It doesn’t matter type of Mac you own, old or new, you’re running a wide variety of software. This year’s suggestions ranged from software that makes you more productive to enhancements that tailor your Mac experience to your own tastes.
Don’t assume that software gift ideas from previous years are irrelevant just because almost all new development is being done for Mac OS X. Classic programs from the past are often still available and run fine on the older Macs that so many people have.
ArtMatic — Computers and art have had a long history together, and Peter Miller suggested a program that you can use to generate your own beautiful images. "Although this is a repeat suggestion from me, from quite a few years back, U & I Software’s ArtMatic is worth a new look. ArtMatic is a kind of visual synthesizer that allows you to make astonishing images and movies at any resolution. It has an interface that is unique and simple to explore but offers an incredible depth of experimentation (the software is written by Eric Wenger, one of the developers of KPT Bryce). There is nothing remotely like it.
"ArtMatic 3 was just officially released and is now fully Mac OS X native (there’s also a Mac OS 9 version). It’s a very different beast from when I last suggested it, now incorporating a keyframe animation system, 3-D effects, amazing and flexible professional level RGB colour-manipulation, the ability to import and process still pictures and QuickTime movies, and lots more. The trial version is fully functional but save-disabled. Take a look at my ArtMatic galleries to see what you can do with this great tool."
CandyBar — Steve Jobs may want to lick Mac OS X’s Aqua interface, but for those people out there who would prefer to take a big bite, Nik Friedman offered CandyBar. "Jazz up your loved one’s computers with CandyBar from The Iconfactory and Panic. It lets you change all your system icons to beautiful holiday icons (or others). At $13, it’s cheap, too!"
ThinkFree Office — Turning from the delightfully frivolous to some serious productivity, Tom Gewecke offered this idea. "ThinkFree Office is a Java-based, Microsoft Office-compatible suite of word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation graphics applications. It works on both Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X. Depending on your needs, Think-Free Office could be a good alternative to Microsoft Office because it costs only $50 and includes a year of free online upgrades."
A Jaguar Kitten? Having just made the jump to Jaguar himself, Maarten Festen wrote, "If your loved ones are still on Mac OS 9 and have an appropriate computer, give them Jaguar this Christmas. Toss in some extra RAM and it’ll feel as if you’ve given them an all new computer.
CodeTek VirtualDesktop — Chris Pepper’s suggestion of a second monitor is an excellent one (see "2002 Hardware Gift Ideas" above), but if finances or desk space preclude adding another screen, consider Paul Schatz’s suggestion of CodeTek VirtualDesktop. "For the person with several simultaneous projects or lots of windows: CodeTek VirtualDesktop 2.0.1. This application lets you set up numerous multiple desktops (‘work spaces’). It’s easy to jump from one to another, or drag windows between desktops. Thus, you can have different projects or applications on completely separate desktops, and you can designate certain items to appear on all your desktops. CodeTek VirtualDesktop is great for reducing window clutter and even if you already have multiple monitors it still works well. Although the price has just jumped from $20 to $40, it’s still very worthwhile for people who are juggling many different projects."
Expand That Cursor! Not everyone has great vision, so Saint John mentioned a simple tool that can make using the Mac significantly less frustrating. "RJ Cooper & Associates’s control panel, Biggy, brings to the Mac (System 7.5 through Mac OS 9) something that has been sorely lacking since we got monitors larger than 13 inches: a larger cursor. Even for normal-vision users, finding that 16 by 16 pixel arrow on a cluttered desktop can be a hassle; think about a low-vision user. Biggy provides a variety of different pointer, watch cursor, and text I-beam cursors up to 32 by 64 pixels in size. Some are even animated! While many are cutesy, a few are subtle and can attract attention to themselves for that little extra bit of find-ability. Biggy also provides a number of small but useful additional features, such as snapping to the default button, wrapping around the screen, and making the text-insertion bar wider.
"I use Biggy Light, which offers the basic set of cursors for only $30, as opposed to $100 for Biggy. Both versions let you design your own cursors, and I have a number of them available free on my Web site (the third link below)."
LuKreme chimed in, "I know of at least one utility for Mac OS X that enlarges the pointer: Cursor Zoom. That’s all it does, but it will zoom up to 4x with fine control over the magnification (the first version let you magnify from 2x to 20x with no granularity; the current version is much more useful). Cursor Zoom is free, so I suggest that installing it for someone as a holiday surprise would be a nice touch."
Custom Shareware CD — Inspired by LuKreme’s comment about installing CursorZoom for someone, Kevin van Haaren expanded the idea. "I was thinking it might be a nice gift to accumulate all the freeware and shareware you find useful or interesting and burn it to a CD-R as a stocking stuffer for your favorite Mac user. Someone with no or a very slow Internet connection might especially appreciate the thought. To boost the value, perhaps pay for a couple of the shareware packages that you know will be useful and include the licenses on the CD-R."
Reunion — Another perennial gift suggestion came from David Kanter, who suggested the genealogy program Reunion from Leister Productions. "For Mac-based genealogists – or any would-be genealogists – a wonderful present would be Reunion 8, which now runs natively under Mac OS X as well as Mac OS 8.5 to 9.2. Reunion is still an elegant, Mac-only product that helps you organize family information and produce a wide-range of charts and reports which you can extensively tailor to your needs. Reunion 8’s enhancements over Reunion 7 are extensive, significant, and meaningful. Even genealogy veterans using another program should consider switching to Reunion to gain its easy interface and fabulous output products. Reunion can import (and export) data using the GEDCOM format, so bringing another genealogy program’s database into Reunion is usually an easy process. And for those using any earlier version of Reunion, in my opinion this is a ‘do-it-now’ upgrade."