Five-mouse favorites

A five-mouse rating isn’t as rare as, say, a four-leaf clover. But you could make a strong case that the former is infinitely more valuable. After all, a four-leaf clover just brings you good luck; a five-mouse rating means you’ve got our highest recommendation for a product that’s among the best we’ve seen in its class.

Macworld and Playlist looked at hundreds upon hundreds of products in 2005—only 27 received five-mouse ratings. We couldn’t let the year come to a close without taking one last look at the hardware and software that earned our highest marks during the last 12 months.

3D Wheel Film
Maker: Power Support
Reviewed: Playlist
What it does: Unlike other protective films that save the Click Wheel on newer iPods from scratches but leave the Enter button exposed, the 3D Wheel Film covers the whole thing. And it’s a perfect fit.
Price: $11

3D Weather Globe & Atlas 1.1
Maker: Software MacKiev
Reviewed: September 2005
What it does: If you’re a geography or meteorology nut, this program is for you. 3D Weather globe & Atlas takes weather and geography data and displays them in a rich and gorgeous application.
Price: $40

Agent 18 mini shock
Maker: Agent18
Reviewed: Playlist
What it does: Agent18 takes the increasingly popular two-piece design for iPod mini cases to the next level by adding significant shock protection.
Price: $20

BART Widget
Maker: WorryDream
Mac Gems Weblog
What it does: This widget offers a slick way for Northern California residents—or anyone with an interest in train schedules—to check out schedules and maps for Bay Area Rapid Transit (also known as BART).
Price: Free

ColorTagGen .01
Maker: RAD Productions
Reviewed: Mac Gems Weblog
What it does: ColorTagGen is a one-trick application—but what a trick. Using a simple two-window interface, the free program displays the RGB and hex-encoded color values for any selected color—an ideal tool for anyone who designs Web sites.
Price: Free

Covertec Apple Mini iPod case
Maker: Covertec
Reviewed: Playlist
What it does: This iPod mini carrying case was the nicest leather case we’ve yet seen for the diminutive music player, and one of our favorites regardless of style or material.
Price: $35

FileXaminer 2.4.2
Maker: Gideon Softworks
Reviewed: September 2005
What it does: This program has a great interface for changing file permissions and other file attributes that can be hard to get at. It’s one of our favorite utilities.
Price: $10

FileMaker Pro 8 Advanced
Maker: FileMaker
Reviewed: December 2005
What it does: More than just managing data, this program provides an incredibly powerful way to organize databases. It also allows for better script writing with an improved user interface.
Price: $499; upgrade $299

Incase Folio for iPod U2 Special Edition
Maker: Incase
Reviewed: Playlist
What it does: A clever design helps this case protect your U2 Special Edition iPod while also showing off the music player’s unique design.
Price: $40

iSqueez
Maker: Griffin Technology
Reviewed: Playlist
What it does: Proving that some of the best products are also the simplest, the iSqueez (formerly the PodPod) is nothing more than a foam iPod stand for your car’s cupholder. But when it comes to securing your iPod when you’re on the go, you won’t find a more convenient accessory.
Price: $10

Ivory 1.0
Maker: Synthogy
Reviewed: March 2005
What it does: This is an impressive collection of virtual recorded pianos to use in mixing and making your own music.
Price: $349

LaunchBar 4.0.2
Maker: Objective Development
Reviewed: Mac Gems Weblog
What it is: An already impressive utility got even more powerful, adding the ability to access recently used documents in any application, browse databases of particular programs, and perform context searches, among other new features.
Price: $39, business license; $20, home license; $30 family license (up to 5 computers)

Live 4
Maker: Ableton
Reviewed: January 2005
What it does: This incredible real-time music creation program now offers full MIDI support.
Price: $499; upgrade, $149 (boxed) or $119 (download)

Mathematica 5.1
Maker: Wolfram Research
Reviewed: May 2005
What it does: Hardcore math geeks will love the latest version of Mathematica—one of the best math programs out there— which now includes input and output of binary matrices and special array graphics.
Price: $1,880

mini ToughSkin
Maker: Speck Products
Reviewed: Playlist
What it does: As with the original ToughSkin (listed below), Speck achieves near-perfection with this version aimed at the iPod mini.
Price: $35

OmniOutliner 3 Professional
Maker: The Omni Group
Reviewed: August 2005
What it does: The latest version of The Omni Group’s outliner program leapt to the head of a very talented class of Mac applications by adding useful features such as folded editing, the ability to view outline sections in the drawer, and Microsoft Word export.
Price: $70; upgrade, $50

OtterBox for iPod
Maker: OtterBox
Reviewed: Playlist
What it does: This case offers crush-proof protection for your iPod without forcing you to sacrifice access to the music player’s controls.
Price: $50

Sennheiser PX 100 W
Maker: Sennheiser
Reviewed: Playlist
What it does: The latest version of these lightweight, “over the head” headphones shares the original’s clever design for better protection during travel.
Price: $60

Silicone Jacket for iPod shuffle
Maker: Power Support
Reviewed: Playlist
What it does: Offering significantly thicker silicone around the corners of the shuffle for better impact protection is just one of the nice touches that sets this product apart from other iPod shuffle skin cases.
Price: $23

Sonos Digital Music System
Maker: Sonos
Reviewed: February 2005
What it does: This music networking device effectively combines digital music, high-quality audio, wireless convenience, ease of use, and, most important, fun.
Price: Varies, depending on complexity of setup

SoundTrack Pro
Maker: Apple
Reviewed: October 2005
What it does: This all-purpose audio tool with a great interface and an extensive sound-effects library comes fully integrated with Final Cut Studio.
Price: $299; upgrade from Soundtrack 1.X, $99 ($1,299, as part of Final Cut Studio)

Squeezebox2
Maker: Slim Devices
Reviewed: Squeezebox 2
What it does: The addition of 802.11g wireless networking support makes this successor to the original networked music player a joy to use.
Price: $199; wireless version, $279

SubEthaEdit 2.1.2
Maker: The Coding Monkeys
Reviewed: Mac Gems Weblog
What it does: With SubEthaEdit, you and several other people can share and make simultaneous changes to a document, free from the disasters normally associated with such collaborative efforts.
Price: $35 for commercial license; free, for non-commercial use

Synergy 2.0.1
Maker: Wincent
Reviewed: September 2005
What it does: This is an iTunes controller that provides system-wide hot keys for playback, volume control, and many other add-ons to use with iTunes.
Price: 5 Euros

TextWrangler 2
Maker: Bare Bones Software
Reviewed: May 2005
What it is: This is a great text editor that also happens to be free.
Price: Free

ToughSkin
Maker: Speck Products
Reviewed: Playlist
What it does: From shock protection to easy access to the iPod’s controls, Speck got nearly everything right with this iPod case.
Price: $35

World of Warcraft
Maker: Blizzard Entertainment
Reviewed: February 2005
What it does: Want to fight orcs, humans and other fantasy characters in a seemingly neverending, massively multiplayer online world? This is your game.
Price: $50 (plus monthly fee)

[ Dan Frakes, Playlist reviews editor, contributed to this report. ]

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