The best of the best of 2006
As Apple continues to proliferate in the computer market, the amount of top-notch products and software for Mac users is ever increasing. The following list is a compilation of what we at Macworld and Playlist consider to be 2006’s best of the best—products and software that we deemed worthy of a rare five-out-of-five rating.
Stories on identity theft and security breaches have been storming headlines, and Rocsecure’s Rocbit 2B portable drives offer a quick solution for those wishing to store and protect sensitive data. Featuring real-time encryption, the Rocbit 2B requires the insertion of a Secure Key before OS X can recognize and access the drive. Once mounted, the Rocbit 2B behaves like any other Mac volume—and it’s exceptionally fast and quiet, too.
With FireWire 800, FireWire 400, USB 2.0 and high-speed eSATA I-type connectivity options, you can’t ask for a more versatile external disk drive than the G-Drive Q. Easy to use and install, this external drive is a space hog’s best friend; it can also be customized as a bootable drive allowing you to boot from any of the ports.
The mouse from Logitech redefined what an input device should be, with basic buttons that worked right out of the box and an ergonomic right-handed design that keeps the hand in a comfortable position. You’re also able to reconfigure the MX Revolution Mouse to your liking. And it performed flawlessly in our tests.
Mac Gems favorites
Switching between your mouse and keyboard when choosing applications or files can stifle productivity, and Butler is a superb launcher program that will spare your wrists. Despite its steep learning curve, Butler seems to have a tool for everything from launching applications to controlling iTunes or creating keyboard macros. Senior Editor Rob Griffiths calls Butler his “Swiss Army Knife utility” because it replaces countless programs that help streamline your computer activities.
Another one of our favorite launcher applications, LaunchBar 4.1.1 provides a vast array of tools for the keyboard savvy to sift through their applications seamlessly. A special feature we like about LaunchBar is its ability to browse through data associated with a chosen application. For instance, after choosing iTunes with the launcher, you can browse through iTunes tracks with a few keystrokes—a function that should truly liberate you from your mouse.
Two heads are better than one—and, well, the more, the better. SubEthaEdit 2.5 makes real-time collaboration on projects over the Internet a piece of cake. Using the application, an unlimited amount of users can work on one document simultaneously in a plain-text editing session. The application has special quirks that make it superior to its Google rival, such as automatically assigning a different color to each contributor to distinguish edits.
With a user-friendly interface and an arsenal of tools, Podcast Maker is our top choice for Podcast publishing. You can access nearly every part of a Podcast that needs to be defined on Podcast Maker’s main screen, streamlining tedious chores such as ID3-tag editing. This application also allows you to create enhanced podcasts, which uses Apple’s AAC format to break chapters of a recording recognizable by an iPod.
Command-Tab is a convenient shortcut that you likely use for switching between windows, and LiteSwitch X 2.6 lets you take extra control over your hotkey navigation. More display options and choosing from a variety of keyboard shortcuts are among the perks that made us big fans of this program.
Whether you’re clicking on an e-mail link or loading a CD, Mac OS X has default settings for which applications launch. Instead of going through each individual application to tweak these defaults, RCDefaultApp 2.0 offers a centralized service allowing you to make all these changes in one place. And with this application you can modify a full range of default settings, including file extensions, URLs, media or MIME types.
Simply backing up your sensitive files doesn’t restore your OS X user settings and preferences, among other subtle tweaks you made to your Mac. SuperDuper 2.1.2 creates a perfect clone of your hard drive, allowing you to restore your system to exactly the way it used to be in case of a crash. This application’s excellent, straightforward user interface makes it our top pick for a backup utility.
Like most of our favorite iPod cases, the Showcase Video provides solid protection for your iPod Video while keeping it attractive. We especially appreciate the Showcase’s practical qualities: this case’s clever dual latch design allows you to easily slide your iPod Video in and out. Overall, the Showcase Video is thoughtfully designed, offering great protection for your iPod while leaving the hold switch, headphone jack, and dock connector accessible via openings.
True to the company’s name, iSkin’s silicone eVo3 case offers snug protection for your iPod video, effectively acting as a second skin. Despite the eVo3’s extra thickness, this case doesn’t interfere with your iPod’s usability; a flap on the bottom provides access to the dock connector.
OtterBox’s iPod nano case is the most protective one we’ve seen for the miniature music player. It doesn’t just offer shock and scratch protection; the case is waterproof as well. In addition, a lid allows you to easily insert or remove your music player from this case, and a thick membrane protects your iPod’s scroll wheel without blocking accessibility.
Sonos’s Digital Music System is a wireless, multi-room digital music system that transmits your music from any of your computers to ZonePlayers around the house. The new ZonePlayer 80 lets you integrate any existing stereo system or powered speakers into the Digital Music System. Like its larger sibling, the ZonePlayer 100, ZP80’s stellar sound quality, simple design, and ease of use make it one of the best and most innovative digital music products we’ve yet seen.