For every big, commercial application there is almost always a free alternative, which can do some or all of the same things the expensive software can.
Thanks to huge strides in technology like OS X and Apple's Developer Tools and iPhone SDK, far more people are able to develop amazingly sophisticated programs and distribute them over the internet.
All in all there's never been a better time to kit out your Mac for free, as we reveal in the second part of Mac money-savers. Don't forget to read part one, too!
Mac OS X 10.4 or later
Cyberduck is an excellent FTP client with support for a number of secure file- transfer protocols including WebDAV. It also integrates beautifully with OS X and can use Quick Look in 10.5, Spotlight, bookmarks, Bonjour networking, iDisk bookmarks, SSH and your Mac's keychain for saving passwords and login details. Slick, lightweight and very easy to use, it makes paid alternatives look clunky by comparison. It's the perfect partner for iWeb, which lacks a dedicated FTP tool.
Mac OS X 10.4 or later, Intel Macs only
Livestation lets you stream hundreds of TV stations over the web including leading news stations like BBC World News and the World Service, France 24, CNN, Bloomberg and more. You can also subscribe to any channel that broadcasts online and the site contains lists of channels of all kinds including music and comedy. It can even key into webcam streams and radio stations. By gathering all your favourite channels together you avoid the tedium of having to visit websites to access the feed.
Mac OS X 10.4. or higher
iChat is great but can't currently interface with all the multitude of instant messaging protocols, limited as it is to AIM and .Mac logins. Adium, on the other hand, can deal with pretty much any protocol under the sun and also manage all your accounts in one place, so you can communicate with friends on different networks from within a single application. Even better, it can be extensively customised almost beyond recognition. Its only real drawback is that it doesn't currently support video.
4. VLC Media Player
Mac OS X 10.3.9 or higher
Increasing broadband speeds have seen an explosion in the popularity of online video, both legitimate and otherwise. This has also meant that there are a lot more video codecs in use across the web and the computing world, many of which the QuickTime Player is not able to play. You can install the Perian codec pack to fix some of these issues, but if you want a video player that can open pretty much any video file, try VLC. It's not the prettiest software in the world, but it will open movies that nothing else can.
Mac OS X 10.5. or higher
Although it is perhaps better known for its role in piracy, the BitTorrent protocol was originally conceived as an entirely legitimate file-sharing tool, and it is still used as such by many people. People who have to distribute large files legitimately but can't pay for the bandwidth often create torrent files of the data to spread the load much more widely. Transmission is far and away the best BitTorrent client for the Mac that we have so far come across. It's clean, lightweight, well-designed and very flexible.
Mac OS X 10.4. or higher
If you like to keep up to date with all the latest news from several news websites, it can be a rather tricky task. There is a very impressive tool that can make it much simpler: NetNewsWire. NetNewsWire is an RSS reader and aggregator. Integrated with Spotlight, Address Book, iCal, iPhoto, Growl and Twitter, it supports clever features like smart lists, tabs and the ability to email stories to people. It's also able to download podcasts and synchronise with NewsGator Online.
7. Skim Mac
OS X 10.4. or higher
Mac OS X's built-in Preview application is good, but it is also lacking in some areas when it comes to working with PDFs. Skim is a free and lightweight PDF application which lets you not only view PDFs, but also lets you add and edit notes to the file, highlight text in different ways, take snapshots, create presentations with transitions, magnify documents and add bookmarks. It even supports the Apple Remote control and can automatically download remote PDFs. What more could you need from a PDF viewer?
8. iMedia Browser
Mac OS X 10.4. or higher
iMedia Browser takes the concept of Apple's media browser found in iLife and iWork and extends it to Finder. Essentially, it lets you browse your media without having to open any specific application in order to be able to see a preview. It is able to detect your library folders for programs including Apple's own Aperture, iPhoto, iTunes, GarageBand, your Movies folder and your web bookmarks. Additionally, you can drop any folder into the source list to quickly preview its contents.
9. Audacity Mac
OS X 10.4. or higher
Audacity is a free, open source program for recording and editing audio on your Mac. It can see your internal soundcard or any third-party interface you have installed on your system and can play back and edit Vorbis, MP3, AIFF or WAV files. It's great for making podcasts or converting old tapes or vinyl to MP3s for your iPod. It also enables you to add effects, edit audio and make a mix of your audio. It can even change the speed and pitch of recordings. It really does offer some great features for a free program.
Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later
Although it's less feature-heavy than its bigger, paid sibling VisualHub (£12/$24), iSquint is still an excellent free solution for converting video of almost any format into iPod format so you can watch it on the move on your video-capable iPod. It's very simple to use and much faster at conversion than the QuickTime Player. There's even an Advanced menu which lets more advanced users specify new frame sizes and rates and audio settings for their converted videos.
Versions for OS X 10.3, 10.4 and 10.5
System maintenance and cleaning is fairly important, but Apple doesn't directly provide tools for this as part of OS X. Titanium Software makes the free OnyX, and it's got some amazing features from cleaning out obsolete and temporary items and caches to rebuilding system databases, repairing permissions and customising the way OS X appears and behaves. There's a different version for each major revision of OS X.
12. iStat pro
Mac OS X 10.4 or higher
It's always good to be able to see information about what's going on under the hood of your Mac, either for troubleshooting purposes or just to better understand how it all works. iStat Pro is a free widget that displays practically all the stats you could ever need about your Mac including CPU load, uptime, battery status, network activity, temperatures, fan speed, running processes and more. You can show or hide any sections and arrange them as you like, even changing the colour of the widget.
First published in MacFormat, Issue 201