MobileMe and movie trailers

Apple has recently revamped its .Mac service into MobileMe, and as before you can get a trial membership to test out what it has to offer before committing yourself. You get a restricted amount of storage rather than the full 20GB that comes with a full membership, but all the syncing features should work, and you're not obliged to buy a full membership once the trial is over.

You are also able to use iCal's Publish to web server feature to share your calendars for free on www.icalx.com and there's the option to password protect them as well. Apple also offers free tutorials on its website for various products and services, including iLife, MobileMe and iWork. As you'd expect from Apple these tend to be slick, easy to follow and conducted in relaxed Californian voices.

Apple has for years been offering free movie trailers online. There's nothing too revolutionary about that, but thanks to its server capacity it can offer HD versions of trailers, and provided you have a fast broadband connection you'll be able to watch them at very high quality.

Front Row and Apple TV are also able to hook directly into the trailer streams so you don't have to watch them through a browser.

Office suite

Office software is something that most people use frequently, whether it's letter writing, making presentations or creating spreadsheets.

The most widely used in this arena are Microsoft Office and Apple iWork, but these both cost. OpenOffice.org is a fully-featured suite of office programs replicating the extensive functionality of its commercial rivals and able to save and load documents in a variety of formats.

It features applications called Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw and Base to cover all the tasks you may need to perform. There's also a good selection of add-ons and extensions to enhance its functionality. Its system requirements are amazingly low and it will run on a G4 400MHz with 256MB of RAM, which is far lower than most comparable suites.

The only problem with OpenOffice.org is that since it wasn't originally written for the Mac, you need the X11 windowing system installed, which it can do for you. Another issue is its appearance; it's Windows-like and lacks the finesse of Mac programs.

The solution to this is to try NeoOffice, a port of OpenOffice.org that integrates much better into OS X and has a slicker, more Mac-like look and feel. It even adds to the functionality with Mac-specific features like media browser support, horizontal scroll wheel support and more.

Creative applications

Adobe Photoshop is the leading image- editing program on the market, but even its basic version still costs. Instead, check out GIMP. It has many of the features of Photoshop including image retouching, batch processing, format conversion and more.

There's an active community writing free plug-ins and you can view online tutorials to get a sense of what it's capable of. Adobe CS3, of which Photoshop is a part, is powerful but expensive. For some of its components there are free alternatives.

Dreamweaver, for example, is a heavyweight web design and development application. For a free solution, try Kompozer. It doesn't have all the features of Dreamweaver, but it's lightweight and supports the easy creation of forms, tables and HTML and has an FTP client built in.

If you like to use Illustrator to create graphics but think it's expensive, Inkscape is worth a look. It's an open source vector graphics editor with an advanced set of tools for creating and manipulating vector graphics.

Anyone working with DTP or layout will have heard of QuarkXPress or InDesign, but will also know that they're not cheap. Scribus enables you to create great-looking documents in a similar way. It has publishing features like CMYK colour, separations, ICC colour management and the ability to create PDF files.