A while back I posted about my intention to move to the Mac platform. Several months later, I’ve been doing so and wanted to post a few updates of apps I couldn’t live without as a Windows user. There’s lots of things that I think Windows got right, and I miss. Fortunately, there are a lot of apps available to bring that functionality back.
#1 Parallels Desktop
Parallels is an excellent virtualization technology for running Windows (or any other operating system) on your Mac. Inevitably, there are only things that can run on Windows, like Visual Studio, SQL Server Management Studio (even Live Writer). When you need those tools, Parallels makes them easy to work with.
The coherence mode is especially wonderful, it allows you to integrate your Windows environment into your Mac. The Windows applications are placed on your dock, and appear like normal applications.
The performance is outstanding as well, which allow me to work in very large Visual Studio solutions without feeling like I’m using a virtual machine.
#2 Irradiated Software’s SizeUp & Cinch
One of Windows 7’s hallmark features for me is the Win+Arrow keys to snap windows into place. OSX lacks that out of the box, but Irradiated Software makes two apps that brings the functionality to OSX.
SizeUp is the keyboard equivalent to Windows 7’s functionality, such as pressing Windows Key + Up would maximize the window. Even better is that the key bindings are customizable. It works well with multiple monitors and spaces.
They are priced at $7 and $13, respectively. It might seem steep, but the $20 is worth it. Having them in Windows, then not having them, makes it all more obvious that they are worth the price. Of course, you don’t have to buy both, either.
#3: Microsoft Office for Mac 2011, RDC, & Microsoft Messenger
Microsoft’s Office 2011 for Mac is for the most part, a clone of Office 2010 for Windows, just on the Mac (which is a good thing). It works very closely to Office 2010 for Windows, and supports just about all of the functionality you’d want from Windows’ versions, including support for documents with macros. One notable exception for me is that AddIns that run on Windows do not work on the Office for Mac, such as PowerPivot. I do however only use Office when necessary, instead opting for Apple iWork when I can. In particular, I’ve grown fond of Apple’s Keynote for doing presentations instead of PowerPoint.
Office 2011’s product suite is limited to Word, PowerPoint, and Excel for the Home and Student Edition, and for the Home and Office Edition includes everything from the Home and Student Edition plus Outlook. Sorry, no Access or Visio.
It does bundle in some other nice software, such as Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Client and Microsoft Messenger. Office 2011 isn’t required to get these applications. You can obtain the Remote Desktop Client freely here, and Messenger here. Office 2011 now includes a Lync client as well for the Mac.
#4 Sparrow Mail + Address Book & iCal
For my Contacts and Calendars, I rely on iCal and Address Book, both ship with OSX. I’ve never been very impressed with Apple’s Mail.app, largely because it is easily crippled by large Exchange mailboxes, has subpar searching functionality, and was just generally sluggish. I didn’t want to rely on Outlook 2011, so I sought an alternative. What I found, largely from recommendations, was Sparrow Mail. Sparrow mail is very simple, and provides just enough functionality for me to be happy without being overwhelmed.
It doesn’t support Exchange, but does support IMAP, and for all purposes that’s fine for email. It integrates well with OSX’s Address Book.app, and it’s lightning fast. For Gmail and Google App users, the experience is even better. Sparrow supports Gmail’s notion of labels, instead of folders, and priority inbox.
If mail isn’t mission critical for you, then Apple’s Mail.app may be just fine for you. Many people are relying entirely on browser-based email now as well.
iCal’s calendar functionality is simple, free, and surprisingly powerful. It works with Exchange and Gmail, and allows opening delegated calendars so you can see other calendars. The user experience is a bit “dummied down” for my taste, which looks very similar to the iPad’s Calendar application.
I’ve heard some rumors that the delegated calendar functionality doesn’t work so well with Exchange 2003, so if that is required for you, then the only alternative for you is Outlook 2011.
#5 MonoDevelop + Mono
Mono is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever seen when you really step back and look at it. For .NET Developers, this is for you. MonoDevelop is a .NET IDE that runs natively on OSX. The most impressive part of MonoDevelop and Mono in general was that in most cases, I could just open a solution in MonoDevelop that was originally made in Visual Studio, and it would “just work”. Mono goes very far to support all kinds of functionality, including WCF, WinForms, ASP.NET, etc.
It does have its limitations though. Largely this is due to parts of the .NET Stack being closed source and patent encumbered, making it hard for an open source initiative to implement some functionality without patents getting in the way.
Caffeine is a nice little utility that sits in your Menu Bar, and does one simple thing: keep the Mac awake. Click it to enable / disable it. If the coffee cup is “full”, then it’s enabled.
That simple. OSX out-of-the-box has fairly aggressive power conservation settings, which is good, I wanted to keep those settings. However, when I am trying to read a lengthy email or news article, or give a presentation, dimming the screen one minute of inactivity can be frustrating. Rather than constantly switch back-and-forth power settings, this app makes it easy to keep your Mac awake when it need it to be awake. It’s a simple alternative to Microsoft’s Power Profiles.
#7 The Unarchiver
The Unarchiver is a fantastic free utility for opening up different compressed file formats. OSX handles ZIP fairly well on its own. This little tool offers opening archives in several other formats, such as 7z (7-ZIP), RAR, and literally dozens of other formats.
This tool only goes so far as being able to open them, not create them, but being free it’s hard to find that as a fault. It does take donations, which I encourage you to do so if you use this application.
All in all, I’d say moving to a Mac has been a fairly pleasant experience for me. It allows me to do iPhone and OSX development, which is something I had always wanted to get into.
What are some other must-have apps for .NET Developers on a Mac? Leave them in the comments below!