Making The Move: “Must Have” Apps for Your Fresh Leopard Upgrade


So, as indicated, I finally switched to Leopard (went from 10.4.11 to 10.5.1 to be precise). As with previous operating system installs, I also took the opportunity to upgrade the internal drive in my MacBook Pro, this time kicking it up to 320GB with the new WD Scorpio WD3200BEVT (it has turned out to be a great drive). A defense of this process includes:

  • Get the latest, highest-capacity 2.5″ drive available (score!)
  • Do not have to “waste” time backing up the old system (and I can boot into 10.4.11 when needed)
  • No worries about upgrade hassles (i.e. the Logitech debacle)

The biggest benefit has been an early spring cleaning for my system. The plethora of excellent third-party software available for OS X makes it really easy to gather many little (and not-so-little) utilities and applications, most of which are used quite infrequently. The other bit of cruft that tends to accumulate is a host of installer downloads, PDFs, other documents and various source archives, most of which can (and should) be archived (that *is* why I bought the 1TB NAS drive, right?). This time around, I took a more tactical approach to re-building my system: load only those programs and files that generate a “Doh! I need that!” reaction over the course of the next seven days. (While I tried to stick to that “one week” rule, I wound up going into week number two.)

Given that the new year is finally upon us and we are all resolute to start afresh, I thought it would be interesting for me to post what wound up being “must haves” for my core Leopard workstation and encourage TAB readers to shout out theirs in the comments. Some elements will obviously be the same, but it should be an illuminating exercise, especially if it winds up unveiling a cool, niche app that has received little coverage.

With that in mind, here are my day-to-day Leopard “essentials”:

  • Adium – the best multi-service IM client for OS X
  • Ascent – cycling/fitness tracking app that works very well with Garmin products. If you’re into fitness and have not used this program, definitely check it out. I’m hoping to do a full review in the near future.
  • CandyBar – Leopard’s icons and Dock are horrid and this makes it pretty with zero hassles
  • Carbon Copy Cloner – you *do* do backups, right?
  • EVE Online – while the OS X client is *still* buggy, I am holding out great hope (get with it Cedega!)
  • ExpanDrive – a.k.a. Unison (still in beta); great way to get secure remote drive access
  • EyeTV – Heroes, LOST and Numb3rs in OTA HD with iPhone goodness added in…need I say more?
  • Firefox 3.0 (beta) – an *outstanding* browser
  • Flip4mac – full (paid) version; I need codec compatibility
  • Garmin Training Center – filling in the gaps Ascent still has and ensuring 100% compatibility
  • Growl – universal notification done right
  • Handbrake – good conversion utility
  • iLife ’08 – it’s a keeper (though I would like the old iPhoto back, please)
  • iWork ’08 – simplicity, speed and style (albeit missing a few features)
  • MarsEdit – not as perfect as it needs to be, but a good blogging client nonetheless
  • MenuMeters – because it’s good to know when Windows XP (running in VMware) is eating up 90% of both CPUs
  • OmniGraffle Professional – way better than Visio with all the diagramming functionality I require
  • OmniPlan – mostly to manage projects in my day job
  • Quicksilver – I tried relying solely on Spotlight as a launcher, but realized I actually use some of the QS power-user features
  • Radioshift – because I’m a conservative who is also an NPR addict with time to kill on the bus ride home
  • Remote Desktop Connection – sigh, I still need to get to Windows remotely almost every day
  • Skype – great for cross-platform video chats with folks back east
  • Snapz Pro X – I take lots of screen shots, movies, etc
  • TextWrangler – lets face it, TextEdit sucks & BBEdit costs too much
  • Transmission – because I download, uh, lots of Linux distros…yeah…Linux distros
  • Twitterific – I like to think I’ve got friends out there…somewhere…(@hrbrmstr, btw)
  • VisualHub – for putting those…ah…Linux distros on my iPhone/AppleTV
  • VLC – it can play *anything*
  • VMware Fusion – for security tools, running XP, testing Linux & BSD
  • WriteRoom – this has helped my writing immensely (though TAB readers may disagree)
  • Xcode 3 – because garbage-collected Objective-C rocks my dev-world

Here’s a short-list of what didn’t make the cut:

  • ecto – if we could only, somehow get the best features of ecto and MarsEdit combined into one with a few other essentials added in…
  • iTerm – Leopard’s new, tabbed Terminal give me almost all of the functionality of iTerm without the need for another app
  • Juhu – if Google manages to do something cool with Jaiku, maybe this will make it back
  • MenuCalendar iCal – Leopard integration was sketchy and – with iCal showing the day correctly in the Dock – there was little need for this anymore (at least how I was using it)
  • Miro – formerly Democracy Player; I rarely used it (one can only stomach so much public content)
  • NeoOffice – iWork does all I need for now and I will sadly be using Office 2008 for Mac for work Exchange compatibility
  • NewsFire – Google Reader is where it’s at for me, especially with the slick iPhone interface
  • SubEthaEdit – no need to collaborate this way and no need for yet-another-text-editor at the moment. It’s a very good app, tho.
  • VoodooPad – another very nice app that I wound up never using
  • Parallels – took them way too long for consistent Leopard compatibility then got all ‘Microsoft’ with features/pricing; may come back someday, but gone for now



+1 for iStat Menus. Especially for its menubar clock/calendar. The widget is gorgeous too.

