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Freeware Gems for Mac OS X
Pages: 1, 2

A Different Kind of Mail

In theory, you shouldn't need to find a decent free email client for Mac OS X, because Mail comes pre-installed with the OS. In practice, there might be all sorts of reasons why Mail doesn't quite fit the bill, so you might want to find another email client.



Two very usable alternatives are GyazMail and GNUMail, both of them very similar to Mail in terms of look and feel. Since we don't have a lot of space here, we shall look in more detail at GyazMail, although readers with the time and inclination are encouraged to try out GNUMail, too.

If you've used Mail, you will very quickly find yourself at home in GyazMail (see Figure 5). The feature set is familiar, too, including all of the usual basic mail functions and a handful of nice extras. GyazMail has an impressive keyboard-commands list for the mouse-averse, and the preferences options are flexible enough for advanced users and novices alike.

GyazMail, showing inbox and preferences window.
GyazMail's inbox view, with the preferences options in the foreground.

What GyazMail can't do is display HTML messages, forcing you to open them in your default web browser--this might be a problem if you get a lot of HTML-based email. On the plus side, the program integrates well with Apple's Address Book and imports messages swiftly from Mail, or from any standard Unix .mbox file.

A Few Little Extras

Hopefully, we've given you a handful of ideas for alternatives to your existing software. We've barely touched the surface of the huge amount that's out there, but before we close, let's take a look at a few smaller utilities that you might find useful.

SBook5, a Fast Little Address Book

SBook5 is such a clever, intuitive program that within minutes of trying it, you'll wonder how on earth you did without it.

It's smart, you see. It uses clever algorithms and artificial intelligence to make importing data incredibly simple. Start a new entry and just type the information you know, and SBook5 will recognize what is a postal address, what is a phone number, and so on. There's no clicking in various different fields; all you have to do is type (see Figure 6).

SBook5 main window.
SBook5, showing imported contacts from Address Book.

SBook5 can store all kinds of information, beyond addresses (suggested uses include recipes, jokes, and directions). It will export stuff right into your iPod. Searching is easy, and fast. Ported to Mac OS X from the original program for NeXT, SBook5 out-performs almost any other kind of address book on this platform, and is well worth investigating.

Stuck on the Shelf

Keeping a hard disk neat and tidy can be laborious. All that dragging of files, making sure they live in the right folders and on the right volumes--it gets tedious.

Enter XShelf. Another NeXT idea ported to Mac OS X, this is a neat little app to help you move files around. Instead of opening two Finder windows (one for the existing location of the file, and one for its destination), you can now drag the file to the Shelf, which can sit unobtrusively on any screen edge (or in a floating window). Later, when it's convenient for you, you can drag it off of the Shelf and into its new home.

The file itself doesn't move until the second part of the task is done, but having the Shelf running acts as a reminder, and helps you to keep files in their right places. Since Shelf requires very little CPU power and can optionally be hidden completely when not in use, you might find yourself using it more often than you might expect. (Figure 7 shows Shelf running in window mode.)

XShelf's shelf, with files in mid-move.
Figure 7. Shelf running in window mode.

Huevos, a Friendly Search Widget

Sometimes, firing up a browser and typing in the URL of your favorite search engine can seem like too much work. For times like this, you need Huevos (see Figure 8).

Huevos, your search buddy.
Figure 8. Huevos searches Google from your desktop.

This friendly little fella sits in a small corner of your desktop and will hunt things down for you at Google or a handful of other useful sites. It's simple. It works. What more could you ask for?

Look Inside MyMind

This is a relative newcomer to my Applications folder, but I have a feeling I might be making good use of it in future. In short, MyMind is an outliner, and even if you just want to create simple collapsible outline documents, it works nicely. It's fast, and outlines are easily navigated using the keyboard.

But MyMind can export its outlines as visual mental maps, and here's where you can start to get creative. Turn your text-based lists into spider-web diagrams, add colors and borders or backgrounds, and export the map as an image or a .pdf file. Figures 9 and 10 show a sample outline and the resulting map. Even if you don't intend to use the mapping concept, MyMind is a useful and capable free outliner.

MyMind's outliner window.

A simple map.
Figures 9 and 10. MyMind's outline ... and a simple map.

The Beginning

There's a huge amount of freeware out there. Much more, now that Mac OS X is Unix-based, than there used to be. Consider this article the briefest of tasters, and let your imagination be your guide on the journey toward cheaper computing. Oh, and if you need to know where to start finding decent free software, Jeff's OS X Apps list is one of the best starting points. Happy hunting!

Giles Turnbull is a freelance writer and editor. He has been writing on and about the Internet since 1997. He has a web site at http://gilest.org.


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