Every day, great new software is introduced for the Mac, and here are a few of our must have recommendations.
Everyone’s favorite database application has grown a few new features, but none more important than the fact that FileMaker Pro 8.5 is now a fully Intel compatible Universal Binary application. That said, the new version is just as fast as you might imagine, which is to say very fast on a properly equipped Intel Mac. While the upgrade to Universal Binary will be enough of a reason for present users to upgrade, another reason is the new FileMaker Web Viewer, the superb Learning Center with more tips and tricks than one could ever master, and improved Object Functions and scripts, which allow you more natural control over naming objects, tabs, fields, and other database layout components. Ever since FileMaker Pro enabled easy importing of digital images, we have seen increasing use of the application for professional photography management. We have had databases for years that could handle flat and relational duties, but FileMaker Pro remains one of the best truly cross-platform tools, with the power to allow a novice or expert the ability to create custom layouts with the ease of an office suite. The new Web Viewer is the feature that really changes the way that we will interact and use Filemaker, since it allows you to add a web page to a record in your database, which means that there is no more exiting the program to search the web, and check out a contacts status. This can all happen within FileMaker, and within a single record. At first, I didn't grasp the significance of this new feature, but it quickly became apparent that this could fundamentally change the way we work with databases. I'm curious to see the solutions that arrive out of this new feature.
For more information visit: www.filemaker.com
Telestreams’ Flip4Mac WMV is one of those nearly invisible but impossible to live without applications. What does it do? It allows you to open and view Windows Media Files natively in Quicktime, without the need for the Windows Media Viewer. Spring for an extra $30, and you can upgrade to either a their WMV Player Pro version or all the way up to their flagship WMV Studio Pro which allows you to author and export to just about any format you can imagine. The only question you have after working with Flip4Mac is why Apple didn’t include this product from the start in their OS. How good is it? Well, it’s invisible, which is high praise for an application that is handling some very complicated conversions without nary a shudder. We test a lot of software, and most of it is buggy; we just pray that our systems will recover afterwards. Not so with the various versions of Flip4Mac WMV that we have tested over the past years, including the most recent release which thankfully added Intel and Universal Binary support, which have all been rock solid. One of our listeners pointed out the only serious downside we have seen in Flip4Mac, which is the inability to read Microsoft DRM protected files. We aren't sure why Microsoft chose to limit this ability, but we hope they will remove this limitation in the future. You might hear how Apple is a good player in the Windows world; well, it’s all talk for media files until you add Flip4Mac to your mix!
For more information visit: www.flip4mac.com
Roxio Toast 7.1.2 Titanium is the latest update of Roxio’s often-copied, but not duplicated CD and DVD burning software ... but wait, there’s more! Toast Titanium 7 added the media compression capability of their earlier Popcorn release, allowing you to automatically compress a dual layer DVD to fit onto a normal DVD disk. Not only does the 7.1 update bestow Intel compatibility with Intel Macs, it continues to offer the same clean and neat interface we all know and love. Remember when Apple announced that it was building CD and DVD burning capability into the finder, and the first thing that went through folks minds was that it was the end of folks like Roxio. Well, it only took a few minutes burning CDs with the finder to run back with open arms to Toast. It comes bundled with CD Spin Doctor, Motion Pictures HD, and Discus RE, so it's accurate to consider it a fully featured suite then a single application. There are other competitors to Toast, and some like Dragon Burn boast features such as multiple burns to a DVD and are breathing down Roxio's neck, but Toast is still the standard that users look for when it comes to authoring software, and with good reason. Now that it’s Universal Binary, Toast is fully up-to-date with even the most modern Macs, and is the first Universal Binary disk authoring application that we know of.
For more information visit: www.roxio.com
Mac Edition Radio is an audio show, and over the years we have searched through the various audio editing applications in our own search for the appropriate choice. Our needs are quite simple, really. We needed a reliable yet flexible application to edit interviews, automate intros and outros, filter, normalize, and equalize recordings before posting. After taking a slew of them for a spin, we found that many of them were overkill, best suited to music recording duties, and a bit too complicated for our use, and other open source applications like Audacity were great, but not always as stable as we would like, but they were free. Our favorite tool was FeltTip Software’s Sound Studio 3, distributed by the fine folks at Freeverse. Sound Studio is an Intel compatible Universal Binary, and ships with a full complement of useful audio filters as you might expect. What we didn’t expect was the release of four Monobots, which are automated plug-ins for Sound Studio. The four include: Clean and Convert, Mastering Console, Bookend Audio, and Stitch. We use Bookend Audio for everyone of our final recordings, and it has saved us oodles of time. Sound Studio 3 can save in AAC or MP3 formats, as long as you install the free Open Source LAME encoder, which provides native support for MP3 files. We have found Sound Studio 3 to be a great application for editing audio, at the right price point, and with all the capability and quality most users will ever need for editing podcasts, lectures, interviews, and more.
For more information visit: www.freeverse.com
For many a Mac professional, consumer, and anyone else who has discovered their hard drive suddenly won’t mount, the news that Alsoft’s respected disk repair and maintenance application DiskWarrior has been updated was probably the best news of 2006. Eagerly awaited, DiskWarrior 4 is Universal Binary, and will boot up the newest generation of Intel Macs, as well as older systems. Somehow Alsoft fit a bootable version of OS X 10.4 on a CD, and not only does it work its magic as in the past, it is considerably faster - almost twice as fast by our measurements. We tested it on over a dozen drives and it worked perfectly on every one of them, replacing the drives’ directories with new and improved ones. There are several other well-respected disk recovery, repair, and maintenance applications on the market, but DiskWarrior has earned a special place in the hearts of anyone who has had to repair a disk, because this program works in a fundamentally different way. Instead of repairing the disk, it analyzes the disk’s directory, and builds a new directory, along the way noting problems, repairing permissions, and repairing problematic files and folders. Then, it replaces the original directory with the new one. Most disk issues seem to be, in reality, directory problems, and repairing those problems without really addressing the directory on a more basic level usually seems to result in a repeat of the problem. Some good news for OS X Server users is that this version even repairs ACL lists, which is a known issue for OS X, and until now, have had no repair support, other than restoring from a backup copy. Another benefit of DiskWarrior’s approach is that it is unusually safe. I’ve yet to have DiskWarrior increase damage to a damaged disk, something I can categorically say has not been the case with many other products - and I’ve been testing and reviewing DiskWarrior since its first release. In maintaining drives, most experienced folks have a few key applications such as MicroMat’s TechTool Pro 4, or Prosoft Engineering’s Drive Genius, since all of them seem to repair different issues in different ways. The one application that I’ve never seen any experienced Mac user or IT professional without is Alsoft’s DiskWarrior. Unlike many other products, it doesn’t try to do everything, but what it does, it does nearly to perfection, along with the added incentive that Alsoft is made up of really nice folks who provide great customer service.
For more information: www.alsoft.com
Harris Fogel, Posted 12/10/2006 / Updated 4/30/2007