Macworld Expo: Best of Show

The editors of Macworld have scoured the show floor to find the most innovative products at this year’s Macworld Conference & Expo. This year we have 14 products that we felt highlighted the commitment Macintosh developers have for the platform. Here are the 2006 Best of Show winners.

Adobe Lightroom, which Adobe released on Monday as a public beta for the Mac, takes a new approach to working with your photos—and offers some interesting competition for Apple’s recently released Aperture 1.0. As competition is something that’s been sorely lacking in the professional photo-editing market lately, this clash of the titans can only mean good news for digital photographers. Lightroom lets you take control of your photos—sorting, rating, editing, and publishing—in a nondestructive way. The program is designed to complement, not replace, Photoshop; while it offers an impressive collection of tools for the most essential editing tasks, it also makes it easy to switch to Photoshop for compositing, masking, and similar needs. Best of all, it doesn’t require the latest and greatest Mac hardware to run smoothly. Mac users can download it free from Adobe’s site.

Apple MacBook Pro: Apple’s PowerBook line has long been a strength of the company’s hardware offerings. But lately, even this venerable laptop has been showing its age, with hot-running PowerPC chips limiting just how fast these machines could run. Apple (booth #1317) appears to have found the ideal answer with the new MacBook Pro ($1,999 for the the 1.67GHz model; $2,499 for the 1.83GHz version). Powered by an Intel Core Duo processor, this new laptop should improve on the PowerBook’s performance—Apple says it will deliver up to four times the performance of its PowerPC-based laptops—without sacrificing any of aesthetic quality. Indeed, the MacBook Pro retains the PowerBook’s striking metallic look, while managing to squeeze a function iSight camera into a laptop that’s essentially the same size. At this rate, the Intel-based Mac era is off to a promising start.

Apple iLife ‘06: iLife (booth #1317), packs a lot into a $79 package. The latest version of Apple’s media suite adds iWeb software for creating Web sites and blogs, but also updates the other programs in the bunch. iPhoto includes improves its speed, adds full-screen editing, and includes higher-quality book ordering as well as new cards and calendars; iMovie adds animated themes, real-time effects, video podcasting, and lets you open multiple projects at once; iDVD adds widescreen menus, better slideshows, and now works with third-party DVD burners; and GarageBand includes podcasting create and iChat interview recording (shipping now).

Browseback from Smile on My Mac: If you’ve ever wanted to find a Web page you previously viewed but did not bookmark, Browseback is a handy way to search your browser history. The program gives you thumbnails of every page you looked at and you can search your history with keywords, even if you saw the page weeks ago or it has already been updated. ($30)

Docktopus: One of the most underused features of Mac OS X’s Dock is the ability to add informational “badges” atop Dock icons. Startly Technologies’ $20 Docktopus, booth #1443) makes the Dock more useful by letting you add badges to your Dock icons. Your Trash can can tell you how many files are in it; iCal’s icon will sprout a mini-calendar of events; and any application can gain a processor icon that indicates how hard it’s working. Docktopus finally gives us a reason to turn off auto-hide and keep the Dock open all the time.

Elgato’s EyeTV 2 works with all existing EyeTV-compatible hardware, but features a dramatically designed interface that mimics iTunes and iPhoto. You can create playlists of video recordings and favorite channel lists. An integrated program guide frees you from having to start your Web browser to see what’s on or schedule recordings. Scheduled videos can automatically export to iPod, integration has been tightened up with Roxio’s Toast 7, and myriad other enhancements have been made. Shipping now, EyeTV 2 costs $49 through March 31, then it’s $79.

JBL On Time: Continuing its tradition of making high-quality speaker systems for the iPod, JBL upped the ante once again by releasing the On Time ($299). Not your typical speaker system, the On Time features a looping speaker, dual alarms, a clock radio and ambient light sensors, so it reacts automatically to changing light conditions.

Google Earth, from Google: As a lover of maps, I can’t seem to get enough of this program. It’s a gorgeous flyover program with very detailed satellite photos of some areas (Europe, North America) and less of others (sub-saharan Africa). It also has options for boundry, building and even commuter rail overlays. And, it’s free.

iSee 360i, from Advanced Technology Office-ATO (booth #2707), lets you use many pre-5G iPods to play videos and view photos. The $249 device docks with your iPod and can not only play files stored on the iPod’s hard drive on the iSee’s 3.6-inch color screen, but also be used to record video from a number of different sources. It gives new life to older iPods, and adds functionality to even the latest video offering from Apple (available later this quarter).

LightZone 1.0 from Light Crafts: This photo editing application, targeted to professional and advanced photographers, provides an alternative way to view, manage, edit, and correct digital photographs according to light values. LightZone is based on the Zone System, a photographic technique popularized by landscape photographer Ansel Adams, that lets photographers visualize and control the tonal range of their images. ($250)

Marware Project X: Marware’s Project X fills a gap in the Mac industry by delivering project management software that is easy for anyone to understand, but is still powerful enough for those users that want and need high-end features. Project X takes a true Apple approach to interface design, providing an elegant and easy to use workspace.

MemoryMiner by GroupSmarts ($60) lets you explore the relationships between the people and places in your digital photos. The idea is to develop personal histories. Using an intuitive interface, you identify the people and places in your photos and when the photo was taken. The program uses this info to build connections between photos so you can, with time, trace the movements of the single person (or multiple people) through time and around the world, and explore shared links between people. All of this data can then be published on the Web for others to explore.

Micromat Techtool Protégé: There are plenty of tools out there that’ll help you diagnose and fix a troubled Mac. Micromat’s new Techtool Protégé, though, is one of the coolest: It’s a FireWire flash drive that comes pre-loaded with a bootable copy of OS X, the latest versions of Micromat’s TechTool Pro and DiskStudio, and whatever other utilities you want to load into its gigabyte of memory. You just plug the Protégé into that ailing Mac’s Firewire port, boot up, and use the built-in software tools to find out what’s wrong and fix the problem.

Suitcase Fusion from Extensis: Combining characteristics of the Suitcase and Font Reserve font managers, Suitcase Fusion can find and automatically activate exact versions of fonts in a document, including embedded EPS or PDF file fonts. The program’s Font Vault feature gives you more control over fonts to eliminate unnecessary font conflicts and duplicate fonts. The program also provides advanced search capabilities based on keywords, foundries, and font classifications. ($100)

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