Our first inclination when suggesting software is to recommend useful utilities that prove invaluable every day. But software is a big field, with room enough for utility and whimsey, both of which are represented this year. Don’t forget to look through software suggestions from previous years; given the longetivity of many software titles and Macs themselves, older software may still work fine on your machine.
Web Info Where You Need It — TidBITS Contributing Editor Matt Neuburg suggested an inexpensive shareware gift: Alco Blom’s pair of utilities, URL Manager Pro and Web Confidential.
"I run both continuously, and use them constantly. URL Manager holds my URLs, and is far better for organizing and annotating them than a browser; plus it is browser-agnostic, so it doesn’t matter what browser I use. Web Confidential holds my Web passwords (I use a different one for every password-protected page) and my software registration numbers; it carried those numbers through the Panther upgrade process and made it easy and fast for me to start working again afterwards."
Organize Everything — Eric Durbrow made this suggestion. "I think Circus Ponies NoteBook 1.2 would be a good holiday gift for two reasons. First, it’s a catch-all, elegantly designed application for the person who needs to organize something: photos, family trees, writing projects, and hobbies. Second, it’s easy to use, requires little time to master the basics, and has a highly responsive help forum and developer. That means the person you give it to is less likely to call you up and ask you how to get the dohickey to do the do-what. Think of it as a low-maintenance gift."
Think It Through — Along similar lines, Andy Affleck recommended a note-taking application that can serve as a backup brain: "For me, the best purchase I made this year was DEVONthink PE. Part of my job as a Web designer, project manager, and general accessibility/standards maven requires that I read a great deal of information. I read weblogs, articles, how-to’s, etc. in many different areas. I also send and receive metric scads of email. On top of that, the company I work for is highly distributed, so to keep in touch, we use a company-based IRC server, one channel per project. All of my email, IRC logs, and every Web site I find with useful information goes into my DEVONthink database so I can easily search and find what I need, when I need it. I’ve spent years trying just about every kind of information management tool out there. DEVONthink is the first one that I have found (based on recommendations from the TidBITS Talk list) that actually helped me and complemented my daily workflow. All it needs is a text editor with an outliner so I can use it to take notes directly."
Get Your Gift Back — Johann Beda suggested something that people usually only think of when it’s too late. "I have decided to give the gift of backups – I’m going to buy my family members copies of Retrospect, and set up automated backups of the Users directories on their machines. I suffered a horrible drive failure this summer without good backups and lost virtually all of six months of my digital life – photos, email, and work. Hopefully I can prevent similar disasters for others."
Remote Control — Once your extended family is set up to be backed up on a regular basis, make sure you can check their Macs or troubleshoot them from anywhere – without the difficulties that can arise from trying to describe problems over the phone. Lorin Rivers recommended two copies of Netopia’s Timbuktu, "one for the tech support provider (you), and one for the gift recipient. I’m getting this for my mother, but it’s also partly for me because it saves me a drive across town."
Get a GREP — LuKreme obviously got a glimpse of Santa Claus’s list of geek gifts, judging by this suggestion: "What I want someone to buy me for Christmas, so it must be a good gift idea for a certain type of Mac geek, is a copy of BBEdit. It seems hard to explain to someone how a text editor is worth the coin Bare Bones charges, but BBEdit is simply in a league of it’s own."
A Gift to Warm the Belly — Sarah Delancey cooked up an idea that helps create more gifts year-round: "I was looking all over for a recipe program for Mac OS X, and found that most programs in stores were either for the PC or not for Mac OS X. So I did some Google searching and found a little program called Computer Cuisine Deluxe. I love it! I have added about 800 of my own recipes now, and it couldn’t be better. I have no idea why this program isn’t bundled with every Mac. It’s a great little program and I will using it as a stocking stuffer for my Mac friends."
VYGR’s Landscape Generator — Peter Miller set his sights on the horizon for this holiday gift idea: "I have often recommended the fascinating apps from U&I Software as stocking stuffers, but this year they have something really hot. Voyager is a unique 3D landscape and scenic image generator (think of a more powerful Bryce). It makes extremely realistic (and surrealistic) landscapes and QuickTime movies at pretty much any desired resolution. Voyager comes with 4 virtual worlds to explore, each about 60,000 square kilometers, the equivalent of three times the size of the Earth. Plus if you’re keen, you can build your own worlds in ArtMatic, U&I’s extraordinary image synthesizer."
A Monastery in Your Mac — Matt Neuburg spoke up again with an recommendation that brings back memories: "I’m not sure whether this counts as software, a game, a multimedia experience, a book, or nostalgia. It’s ‘If Monks Had Macs,’ which started life as a HyperCard stack before I even knew HyperCard existed, turned into a Voyager multimedia CD, and is now available cross-platform, thanks to Runtime Revolution. If Monks (as we like to call it) is impossible to describe. It’s a truly visionary hyperlinked collection of books, music, art, games, and activities, plus several applications you can use separately, such as a hyperlinked journal-writer and an ebook text reader that works with Project Gutenberg files and other free online books. It’s genuine New Media – a multi-dimensional, quirky vision from the mind of an eclectic thinker. If you’ve been wondering (and who hasn’t?) what Chesterton’s Father Brown, Heart of Darkness, Schubert, Thoreau, and the Kennedy assassination have to do with one another, this is your chance to find out. I remember the earliest If Monks incarnations with fondness, so this new version, which I have not seen, is on my wish list."
The Gift to Beat — Paul Atroshenko wrote to recommend a program for the musical among us. "One application which I have used (and fallen in love with) is a music generating program called Easy Beat, by Ergonis, an Austrian company specialising in Mac software. Unfortunately, Easy Beat is not compatible with Mac OS X – it runs best on Mac OS 9.2. As far as I can discover from my music-composing friends who use PCs, there is nothing like Easy Beat for the PC. My friends are very envious." A free demo of the $90 East Beat is available as a 2.4 MB download. Some musical pieces that Paul wrote using Easy Beat are embedded in a few short animations at his Web site.