Reviews – Software – Mac Edition Radio’s Holiday Guide 2009

With so many wonderful products out there, it's dang near impossible to create a list that doesn't leave out more then it leaves in, so, here is our short and incomplete list of some of Mac Edition Radio's favorite software products from 2009.

This year brought some major releases from companies large and small. With the decision by developers to move away from Universal Binary code that will run on both Intel and PowerPC based hardware, more releases are Intel only, including the next version of the Adobe CS 5 suite, currently in development. With so much developer energy being poured into titles for the iPhone and iPod Touch platforms, areas like gaming on the Mac have seen a dearth of titles, however there seems to be even more interest in apps for the desktop and laptop world. Here are a few releases that we think deserve your interest.

We take a look at Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3-Beta, Microsoft Office 2008 Business Edition, BusyCal & BusySync, CleanApp, FileMaker Pro 10 & Bento 3, GuitarMethod 5, Bokeh, NIK SilverEfex Pro, & more!

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3–Beta

We are big fans of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, having worked with it since it's beta days in January 2007. Summer 2008 brought Lightroom 2, with increased speed, a more logical use of language and workflow, and some great technology from the Pixel Genius mafia under the hood for sharpening and noise reduction. November brought a public beta of the next version, Lightroom 3. While the feature set is obviously still in development, the new version promises another increase in speed, refinement of the workflow, and additional features for processing of raw files. Adobe is once again to be lauded for it's open Beta program, not only allowing commentary from future users, but also demanding it. We wish more major developers would follow this lead. A Mac Edition Holiday Pick!

For more information on Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3-Beta please visit:

Microsoft Office 2008–Business Edition

With 600 million users it's no surprise that Office 2008 from Microsoft is the standard that office suites are measured by. Now, a long laundry list of wishes from the Enterprise folks has been answered in the latest iteration. The Business Edition has features including business oriented clip art, which will make folks sitting around conference tables happy, but to us, that is just eye-candy. The real importance of the release is the adoption of support for Microsoft Exchange Server, and the built-in Document Connection should ease cross-platform collaboration.

With file format parity between the Mac and Windows already established, there were still workspace limitations and the new version should alleviate some of those roadblocks. With Remote Desktop, the need for third-party solutions decreases for remote management of a PC, so for power users, we expect the Business Edition to be a must-have update. It should also persuade some IT folks that the Mac platform doesn't present an incompatibility problem.

Even though Office 2008 brought fully Intel native code to the Office suite, it still doesn't feel as fast on its feet as one might expect. There are a slew of improvements to the application throughout the suite including Snow Leopard compatibility, and while recent service pack updates have solved most of the early release issues common to any new operating system, we hope they continue to work to increase its speed and responsiveness. We are also fans of their Home and Student Edition version, which allows for three installations, a practical solution for most users that we wish other developers would adopt, especially with the tight financial realties that most of us face. A Mac Edition Holiday Pick!

For more information on Office 2008 visit:

BusyCal and BusySync from BusyMac

Last year I wondered why Apple's iCal wouldn't synchronize with other computers on a network unless you purchased Apple's online services. I mentioned it to Adam Engst from TidBits, and he said to check out the folks at BusyMac, and try their BusySync application, which extended networking and subscription capabilities to iCal. It worked so well, so seamlessly that it made you wonder why Apple didn't include similar functionality. For folks working with iCal we recommend it highly.

I met with them soon after that during MacWorld Expo, and saw them demonstrate their beta of an entirely new calendar application, BusyCal, which went gold this fall. How does it work? Splendidly in a word!

By utilizing Apple's Sync Services, it is fully compatible with iCal, imports data from iCal, syncs iPhones via MobileMe or iTunes, and adds a slew of features including improved graphics, full synchronization with Google calendars, there are non-modal windows so you an keep an event in editing mode without having to stay in the app. They refer to it as iCal Pro, which actually doesn't do it justice.

