Gift Ideas for Mac Users

Today someone asked me to suggest Mac software for a person with a new Mac. Somehow I got the impression that they wanted to give said Mac user a gift to help them get the most out of the new Mac, and hence free software (as in price) was not what they meant; but I could’ve totally misread that. Anyway, after stammering for a bit I got to typing and ideas flowed much more smoothly.

I’ve used some of these myself, others just get rave reviews from every single person that ever talks about them. Furthermore I was trying to think of things with broad appeal, not games, geek toys, or professional rendering software.

BusyCal and BusyToDo are very highly spoken of amongst Mac-using professionals, even though the Mac comes with a calendar program (iCal), and to-do list (integrated with Mail and iCal). I haven’t used these, but then again I don’t use iCal or Mail’s to do list either. Apparently they greatly improve on their standard Mac counterparts in the areas of syncing and compatibility with Google Calendar and other calendaring software.

Rogue Amoeba makes several useful audio utilities, but the one I paid for and love is Airfoil. It lets you send audio from your Mac to speakers attached to any other Mac, PC, iPhone, iPad, or Airport base station. This is similar to the functionality built-in to iTunes, but works with any app, and more devices than just Airports.

Smile Software makes several useful utilities, but one standout is Text Expander. It lets you type abbreviations anywhere and have them expanded to whole words, sentences or paragraphs. I couldn’t have made it through high school without it, seeing as I did a ton of typing back then.

Circus Ponies’ product called Notebook is a great note-taking app, letting you collect video, audio, and text-based snippets of data together in virtual notebooks. Good for organizing thoughts.

Very similar to Notebook but equally highly praised is Yojimbo from Bare Bones Software. While it doesn’t look like a notebook visually, it allows you to store, organize and search all kinds of bits of data.

This one’s hardware, not software, sosumi. Data should always be backed up. Mac OS X has excellent backup software called Time Machine, the only thing missing is somewhere to store the backup, so get an external hard drive, Time Capsule device, or NAS, and flip the huge Time Machine on/off button in System Preferences. If you want to use a NAS or other network share, see these instructions at Engadget.

For offsite backup consider Carbonite. You can backup an unlimited amount of data to “the cloud” for $55 a year.

Speaking of cloud services, the best cloud storage for Mac is still Dropbox. Dropbox comes with convenient sharing and remote access features, and is indispensable if you need to move documents back and forth between an iPad and a computer. You can get a 2GB account for free but you can upgrade to 50GB or 100GB for fairly reasonable rates. Dropbox also keeps 30 days (or more, if you pay) worth of history on all files so you can go back and grab a copy of your project from before you accidentally did a “Select All,” “Delete,” and “Save.”

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