The 22nd Annual Editors' Choice Awards

Every year, Macworld reviews hundreds of products, everything from Apple’s newest desktops and laptops to smaller utilities from smaller developers that do things you never thought you needed done. But which ones were the most useful or innovative? Which ones will we still be using a year from now? Which ones were really the best—in terms of both quality and value? Answering these questions is what the Editors’ Choice Awards are all about.

The yearly job of selecting Eddy winners starts in the fall, when every Macworld editor compiles a list of the most significant products released in the past year in his or her assigned beat areas.

Products released between November 1, 2005, and November 1, 2006, were considered for this year’s Eddy Awards.

We then convene a series of meetings to debate the merits of each nominee, and to separate the truly exceptional from the merely good. This year, we whittled a list of 120 products down to the 29 that you’ll find extolled on the following pages. Some are obvious choices, and some may surprise you—but all represent the best of a very good year for the Mac market.

And the winners are …

24-inch iMac Core 2 Duo

Mac desktop gets Intel era off to roaring start

Apple’s first Intel-based Mac—an iMac, naturally—received incredible scrutiny. To everyone’s relief, those first Core Duo systems were, by all appearances, Macs like any other. And the second generation of Intel-based iMacs has continued to improve on what was already a good thing. The best example of that is the top-of-the-line 24-inch iMac Core 2 Duo ( ; December 2006). Its huge display is bright and beautiful, and it’s powered by a 2.16GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor. One gigabyte of RAM and a 250GB SATA hard drive are standard, as is a FireWire 800 port. This $1,999 consumer Mac has more than enough computing power for all but the most demanding professional users.—JASON SNELL

 

Company:Apple /
Price:$1,999 /
Original Review: December 2006

After Effects 7 Professional

Motion effects app gets its best update in years

With After Effects 7 Professional ( ; July 2006), Adobe released a great update to an already powerful app. The biggest improvement is in the interface. Previous editions had been bogged down by palette bloat. The new, unified interface solves that problem very nicely, with dockable and groupable panels. After Effects also now uses standard Adobe tools, palettes, menus, and customizable keyboard shortcuts, for a more familiar look-and-feel. There’s added support for higher bit depths and HDR media, and the new time-remapping features really help when you’re speeding up and slowing down clips, Matrix-style. Add more-comprehensive and easier-to-apply presets, and After Effects 7 Professional is the best update this app has seen in years.—JONATHAN SEFF

Company:Adobe /
Price:$999 /
Original Review:  / July 2006

Aperture 1.5

Photo manager gives the imaging world a jolt

Last November, Apple released Aperture 1.0, an entirely new photo-management and -editing application targeted at pro photographers. A few months later, Adobe released a Mac-only beta of its own image-management app—Lightroom—and announced that there would be plenty more to come. (The official Adobe Lightroom release is scheduled for early 2007). That competition has put Mac photographers in a particularly sweet spot. Apple responded to Lightroom by dropping Aperture’s price by $200, releasing two significant (and free) updates, and offering a free trial version of the software. Aperture 1.5 ( ; January 2007) has some kinks for Apple to iron out, but its powerful management tools, nondestructive raw-image workflow, and competitive spirit have given the digital photography world a much needed kick.—KELLY TURNER

 

Company:Apple / 
Price:$299 / 
Original Review: January 2007

Coolpix S7c

Compact camera makes wireless delivery painless

Nikon’s Coolpix S7c ( ; February 2007) isn’t the first compact camera to offer a built in Wi-Fi connection. It’s not even the first such camera from Nikon. But it is the first camera we’ve seen that makes the process of e-mailing photos directly from the camera practically painless and completely intuitive. How easy is it? Five minutes after opening the box, you’ll be e-mailing your first photos. In wireless mode, you select the photos you want to send, and then you use the scroll wheel to input e-mail addresses (the camera stores 30)—and off they go. Recipients get an e-mail inviting them to go online to view a slide show or to download full-resolution photos. The 7-megapixel S7c is also compact, has a bright 3-inch screen, and corrects for camera shake. Someday, Wi-Fi will be common on cameras. This is a little taste of how that’ll make digital photography easier.—KELLY TURNER

