Moving to Mac Guide: Part 4 – Alternatives to Windows apps

Apple logoIf you’re moving to Mac, don’t be surprised to find that not all of your Windows programs have a direct equivalent. In many cases, such as with MSN Messenger, Microsoft Office, Firefox etc, there’s a Mac version. Sometimes, though, that’s not the case and you’ll need an alternative. This part of the Moving to Mac Guide deals with suggestions for the applications users miss most when switching to Mac and a lowdown of the most commonly used or default applications on Mac for different tasks.

This part of the Guide is split into two parts. This first part deals with internet browsers, email clients, music players, video players, file archivers and CD/DVD burners.

Internet Browsers

SafariThe major browsers are almost all multi-platform, from Chrome to Firefox and Opera. But in the same way as Windows 7 tries to encourage you to use Internet Explorer 8 to surf the web, OS X offers you Safari. Apple’s official browser is very slick, generally consumes less RAM than the competition and also supports extensions plus a few handy features. One of the most interesting is Safari Reader, an alternative way to display web pages that offers you a clean, clear layout for a more relaxing online reading experience.

For a more detailed comparison with other browsers, read our reviews.

Email Clients

Apple MailThe default mail client for Mac users is Apple Mail. If you’re coming from Outlook, you’ll find an interface that’s better organized, less complex and much simpler. On the downside, it also has fewer professional features. In comparison with Windows Mail and Outlook Express, Apple Mail is better on all fronts, including stability and performance. The interface for Mail on iPad is also very slick and the program has a powerful search engine. However, if you simply can’t give up Outlook, Office 2011 for Mac has made it available for Macs for the first time since the Mac OS 9 era.

Music Players

iTunesNowadays iTunes is a must on any platform: it’s well-polished, full of features and easy to use. The Mac version works much better than on Windows, where it’s slow to open, installs a lot of components and has an installation process that’s really annoying. iTunes for Mac also allows you also to listen to CDs, convert them to MP3 or AAC and import them onto your Mac.

If you want to hear an audio file on the fly on your computer, you may also use QuickTime. And if you simply can’t tear yourself away from Winamp, you can always download the Mac version, which allows you to import your iTunes library.

Video Players

QuickTimeWindows Media Player (at least up to version 12) has always been a bone of contention for Windows users: it reads few formats, consumes lots of resources, and is embarrassingly slow. This is why most user user choose something else, usually VLC media player. Users also have QuickTime, which does its job quite well. Among other things, it allows you to record audio and video (with built-in iSight that’s mounted on most Macs or with an external video device) and to cut files and convert them to other formats. Also, it reads DivX files and, if you add Perian to your tools, your Mac will be ready to read virtually any format.

Alternatively, there’s RealPlayer, but keep in mind that the Windows version is more complete than the Mac one. Or you can install VLC media player for Mac – it reads almost everything. If you’re looking for a player specifically made for DivX, DivX for Mac is the obvious choice.


File Archivers

StuffItIn addition to ZIP and RAR, the two most popular file compression formats used in the Windows world, Mac users often have to deal with SIS and SISX extensions. OS X comes by default with StuffIt Expander, which can open ZIP files, RAR, SIS, SISX and many other compressed archives. To compress files, however, you need StuffIt Deluxe or StuffIt Standard.  Both of these compress, decompress, encrypt and manage files with ease and efficiency.

There are also many alternatives to these big names. Some examples include The Unarchiver (an excellent multi-decompressor), BetterZip (which compresses TAR and ZIP archives) and RAR (which stores and decompresses RAR format). One last tip: if you want to decompress large RAR files created with a Windows PC and divided into many archives, one of the best choices is MacPAR DeLuxe.

CD/DVD Burning

Roxio Toast TitaniumYou can finally say goodbye to Nero. There are several Mac alternatives to the classic Nero for Windows. The pick of the bunch is Toast Titanium, which is the most complete package. But there’s also SimplyBurns and Burn. Toast is an excellent burning suite, easy to use and very attractive. There’s almost nothing that it doesn’t do, including letting you watch videos and listen to music. SimplyBurns is also free, and guides you step-by-step through the whole process of burning, copying discs and creating disc images. Burn is even less complicated and, despite the simplicity, it also allows you to burn ISO images. Thanks to preset recording, it automatically takes care of the encoding too.

You can find an earlier post about alternatives to Nero on Mac here.

In the second part of this post, we’ll look at PDF viewers, photo management, maintenance, photo editing and instant messengers on Mac.

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