Last-minute gifts for Mac lovers

We’ve all experienced some form of holiday shopping panic: “There’s only of months/days/hours left before Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa! What am I going to do?” Well, Macworld's here to help with the Mac lover in your life. We’ve polled our staff of contributors to get their ideas for gifts that you can, if necessary, pull out of your festive hat at the last minute with a minimum of fuss (and muss).

Acorn 2.1

Back in the day, when you bought a Mac, Photoshop was one piece of software you absolutely had to get. Problem is, even today it’s a package that can run you hundreds of dollars.

These days, there’s a slew of alternatives, from the stylish Pixelmator to the venerable GraphicConverter, but my personal favorite is Eddy Award-winner Acorn 2.1. Flying Meat has created an app with an innovative interface that any iLife user should feel comfortable slipping into. The software is dead simple to use and the tutorials are well-illustrated and easy to follow along with.

Acorn 2.1 does all of Photoshop’s basics at least as well as Photoshop and it’s fast and it’s optimized for Snow Leopard. Perfect for any acquaintance that needs to trim a few shots or easily excise that one person they’re not so fond of from their photos. Acorn requires Mac OS X 10.6 or later and it runs $50.—Nicholas Bonsack

Delicious Library 2

Do you have a compulsive organizer on your shopping list? Well, Delicious Library may be the perfect choice, because it actually makes the process of cataloging things entertaining.

First of all, you’re not limited to books. You can add movies, software, toys, electronics, tools, video games, even clothes (although you’d have to be awfully compulsive to go that far, no?). Using a Mac’s built-in iSight camera (or an external camera), Delicious Library scans the barcode on all these items (except the clothes) and pulls up the details that belong in your database.

Even better, Delicious Library adds your iTunes music and video to the collection, too. The application, which itself sports an iTunes-like interface, gives you a graphical depiction of your shelves with pictures of each of the items arranged in alpha order. It may all be fun, but just don’t expect your recipient to become your very own cataloging servant. The $40 Delicious Library requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later and is available for download.—Ramu Nagappan

ScreenCasts Online

You generously bombard friends and family with valuable software recommendations. And when they take your brilliant advice, how do they repay you? Either with blank stares or with lots of questions. Because it’s one thing to install a great program; it’s another thing to learn how to use it.

You don’t have time teach them, so give them a subscription to ScreenCasts Online, where host Don McCallister produces training videos for many popular Mac software titles. For $57, they’ll get six months of access to each new weekly program and the whole library of more than 200 tutorials posted since 2005, including in-depth treatment of such Macworld favorites as LaunchBar, OmniOutliner, and RapidWeaver. They’re all programs that are great to have—if you know how to use them.—Tony Craine

Nike + iPod Sports Kit

If “exercise more” has made your New Year’s resolution this year, then the $29 Nike + iPod Sport Kit is a must. A small sensor in your shoe transmits data to your iPod nano, iPod touch, or iPhone 3GS as you run. With the press of a single button you can unleash your “Power Song” to help you blow through tough spots in your work out.

Afterwards, sync to iTunes and you can visit a Nike Website that will detail every element of your run: the fast parts, slow parts, how many calories you burned, steps you took, everything. You can set goals, challenge friends, and even deck out a little avatar of yourself. The interactivity between the iPod and Nike site makes this easily the most comprehensive workout kit on the market. And you can easily snag one at your friendly neighborhood Apple Store, Best Buy, or other retailer.—Nic Vargus

Socialite

Every Christmas party—hell, every family—has at least one social butterfly. And if the social butterfly on your gift list is also a Mac enthusiast, you can't go wrong if you buy him or her a $20 license for one of OS X's newest social-networking tools: Socialite.

Socialite, like the rest of Realmac Software's offerings, is smooth and shiny and curvy, assembling a hodgepodge of social services into one slick app. Google Reader, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and Digg all combine in a mixture almost as delicious as peanut butter and chocolate. If you have a friend who's always on Facebook, obsesses over Twitter, or shares oodles of photos on Flickr, chances are they'll fall in love with Socialite. It's essentially an RSS reader for the Internet's most happening spots.

Your friends will thank you. Whether they do so via e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter or in real life remains to be seen.—Lex Friedman

Snow Leopard

If a holiday trip always includes singing for your supper in the form of providing free tech support for less-techno-savvy relatives, why not bring along a copy of Mac OS X Snow Leopard to upgrade their machines? After all, they won't upgrade until it's time to buy a new Mac, probably around 2017. Sure, you can tell them that it's a present which will give them a faster, more responsive computer, and (in most cases) several more gigabytes of disk space to store pictures of the grandkids—but really, you're self-gifting the chance to fire up a faster, more reliable iChat Screen Sharing session and get those technical support calls taken care of in record time. Warning: iChat Screen Sharing may increase the number of technical support calls, and may reduce your chance of free meals.

Mac OS X 10.6 costs $29 for a single machine, $49 for a family-pack upgrade (up to five machines). It requires an Intel Mac. If you own one of the few Intel Macs which shipped with 10.4, you're technically supposed to purchase the Mac Box Set, which includes iLife ’09 and iWork ’09, for $169.—Jeff Porten

Iconfactory Freeware

There’s nothing like cracking open that shiny new MacBook or powering up a fresh iMac that you got for the holidays. It’s still got the default background, the standard out-of-the-box icons—it’s like a blank canvas, waiting for you to imbue it with your personality. If you’re out to get your Mac—or a friend or relative’s new Mac—into the holiday spirit, consider this huge list of offerings from the Iconfactory.

With professional-quality custom icons and gorgeous desktop pictures, you can populate a Mac with holiday-themed icons, winter scene desktops, or even characters from holiday classics like Frosty the Snowman and A Charlie Brown Christmas . And best of all, they're free, a price that'll make even Ebenezer Scrooge smile.—Dan Moren

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