 

Company:Nikon /
Price:$350 /
Original Review:  / February 2007

Deep Freeze Mac 2.0

Hardware-restoration utility is like a magic Undo command

If you’ve ever tested bad software, downloaded a file you shouldn’t have, or mucked about in Terminal with unpleasant results, or if you manage a bunch of Macs whose users do all that and more, you’ve probably wished you had a magic Undo command that could reverse the damage. That’s exactly what Faronics’ Deep Freeze Mac 2.0 ( ; June 2006) does. It starts by taking a snapshot of your system in its clean state. After that, you can install software, create and save files, change settings, and do pretty much anything else you normally do. When you restart the Mac, Deep Freeze will discard all those changes and return the system to its original, clean condition. Deep Freeze has been available on the Windows platform for years; this year, it came to the Mac. You may not need it. But it will be essential for some people.—ROB GRIFFITHS

 

Company:Faronics /
Price:$30 /
Original Review:  / June 2006

Dimenxian

Learn algebra, shoot monsters

Education software is often as appealing to kids as a trip to the principal’s office. The folks at Tabula Digita have come up with a novel alternative: Dimenxian ( ; Game Room), a pre-algebra and algebra tutor in the guise of a first-person shooter. The game starts you on the surface of an alien world. You can run around and shoot things—but to do so you have to complete a series of tasks that help develop and reinforce math skills. For example, one mission requires that you navigate the surface of the planet using grid coordinates. Tabula Digita’s slogan: “Learn math or die trying.”—PETER COHEN

 

Company:Tabula Digita
Price:$30
Original Review: online only

EyeTV Hybrid

Pocket-sized TV tuner sets new standard

Elgato’s EyeTV Hybrid ( ; January 2007) sets a new standard for Mac TV tuners. While other companies offer tuners for either digital or analog reception, only the Hybrid gives you both. And you can get those TV signals over the air (via an antenna) or by plugging in a coaxial cable. Best of all, the Hybrid is small enough to fit in your pocket, so you can watch TV on your Mac anywhere you can get a signal—at home in the den, at your office during lunch, or while vacationing at the beach. The Hybrid also comes with Elgato’s EyeTV 2.1 software ( ), which you can use to schedule recordings, edit out ads, and export movies for your video iPod.—ERIC SUESZ

 

Company:Elgato Systems
Price:$150
Original Review: January 2007

Fission 1.1

Editor offers easy, inexpensive way to trim audio files

Not long ago, audio-editing applications were the exclusive province of audio engineers and tech-savvy musicians. Now, thanks to the iPod, iTunes, streaming media, and podcasting, nearly every modern Mac user has a reason to muck with music. This year, Rogue Amoeba gave us amateurs an easy, inexpensive way to edit our audio files: Fission ( ; February 2007). Boasting an intuitive interface, Fission lets you trim, split, and fade common audio files, such as MP3, AAC, Apple Lossless, and AIFF, in their native formats—no need to reencode or convert files the way you do with other audio editors. For splitting long audio streams (captured from the Internet, an audiobook, an LP, or a cassette), Fission offers a Smart Split command that is more accurate and easier to use than similar features in other audio apps. And unlike the competition, Fission lets you edit metadata (ID3 tags)—track title, album, and artist information, for example—for each track from within the program.—CHRISTOPHER BREEN

 

Company:Rogue Amoeba
Price:$32
Original Review: February 2007

G-Drive Q

Desktop hard drive is the most versatile you’ll find

Only one of the desktop hard drives we tested in the past year garnered a five-mouse rating: the G-Drive Q ( ; November 2006), from G-Technology. This hard drive is extremely versatile, incorporating nearly every type of connection you could want—USB 2.0, FireWire 400 and 800, and eSATA. In addition, it doesn’t require a driver and can be configured as a backup boot drive. (It’s bootable via all four of those ports.) That kind of flexibility seemed all the more impressive when we tested the G-Drive Q and found that it was quite speedy and nearly silent in operation. Plus, its aluminum exterior stylishly coordinates with Apple hardware. It wasn’t the fastest or biggest drive we tested this year. But its combination of features makes it one of a kind.—ERIC SUESZ

