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Must have PowerBook software

630 Views 20 Replies Latest reply: Jan 20, 2005 3:05 PM by Kady I. RSS
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Ewen Level 6 Level 6 (11,790 points)
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Jan 20, 2005 3:05 PM
Must have PowerBook software

So you have just received your brand new PowerBooks. As well as being a fantastic Laptop computer it sports one of the best, and most user friendly, Operating Systems (OSs) on the planet. In addition, iLife 2004 is bundled for free, and this gives you: iPhoto (for your digital photography), iMovie (for your digital camcorder), iTunes (for the music you love), Garage Band (for the amateur musician) and iDVD (for editing your DVD). Also, Microsoft Office 2004 Test-drive is included (a one month free trial version for you), giving you a taste of one of the world’s most popular Office application suites, though you will, of course, have to purchase the full version when the trial expires. So, the question is: which applications (commercial, and freeware) should you put on your Hard Drive (HD), to get the most out of your PowerBook. I have set myself a limit of 30 software titles for this FAQ (well there are hundreds and hundreds to choose from).

We can break these into four main groups: 1. Productivity applications and Office suites, 2. File management and other task applications to streamline OSX even further, 3. Games, and 4. Miscellaneous (this includes everything else).

1. Productivity
Now of course Micrsoft Office (1), for many, is the quintessential office suite. The 2004 edition contains three key components: Word (word processor), PowerPoint (presentations) and Excel (spreadsheet). The standard version weighs in at $399, but the Student and teacher edition comes at a more reasonable $149 (if you qualify). There isn’t a need to go into details about Office 2004 as you can try out the demo (Test-drive). However, there are some nice alternatives for you. Firstly, Apple Works (2). This package contains word processor, spreadsheet and graphics software. In addition, Keynote (3) is another application that can provide you with the tools to produce pro-presentations in minutes. There are some other less well-known Mac office suites, and I’ll list them: FlexiSheet (4 a free spreadsheet application), Nisus Writer (5), Thinkfree (6), Mellel (7), and OpenOffice (X11) (8, and best of all free). These alternatives to Microsoft Office can be quite attractive alternatives if you are on a budget, with OpenOffice being the most reasonable, at zero dollars. For those of you who are in the need of a reasonable database application then Filemaker (9) is very affordable. One of the advantages, though, of Microsoft Office 2004 is if you need to perform advanced referencing for your documents. Endnote 7 is my own preferred Reference Manager, and works great with Office 2004 (10). Finally, if you are need a powerful graphics application then Photoshop (11) is for you, or if you only dabble then Photoshop Elements (12) may be your preferred option. If Photoshop is too expensive for you then why not try MacGimp (13).


2. File management and other system related tasks
OSX gives you many system management tools and utilities. However, a popular application is DiskWarrior (9), which claims to be the only disk repair utility program where there is never a risk of losing directory data and, thus, never a risk of losing access to your files. Another popular system tasks maintenance application is MacJanitor (10). For your Firewall (ipfw) Brickhouse is another popular utility, that allows its management.
  • Rod Hagen Level 7 Level 7 (31,985 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 11, 2004 6:30 PM (in response to Ewen)
    Sorry Ewen,

    Didn't realise you had actually put this together until I saw your post in the PB12 forum yesterday.

    I'll take a look, and get back to you with any suggestions.


  • Rod Hagen Level 7 Level 7 (31,985 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 22, 2004 12:25 AM (in response to Ewen)

    I've had a bit of time today to have a look at the stuff, and to develop a few thoughts myself.

    It seems to me that we are in danger of trying to do too much in too little space. One option might be to simply provide a basic "categorical" listing of programs. Another might be to actually split the stuff into several related "tip" files, that would give us an opportunity to organise things a bit more clearly, and to provide more information about the particular programs concerned. (or maybe both?) This would make it easier to compare things in a way which compares "like with like", although the varying contents of the "office" type suites make this tricky sometimes anyway.

    If we adopted the "extensive" approach, I would be thinking along lines of a series of tip sheets with names like:

    Software Options for your PB (or Mac?) - Productivity - wordprocessors and Office Suites
    Software Options for your Mac - Productivity - spreadsheets and databases
    Software Options for your Mac - graphics and multimedia
    Software Options for your PB - maintenance and recovery
    Software Options for your PB - networking
    Software Options for your PB - games
    Software Options for your PB - other

    I've done a "rough draft" of the first couple, that I'll post after this message.

    A couple of little details.

