Productivity Apps and Games of the Year
FileMaker Pro has been on the Mac platform practically as long as there’s been a Mac platform. BBEdit is slightly younger—it’s a mere 11 years old. But despite the difference in ages, it’s safe to say that both the database application from FileMaker and the text editor from Bare Bones Software have been part of Mac users’ lives for a good, long while.
And yet, instead of showing their age, both programs continue to find ways to improve themselves. Both FileMaker Pro and BBEdit underwent updates so sweeping and significant, they each earned a 2004 Editors’ Choice Award. In fact, FileMaker Pro 7 and BBEdit 8.0 lead the parade of our Eddy-winning productivity programs, which include a Web browser with a creative new take on tabbed browsing, an ingenious (if somewhat controversial) method of file distribution, and a trio of nifty tools for capturing screen images, managing your desktop, and conducting Web-based research.
But all work and no play would make Mac users very dull people, indeed. So, in addition to our choices for the best productivity applications of 2004, we’re also announcing our favorite game of the year—or, more accurately, games , since two equally impressive programs will be taking home Eddys.
Agree or disagree with our choices? Let us know in our forums.
Most Improved Database
FileMaker Pro 7 is no mere update to a venerable product. Instead, it’s the most significant overhaul of the most widely used Mac database app since FileMaker went relational back in 1995. This time around, FileMaker has ditched its limit of one file for each distinct class of data. With FileMaker Pro 7, you can put everything into a single file, streamlining data structures. The program even lets you open multiple windows within the same file to show different sets of records. Throw in some changes designed to appeal to network administrators (it’s easier than ever to configure access privileges and deal with passwords), and you’ve got an upgrade that’s a must-have for almost any FileMaker use—and that just might win over a few new converts.—PHILIP MICHAELS
Most Innovative Browser
Think a browser’s a browser’s a browser? Don’t tell The Omni Group. Its OmniWeb 5.01 reimagines the whole idea of tabbed browsing (putting thumbnails of your tabs in a drawer on the window’s side), gives you detailed control over your browsing experience (letting you save site-specific viewing preferences, for example), and has all sorts of clever bits that power surfers will love. Sure, it actually costs something. But we think the cool features and awesome interface are worth the price.—DAN MILLER
Best Text Editor
BBEdit is one of the most respected apps in the Mac market, and BBEdit 8.0 doesn’t disappoint. Bare Bones Software has added more than 100 features to the HTML and text editor. One of our favorites is the Text Factories feature, which lets you create a list of individual text-processing operations and apply them, in order and with corresponding options, to a designated document or set of documents and folders. More than ever, BBEdit is the Mac’s best tool for both simple text editing and in-depth HTML coding.—JIM DALRYMPLE
BBEdit 8.0: $199; Bare Bones Software
Best Desktop Manager
You Control 1.2.5 lets you create customized menus just about anywhere you want. You can use these menus to launch apps and find files with a single click-and-hold. It has 15 different modules, including an enhanced iTunes controller, a Clipboard replacement, a news ticker, and even an improved clock. If you want to make the OS X desktop your own, this is the tool you need.—JACKIE DOVE
You Control 1.2.5: You Software; April 2004; $50;
Best Way to Transfer Really Big Files
Sure, you can use BitTorrent 3.4.2 to pirate software and movies. But that doesn’t diminish the value of its innovative approach to legal file sharing. The software lets multiple users simultaneously upload and download files, for extremely efficient one-to-many distribution. The latest OS X version is a complete rewrite that saves on bandwidth.—JONATHAN SEFF
BitTorrent 3.4.2: free; Bram Cohen and Andrew Loewenstern
Best Way to Capture Your Screen
Ambrosia Software’s Snapz Pro X 2.0 goes well beyond Apple’s built-in screen-capture utilities. It’ll grab whole screens or just specific windows and menus. Plus, it can record what’s happening on your screen as a QuickTime movie, and it can record audio, too. It’s perfect for tutorials or archiving video.—PETER COHEN
Best Way to Do Web Research
Need to save information you find online? Softchaos’s Webstractor 1.0.1 is a Web researcher’s dream. It lets you swiftly download entire Web pages from disparate servers and then edit, annotate, and save just the information you need.—JACKIE DOVE
Games of the Year
Unreal Tournament 2004 is a huge improvement over 2003’s installment. The latest incarnation of the popular first-person shooter adds hovercrafts and other nifty vehicles; plenty of new weapons; massive new arenas; and the new Onslaught game mode, which emphasizes vehicle combat and team strategy. Assault mode is back, too (it was missing from last year’s installment), so you can defend or attack bases. And in case you like to watch the pros, Unreal TV lets hundreds of spectators watch other players and clans go head to head.—PETER COHEN
Four years after Mac gamers first got a glimpse of it on the keynote stage at Macworld Expo, Bungie’s first-person shooter Halo: Combat Evolved finally came to the Mac. Was the game worth the wait? Absolutely. You square off against the Covenant, a menacing alien foe bent on the annihilation of the human race. The Mac version gains myriad improvements over its Xbox predecessor, including a 16-person multiplayer mode, new weapons, new vehicles, new maps, and higher-resolution graphics.—PETER COHEN