If the life of a power user teaches you anything, it’s that some of the best apps and tools don’t always stand the test of time. Let’s pour one out for some of those dearly departed, and look at what you can use instead.
Title image remixed from Igor Kovalchuk . In honour of QuickTime plugin Perian’s announcement that it is halting development (Perian let you play unsupported file types in QuickTime), we’re taking a look back at our favourite apps and services that have been abandoned over the years — as well as the apps you can use to replace them.
To the Best and Brightest: You Died Too Young
Perian (Mac): 2006-2012
The history: It’s only fitting that Perian be the first one on the list, as it’s the app that inspired our nostalgia today. Perian was a preference pane that added loads of codecs and file type support to QuickTime, making you able to watch nearly any video without having to resort to something like VLC. Since it used QuickTime, it also allowed you to import all those videos into iTunes for better organisation.
What’s taken its place: Perian wasn’t without its problems, but we will be sad to see it go. It should still work for a while, but if you’re ready to pack up and move on, we still recommend downloading a separate video player like VLC for your video playing needs. You can also check out MPlayerX and Movist, if VLC isn’t your thing. And, if you want those videos in iTunes, you can always just use Handbrake to convert them to an iTunes or iOS-friendly format.
Boxee (Cross-Platform): 2008-2011
What’s taken its place: Luckily, XBMC — the software that inspired Boxee in the first place, and our favourite media centre software — had just gotten better and better recently, including heaps of plugins and support for streaming web video. If you’re a Boxee user looking to put the past behind you, we can’t recommend XBMC enough. Check out our complete guide to XBMC to see everything it can do. If you don’t love XBMC, or you just want something that’s a bit simpler to set up, we’re huge fans of Plex, too. It’s not only easy, but it can stream your media just about anywhere, too.
Drop.io (Web): 2007-2010
What’s taken its place: There isn’t anything quite like Drop.io, but services like Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft Skydrive have most of the features we liked about Drop.io. The only difference is that they require an account and always-on app to really reach their full potential. If you’re looking for something web-based that’ll get your file uploaded right away, we’re big fans of Ge.tt. Be sure to also check out these five great alternatives to the now-defunct Megaupload, too, while you’re at it.
Mozilla Prism (Windows): 2007-2010
The history: Mozilla’s Prism was a program that let you create site-specific browsers, perfect for running your favourite webapps as if they were desktop apps. Mozilla has since junked the project and folded it into a developer tool called Chromeless that really doesn’t do anything that Prism did. I’m still depressed about it.
What’s taken its place: There’s nothing that can truly replace Prism, but both Chrome and Internet Explorer have some site-specific browser features built-in that will suffice for most users. In Chrome, just head to your site and to to the Wrench > Tools > Create Application Shortcut. In IE, just drag the URL from the navigation bar down to the taskbar. Certain sites, like Slacker Radio or Facebook, will even have some cool integration features when you do this with IE.
DVD Shrink (Windows): 2003-2004
The history: Remember the days when you used to rip DVDs yourself? DVD Shrink was the go-to app of its day, being completely free and open source, and life was good. Sadly, it stopped development after a DCMA takedown notice, and while you can still grab it around the net, it won’t work on most newer DVDs.
What’s taken its place: DVDFab and AnyDVD are the best DVD rippers on the market right now, but they both cost money. MakeMKV is a good free choice if you just want to rip a movie to a video file, and it can also rip Blu-Ray discs as well. You can also use Handbrake with a bit of extra setup, too, and customise the final video’s quality and size yourself.
Delicious (Web): 2003-2011
The history: Delicious is a web-based social bookmarking app that is technically still around, but it isn’t really the same site it used to be. Many users have jumped ship entirely to other similar services instead.
What’s taken its place: We rounded up our favourite Delicious alternatives back when it was headed for death, and Pinboard is still our top choice. It’s also worth mentioning, though, that new social network Pinterest is kind of a modern evolution on Delicious’ original site, so check that out for something new and cool.
VisualHub (Mac): 2006-2011
The history: VisualHub was a fantastic, super easy-to-use video converter for OS X, but it closed its doors to new features long ago. It’s been updated to work with Lion, but a lot of features are still broken, and will stay that way forever.
What’s taken its place: It doesn’t replace 100% of what made VisualHub great, but Adapter is our new favourite video converter for the Mac (and it can do audio and images, too!). It’s completely free and super easy to use, without skimping on advanced features. Of course, you can also use the ever-popular Handbrake, too.
Seashore (Mac): 2003-2010
The history: Seashore is a free, open-source image editor for OS X perfect for those that didn’t want to pay for Photoshop. It was based off GIMP, but native to OS X. Sadly, it hasn’t seen an update in a while, despite quite a few bugs still permeating the app, so most of us have headed for sunnier shores.