    According to their website Endnote 7 doesn't work in "cite as you write" mode with the current version of MS Word 2004 ( I'm still running Office for OSX myself - where it works fine) . You can use it in rtf scan mode, but the same also applies to other wordprocessors of course. see

    Not sure that I'd call Filemaker "very affordable", at $299 US for the base version. Its well worth the $$$ in my view, but there are various cheaper options for more basic database software. Filemaker fills the same sort of role as MS Access. We should probably mention that Office for the Mac doesn't include Access too. I've seen quite a few posts from people who expected to get it.

    I've tried to avoid putting in actual $ figures in my own "versions" and used comparative costings instead (eg - "half as much as", "twice as expensive as" etc etc.) Prices vary quite a bit from country to country. Though maybe we could put in US prices for comparison purposes as long as we indicate that we are talking US dollars?


  • Rod Hagen Level 7 Level 7 (31,985 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 22, 2004 12:30 AM (in response to Ewen)
    (Rod's rough draft)

    Powerbook Software Options - Wordprocessors and Office Suites

    Working with words

    Just about everyone buying a personal computer needs some way of writing text.


    The Powerbook comes ready equipped with "TextEdit" - a very useful little program that can perform the task of getting words into your computer, lets you apply basic formatting, and can even save in rtf or MS Word format so that you can share your work with others. If you haven't already done so, take a look at it. For some people it may be all that you ever need. You should find a copy in your Applications folder!

    Most people, however, will want something a bit more powerful.

    Appleworks -

    Appleworks is an extremely capable program that integrates word processing, spreadsheet, database, drawing, painting and presentation capabilities. At around half the price of the academic version of Microsoft Office (and less than a quarter the price of the "Standard" version) it is well worth considering . It doesn't have all of the bells and whistles of Word or Excel in the WP and spreadsheet departments, but it will do everything that most users will ever require. In other areas (drawing, painting, database etc.) it provides facilities that MS Office can't match. It is also very efficient. It takes up less than one tenth of the hard disk space consumed by Office. The current version is getting old and needs a proper "makeover" to improve performance under OSX, but for home and SOHO users it is still very hard to beat. It could certainly find a place in many small businesses too.

    MS Word / MS Office -

    The "Industry Standard", when it comes to word processing, is Microsoft Word, usually bought as part of the MS Office 2004 Suite ( a 30 day free "trial" version can be downloaded from Microsoft ). The Office suite for the Mac comes in various configurations, but all include a copy of Word, together with "Excel" spreadsheet software, "Powerpoint" presentation software and "Entourage" email and contact management software (the Mac equivalent of "Outlook" for the PC). Unlike the PC version, Office for the Mac does not include the "MS Access" database program however. The "professional" versions also include a copy of Virtual PC.

    MS Office for the Mac is a very good suite: powerful, well integrated, and with excellent cross platform compatability. If you regularly exchange documents with PC users in a commercial or a large educational environment, then you will probably want to get hold of a copy of MS Office. If money isn't an issue then MS Office is an obvious choice. Its not cheap unless you qualify for an educational discount though, and other alternatives exist which will do the same job just as effectively, and more cheaply, for many users.

    NisusWriter -

    NisusWriter has been a favourite word-processor for a dedicated group of Mac Users for two decades. Many people refused to update to OSX based Macs simply because they were worried about losing the use of this program. Many linguists, and others whose work required effective multilingual and multi alphabet compatibility, regarded it as the only program worth considering. The latest edition NisusWriter Express2.1 brings the features that they loved into the OSX world. NisusWriter is an excellent word-processor for everyday use too, and great value - costs even less than Appleworks (though it lacks Appleworks spreadsheet and drawing features). You can download a free demo.

    Another word-processor targeted at users with multilingual requirements is Mellel
    - see

    (continued in following)
  • Rod Hagen Level 7 Level 7 (31,985 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 22, 2004 12:36 AM (in response to Rod Hagen)
    (rough draft continued)

    Mariner Write -

    A word-processor getting some good reviews that again will do the job for most people. Some people have suggested that problems can occur when importing MS Word documents with paragraph styles or MS Word documents with in line graphics. Efficient RAM use and a small HD footprint are features of this one.


    These ones are good for people who don't mind fiddling

    ThinkFree Office is a quite popular Java based office alternative. Some people find ThinkFree rather slow, but it is very good value for money and will perform the tasks that most people need.

    OpenOffice -

    You can't beat the price of the open source software OpenOffice - It's free! The Mac port has been available for some time now, and does a pretty good job. Installation can be fiddly, though and involves things like conversion of all your Mac fonts to Truetype and the use of Apple's X11 software. You can also run into problems moving material from application to another, because of differences in the way clipboards are treated under X11.

