05 May 2008

Computing Without Piracy, Mac Version

This blog entry is for my colleague The Lone Gunman of Dallas. LG recently became a Mac owner and has been busy with importing videos into his iMac. LG also wants to know if there's any office suite software for the Mac. I already told him about NeoOffice but here goes the whole enchilada, specifically all about free software for the Mac.

  • NeoOffice - A competitor to Microsoft Office, NeoOffice gets the job done. I have Office Mac X but it cannot handle Chinese characters so I use NeoOffice for all my writing and spreadsheet needs. Neo can read and write in MS Office file format (doc, xls, maybe even ppt, but I don't do much presentation so I don't know for sure), in addition to its own format. I have a template in NeoOffice Writer for my monthly ATPM review. Writer has the usual spell check and web linking, etc. I am sure it does not have every feature that MS Word does, but so far it met my needs. Likewise, NeoOffice Calc, the Excel counterpart, with support for SUM and other functions, does just fine for me. NeoOffice is updated regularly and you are usually asked to donate a few dollars from the update web site. You do not have to give but it would be nice to do so. Other than that, the whole shebang is totally free. Hooray for Open Source!
  • Audacity - Another of my favorite open source software is Audacity. It somewhat works on sound files as Photoshop to images. Let's say you somehow record music and other sound sources into the Mac. With Audacity, you can increase or decrease the volume, make it fade out or in, play faster or slower, etc. With the free LAME library installed, you can export your handiwork to other formats, such as MP3.
  • Phoenix Slides - Most likely you have your digital photos collected by iPhoto. Sure you can have fancy slide show from within iPhoto, what with Jesus Joy of Man's Desire as the background music, but what if somebody hands you a CD full of photos. You may not necessarily want to import those photos into your iPhoto library but you do want to see the pictures. Enters Phoenix Slides. As the name implies, Phoenix is little more than a slideshow software. Just point it at some folder with lots of pictures and voila you get a whole bunch of thumbnails to see. You can do some manipulation of the images and file maintenance, like deleting, but showing you what a bunch of photos look like is Phoenix's forte.
  • Frozen Bubbles - You have to take a break sometimes from all the hard work. The open source Frozen Bubbles is somewhat a clone of Bust-A-Move, one of those games where you line up 3 or more bubbles of the same color to bust them. The Mac version does not support full-screen game play and is still at version 1.0, but it is still a good way to waste some time.
  • MacOSaiX - As the contrived name suggests, the software is used for making mosaic, or photomosaic to be exact. You can use your own photo library or randomly grab photos off Google. This is the software that I used to make the mosaic of my ex-colleague Monika as she left the I.T. industry for the nursing field, http://www.flickr.com/photos/qaptainqwerty/55847224/
These are just a few programs I use regularly, or at least would like to use them more often, like MacOSaiX, that happen to be free. There are certainly a few web sites out there that list hundreds of free Mac programs, free as in free to use forever, not just free to download, but I like to give personal touches whenever possible. A long list can be overwhelming, whereas a short list with more info has some warmth to it.

Most likely whatever you need the Mac to do you can find the software to do it, free or otherwise. It is true that some apps are not available for the Mac platform, but it is a small price to pay. I will probably make a future blog entry called... Things The Mac Can Not Do (and How To Go Around It, If Applicable).

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