Your desert island app

Maybe it’s because we’re nearing the end of the season for Lost, or perhaps it’s because I’ve just gotten through (re)watching the first season of the syndicated action series Robinson Crusoe, but I’ve been thinking lately: If I were trapped on a desert island, what’s the one third-party app I couldn’t live without?

Apple sells a pretty robust machine straight out of the box. Regardless of which system you buy, you get the tools needed for e- mail and Web access and a suite of cool applications for creative pursuits—iPhoto for photo cataloging and light editing, iWeb for Web page creation, iMovie for movie editing, iDVD to burn the stuff to disc, GarageBand for music. And you also get a relative host of useful utilities and other software that handle your day-to-day maintenance needs.

But what third-party application would you be hard-pressed to live without at all?

Let’s not get too analytical in answering this hypothetical question. Ignore for the moment the fact that desert islands don’t have Wi-Fi or electricity, and that you would probably be more focused on basic survival and painting a volleyball with a face using a bloody handprint to keep you company.

Setting aside the common-sense dilemmas of modern desert island life, the answer for me is quite easy: It’s BBEdit from Bare Bones Software. BBEdit is an industrial-strength text editor geared toward Web developers and programmers—neither of which I am, ironically. But it’s my text editor of choice, and has been for well in excess of a decade now.

Inevitably, BBEdit is the first application that I install when I get a new Mac. And it’s usually the first application I open, too. It’s what I do almost all my work in. I write creatively using BBEdit. I use it to compare files. To search for text. My Documents folder is polluted with text files, almost all of which have been created by BBEdit.

Is BBEdit the best text editor out there? That’s obviously a matter of debate. Other text editors have come along, and I know they have their acolytes. I certainly recognize BBEdit’s shortcomings—it has a user interface that can be described best as utilitarian (perhaps ugly-but-functional) and has a Preferences menu that can bring even hardened BBEdit users to their knees in frustration. But I’m hard-wired for BBEdit at this point, and I love it, warts and all.

When I posed this hypothetical on Twitter the other day, other people jumped forth with other apps they’d find more crucial, like Firefox, or in my colleague (and flying enthusiast) Rob Griffiths’ case, X-Plane, the flight simulator. So now I’m turning the question over to you: You’re stuck on a desert island with a Mac. What one third-party app would you need?

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