Essential Free OSX Utilities

Free OSX UtilitiesDespite putting it off for as long as possible, and feeling that it may not quite be ready for prime time, I recently updated to OSX 10.5 Leopard.  When you go through this process, you get a number of options.  You can either upgrade your current version of OSX, retaining all your settings and applications, or you can wipe everything and start from scratch.  Like many other up-graders, I took this as an opportunity, or rather excuse, to clean up my Mac.  So I wiped everything and started from scratch.

This can be a risky tactic.  Not only do you have to be absolutely confident you can get all the critical tools and documents back, but there’s a risk that you will forget some.  Rather than let these risks weight me down,  found it all rather liberating.  If I wasn’t using a utility, it would no longer be installed.  From now on, I’d only install things that I actually need.

One of the first things I did after installing and updating Leopard was to install all the applications I can’t do without.  Then I came round to the utilities.  I’m a sucker for the little OSX utilities, small programs and preference panes that make certain tasks easier.  Unfortunately, I used to install a lot of them.  So with my new attitude, and my vow to only install things I need, I cut it down to four truly essential utilities.  Ones that I can’t live without.  And best of all, they’re all FREE!

Perian Logo

What does it do?  Perian is a collection of media codecs for Quicktime covering most of the popular file formats currently out there.

Why use it?  If you watch and download a lot of media, you need Perian.  The odds are that with Perian installed Quicktime will support pretty much any file you throw at it.  No more searching round for that obscure codec to watch that must see video, Perian already has you covered.

flip4mac Logo

What does it do?  flip4mac allows you to play Windows Media Files in Quicktime.

Why use it?  For the same reasons as Perian, but for Windows Media Files.  flip4mac has a fantastic selling point.  If you use it, you don’t have to use the quite awful Windows Media Player for OSX.

NuFile Logo

What does it do?  Allows you to create files through a right/command click menu.

Why use it?  For recent Windows converts, the option to create new files through a right-click menu may be something you actually miss.  NuFile takes this idea a step further, not only allowing yo to create new files but also allowing you to create templates for files.  So if you create a lot of XHTML files for example, you can create a template that already has the doctype and other header information in it.  This functionality can also be found in Quicksilver.

iStat Menus

What does it do?  Displays information about your system, such as processor usage and temperature, in the menu bar.

Why use it?  It may be geeky, but I like knowing what’s happening in my system.  This is the easiest, and least obtrusive way of doing it.  I find it particularly useful for monitoring applications which may be sucking up more resources than they should be.  The newest version is highly configurable, allowing you to change colours and exactly what gets displayed and in what format.

Did I miss anything?  I would include Growl but it’s temporarily unavailable.

Utility pole photo by LearningToSee.