 

Company:G-Technology
Price:$559
Original Review: November 2006

Google Earth

3-D mapping tool is out of this world

It takes a lot to upstage Apple at a Macworld Conference & Expo. But when Google released a Mac version of Google Earth ( ; Mac Gems) at the January 2006 trade show, the buzz it generated rivaled that of any Intel-based hardware or iLife innovations coming out of Cupertino. After just a few minutes with the 3-D-mapping and -navigation software, you’ll see why. Google Earth gives you a bird’s-eye view of any place on the planet, a view you can tilt, pan, and rotate as much as you like. As with Google Maps, you can punch in an address to get driving directions or find nearby eateries. But Google Earth lets you to do much more. For example, during the 2006 midterm elections, Google created a Google Earth layer showing voter information for each United States congressional district. And the application’s vibrant online community is constantly augmenting the program. Google Earth remains in perpetual beta, but don’t be fooled—this is a full-featured application that opens up a whole world of possibilities.—PHILIP MICHAELS

 

Company:Google
Price:Free
Original Review: online only

Huey

Color calibration comes to the masses

Color calibrators—hardware-software combos that make sure your monitor is displaying colors accurately—have been standard tools among graphics professionals for years. And they’ve been priced for that pro market. With the $89 Huey ( ; October 2006), Pantone has brought color calibration to the masses. The small, portable USB device measures ambient room light and in a matter of minutes adjusts your monitor to standard color temperatures. You can optimize the settings for specific activities (Web browsing, photo editing, graphic design, video editing, and so on), and the Huey software will then continually adjust your monitor in the background.—DAN MILLER

 

Company:Pantone
Price:$89
Original Review: October 2006

iLife ’06

Best-yet versions of four apps elevate suite

Apple released the iLife suite in 2003, and we’ve given Eddys to individual iLife apps (such as iPhoto and GarageBand) before. But we’ve never awarded an Eddy to the whole suite—until now. This year, Apple did a stellar job not only of upgrading individual apps, but also of combining them into a coherent whole. iLife ’06 offers some of the best tools available for producing single images, movies, DVDs, Web sites, music, and podcasts. That’s not to say it’s perfect. The newest iLife app, iWeb ( ), in particular has some annoying quirks. But those annoyances are offset by best-yet versions of iPhoto, GarageBand, iMovie, and iDVD. With iPhoto 6 ( ), you get better performance, a slew of new printing options, and full-screen editing. GarageBand 3 ( ) now does podcasts and integrates with iChat. iMovie 6 ( ) has new themes, real-time previews, and audio effects. And iDVD 6 ( ) offers new wide-screen support, resizable windows, and support for third-party DVD burners. Put all that together, and you get the best iLife yet.—JACKIE DOVE

 

Company:Apple
Price:$79

Keynote 3

Presentation app evolves into viable PowerPoint alternative

For years, Microsoft’s PowerPoint had no competition when it came to assembling presentations on the Mac. Then, in 2003, Apple introduced Keynote. While the program brought a fresh approach to creating and editing presentations, it was missing some fundamental features. Keynote 3 ( ; April 2006), part of Apple’s iWork ’06 suite, effectively fills many of those holes. Now you can interleave graphics with text builds and put more than one bulleted list on a slide. Images can now be easily masked with any shape you can draw, a Bézier-curve drawing tool lets you create curved shapes, and you can add a semitransparent reflection to any graphic with one click. A slider makes sorting and adding transitions to longer presentations much simpler. These and other new features, combined with Keynote’s extremely friendly interface and professional looking themes, have finally made the app a viable alternative to PowerPoint.—ROB GRIFFITHS

 

Company:Apple
Price:$79 (as part of iWork ’06 suite)
Original Review: April 2006

Mac Pro

Intel-based desktop keeps its cool

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