Mac mini software challenge, revisited

It’s been a month since I started out as a Mac minimalist, challenging myself to only use the software that came on my well-equipped Mac mini. And what a month—my Mac mini was uncluttered, just cruising along. I was smug, I was feeling good…

Until I had to work at home one day and found that my Office 2004 Test Drive had expired. How I missed that among its incessant reminders, I don’t know…

And when I brought an AppleWorks file to work, only to discover that Word won’t open AppleWorks drawing files and that I didn’t have a copy of AppleWorks handy…

And then the day TextEdit wouldn’t show me live page break previews when I need to print something just so. What a nightmare…

And then the day when I realized I couldn’t switch the pages around in a PDF file using Preview…

And so on. It was not a pleasant sight. I had bumped up hard against the edges of my software’s capabilities. Using my Mac mini started to be a real pain.

Sure, Spotlight is… OK. Automator is useful. Quicken 2005 is working well for me, and iTunes and iChat are so terrific that I tend to take them for granted. But when I want to get “real work” done, I’m pretty much hosed.

So, I gave in and installed Office 2004 (I only use Word and Excel ). Of course I was also long overdue for installing software for my third-party peripherals, including the super-useful Fujitsu ScanSnap, which I’ve been using obsessively to scan all my paper files.

I did think I’d need Photoshop Elements, but that time hasn’t come yet. iPhoto is doing a good enough job for now. On the other hand, I do need SmileOnMyMac’s PDFPen ( Adobe Acrobat is overkill for my needs), You Software’s You Synchronize (or Econ Technologies’ ChronoSync ) for syncing my portable hard drive with my Documents folder, and Publicspace.net’s MacBreakz to counteract my obsessive sit-at-my-Mac-for-hours behavior.

Well, my challenge wasn’t all I was hoping. But it did teach me to think before I install. I still vow that this Mac won’t be like my others, which I loaded so full of software demos and free utilities that I couldn’t even dig my way out of it.

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