Big vote for HoudahSpot 2. Leopard has improved Spotlight, but still nowhere near par.

Where is 1Password?


Thanks for sharing this with us. I really like seeing what apps other people are using, especially when the reason are given why they are used. Keep up the great posts.


I find it difficult to live without visualhub and Transmission. Definitely the best apps for the mac. ~and what is exactly wrong with the new iPhoto? The main differneces that i see is events and being able to flag photos which is all benefit in my opinion…

Leland C.

Wow. Didn’t know about Writeroom. Just wrote an essay on it. Thanks sooooo much. Gets rid of distractions! :p

Andy Croll

+1 for Perian, but you’ll need Flip4Mac aswell for the odd WMV file.

And also Textmate. Textmate. Textmate.

Sue Anderson

TextWrangler and VMWareFusion are on my MacBook as well. Thanks for your list.

Have you ever tried Mac HelpMate? – a free all-in-one preventive maintenance utility that repairs permissions, updates prebinding, removes font caches, user caches, cleans logs, runs daily, weekly, monthly. Also has an auto scheduling feature. v. 2.0.1 works with Leopard.


You hit the nail on the head when it comes to ecto and Mars Edit. I’ve not bought either because I want both, but I want them both in one package.

I also made the move to Leopard recently (just this weekend) and went from FireFox 2.x to 3 beta and it’s been near faultless for a beta. One crash and with the config hack, almost all the plugins work just fine.

I’d like to throw Text Mate into the ring. The only Text Editor I’ve ever paid for, and worth every penny.


I ahve to wake up also :-) but another hint. Iwork 08. Speed? are you joking me? Pages were nevver fast but slow.

boB Rudis

@devlogic – so much for my accurately going through my old Applications folder. Yes. CoRD is fantastic, especially since it does allow for multiple sessions. I haven’t had to remote into more than one box at one time lately, so that “doh!” hasn’t happened yet. I keep MS RDC around for full compatibility (for some reason, it works better against various servers I need to hit). Off to grab a fresh copy…


You might want to check out CoRD for your remote desktop needs. Auto-scaling of active sessions (i.e., resize the window, and you get 1024×768 in a 800×600 window, scaled down), and multiple open sessions with a drawer to switch between ’em.

Mike O'Connor

Oh, I forgot:

Do I need to get a certified apple tech to upgrade the hard drive to preserve my applecare? I’d like to do it myself if possible.

Mike O'Connor

I’m also going to put one of those 320 GB drives into my MBP. I’m planning to do this:

1. Format 320 and install Leopard
2. put old drive into an enclosure and connect with USB
3. Use the migration assistant to restore my applications and data from the old drive

Does this make sense? (I’m new to the mac)


The iSlayer guys are fellow Aussies… so I’ll always plug them if the need plugging!

My only other essential is CoverSutra. System-wide iTunes shortcuts + HUD + Growl +… you can’t ask for much more from a single app!

David McDougal

I agree istat pro or istat menu are the BEST program for viewing your system.

I am sad to see that you left off SMCfancontrol ( it is the best program out there for keeping tabs on and controlling the tempature on your machine. I use this daily, when gaming I turn the fans on full (6000rpm vs 2000rpm default) to pump out the heat and keep the system running well.

Also, what about things like Caffeine ( to keep your system from sleeping while you are using tranmission (version 1.00 has this option in transmission).

There are so many nice apps out there that I know you cannot include them all, but these seem like must haves to me.

boB Rudis

Turns out, somewhere between my initial trying of iStat Menus and now, they added “Activity Monitor” to the CPU graphs as well. Which is a good thing since the memory numbers view (uses/free numerically make more sense than graphically for me) are fugly.

So, I’m with @Galley: iStat Menus FTW! … thx everyone for the repeated suggestion and please let me know what iSlayer is feeding y’all (besides a decent app).

Now that we we know/knew everyone *but* me runs iStat Menus… any other essentials I’m missing?


@boB … don’t forget you can turn off the labels so it only occupies 10px or so :D

boB Rudis

@lukerhn: thx. it makes so much more sense to put it with CPU info, but if it’s under memory, I’ll give up that much extra, precious menu bar space for that added piece and give it a whirl again.

@mark, I was honestly hoping to see if any other folks did something similar and am still looking for what essential apps they are running post-Leopard. I’ve found some great apps that way.


@mark … Lay off on the criticism. It’s always interesting to see what other people find useful and what you rely on daily that they don’t. No one is forcing you to read the list…


@boB … the option to open Activity Monitor is there in iStat Menus under the Memory menu.


No superduper? Oh, that’s right. It’s STILL not leopard ready.

And what is it with list like this? So useless and done all the time. I think it’s a crutch for writers when they have nothing else to write about.

boB Rudis

OK, iStat Menus is pretty enough and I’d’ve been glad to use that instead of MenuCalendar+MenuMeters even pre-Leopard if it weren’t for *1* thing: an “Open Activity Monitor” option from the menu-item.

If they add that, I’d be quite glad to use them, especially now since MenuMeters “works” on Leopard but isn’t officially supported under Leopard.


For MenuCalendar iCal and Menu Meters combined, why not try iStat Menus from iSlayer. It’s lightwieght, useful, integrates with a System Preference, oh and it’s free!

Matt Radel

Great list! I’m still a little weary of Firefox 3 though…I think I’ll wait until the final version is released to upgrade.

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