Mac money-savers: 12 essential free Mac apps

mac software

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!

1. Cyberduck
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.

2. Livestation
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.

3. Adium
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.

5. Transmission
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.

6. NetNewsWire
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.