When you're brainstorming fun gifts for the Christmas, software probably isn't the first idea that pops into your head. But software can make a great gift when it's the right app for the right person. Here are some of our favourite paid apps for the Mac that will bring a little seasonal cheer — and productivity, too.
Picture by dwstucke
Apps Under $30
Reeder is a fantastic news reader application, much like its iOS counterpart. It syncs all your feed with Google Reader, which allows access from not only any other copy of Reeder but from the Google Reader webapp or any other news reader that supports the service. It also provides one of the more beautiful, elegant, and user-friendly interfaces you'll find on any software — not just on a news reader. Reeder makes viewing full articles on their original web pages or in a more readable format very simple, and sharing is easy too. You can save stuff for later by sending it to Instapaper or Read It Later. Reeder also full integrates with Mac OS X Lion. While we do love the free NetNewsWire, Reeder is certainly worth theprice tag and will make a nice and inexpensive gift for your favourite blog addict.
Buy Reeder ($10.49)
We love text expansion because it can save your hours of typing time every day. We compared all the Mac text expansion apps and found our favourite was TypeIt4Me. While pretty much every option is good, TypeIt4Me is very reasonably priced and can do a lot more than just expand little text snippets to full phrases. It has excellent support for variables (like the date and/or time), can autocorrect spelling and typos, can emulate key presses so your snippets can jump from one text field to another for easy form completion, and plenty more. All behaviours can be system-wide or application-specific, too. It's a great gift for slow and frequent typers alike.
Buy TypeIt4Me ($20.99)
Sparrow (or Postbox)
Sparrow is a phenomenal IMAP client that can adjust from being incredibly minimal to providing a power user-friendly interface. It's especially great for Gmail users, as it supports labels and plenty of other Gmail-specific features. It also has neat features like automatically grabbing Facebook photos for the people who send you email and removing the need to attach files by automatically uploading them to the cloud.
Alternatively you've got Postbox. It costs three times as much but is a favourite among power users who prefer a desktop email client thanks to a pretty amazing feature set. For example, if you have a Dropbox account and you drag any files from your Dropbox into an email message, Postbox will create public links to share those files rather than send them as an attachment. It also has an excellent conversation view, keeps track of photos you send and receive better than any email client anywhere, cleans up subject lines littered with too many REs and FWDs, plus a ton of other really smart features. If you know a Mac user who could stand to get a bit more organised with their email, Postbox is a great app for them.
Hazel's a great software title for people who need to organize their desktop but aren't necessarily proactive about it. Hazel is an app that listens for specific conditions and then performs actions when those conditions are met. For example, if you want to move certain files off your desktop when they've been sitting there for too long, Hazel can migrate them to another folder automatically. It's capable of a whole lot more than that, too.
Buy Hazel ($US21.95)
Apps Between $30 and $60
Let's be honest: nobody wants to pay for a file transfer client — especially one that costs as much as Transmit ($US34). That's why it makes a great gift if you've got a friend or family member who's a web developer (or at least getting started). Even though there are some nice free options, we feel that Transmit is the best. It's fast, super easy to use, integrates with the OS X Finder, supports practically every file transfer method you'd ever need, allows you to edit files in external applications, and much more. If you know someone who could use a great file transfer app but is never going to buy it for themselves, get them Transmit.
Buy Transmit ($US34.00)
Whether you're buying for a seasoned programmer or someone who's learning to code, they're going to need a great programming text editor to eliminate the tedium from their development work. Textmate is our favorite
Buy TextMate (€39)
Apps For Gift-Givers With Money To Burn (Over $US50)
If you know a switcher — meaning a new Mac user who just migrated from Windows — they might feel a little more comfortable with a copy of Parallels Desktop. If you're unfamiliar with the software, it's our favourite virtualization app that's particularly great for people who want to run Windows alongside OS X. Not only can you run Windows fullscreen, in a separate virtual desktop, or in an isolated window, but you can also use something Parallels calls "Coherence Mode" which makes your Windows apps act just like Mac ones. In addition to a variety of great features, Parallels is super fast and very easy to use. It's a great addition to any switcher's Mac software collection, or for anyone who just needs to use Windows from time to time.
Buy Parallels Desktop ($89.95)
Know a budding web developer? Coda is one of the best Mac apps for web development. Along with its elegant and intuitive interface, it has all the tools you need to build a site from start to finish. It helps you manage individual sites and their files, save frequently use code snippets, work on or offline, preview your code, consult reference manuals for several popular web languages, and much more. Whether you know someone who's learning to code and make web sites or already knows how, Coda's a great app to make the job much, much easier.
Buy Coda ($US99)
Screenflow is an amazing app for anyone who needs to create screencasts (meaning movies of the action on their screen). It's also a phenomenal casual video editor. If you miss the old iMovie, which made timeline video editing super-simple, Screenflow is actually a pretty nice replacement. In addition to its numerous screencasting features, it lets you drop pretty much any media into the timeline (or your media bin) and edit it all the same. It comes with simple transitions, text overlays, and much more. While you're not going to get the raw video editing power and special effects you'll find with a proper video editing application, it's great for someone who edits a lot of video for fun but doesn't want to deal with complicated workflows. That and, you know, screencasting.
Buy Screenflow ($109.99)
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
If iPhoto or Picasa isn't cutting it for your gift recipient and you're feeling generous, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom is a wonderful upgrade. It makes managing and editing large photo collections easy, whether for a professional or hobbyist. While it doesn't have the raw power of Photoshop, it can handle many common adjustments quickly without any of the manual hassle you'll find with most image editors. It's a great option for people learning photography as well, since it will provide them with the ability to learn many of the most common and useful post-processing techniques. Alternatively, if you'd like to spend a lot less, Apple's Aperture is also a very good option. Most people tend to lean towards Lightroom as the better option, but $US300 is a lot for any gift. Aperture is a very good alternative for the budget-conscious.
Buy Adobe Photoshop Lightroom ($136.40)