Monday, November 07, 2005

Menu Bar Add-Ons, and Then Some

There are countless free and close-to-free programs available online to make your Mac life easier. Here are a few that I love and use... Please feel free to share yours:

Synergy
A handy add-on that puts iTunes controls up in the menu bar, and lets you pop up a little graphic of the title, artist, and album cover for each new song.

Ejector
Simple-but-clever: a button to eject any hardware or software disk with a mouse click. As an added bonus, when you make the voluntary donation (as you always should if you like shareware), you don't just get good karma, you get a really lovely thank you note from the author in France.

PSPWare
A very well-designed and easy to use PSP-sync for the Mac

SoundSource & Airfoil

From Rogue Amoeba, the folks who make the excellent Audio Hijack Pro, come these two ingenius programs. SoundSource, which is free, lets you select the input and output sources for your Mac audio... useful for when you, say, want to use your Bluetooth headset to use Skype; or want to divide music and system sounds between two outputs.

Airfoil lets you send any audio you like to your Airport Express, rather than just iTunes... great for Real Audio or Internet radio stations.

Textpander
A simple and useful macro tool. Program in any combination of letters and numbers (say, mkm) and every time you type it, Textpander turns it into whatever text you like (say, Michael Markowitz). Saves you a LOT of time over the course of a day with phrases you type over and over... even paragraphs.

A couple of non-menu bar add-ons I love include:

Plain Clip
A faceless application I keep in my dock. Any text you copy, just click on the Plain Clip icon, and all the special formatting is stripped out of it. What you're left with is plain vanilla text. SO useful.

Stumble Upon
A fun Firefox extension that adds a Stumble! button. Hit it, and you are taken to a website that others with the same interests as you have indicated they like. Give it the thumbs up or thumbs down and you are helping to give back. Upgrade to the paid version, and you get to check off a larger number of interests. The sites it takes me to are amazing, and more often than not get a thumbs up.

Session Saver
Firefox extension that runs in the background, and then remembers every open page when you close Firefox. The next time you open Firefox, bang: the same windows open again. Awesome.

And it's not an add-on, but it sure is useful:

Abiword
The best (IMHO) free alternative to Microsoft Word for the Mac out there.


UPDATE: Google Docs has since become far and away the best free Word/Excel alternative.

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