SLIDESHOW

2010 Macworld Editors' Choice Awards: Software

We saw hundreds or programs and Web services this year. These are the ones that stand out.

The 2010 Eddys: Software

We see all kinds of Mac programs, from small single-function utilities to gigantic professional production packages.

To figure out our favorites, we came up with an initial list and then narrowed that list down after weeks of discussion. Click on the arrow to the left of the image to see the software winners.

(Also see our picks for the top hardware products.)

1Password 3

1Password 3 is a password manager that lets you save login and retrieve information to its encrypted database. 1Password includes a powerful password generator, and also saves secure notes, software licenses, personal identities, and credit-card info.

1Password can sync its database with Dropbox, making your info accessible from any browser on any computer, and on your iOS device. ($40; five-users, $70)

Aperture 3

Apple added a handful of great features to Aperture 3 that made it an appealing option for photographers who had outgrown iPhoto as a photo manager.

Though typically aimed at more professional shooters, Aperture 3 added consumer-level features such as book design, Faces, and Places. These features, combined with the program’s intuitive layout and easy to understand tools, make it a great crossover application for all levels of photographer.

Evernote 1.11

In the last several years, Evernote has gone from a cool, cloud-based note taking utility to a must-have productivity powerhouse.

With this year’s introduction of Evernote’s Trunk (the company’s catalog of third-party apps and extensions), you can find dozens and dozen of widgets that can enhance the application’s mobile and desktop prowess.

Oh, and did we mention that it's free! There is a paid, premium ad-free account available for $5 a month or $45 a year with larger file size, but the free version will suffice for most.

Excel 2011 for Mac

When Microsoft released Excel 2008, it was a step back in the development of the popular spreadsheet program—it didn’t have new must-have features, and it was missing support for macros.

Fortunately, Excel for Mac 2011 has hundreds of improvements and new features, making it a must-have upgrade for Excel users.

With the new version of Excel, the interface was completely redesigned to promote efficiency, and the new Ribbon is the key interface module that displays easy access to frequently used functions. If you’re still using Excel 2004 (or you actually were daring enough to upgrade to Excel 2008), it’s time to step up to Excel 2011.

iMovie '11

With iMovie ’11, Apple included tools that let you make more-complicated edits, but in that easy, accessible way that iMovie is know for.

A major new feature is the Single-Row View that looks more like the traditional timeline view. With the new One-Step Effects feature, adding an effect like fading a clip to black and white can be done in a few seconds.

And Apple’s fun new Movie Trailers feature helps you create quick videos in the style of the movie previews you see at the theater. Most importantly, Apple improved the audio editing features in iMovie ‘11. (Part of iLife ’11, $49)

Instapaper

Imagine if, when coming across an interesting—or too-long-to-read-now—Web article, you could just click a button to save that article to a personal repository of Stuff To Read. And imagine if, when you sit down to read your archive of articles, each is automatically reformatted for easier reading.

And wouldn’t it be really great if you could read those articles on any computer, iPhone, or iPad in an interface designed specifically for that particular device?

As it turns out, the Instapaper Web service by Marco Arment does all that and more. Just click a bookmarklet in your browser and the current Web article is archived to your Instapaper account.

iScrapbook 3

One scrapbook design package that stands out in the small crowd of dedicated Mac apps for its quality, originality, and sheer abundance of design goodness is Chronos’s iScrapbook 3.

This release offers its artistic, conceptual audience depth and variety—from the free smart templates and searchable iScrapKits that pull a book’s look together to the new font preview feature that lets you see how your text, headlines, and captions will look in different fonts, styles, and sizes.

These elements are visually stunning, professionally designed, and implemented to hold together a presentation, whether it be a family album or a business proposal.

Photoshop CS5

There are so many improvements in Adobe Photoshop CS5 that it’s hard to pinpoint where to begin.

From its new 64-bit capability on the Mac to details like drag-and-drop file integration, the CS5 upgrade is the most significant and impressive since the Creative Suite started shipping in 2003.

This version of Photoshop focused a concerted effort on boosting technical advancement, usability, and performance.

Scrivener 2

As a writer, Scrivener 2.0 is my weapon of choice because it handles all the business of writing from research to producing your finished manuscript.

mScrivener took home an Eddy award back in 2007, but its developers have hardly been resting on their laurels. The major 2.0 update brings not only a handful of new features (such as the ability to export projects as both iBooks-compatible ePub files and Kindle-compatible .MOBI files) but interface enhancements such as a freeform corkboard and the ability to create ad hoc collections of project elements.

Best of all, writers who want to take their projects on the go can take advantage of the new support for syncing with DropBox or Web service Simplenote. ($45)

Sparkle

Chances are you’ve benefited from Andy Matuschak's Sparkle without even knowing it.

Sparkle is a bit of code that developers can easily add to their own applications to get a built-in update-checking and -installing feature. Sparkle is responsible for the window in your favorite program telling you, “A new version of applicationname is available,” displaying detailed release notes about the new version, and providing you with a convenient Install Update button that makes the software magically current.

Sparkle is now a part of hundreds of Mac programs, and while the Mac App Store may bring easy app updating, Sparkle has streamlined updates for millions of Mac users, and will continue to do so. (Free)

Spector Pro Mac 2010

It's a little creepy: Spector Pro Mac 2010 from SpectorSoft is a program made to monitor and record all of the activity you perform on a Mac. But it's necessary for many folks, and it’s full-featured and well designed.

Spector Pro can take pictures of your computer screen at regular intervals, provide transcripts of iChat and other IM programs, detail sent and received e-mails, list visited websites (even with Safari’s private browsing turned on), and a lot more.

Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty is an opus of violence, fire, and flawed humanity. After years of development, Blizzard has delivered one of the best real time strategy games of all time and one of the most powerful single player campaigns in recent memory—a story with surprising narrative weight and varied, compelling gameplay.

Thanks to an equally strong multiplayer, StarCraft II has once again raised the bar for all others to meet. And this is only chapter one of the trilogy.

Steam

The Steam online gaming service is more than just an iTunes Store–like place for games; the free service from Valve offers exemplary social functions and demos of many of the games. Steam has become the go-to place for gamers to shop for and try out everything from blockbuster releases to indie hits, find new friends to frag with, and stay up to date with the latest patches.

A Steam buddy list lets you see which of your friends are online, what games they’re playing, as well as invite friends into your game or quickly join them on a campaign already in progress—all with a click or two.

TextExpander 3

In 2010, a great app—Smile’s TextExpander—just kept getting better. Of course, the text-expansion utility (which inserts saved “snippets” of text wherever you want with a quick keystroke) has been around forever.

But in March 2010, Smile (formerly known as Smile on My Mac) released TextExpander 3.0. That rev added a bunch of nice new features, including keyboard shortcuts for creating snippets; “fill-in” snippets, which could incorporate user input; and the ability to sync snippets between Macs via Dropbox or MobileMe.

What makes TextExpander a great app isn’t just that it’s so handy and so capable, but also the fact that it’s constantly evolving—refining its core tools, adding new ones, and adapting to an ever-changing technology landscape.