Given that there are many “new” Mac users out there, and that a friend of mine just ordered his first Mac, I decided it was time to make a list of software for the switchers.

There are plenty of such lists already, but they all deal with “my top ten Mac apps”. An application that works for some, might not work for others. If someone asked me “what ftp client is the best for the Mac?”, I would answer Transmit. But if someone asked me what software to get in general, I would not say Quicksilver. I think it is better if people play around on their own, instead of having people telling them “this is how I roll, and that probably works best for you too”.

So what I decided to do was to make a list of all the software that is included with Windows, and then list a few alternatives on the Mac. Now you can start right where you left off when you get your shiny new Mac. All applications are freeware and/or open source unless otherwise stated. Got anything to add? Leave a comment below! (although the point of the list is to provide a few simple alternatives, not a complete list of every piece of software available)

List of Windows software and the respective descriptions are borrowed from Wikipedia.

Application Description Mac replacement
Windows Calendar Calendaring and task tracking application. iCal (included with OS X)
Windows Contacts Keeps a single list of contacts that can be shared by multiple programs. Address Book (included with OS X)
Calculator A calculation application. Calculator (included with OS X – also as a dashboard widget)
Character Map Utility to view and search characters in a font, copy them to the clipboard and view their Windows Alt keycodes and Unicode names Font Book (included with OS X) / Character Palette (included with OS X) / Keyboard Viewer (included with OS X)
Paint A simple graphics painting program. PaintBrush / Seashore / pixen / ArtRage / ChocoFlop / Tux Paint / GraphicConverter ($30)
Notepad A simple text editor. TextEdit (included with OS X) / Smultron / TextWrangler
Narrator A screen reader utility that reads dialog boxes and window controls in a number of the more basic applications for Windows. VoiceOver (included with OS X)
Sound Recorder A simple audio recording program that can record from a microphone or headset, and save the results in WAVE format. QuickTime Player (included with OS X) / Audacity / Audio Hijack ($16) / WireTap Pro ($19) / Voice Candy ($12.95)
COMMAND.COM and Cmd.exe A text-based shell (command line interpreter) that provides a command line interface to the operating system. Terminal (included with OS X, OS X is built on UNIX)
WordPad A simple word processor that is more advanced than Notepad. It has facilities to format and print text, but lacks intermediate features such as a spell checker and thesaurus. TextEdit (included with OS X) / Bean / AbiWord / NeoOffice (more like Microsoft Office)
Remote Desktop Connection A client implementation of the Remote Desktop Protocol; allows a user to securely connect to a computer running Terminal Services (Remote Desktop on Windows XP and Server 2003) and interact with a full desktop environment on that machine, including support for remoting of printers, audio, and drives. Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection Client – for Windows remote control / Apple Remote Desktop – for Mac remote control ($499 / unlimited clients) / Included in Leopard
Remote Assistance Allows a user to temporarily take over a remote computer over a network or the internet to offer help with and resolve issues. See above / Included in Leopard
Internet Explorer A graphical web browser and FTP client.

Web browser: Safari (included with OS X) / Firefox

FTP client: Cyberduck

Windows Mail An e-mail and news client.

Email: Mail (included with OS X) / Thunderbird

News: Thunderbird / Unison ($24.95)

Windows Fax and Scan An integrated faxing and image scanning application.

Faxing: built-in to OSX – any application that can print can also fax

Scanning: Image Capture (included with OS X) / software that is included with your scanner / VueScan ($39.95)

Windows Media Player A digital media player and media library application that is used for playing audio, playing video and viewing images. In addition to being a media player, Windows Media Player includes the ability to rip music from, and copy music to compact discs, synchronize content with a digital audio player (MP3 player) or other mobile devices, and let users purchase or rent music from a number of online music stores. iTunes (included with OS X) / iPhoto (part of iLife, $79 or included with every new Mac) / QuickTime Player (included with OS X, add some codecs!) / VLC
Windows Photo Gallery A photo management application. Lets users organize their digital photo collection in its Gallery view, by adding titles, rating, captions, and custom metadata tags to photos. Photos can be edited for exposure, color correction, resizing, cropping, red-eye reduction, etc. and also allows printing photos via the Photo Printing Wizard. iPhoto (part of iLife, $79 or included with every new Mac)
Windows Movie Maker A video editing software that is intended for use in editing home movies. Source footage can be split into clips, and the final movie created by combining multiple clips along with effects such as transitions, titles/credits, separate audio track, timeline narration etc. iMovie (part of iLife, $79 or included with every new Mac)
Windows DVD Maker A DVD movie encoding and authoring software. iDVD (part of iLife, $79 or included with every new Mac)
Windows Media Center Designed to serve as a home-entertainment hub, to be viewed from a distance up to 3 meters (~10 feet) and controlled by specially designed remote controls. Lets users browse and view pictures, videos, and music from local hard drives, optical drives, and network locations, along with viewing, recording and deferred-playing live TV. Features an interactive TV guide with scheduled recording capabilites. Can also be used for visualization of other information (like sports scores) within the interface. Front Row (included with every Mac except for the Mac Pro) / MediaCentral ($29.95) / CenterStage / EyeTV ($79.95)
Windows Meeting Space A peer-to-peer collaboration program which lets multiple users start collaboration sessions. Supports desktop sharing , distribution and collaborative editing of documents, and passing notes to other participants. Included in Leopard / SubEthaEdit ($35) / Zimbra
Windows Task Manager Provides information about computer performance and displays details about running applications, processes, network activity, logged-in users, and system services. Activity Monitor (included with OS X) / iStat
Disk Cleanup A utility for compacting rarely used files and removing files that are no longer required. OnyX / AppDelete / GrandPerspective
Shadow Copy A graphical front end for the Shadow Copy service that lets users choose from multiple versions of a file. The shadow copy service creates multiple copies of a file as they are changed over time, so that users can revert to previous versions. Included in Leopard / SilverKeeper / Google Desktop
Snipping Tool A screen-capture tool that allows for taking screen shots (called snips). Grab (included with OS X) / keyboard shortcut command-shift-3

More free, open source software at Open Source Mac.

Stay tuned for Part 2: Games!

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4 Responses to “Switching to Mac: Getting Your Paints and Notepads Back”  

  1. 1 Ole M

    Nice roundup of the essential Mac applications you got here! It’s worth mentioning that TextEdit really is the equivalent of Wordpad… NeoOffice is more like Microsoft Office…

  2. 2 Andreas

    Very true, and that’s why I list it as the #1 replacement 😀 I guess a lot of people will want something more sophisticated though, and NeoOffice is free, so you can’t really beat it. I updated the article to make it more clear 🙂

  3. 3 Julio Fuentes

    For Remote Desktop Connection and support I have found that TeamViewer works extremely well allowing you to connect to a user having problems. You can connect directly to a Mac or PC computer over the Internet within seconds. No installation is required, just run the application on both sides and connect – even through tight firewalls. TeamViewer includes full encryption, based on RSA private-/public key exchange and RC4 session encoding. TeamViewer generates a session password that changes with every start of the software to ensure added prevention of unauthorized access to a remote system. Security relevant functions like file transfer require additional, manual confirmation of the remote partner. TeamViewer is completely free for non-commercial, personal use!

  4. 4 Andreas

    Thanks for tip Julio 🙂 Appreciate it!


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