For long time Now-Up-To-Date users, many of the features will seem familiar, which makes sense since the folks behind BusyMac were the original developers of that venerable application. Small details like the ability to change fonts, add graphics, get weather updates, and tweak colors allow it be personalized to your own style and workflow. It's a great calendaring and productivity tool, and it feels so natural that you won't need to even look at the user guide to get up and running, but you should check it out to realize the apps full potential. It is full of surprises and is so elegant that you'll wonder how you lived without it! Even the smooth way the months or days change, send the message that this is how folks should write applications. BusyCal and BusySync come highly recommended. A Mac Edition Holiday Pick!

For more information on BusySync and BusyCal please visit:

CleanApp from Synium

For the most part Mac users feel immune to having to run uninstaller scripts or applications. Unfortunately this is denial kicking in, and with folks having a myriad of problems upgrading to Snow Leopard, one of the most common problems is having bits of outdated apps floating around the system. There are some great apps that help to clean out an application's supporting files and preferences. We are particularly fond of CleanApp from Synium Software. Most cleaner apps do just that, clean any files related to the app you seek to uninstall.

CleanApp takes this much farther. It creates a log file whenever you install a program, so when the time comes to uninstall, it has a record to draw upon in addition to embedded data or resources. They have created a database of apps, based on other users' anonymous data, so that you can draw upon other folk's experiences. It even displays how your disk space is being used, so you can see the effect of uninstalls, and seek out wasted space. It has a fail-safe archive tool, so you can protect yourself against mistakenly deleting the wrong files. And their tutorial videos make it easy to use. A great addition to your toolbox! A Mac Edition Holiday Pick!

For more information on CleanApp please visit:

Filemaker Pro 10 and Bento 3

Filemaker has long been the premier database application on the Mac platform, and due to its Windows compatibility, it has been the best cross-platform database out there for years. Databases are admittedly not the sexiest of subjects to discuss, especially since for most of us they just represent fields to fill in with data, but over the years they have migrated from flat to relational models, with the greatest change in the import and export abilities. In the past databases were dry text driven models, and any attempt to modify them required in-depth understanding of all aspects of how they ran.

Jump to the folks at Filemaker whose emphasis on the surface has been making the graphical user interface easily customizable, not just for the expert for the common user. Add to that a large variety of export options, including PDF, Excel, with Filemaker Pro 10 adding an easy to e-mail option, including the ability to distribute via a SMTP server. The variety and number of templates has been increased, and it is fully Snow Leopard compatible. Best of all, the interface continues to evolve, and the latest is just a joy to work with, and speaking of their other product Bento, FMP has full integration with Bento making data transfers a fait accomplit.

Not all users need a full-fledged database like FMP, so Filemaker created Bento a few years back. Now in its third iteration Bento 3 combines the ease of use of Apple's Address Book, with far more extensive database features. Bento 3 allows you to for example, work with Excel and Numbers files, but with forms and templates that work like iTunes, putting a graphic front end to what was formerly just numbers, columns, and rows. Using Apple Sync Services, any changes or entries to the Address Book, iCal, or even third-party apps such as BusyCal are instantly reflected and updated, not only on your system, but with your iPhone as well. This extends to iPhoto adding new way to interact with the images you have imported into iPhoto. All of this leads to a versatile, fast, and easy to use personal database that hides it power and depth behind an interface with the elegance and feel that one expects of Apple products. It has a slew of free templates and best of all it's affordable! A Mac Edition Holiday Pick!

For more information on Filemaker Pro 10 and Bento 3 please visit:

eMedia Music Instruction Software

Our games reviewer is an aspiring guitarist, and we started looking at music training software with an ideal test subject at hand. There is a lot of software out there to help learn a wide-variety of instruments, but in this review we will limit ourselves to the guitar. In years past, most was pretty simple, with guitar lessons showing sheet music with a fingering chart, and the ability to play it again till one mastered that step and moved on to the next. Over the years the software has grown in complexity and features, so that even entry-level software is surprisingly sophisticated. We have grown fond of titles from eMedia, starting with their eMedia Guitar Method series. They recently released iZotope Music & Speech Cleaner, a title from their partnership with izotope, known for their professional level audio software, so look for a review soon.
Guitar Method Version 5 improves upon earlier versions by adding interactive feedback with your computer's microphone. This allows you to tune your guitar, have the software keep track of your playing, and record your song play. One of the best features of the software is its flexibility for players of different levels. The Midi tracks have the ability to slow down a track to learn it better, there are 50 videos, built-in niceties like a metronome, both tablature or notation. The songs are the real deal from Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, and Beethoven. Best of all it's affordable. They have a Guitar Pack that includes a guitar and software, so it's an easy way to brighten the holidays for aspiring musicians of all ages.

