Gift Guide: Mac Apps

Software may not top your list of potential Christmas presents. It can make a great gift for the right person, though, especially if they're not willing to shell out the cash themselves. Here are some of our favourite paid apps for Mac that boost productivity and spread a little seasonal cheer.

A digital download can be tricky to wrap, so we have created gift tag images which you can use when presenting your recipient with their serial number. Click on any tag for a larger version.

Apps Under $30


Sparrow isn't going to get updates with any frequency now that it's owned by Google, but that doesn't stop it from being the best email client on Mac. Sparrow's original claim to fame was its excellent handling of Gmail features like labels and stars, but now it can also deal with every major variety of email server. It also has handy features like including Dropbox integration for attachments, and the ability to automatically snag Facebook photos so you can see who you're talking with. It's still remarkably easy to use.

If you're looking for something that still has a lot of support, Postbox fits the bill. A price drop earlier this year puts it in line with Sparrow, and it has just as many handy features.

Buy Sparrow ($10.49)

Alternative: Postbox ($US9.95)

Desktop Groups

If you have a friend or family member with a disturbingly messy desktop, then the first thing you should do is direct them toward our guide to designing and creating a clean, organised desktop. Next, grab them a copy of Desktop Groups. Desktop Groups offers on-the-fly organisation of desktop icons. They'll be able to name different sets of icons, create as many different groups as they want, and get all those items off their desktop.

Buy Desktop Groups ($8.49)


While you're snagging a copy of Desktop Groups for that messy desktop person in your life, you might also want to grab Hazel. Hazel is made specifically for the laziest desktop organisers out there. It listens for conditions they set up, and then performs actions when those conditions are met. That means when they're off dragging every single photo to the desktop, Hazel swoops in and automatically cleans everything up for them. Once they get the hang of the basics of Hazel, it can do a whole lot more.

Buy Hazel ($US25)


AirPlay is one of the best features on a Mac, but a number of its best uses are restricted to 2011 and newer Macs running Mountain Lion. Airfoil brings those features to any Mac, including the ability to stream audio from any program (not just iTunes) to any speakers attached to an Airport Express, Apple TV, iPhone, computer, or even Android device. If someone on your gift list has AirPlay-compatible speakers around the house (or even just a smartphone hookup), Airfoil is a must-have.

Buy Airfoil ($US25)


Multimon is the perfect gift for anyone on your list frustrated by the the Mac's multiple display limitations. It fixes common multi-monitor annoyances by adding a menubar on additional screens, setting up hotkeys to move windows, and offering automatic resizing of windows when you move them across screens. If you know a Mac user who loves being surrounded by several monitors, Multimon is a great gift choice.

Buy Multimon ($10.49)


It's no secret that we love text expansion because it can save time every day. If you have a friend holding out on trying a text expansion app because they cost too much, then now's the time to give the gift of TypeIt4Me. Almost all of the text expansion apps out available are worthwhile, but TypeIt4Me hits that sweet spot of a reasonable price with a stack of great features. It has the standard support for expanding small text snippets into full phrases, but also supports variables, autocorrects spelling, emulates key presses, and much more. If you have a frequent typer in your life, Type4Me is a great option.

Buy TypeIt4Me ($5.49)


For the RSS news junkie in your life, there's no better Google Reader app then Reeder. It features a clean interface, simple controls, and lots of features. It renders articles in a readable format, but also lets you save articles straight to Instapaper or Pocket. Reeder fully integrates into Mountain Lion so you can share directly to Twitter or Facebook. Reeder has also dropped in price this year, and the new $5.49 price tag makes it a no-brainer for the blog lover in your life.

Buy Reeder ($5.49)

Mountain Lion

Mountain Lion didn't bring in enough new features to make most people run out and download it right away, so if someone on your gift list hasn't upgraded, it makes a great gift. For most users, Mountain Lion brought about some subtle speed changes, but it also brings in support for features including dictation, a handy new Notification Center, better iCloud support, and lots of other little tweaks. An operating system probably won't get too many people excited around Christmas, but for those select few it's a perfect and affordable gift.

Buy Mountain Lion ($20.99)

Apps Between $30 And $60

iWork (Individual or Together)

iWork is Apple's office suite, and while we typically prefer free options like LibreOffice or Google Docs, sometimes you need a little more power. iWork has three programs in it. Pages is a perfectly serviceable text editor that also works well for doing simple poster and resume designs. Numbers is a fantastic spreadsheet app that makes spreadsheets slightly less terrifying than most programs. Finally, Keynote is the real gem for anyone on your list who does a lot of presentations. It's what Apple uses for its own presentations, and its beauty lies in its simplicity. Almost anyone can make a great-looking presentation in seconds. Whether someone on your gift list needs the whole suite or just a single app, all three are solid choices.

Pages, Numbers, Keynote ($20.99 per app, $62.97 total)

Path Finder

For most people, Finder is an adequate means of browsing the Mac's file system. However, if you have someone on your list who loves to tinker, customise and organise their hard drives, then Path Finder is a solid choice. They'll be able to create dual pane file browsers, flip through tabs, queue up files for copying, instantly find frequently accessed files, and customise virtually every function imaginable. The best part is that it integrates directly into OS X as an actual replacement for Finder.

Buy Path Finder ($US39.95)

Money to Burn (Over $60)

Parallels Desktop

Parallels is a useful program for all types of people. If you know someone who recently switched from Windows to a Mac, it's our favourite virtualisation software because it makes it possible to run any version of Windows right inside a Mac. It's also great for students who occasionally need to run a piece of Windows software, or anyone else on your list who has been stockpiling Windows apps even though they primarily use a Mac. Simply put, it's a great gift for anyone new to a Mac, or for anyone who just needs to occasionally use a Windows machine.

Parallels Desktop ($79.99)

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom

Chances are you know a few photography nuts. For anyone just just starting out, Photoshop Lightroom can make a great (if expensive) gift. Picasa can only do so much, and if you need to edit and organise a huge library of high-quality photos, Lightroom will make it happen. Send this to anyone you know just getting started with photography, as well as our night school on the subject to jump start their foray into better quality pictures.

Buy Adobe Photoshop Lightroom ($187)


    For the music lover, I would add Hypegram, a desktop app for The Hype Machine - a cheap $4.99 in the Mac App Store:

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