Nothing beats finding just the right application to fill a common need, fix a problem or boost your productivity. Give yourself an early Christmas present with 15 of the most popular Mac downloads of 2009.
Like last year's most popular Mac downloads, this list is based on the popularity of apps we've covered in 2009, regardless of the original release date of the app. Many were brand new this year, while others were solid updates to popular software. If you took a look at yesterday's Most Popular Free Windows Downloads of 2009, a few of the cross-platform favourites may look familiar. (I've rounded up the most popular cross-platform downloads at the bottom of the post.)
Snow Leopard: The Feisty Kitty That Could
The release of Snow Leopard was nearly as big a deal for Mac users this year as Windows 7 for Windows folks, and while it was never strictly a download (unless you grabbed it from less reputable means), it's worth highlighting. Over the course of the year, we helped out by prepping your Mac for Snow Leopard, highlighted its biggest improvements and held your hand while upgrading. If you didn't want to pony up for Apple hardware, we even showed you how to install Snow Leopard on your Hackintosh PC, no hacking required — and luckily for the frugal among us, the $39 upgrade disc worked whether or not you were upgrading from Leopard.
2009 Was Still a Year of the Jailbreak
The iPhone hardware may be getting better and better, but Apple still hasn't gotten any better at opening up the app store to, oh, competition. As long as that's the case, jailbreaking apps like PwnageTool and QuickPwn will still be extremely popular. Read more >>
The release of Snow Leopard didn't do all that much to change Leopard's spots, but Magnifique certainly does. This free skinning app is full of user-generated Leopard-customising goodies.
People fed up with iTunes' restrictive stance on non-Apple devices (see Apple and Palm's dance, for example) were very interested in doubleTwist, a universal media manager that automatically converts files to the appropriate formats and seamlessly syncs them to your PSP, Android device, BlackBerry and more.
A lot of people were disappointed to learn about Quicksilver's grim future a while back, but many of you were heartened to learn that Quicksilver's creator had released a similar tool working with Google called Quick Search Box. Then again, it appears Quicksilver's not entirely dead just yet (see below).
For all the access to track metadata contained in the iTunes store, iTunes is a slouch at cleaning and tagging mislabelled or poorly labelled tunes. Pollux was an absolutely killer iTunes supplement that grabbed song, artist, album, and other metadata names, along with lyrics and album art, quickly and accurately. The problem? Shortly after we highlighted it, Pollux was shut down because the APIs it accessed stopped letting it access them for free. We liked Pollux better, but if you're looking for something similar, check out TuneUp (free and pay versions available).
After years of Windows-only support, Google released the first Mac version of Picasa at the beginning of the year, and it didn't take long before the majority of our Mac readers preferred it to iPhoto. You go, Google.
Just when we thought Quicksilver was no more, it turns out that several contributors are continuing occasional development over at social coding web site GitHub. Their latest release brought on some solid performance improvements, and it worked well (for us at least) with Snow Leopard.
Free Safari plug-in Glims adds a handful of new features to Safari, giving it the kind of features one might expect from a more, ahem, customisable browser — for those of you who still prefer Safari to its more feature-rich counterparts.
Popular Cross-Platform Apps:
Google Chrome — Dev Releases and Beta At Last
Google Chrome is just over a year old, but it's actually a much younger for Mac users. We got our first glimpse at Chrome on OS X back in April, and it wasn't until last week that Google released the first beta for Macs. Be sure to check out our power user's guide to Google Chrome if you're just getting started.
Google very recently announced a free DNS service they boasted as fast, but rather than take their word for it, we pointed you toward namebench (and several readers also pointed toward the excellent DNS Name Server Benchmark). It tests various popular DNS servers to find what's really going to be the fastest choice for your system.
We're sort of junkies for maps and 3D, so when Google Earth 5 was released, we were pleased as punch. The update featured historical imagery, ocean map, and improved world touring capabilities. Maybe we just like saving ourselves some dough in these tough economic times with a little Google Earth sightseeing.
And Then There Was Firefox
The notorious Firefox memory slow-downs may have some of us down on the reliable old 'fox, but that doesn't mean we aren't all still eager to grab the latest and greatest releases and stick with it as our default browser — whether it's the big Firefox 3.5 release or the Firefox 3.6 beta (1, 2, 3 or 4). We're looking forward to more great Firefox'ing in 2010.
Sure it was two years since Thunderbird's 2.0 release, but at least they didn't disappoint. Thunderbird 3.0 comes with solid new search and filtering tools, better looks and a great new tabbed interface.
Free, open-source DVD ripping and encoding tool HandBrake released a pretty saucy update last month with a ton of fixes and improvements. It's no coincidence that it's always been our favourite video encoder, and this year's big-ish (but still not 1.0) update should only help keep it there — even though several users aren't thrilled that the HandBrake devs have dropped AVI/XviD.
Got a favourite Mac download from 2009 that you'd add to your list of favourites? Let's hear about it in the comments. If you're craving still more popular Mac downloads, you can also take a look back at the most popular free Mac downloads of 2008.