    Some people love it, though. A related, Java based, project called NeoOffice/J may also be worth a look - see

    (End of word processors and office suites)
  • Rod Hagen Level 7 Level 7 (31,985 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 22, 2004 12:43 AM (in response to Ewen)
    (rough draft only)
    Powerbook Software Options - Spreadsheets and Databases

    Working with numbers and lists - Spreadsheets

    The two main players here are
    Microsoft's Excel (part of MS Office) and

    As with the word-processing components of these suites, the MS product has more bells and whistles, and is the "Industry Standard" , but Appleworks will be more than adequate for many users and save some dollars into the bargain. see .... for more information

    MarinerCalc -

    From the same people who produce MarinerWrite (see above). Another viable alternative. Note , though, that a combined package of MarinerWrite and MarinerCalc will cost you almost as much as an Academic version of MS Office, and quite a bit more than Appleworks.

    BC Calc

    If you want a very basic , but very cheap (free!) spreadsheet , take a look at BC Calc -

    . FlexiSheet
    FlexiSheet is another "Open Source" free program, currently in beta stage. An interesting project that gives you some interesting ways of looking at data. Worth trying if you are adventurous. Worth looking out for when it gets officially released if you are not.

    Mesa -

    Mesa is another low cost spreadsheet that provides a subset of Excel's features. Worth a look.

    The comments above concerning the word-processing components of ThinkFree and OpenOffice, apply equally to their spreadsheet elements. see.......

    Managing the information overload - Database Software

    Appleworks (see above) provides a basic non-relational database facility that is useful for dealing with simple information. It is easy to use and may be all that you need for simple tasks. Another option, if your needs are simple, is iData2 -

    Filemaker Pro
    For more serious requirements though, you need a database with relational capabilities. The long-standing favourite for this in the Mac world is Filemaker Pro - The program is available for both Macs and PC's, although the company itself is a wholly owned subsidiary of Apple. A demo version is currently shipped with new powerbooks. It manages to fulfil the needs of both database developers and endusers like me.

    Its not cheap, but I couldn't live without Filemaker. I use it for integrating a wide range of file material - maps, documents, photographs, bibliographic data and field audio recordings. I use it for accounting. I use it for contact management and a host of other things too. Highly recommended.

    4th Dimension

    Geared a little more towards database developers than end users, but still a powerful tool with a long history in the Apple world as well as on PC's, 4th Dimension is an alternative for database work on the Mac. Not as "user friendly" as FilemakerPro, but those who work with it say they wouldn't use anything else! Worth looking at.


    Another option that has received some very positive reviews is Panorama from Panorama is very, very fast and quite user friendly. Earlier versions suffered a bit from clunky interfaces and very limited web publishing and multiuser capabilities though. I haven't seen the latest version. For many people it is the database software of choice.

    Other options

    Other database solutions for the Mac come from people like Frontbase and Omnis . Helix, another moderately popular option on Macs in the past, is still not available in OSX compatible form at present.

    (end of rough draft)
  • Rod Hagen Level 7 Level 7 (31,985 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 22, 2004 3:33 PM (in response to Ewen)
    I see that you include some native OSX applications, perhaps we should avoid this type of thing, as we aren't trying to write an OSX guide.


    I must confess I was actually trying to focus on current software capable of running under Panther, for use by the owner of an OSX only PB (or other Mac). A typical "new Mac owner" or perhaps a potential "switcher". Once you introduce older OS9 capable machines into the mix it becomes more complex, because you have to pay much greater attention to things like the size of the software's RAM and HD footprint, features that might be available when used under one OS and not another etc etc.

    I've also been compiling a listing of the software mentioned in the thread that started all this - with a view to creating a "people's choice" listing.


  • Rod Hagen Level 7 Level 7 (31,985 points)
    Currently Being Moderated
    Nov 22, 2004 4:25 PM (in response to Ewen)
    I was just referring to Text Edit. For me it is a little too basic to be considered a Word processor. I think some buy the Powerbook thinking it comes with Appleworks, as is the case for the iBook, and are a little disappointed. Trying to make them use Text edit on a large document might make them burst into tears of frustration.

    TextEdit these days is actually quite a remarkable little program. It is far more powerful, for example, than the once much loved "MacWrite" that helped to launch the Macintosh in the mid 1980's, and just as easy to use. I mentioned it largely because I suspect that many people don't even know that its there and that even many of the "old timers" like me imagine that its simply the latest version of the old "simpletext" or "teachtext" type of programs.

    It won't do tables of course, which is a major limitation for many users, and I didn't want to suggest that it was a real option for someone with serious word processing needs, but for someone who simply wants to write a letter or a recipe or a school essay (or even write their memoirs!) it is actually more than adequate. If you haven't used it recently take a look at version 1.3. You might be suprised. Hey! It even allows for hyphenation, font kerning and ligatures!

    I agree that this needs to be made clearer though, and that we should probably specifically add a comment about the absence of Appleworks from the "professional" Macs.


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