If you are looking for more options, our favorites are their eMedia Blues Guitar Legends, and Guitar Songs, which build upon previous lessons and let you really tear into songs from your heroes. A new title, Guitar Master is built around the Rock Band and Guitar Hero multimedia experience and graphics, an affordable and fun entry point into learning the guitar. Have a wee little one? eMedia's My Guitar series is aimed at kids 5 and up. Most of their software is Windows & Mac compatible, and if you are thinking about bringing music played by actual instruments into your lives, we recommend starting with eMedia. A Mac Edition Holiday Pick!
For more information on eMedia Guitar Method 5 please visit:

PopChar X from Ergonis

In 2006 we reviewed PopChar X, and noted that it's been one of our favorites on the Mac platform since 1992! We wrote the following review in 2006;

"When I finally purchased my first Mac in 1992 it was a PowerBook 100 and the first and most important piece of software that I installed was a little shareware application called PopChar. It added a tiny little "P" in the top left corner of your menu bar and allowed you to instantly call up any hidden characters in the font you were using. Fourteen years later, I'm still using it and consider it one of those indispensable tools that really make my Mac a lot more useful."

"While there are other tools out there that promise to make using your fonts easier, there isn't anything as elegant, useful, or reliable as PopChar X. If you have ever needed to find the (c) or (R) symbols in a hurry, or wanted to spell resume properly, then PopChar X is for you. The new version is Universal Binary, adds a slew of new features including search, Unicode support, and much more, yet it's still quick, easy, and simple to use! How many products can you think of that have lasted this long, are affordable ($29.99), and do just what you want, with no muss or fuss?"

Did Apple's Snow Leopard lessen the need for PopChar X? The answer is a plain and simple no! While the Character Palette that is built-in to the OS has always been an option, PopChar was originally created in answer the lack of an easy to use, flexible way to unlock the potential of your fonts. The most recent version, 4.3 boasts full Snow Leopard support, and the license is good for 2 years of upgrades. We think it's a great gift for the font lover in your life! A Mac Edition Holiday Pick!

For information on PopChar X 4.3, visit:

TextSoap 6

One of the problems of using Microsoft Word is that buried within your seemingly innocent text is a slew of hidden data, and if you try to cut and copy that type to a website, you can easily end up with a HTML mess. This often happens despite using Word's "Clear Formatting" command, or other tricks. This was happening to us on a regular basis. There were also other functions that related to type, such as capitalizing letters, or only the start of sentences, or extracting type from an HTML source on a site that you might need for a quote. While there were ways to do these seemingly normal tasks, more often than not, it turned into such a hassle that folks would just retype the text and be done with it!

TextSoap 6 from Unmarked Software is another one of those "must have" tools that we can't live without. To use it is simple, just copy text to the clipboard, and open TextSoap 6, and your text is there, and to the side is a list of functions, ranging from "Scrubs" that clean or convert the text to your desired need. The list of functions is impressive, with over 100 cleaning options and groups for E-Mail, Typographical, Case Conversions, Text Quoting, HTML, and even Plist among others. You can customize your "Scrub" and create a preset "Cleaner" for your unique needs. There is a master set, named Library, which instantly reveals all the options.

It is fully compliant with Apple's OSX Services, so the integration is smooth and natural. We think it's a great tool for anyone working on a Mac, a great timesaver and productivity enhancer, and if there is a writer or student in your life, TextSoap 6 is an ideal addition to a writer's digital toolbox. A Mac Edition Radio Holiday Pick!

For more information on TextSoap visit:

Happy Holidays from Mac Edition Radio!

Harris Fogel, Posted 12/10/2009