palm m100 Handheld ($149; www.palm.com, 800/881-7256) is an outstanding value, offering almost everything its more expensive competition does (except mail and expense software) at an entry-level price. It's bundled with Mac desktop software and a Mac adapter. For those who crave Internet access, the Palm VIIx Handheld ($449; www.palm.com, 800/881-7256) is a dream come true. With it, you can surf the Web using text-only Web clippings. You can also send and receive e-mail through a Palm.net account or access POP accounts using third-party software.

Acceleration Product

Winner
Though two of the companies in this category had some financial troubles last year, they made some stellar products that deserve recognition. With its debut product for the Mac, the Voodoo5 5500 PCI Card ($229; www.3dfx.com, 888/367-3339), 3dfx expands the horizons of graphics professionals and 3-D gamers alike. Pixel-processing horsepower makes for smooth game play and quick redraws. The card's full-screen antialiasing feature provides stunning 3-D graphics at the highest screen resolutions. Support for new DVI flat panels and standard monitors has made it this year's coveted card.

Runners-Up
The Newer Technology iMaxpowr G4 ($699; www.newertech.com, 877/605-0010) is the only way to turn an iMac into a G4 with the Velocity Engine. The ATI Radeon Mac Edition 32MB DDR AGP ($279; www.ati.com, 905/882-2600) makes a leap in graphics-card speed and power. This card will inspire a new generation of games and 3-D-design applications. Input Device

Winner
Kensington Technology's TurboRing Trackball ($136; www.kensington.com, 800/235-6708) seamlessly blends form and functionality. The TurboRing offers easy scrolling, while its companion software allows you to customize the trackball's cursor response and configure its three buttons. What's more, the angled ball and ring reduce arm and wrist strain.

Runners-Up
Apple wised up and ditched the crippling round input device that shipped with its computers, in favor of the Apple Pro Mouse ($59; www.apple.com, 800/692-7753). With high precision, the sleek-looking optical mouse glides across any surface, and it makes mouse pads obsolete. Microsoft Trackball Explorer ($75; www.microsoft.com, 800/426-9400) was the first trackball to use optical technology. It comes equipped with Microsoft's excellent Intellipoint mouse software.

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