5 Essential free apps for your new Mac

Yeah, yeah, you got a new Mac for Christmas. Lucky you. I suppose you want to install some software on it now too?

There are few better feelings in computerland than setting up a new Mac. And while Macs come loaded with plenty of really great software (iLife, for example, is a multimedia suite that would cost hundreds of dollars to replicate properly on a PC), there are some pretty essential free apps I can recommend:

Google Chrome – Apple purists will argue that Safari is just as good (or better). I disagree. Chrome beats Safari in browser speed tests and has a slicker, more modern user interface. Google Chrome is also a more stable and resource-friendly piece of software, both on Mac and PC. Finally, Chrome is more extensible. And while it’s not up there with Firefox yet, this does make a difference.

VLC Media Player – An uncontroversial choice, this. VLC is an absolute must have for anyone intending to play or work with video files on their Mac. It can play pretty much any video file you throw at it, and can even fix dodgy AVI indexes, meaning that it’ll repair files that are too broken to work elsewhere. Added to that, its advanced transcoding and playback controls make it a more customizable player than QuickTime.

TweetDeck – I resisted installing TweetDeck on my latest Mac (a living room MacMini) for some months. My rationale was that I didn’t want to spend too much time using Twitter on my TV. Then I realized that I was spending loads of time tweeting either from the Twitter website or from my cellphone. So I gave in and installed TweetDeck. It’s not the lightest piece of software out there but you can avoid all the extraneous stuff. Anyway, TweetDeck’s the best Twitter client on the market.

Transmission – I’m not a big fan of torrents. It might be something to do with my internet provider but I’ve noticed far more problems with my home connection when torrents are downloading. But if I do need to download a torrent, the only app I’d use to get it would be Transmission. A native Mac app, it’s extremely light, quick and easy to use. A must-have for any torrent freaks out there.

FaceTime – In the light of Skype’s recent disastrous outage, it’s always a good idea to have a backup chat app. Apple’s new FaceTime beta is only available for Macs and iPhones so you can’t currently use it to chat to friends who only have PCs. That said, it’s a powerful and attractively designed video chat app which any Mac owner should have installed.

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