Macs are their own little universe of hardware, design, and software. It's an incomplete universe, like any other, but a nerd can dream. These are 10 applications we wish made the jump from Windows to Mac to make it a better place.
Note: In almost all of these cases, we're not saying that "This exact application should be ported to Mac OS X". In some cases, that would be ludicrous. What we are suggesting is that there's a need for a particular kind of application, and that this application, on Windows, fills exactly that need. For a counterpoint, check out these 10 Mac apps that should be on Windows.
10. Office Viewers
Microsoft does, of course, have an Office product for Macs, but it's far from a priority for the firm. Even with a new 2011 version on the way, many Mac users choose not to shell out for a full-fledged Office pack, and others still don't need the iWork suite. Then along comes a finely formatted document from an Office user, and neither the Mac's built-in TextEdit nor any other freeware does quite the same job of opening it as it was meant to be seen. (You could go with OpenOffice.org, if you don't mind waiting a few minutes to view the document.) Go ahead and browbeat the sender for forcing their proprietary standards on you. In the meantime, don't you wish you had a simple view/print tool that offered great compatibility with Office docs? Microsoft somewhat makes amends with its free Office Web Apps' compatibility powers, but it would be nice if they offered a desktop view-only tool.
Macs usually do a better job of copying files between locations, and don't fail or die as regularly, so recommending TeraCopy isn't about stability. It's about adding advanced features to file transfers for the non-Terminal-expert user, so that transfers can be paused and resumed safely, run "Test" differential comparisons on two folders, and otherwise geek out about file management.
Mac has its Spaces system for managing multiple desktops, and the applications that should stick to each space. Windows has freeware to offer multiple desktops, too, and each file system and explorer has its pros and cons. One area in which Windows wins is Fences, a free app from the Stardock team that keeps your files, icons and other desktop material locked into user-defined areas. They're like force fields for your messy desktop, and, truth be told, Mac users are just like Windows users in some regards—it's easy to let things fall to the Desktop, and it's nice when the Desktop can take care of itself. Fences on Mac would be a great thing.
Macs have a decent on-screen display creator, GeekTool, but it doesn't have the same kind of enthusiastic community, easy-to-use beginner tool, or quite the same adjustment powers of Rainmeter. It's a key component of our featured desktops, and the variety of desktop setups shows its power. Even if Rainmeter weren't around, the native themes of Windows 7 offer a good deal more flexibility than the Mac offers. It seems fair to ask for users to have control of colours and shading, while leaving control of the window dynamics to the designers.
6. A Different Kind Of CCleaner
Experienced and clever Mac users know where everything goes—what the Library folder is for, where the preferences are stored, and what happens when you delete the wrong thing from a user's Home folder. New Mac users and switchers don't know, and occasionally have to hope they can phrase their questions correctly to Google to find the answer. CCleaner does a specific job on Windows systems, cleaning out caches, temporary files, junk cookies and more deeply hidden cruft. It would be pretty great if someone wrote a tool for Macs that cleaned house, yes, but also suggested other optimisations that the user could then approve or ignore.
We're being a bit particular here, we know, but hopefully in every Mac user's interest. When we made the Lifehacker Pack 2010 for Windows, the all-in-one installer Ninite made it easy to point to a single page where new computer owners, re-installers, or those looking to spruce up their computer could grab all or some of our recommendations, and then install them while walking away to grab a cold beverage. For the Lifehacker Pack for Mac, there's really no such tool around. Macs do, of course, install applications differently, with the user usually being required to drop the entire application package into a folder that they sometimes need administrative access to. That makes sense for what Apple's trying to do—make computers easy. They (or clever outside developers) could make it just as easy for power users to quickly install the stuff they need, though, with a Ninite-like tool.
As with photo editing, it would be great to have a free text editor that was as versatile as Notepad++. Bean is a pretty good Word-lite processor, but it's not quite what we're looking for, and TextEdit is just a smidge too minimalist for the job. Notepad++, on the other hand, handles all the functions of a full-fledged word processor on Windows, but is also flexible, extendable, and very friendly to coders of HTML, PHP, Ruby, Python or any other language. Actually, no matter what you're writing with or about, Notepad++ is up for the job, or there's probably a plug-in to make it so. Most important to what we're rooting for, Notepad++ is free, and open-source—that would be a lovely thing to see on a Mac.
3. Microsoft Security Essentials
It's still true, generally, that given the overall popularity of Windows, and the Mac's Unix-type core and design, virus makers are less inclined to target the OS, and applications less able to let malware in. That doesn't mean that, as Macs grow in popular acceptance, aided in part by iPhones, they couldn't possibly be the target of exploits (even Apple takes precautions), or just lesser crapware. So there's still a place for a light, agile, and quiet malware protector—in the Windows world, this is Microsoft Security Essentials.
AutoHotKey is a scripting language that can moulded to basically do anything, anything inside Windows. A good number of Lifeahcker's own coding projects, including Texter and Belvedere, are built on it, and the How-To Geek's own site is a veritable treasure trove of AHK-based fixes for Windows annoyances and shortcomings. Macs have AppleScript. It is not close to the same thing, or as far-reaching in its powers. It might be the longest shot of all our wishes, because Apple may never allow a third-party app such deep access to the system functions. But it would be pretty nice.
Paint.NET isn't a full-fledged Photoshop or attempted equivalent, like the GIMP. It's more than an image viewer or very light editor, like Paint. It's just about what the non-expert needs to crop, size, balance and otherwise tweak their photos and graphics. As Gina discovered, there isn't a straight-up solution to finding the middle ground on a Mac, or at least a free middle path solution. So while it used to be a fair assumption that every Mac owner had Photoshop—heck, at one point, it seemed like the only reason one would have a Mac—it would be nice to grab a good enough solution. Pinta seems to be aiming for that exact target, though, so give it your support.
We've heard rumours that the strengths and weaknesses of Windows and Mac software is a hotly contested thing. This is just our own list, drawn from editors' experiences on Windows and Mac machines. What's the killer Windows app or feature we're missing, that desperately needs developed for Mac? Share your suggestions in the comments.