What’s taken its place: You can still use the GIMP on OS X, and while it isn’t native, it’ll get the job done nicely. However, our favourite Photoshop alternative is definitely Pixelmator. It’ll run you about $30, but it’s got tons of great features and feels much better on OS X than the GIMP. If you’ve got the cash, we highly recommend it.
VLC (iOS): 2010-2011
The history: You all know about VLC on the desktop, but it even brought its amazing video-playing powers to iOS for a hot second before being pulled from the App Store for violating the GPL — something we still think is pretty stupid.
What’s taken its place: Thankfully, there are a few other great video players for iOS. GoodPlayer is our favorite and the built-in player isn’t all that bad either. CineXPlayer can play 3D movies, while Air Video and StreamToMe can stream videos from your home machine. They’re all worthy alternatives.
Google Notebook (Web): 2006-2008
The history: Google Notebook was yet another web-clipping, note-taking tool that was handy for getting things done, but was discontinued with many of Google’s other services in 2011.
What’s taken its place: The “web notebook” thing really caught on, and there are lots of other Google Notebook-like services out there today. Evernote is probably the closest, but tools like Springpad and even Simplenote can fill that void depending on your particular workflow. Google also recently added a new Research tool to Docs, which brings some of Notebook’s cool features back to Google Docs.
TweetDeck (Cross-Platform): 2008-2011
The history: Despite being an AIR app, TweetDeck was our favourite Twitter client for a long time. It had plenty of features, was available on nearly every platform, and even had a few customisable tweaks that made it perfect for nearly everyone. It was bought by Twitter and replaced with a new TweetDeck client that has yet to match the old AIR app in features.
What’s taken its place: You can still grab the old AIR app from sites like Oldapps.com, and it still works fine. The new client isn’t bad, but until it has all the advanced features of the AIR client, the old version will stay our unofficial favourite until it breaks. You can also check out our new official favourite client for Windows, MetroTwit, or our favourite for Mac, Twitter.
Google Desktop (Windows): 2008-2011
The history: Google Desktop was a welcome addition to Windows that let you launch apps quickly, search your files and the contents within, and a whole lot more. Those of us that updated to Windows Vista and 7 saw lots of this functionality in the new Start menu, as well as apps like Launchy (which, coincidentally, also seems to be abandoned-but-still-works).
What’s taken its place: If you’ve updated to Windows 7, the Start menu search bar is a pretty awesome replacement for Google Desktop, especially after a few tweaks. Launchy is still our favourite app launcher for Windows despite its abandonment, but there are a lot of other great ones out there, like Executor, Keybreeze and SlickRun that we recommend checking out.
Google Wave (Web): 2009-2012
The history: Google Wave was one of the most talked-about services when it came out, providing a way to converse and collaborate in real-time using a powerful set of tools. Despite the hype, it never really caught on, and Google ditched the project — but not without moving some of its features to other services.
What’s taken its place: Google Docs updated its collaboration features with a more real-time, wave-like set of features, making it a lot like Wave but a bit more focused and useful — and it continues to improve on them. Google+ Hangouts also has a few cool collaboration tools that are wired into video chat, which is pretty cool. Be sure to check out our top 10 web collaboration tools for even more group services, too.
Honourable Mention: Apps That Almost Went Belly Up, But Didn’t
Quicksilver is pretty easily the best app launcher for OS X, but there was a point where the original developer gave up work on it and moved onto greater things. However, it was picked up by another developer and continues to update today, even more often than it used to. Needless to say we would have been pretty sad if Quicksilver disappeared — it’s not only our favourite app launcher, but the best way to remap hotkeys on OS X.
This one scared me to my very core: Xmarks, the fantastic cross-platform, cross-browser bookmark/open tab syncing tool, almost had to stop development when the developers couldn’t keep the tool financially viable. By some miracle of the heavens, they were bought by another one of our favoriite tools, LastPass, and are still chugging away today syncing our bookmarks across devices.
Camera+ is, by a good margin, the best camera app on the iPhone. It has a stack of features, it’s fast, and it’s pretty darn easy to use, too. Thanks to an innovative feature that let you use the volume button as a shutter, though, Camera+ was pulled from the App Store, saddening iPhone photographers everywhere. After copying the very feature they pulled it for, though, Apple let Camera+ back into the App Store a few months later, where it happily resides today.
These are definitely not the only cool services that have disappeared over the years, but they’re definitely the ones we miss the most. Got any others we didn’t mention? Feel free to continue the trip down memory lane in the comments.