Essential Cloud Apps: Mac OS X 10.6.8 and above

Connect to the cloud with
Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.6
First published: August 14, 2012, 12:28 PM

What's the bare minimum set of third-party apps I need to install on a Mac to get some work done? Here's my list for Mac OS X Snow Leopard (10.6.8) through to the current Yosemite (10.10.2) I like a configuration that works with older versions of Mac OS, since I maintain several older Mac minis, in addition to a few notebooks. The older minis make excellent servers, and pretty respectable workstations, with the right software.

I also prefer software that helps me to work on other platforms, like iOS devices, plus Andriod, Windows and Linux. I keep my stuff in the cloud, so this list of Mac software turns any Mac made in the last six years into a cloud surfing super computer.

Get started by doing a clean install of your Mac OS X, Snow Leopard (10.6.8) or better.

Safe Surfing

After you update all your Apple software, connect to the Internet safely to access your stuff. Here are the essential downloads you'll need to work in the cloud.
  1. A second browser: A busted browser is one of the worst things that can happen to any computer, especially a cloud computer.. If something goes wrong with the default browser (Safari in this case), or if it's compromised in any way, it becomes very difficult to download fixes, patches, or do anything much useful. Of course, if your browser doesn't work, it's not easy to download another one. So do it now. Plus, it's more secure to use two browsers, one for your every day surfing, and another for special transactions, like banking. You can even run the "secure" browser in private mode. My pick is Google Chrome, mostly because I use so many Google services every day, and it's about as fast and lean as it gets. Mozilla Firefox and Opera are also good options. Web developers and safe surfers should have all three browsers installed.
  2. Cloud File Sharing: I use Dropbox for free (5 GB), and that's more than enough to sync files for 1Password and TextExpander, some of my other essential apps (see below). When I'm working on big projects, it's often worth paying for 100 GB of storage, with file versioning. Dropbox also serves as an offsite backup I can access from any computer. For other great ideas, check out Lifehacker's Top 10 Clever Uses for Dropbox. I also use Google Drive, and download the Google Drive desktop extension. Both Dropbox and Google Drive are a great way to share files, especially larger ones you don't want to (or can't) email.
  3. A password manager. I prefer 1Password, but LastPass is possibly a better choice if you also work with Windows and Linux systems, or prefer Android devices. 1Password runs on Windows, but Linux and Android use, while possible, is a little awkward. I download 1Password with my new browser, after installing Dropbox, which instantly gives me access to all my logins and software licenses, and makes all the subsequent installations much easier.
Mac Download Links
Handy Utilities
  • TextExpander ($35) does the typing for you, and syncs your shortcuts across Macs, too. Be sure to download TextExpander 3.4.2 [6.1 MB] if you are using Mac OS 10.6. If you use Dropbox, select Preferences > Sync then pick Dropbox as the Synchronization method and click [Link to Dropbox].
  • ChronoSync (Econ Technologies) ($40) is very helpful if you want to copy or move lots of files. Very useful for managing external storage devices, like hard drives, flash drives, SD cards, etc.  
Getting Work Done

The biggest issue with running 10.6 is that you can't use iCloud, which means you can't access your contact and calendar info with the Apple tools. But, I have to run 10.6.8 on several of my older Mac mini models, so I keep my iPhone handy.
  • You don't have to download any Office style software if you use Google Docs, or Google Drive (same thing, really). 
  • Sometimes, I want to work locally, or I need to open a Microsoft file and preserve the formatting. iWorks '08 for Snow Leopard (or earlier) is the way I roll, but I use these apps less and less these days. I keep coming back to TextMate, my favorite text editor.
  • Task Manager or todo list: Apple's Reminders are only available on the Mac on System 10.8 or later. Plus, it's pretty primitive. I use OmniFocus to track my to do lists. I also use Omni's free syncing servers to sync my data across devices (Preferences > Sync > OmniSync), although I've also used Dropbox syncing.
  • Document Handling: I scan all my incoming paper and manage the OCR files with DEVONthink Pro Office. Check out the DEVONthink docs and extensions for your browser. Dropbox syncs the databases and PDF files this app creates, although this can add up to a lot of disk space quickly. I also need the ScanSnap Manager for Mac software for my ScanSnap S300M USB scanner. Since I work with so many PDFs, PDFPen comes in handy for modifying and annotating these kinds of files.
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