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The best Mac applications I used in 2010

TJ Luoma, @tjluoma

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As the end of 2010 approaches, I started looking back over the Mac applications that I used this year to see which ones stood out. They weren't necessarily released this year (although many were), but they were apps that helped me get stuff done in 2010. I didn't try to come up with some specific number or any other predefined criteria, I just took a good hard look at my Applications folder, menu bar and System Preferences. They are presented in no particular order.

Dropbox reached 1.0 in 2010, and the milestone release included some significant Mac-specific features such as Extended Attribute Sync. This was also the first year that I exceeded the free space Dropbox provides, and paid for a 50 GB account. Thanks to the referral program, educational user referral bonus, and extra free space programs that Dropbox offers, I have 83.4 GB of space in my "50 GB" account.

TUAW folks have written extensively about our love of Dropbox, but if you've somehow missed it: Dropbox is a folder on your computer which syncs (and therefore is "backed up" and version-managed) online, and which you can then sync to all of your other Mac, Windows, or Linux computers. (Want to know more? Check out the official Dropbox tour.) Thanks to the API which the company announced back in May, many iOS developers have added Dropbox syncing as well, making 2010 a pretty significant year for Dropbox and its users. (Cost: 2 GB/free; $9.99/month or $99.00/year for 50 GB; or $19.99/month or $199.00/year for 100 GB.)

Read on for the rest of 2010's best Mac apps...

Under the category of "little things mean a lot," there are a few new utilities that I started using in 2010 and now consider essential. The first is moveAddict, which does what Apple has failed to do in a decade of OS X: make Finder cut/copy/paste work as easily and as well as Windows.

Yeah, I know, it's heretical to suggest Windows does anything better than OS X (many switchers are amused that Apple seems to have just now discovered the benefits of full-screen apps), but moveAddict should be purchased by Apple and integrated into the next version of OS X, along with an apology during the next keynote. OK, that's probably overstating it. Still, this is a tremendously useful utility: Want to move a file from here to there? Cut it here, paste it there. Want to merge two folders? moveAddict can do that. Trying to "cut" a file from a read-only volume (like a mounted DMG)? moveAddict is smart enough to know to use "copy" instead. For $8, this is a no-brainer addition.

Cinch ($7) and SizeUp ($13) from Irradiated Software help you manage windows much more easily. Cinch works with the mouse and allows you to configure different actions for different areas: drag to the top and have the window resize to full-size. Drag it to the left to make it half-sized, left flush, etc. SizeUp offers similar features, but they are tied to keyboard commands, including the ability to really maximize any window. For a limited time, you can get 50% off using code "HolidaySale50" at checkout. If you use multiple monitors, you'll love the ability to move windows from one monitor to another without ever touching the mouse. (See previous SizeUp and Cinch coverage.)

BusyCal calls itself "iCal Pro," and I agree. Adding events is easier, there are more options and it syncs with Google Calendar for those who want to use that instead of MobileMe. It will also sync over your LAN. At $50 (or $80 for five computers), BusyCal is expensive, but if you live in your calendar like I do, it's worth it. (See previous BusyCal coverage.)

nvALT by TUAW's own Brett Terpstra adds to the plain text, Simplenote-syncing wonder of Notational Velocity, and it adds Markdown previewing plus widescreen layout. Considering computer screens are migrating towards widescreen, this is an especially nice addition to have. If you write in Markdown, the preview window will also show you the processed HTML. (This post was written in nvALT.)

Mailplane ($25) turns Gmail into a real Mac app, including keyboard shortcuts, the ability to drag files to new messages and a whole host of other niceties. If you manage multiple Gmail and/or Google Apps mail accounts, Mailplane is a must-have. (See previous Mailplane coverage.)

QuickCursor lets you use BBEdit, Espresso, MacVim, Smultron, SubEthaEdit, TextMate, TextWrangler or WriteRoom in any editable field. Let me repeat that: use your favorite text editor anywhere you can edit text. Filling out a comment online? Use your favorite text editor. Writing a blog post inside WordPress, Tumblr, TypePad, etc.? Use your favorite text editor. Webmail? Use your favorite text editor.

QuickCursor opens using a global keyboard shortcut, then it allows you to edit, save and use all the features of your favorite text editor. When you close the window, it automagically pastes the text back into the window it came from -- and if, for some reason, it fails, it tells you immediately and puts your text on the clipboard. QuickCursor is made by Jesse Grosjean of Hog Bay Software, also responsible for WriteRoom, TaskPaper, PlainText and SimpleText. The app isn't officially available yet, but once I saw the screencast, I pleaded with Jesse to get an early copy. QuickCursor will be available on the Mac App Store, and it should be available when the store opens on January 6. I plan for it to be my first official Mac App Store purchase.

Accordance 9 was a significant release of the well-respected and long-time Mac Bible study software. Under-the-hood changes made Accordance even faster, and the app remains rock solid. See my review for further details. This was a big year for Bible study software on the Mac, with the release of Accordance 9 and Logos 4, but the latter remains very slow on my Macs, which are only a few years old. Accordance is lightning-fast, and it supports systems going back all the way to OS 9. Accordance wins my Bible Study Software of the Year for 2010 award.

Socialite (free with Fusion ads, or $25) is one app for all your social networks, where "all" means Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Flickr, Google Reader or any RSS feed. It has support for multiple accounts, highly customizable Growl alerts, custom refresh settings for each service and Instapaper support. If you use Twitter lists, you'll really appreciate the way Socialite integrates them. Earlier versions of Socialite had been unstable for me, but recent releases have been rock solid. I'm still looking forward to a new Twitterrific for Mac in 2011, but in the meantime, Socialite has been a nice re-discovery, especially if you want to keep track of your Facebook friends without being subjected to the atrocity that is the website.

Last but not least, 2010 was the year that I really started to look for new ways to use Hazel. Whether it was automatically sorting my pictures into folders by date, uploading screenshots or keeping my Dropbox and Downloads folders tidy, some time spent creating Hazel rules will pay off in the long run. (See previous TUAW coverage.)

Shocked to see your favorite app isn't on the list? I separated some apps out into a different category if they were both Mac and iOS apps and also listed my favorite iOS apps of 2010.

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