12 life-enhancing programs for your Mac

Extend the way you use your Mac

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Since computer technology became an integral part of our lives it has gone from being purely a functional tool to something we use for social interaction, leisure and personal pursuits. Social networking is the most obvious example, with sites like MySpace, Facebook and Bebo enjoying huge popularity.

Tools for blogging, tracing your family line or sharing pictures, videos and diaries online are also commonplace. There are many other small applications for the Mac with specialist aims, too, including improving your sleep, tracking travel news or streaming webcam images to your Desktop. You'll find almost all the programs mentioned here on your DVD, plus links to the developers' web pages.

$15, Mac OS X 10.3.9+
Managing passwords and numbers can be tiresome. Enter Wallet, an elegant manager for sensitive data such as passwords, serial numbers and credit card numbers. Using 448-bit Blowfish encryption, Wallet integrates with .Mac, Backup and iPods, as well as featuring a password generator and Dashboard widget for access.

$30, Mac OS X 10.4+
Here's an app for insomniacs! Pzizz is an intriguing little program that uses a mixture of randomly generated and chosen sound effects, textures, and soothing, recorded speech to aid restful sleep. Choose whether you want to be energised or relaxed and the software will create a suitable soundtrack accordingly. Soundtracks can be exported to iTunes. It's an interesting solution for those having sleep or energy problems.

Freeware, Mac OS X 10.3+
Miro is a free video player and online streaming program. As well as being able to open video files locally on your Mac, it's able to search and play videos from YouTube, Google, Yahoo and many more. It also supports video RSS feeds so that you can subscribe to online channels, auto download and deletion after a set period, watch folders, and full-screen display of practically all major video formats.

Freeware, Mac OS X 10.3.9+
Like Skype, Gizmo is a cross-platform internet telephone solution that uses your mic, speaker and broadband connection to make calls to other computers running Gizmo. Calls to computers are completely free, or you can make or receive calls to regular phones at competitive international rates. The software can also record conversations, transfer files, instant message, show users on a map and group chat! So, what are you waiting for?

$49, Mac OS X 10.3.9+
Mapping your family history traditionally involved taping together huge amounts of paper on a large table. MacFamilyTree is based on the Gedcom Standard for the international exchange of genealogical data, and lets you add photos, video and sound, and upload family trees to the web. Specially designed to deal with family data like relatives, places and dates of births and deaths, it's an elegant solution.

$24, Mac OS X 10.4+
EarthDesk replaces your Desktop picture with a real-time image of the Earth's surface, including sun, moon and cloud cover. It supports multiple monitors and 11 types of view, with political and satellite images. With a broadband connection, EarthDesk hooks into data sources across the world, ensuring what you see is accurate.

FlickrExport for iPhoto
£12, Mac OS X 10.3+
We all know only too well that saving photos out of iPhoto to a folder, and then uploading them one by one to Flickr is a tedious process. Luckily, there's FlickrExport, a plug-in which, once installed, appears as an option on export from iPhoto, and can send pictures straight to Flickr. What's more, it supports batch-setting of titles and tags, automatic resizing and automatic assigning to a collection. Overall, this app could prove to be a huge timesaver.

Sofa Control
$15, Mac OS X 10.4+
Most new Macs come with an Apple Remote Control. By default, its functionality is rather limited, so how can you extend it? By using Sofa Control, which lets you control a wider range of applications including Keynote, PowerPoint, Safari, Preview, VLC and more. It's fully customisable, and supports other system functions too, such as the volume, sleep time, zoom and display settings. Combine this tool with the Remote and you'll have more control than ever.

Last.fm Radio Player
Freeware, Mac OS X 10.4+
Last.fm is a website designed to help you discover new music online and interact with others who share your tastes. You can search for and stream music online, but the most interesting feature is the Radio Player, a free download that streams music, pictures and artist information over the net to you, either on demand or based on your listening habits. It's a great way to discover new music.

Our favourite everyday tools

Delicious Library
£40, Mac OS X 10.3+
Delicious Library is a cool cataloguing tool that lets you index books, CDs, DVDs and games. Connect a webcam and the program scans its barcode, then retrieves all the relevant info about that product from the internet. With support for voice and Spotlight searching, iPod sync and even library-style checkout functions for lending items to friends, it's a powerhouse.

Blogger widget for OS X
Freeware, Mac OS X 10.4+
Blogging is well-established, but the act of logging into Blogger and reaching the compose page is tedious. Use the Blogger widget instead: just type or paste your text into it and post directly to your blog without opening a browser! It supports HTML tags and saving as draft for later editing. Download it here.

Facebook exporter for iPhoto
Freeware, Mac OS X 10.4+
Editing, tagging and exporting images before uploading to Facebook can be a drawn-out process. This plug-in appears in iPhoto's Export panel, and lets you select multiple images, pick or create a new Facebook album and add captions to the images prior to upload. You can also tag friends so the pictures arrive at your Facebook account already formatted.