When the Mac App Store launched in January, we debated whether it sucked or not based on the store’s conveniences and annoyances. We avoided judging it on available apps, since the store had just been launched. Now that the App Store has had time to mature, we’re taking another look at what the Mac App Store offers that you can’t get anywhere else. Here are our favourite apps exclusive to the Mac App Store.
A few caveats before we get started: We focused on apps that were either free, cheap or at least under $US10, so there may be apps in the store that are more expensive and also really great but aren’t on this list. As usual we’re focusing on Lifehacker-y apps, so there are also no games (there are some phenomenal games available on the Mac App Store). While the title says these are the best apps exclusive to the Mac App Store, keep in mind that we’re filtering apps through the lens of what we cover here at Lifehacker.
Best Freebies Exclusive to the Mac App Store
StreamToMe is an app that was originally designed to live stream (and convert) media on your Mac or Windows PC to your iDevice. (StreamToMe is very similar to previously mentioned Air Video, but it also has a desktop app for the App Store.) It works very well, handles both video and audio, and now has a Mac version that costs a grand sum of zero dollars. The Mac version is almost identical to the iPad version and lets you stream media just the same. If you don’t have an iDevice or just prefer remotely enjoying your media on your Mac, StreamToMe is a fantastic — and completely free — way to accomplish that. (It’s my personal favourite on this list.)
Although you can grab the source code for MPlayerX elsewhere, the latest version seems to be an exclusive release for the Mac App Store. MPlayerX is a really solid video player that’s a serious rival for VLC. In a lot of ways the most recent version is like Quicktime Player, only it plays virtually any format and tends to work better (even if you have Perian installed). If you’re looking for a better way to play your media, it’s worth giving MPlayerX a try.
The official Twitter client for Mac was one of the first great apps to find its way on to the Mac App Store. Although there are definitely some other great Twitter clients for Mac with varying degrees of functionality, Twitter is both free and remarkably solid. It’s simple enough that it should please the minimalists, but it also supports enough features to do whatever you might need to do.
SketchBook Express is the free counterpart to SketchBook Pro, which holds a hefty price tag of $US60. That $US60 buys you many more features that you don’t get with SketchBook Express, but if you’re looking for a simple painting app and don’t want to pay for it this is your very best option. We also liked Paintr, but that will run you $US8 and doesn’t come with too many advantages. That said, it is a fully-featured app and SketchBook is more of a gateway drug to the pro version, but for most people it should satisfy their basic digital painting needs.
Smartr Lite is — you guessed it! — the light version of Smartr, a card-based study app. You use it to create stacks of cards to study, much like you would with physical flash cards, but it also tracks your performance so it can suggests the cards you need to study most. This free version lets you create up to 100 cards, but if you want more you can upgrade to the full version for only $4.
Telephone is a very simple app that lets you make voice over IP (VOIP) calls directly from your Mac. You type in a phone number, it calls it, and you have a conversation — it doesn’t get much more straightforward than that. You do, however, need to have a SIP provider to actually make calls. If you do, Telephone is a very handy little tool.
SoundCloud is the desktop app for the SoundCloud website, which can help you discover and share free music. While the desktop app contains more features, it’s best at managing the music you’ve already discovered and playing it back. It also gives you quick and easy access to anything you’ve already uploaded to SoundCloud. It’s oddly not that great at sharing your own music — at least when you compare to how easy it is on the SoundCloud website — but it still can handle that and a bunch of other things, like searching the entire SoundCloud collection. If you want to discover new music or play the music on SoundCloud you’ve already found, it’s a great app to have.
DupeZap does what you might expect — it removes duplicate files from your hard drive. If you have two copies of the same file residing in different locations, DupeZap will find them both and move one of them to the trash. It’s efficient, it does its one task well, and it’s free to download and use.
Best Cheapies Exclusive to the Mac App Store
If you’ve ever stopped listening to music for any reason but still left your headphones on, you need Take Five. Rather than pausing your music indefinitely, Take Five pauses it for a specific amount of time (five minutes being the default the name suggests). It allows you to take a break from your music to do what you need to do, but turns that music back on should you forget to do it yourself.
Skitch is our favourite screen capture tool for the Mac. Skitch isn’t exclusive to the Mac App Store exactly, but the version of Skitch on the Mac App Store cannot be purchased anywhere else. You can grab a free version on Skitch.com, and also purchase their subscription service to add pro features for $US20 per year. The $13 version of Skitch that you’ll find on the Mac App Store is kind of a hybrid of both. It comes with the pro features you’ll find in-app, but only the basic features you get with a Skitch.com free account. Basically, if you only want to unlock Skitch’s in-app superpowers and don’t need any fancy online stuff, this is the way to go.
Track Master is a very interesting piece of software that turns your multitouch trackpad into a MIDI controller. You can use it with pretty much any music creation software, like GarageBand, to play various instruments and adjust MIDI settings as you play. It’s a very clever app you can pick up for $US5 and start making music without the aid of any traditional MIDI instruments.
Snippets is a neat little text expansion app. It’s not our favourite, but it’s definitely the cheapest option you’ve got and nonetheless pretty great. If you just need basic text expansion features and prefer simple apps, it’s a really good deal at $6. Despite initially preferring another Mac text expansion app, I’ve really taken to Snippets and now use it exclusively.
CalendarBar puts your calendars in your menubar. It can pull from Google Calendar, iCal and Facebook. It’s very simple, respects your colour-coding, and can even provide you with Growl reminders so you don’t miss any important events.
What About Apps for the Rich and Famous?
While there are some excellent and expensive apps on the Mac App Store, we found that pretty much everything great wasn’t exclusive. When it comes to pricey apps, you can pretty much find them anywhere. What’s worth noting, however, is that you can get a lot of pricey apps for less money on the Mac App Store than you can elsewhere. This mainly includes Apple apps like individual iWork apps and pro apps like Aperture, but there are others here and there. If you’re looking at buying an expensive app, definitely be sure to check the Mac App Store first as you may be able to save a little money. Just keep in mind that, very often, apps will take longer to update through the App Store than if you had the “normal” version of the app.
Do you know of any great Mac App Store exclusives you think should’ve been included on this list? Share ’em in the comments!