The Mac platform boasts an abundance of free and low-cost software—some of it good, some of it great, and a good amount of it, well, understandably inexpensive. But thanks to the increasing popularity of the Mac platform, along with the convenience of the Mac App Store, it seems we’ve never had so many low-cost apps to choose from. Here at Macworld, we call the ones that give you great functionality for a low price Mac Gems.
We review a couple of these products each week here on the Mac Gems Weblog, but there’s just too much good stuff out there to cover at that rate. So once a year my fellow editors, along with a number of Macworld contributors, pitch in on a Gems-review marathon. The result is our annual summer Gems event.
Many of us are doing more and more of our Internet consumption—reading websites, RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook, and more—on mobile devices. It’s often more convenient than using your desktop computer, because you have your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or laptop with you when you’re out and about (or even just when sitting on the couch).
But what do you do when you come across something you want to download? Maybe you find a cool new Mac app you want to try out, or perhaps someone sends you a link to an archive of photos. With a few exceptions, iOS devices don’t let you download files. And even if you’ve got a laptop, sometimes you don’t want to download a lot of data onto its small drive, or you want to download big files using your desktop Mac’s speedy network connection.
In the past, I’ve handled these situations by emailing myself the URL to a download or webpage. When I got back to my iMac, I then used the link in that email message to download the data. But recently I’ve been using a clever utility called NoteTote (Mac App Store link) to download files to my desktop Mac no matter where I am when I come across the link.
Like OS X itself, iTunes has a good number of hidden settings that affect how the program works and what options are available to you—some of them letting you revert to the behavior and appearance of older versions of iTunes. And as with those hidden OS X settings, accessing iTunes’s secret features requires you to either hunt down special shell commands that you run in Terminal or use a third-party utility that presents the settings in an easy-to-use interface.
I regularly review great, inexpensive software here on the Mac Gems blog, but I occasionally come across a great deal or bundle that lets you get some of those apps for even less cash. In the spirit of great software on a budget, here are three current software bundles that each include more than a few Mac Gems. (I’ve indicated past Mac Gems with an asterisk; many have been updated considerably since our most-recent review.)
Keyboard shortcuts—such as Command-C for Copy—have long been a quick and easy way to access common application actions. But how do you learn those shortcuts? I’ve long been a fan of KeyCue, a handy utility for quickly viewing all the keyboard shortcuts available from within the current app. (I’ve even included it in our new Mac Gems Superguide.)
KeyCue is a great cheat sheet for learning and using keyboard shortcuts, but if you’re on a tighter budget and you’re willing to give up some of KeyCue’s niceties, the free CheatSheet (Mac App Store link) offers an alternative.
While most people are aware of the big-name software titles—Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, and the like—some of the best Mac software is, like so many precious gems, hidden. Many great products out there don’t get the recognition, or even the awareness, that they deserve. And when that happens, Mac users miss out.
That’s where Macworld comes in. We mine the Web, looking for inexpensive software (generally $35 or less) that makes your Mac run better, helps you work more efficiently, and lets your Mac do the little things—and some pretty big ones—you always wished it could do. We call these programs Mac Gems, and we’re highlighting the very best in our Mac Gems Superguide, second edition.
I’ve reviewed a few apps for keeping an eye on your drives’ free space and for making it easier to access and eject volumes; I’ve grown particularly fond of FreeSpace. I recently came across CleanMyDrive (Mac App Store link), and while it doesn’t offer all of FreeSpace’s functionality, it has a unique feature of its own.
Like FreeSpace, CleanMyDrive sits in your menu bar. Click its icon, and you see a menu listing all mounted volumes: internal drives, external disks, optical discs, disk images, and network shares. Large icons make it easy to identify internal drives versus FireWire drives versus USB drives, and so on. Next to each volume’s icon are the volume’s name, a graphical representation of how much space you’re using, and a numerical tally of remaining free space.