Monday, May 23, 2011

My Mac

Here are some open-source and free Mac programs. In most cases there are also Windows and Linux versions as well. All programs below are free, but sometimes you need to avoid the "upgrade" or try for free option.
  • GIMP, a Photoshop-like graphic editor - - current stable version is 2.6.11 and there is also a downloadable manual. I have not used it much - takes too much time to learn.
  • Open Office, Mac Office compatible suite - - current stable version is 3.3. I am currently running 3.2.1, just haven't upgraded yet. Open Office has 5 modules:
Writer reads/writes all versions of Word, unlike the current version of Word
Spreadsheet is like Excel
Presentation is like Power Point
Drawing is a graphic program which I have not used
Database is database program which I tried just once - OK I guess
        Open office has its own format but fully supports Word, Excel and PowerPoint formats, as well as RTF, CSV.
  • Thunderbird - a cross-platform mail program - - current version is 3.1/ - There is a calendar add-on that integrates with the mail program and there is an add-on to integrate and update your Google Calendar. I began using when I quit using Outlook. In Windows, I converted my email from Outlook to Thunderbird and also copied my Address Book and Calendar. Once I got a Mac, I was able to use Thunderbird on both Windows and Mac, copying the email database, address book and calendar back and forth between Windows and Mac as needed. At first, I did my email on Windows and copied it to my Mac when traveling and then after a trip I copied it back to Windows. After a few month of Mac, I gave up the Windows Thunderbird - too much trouble to keep in sync. I much prefer Thunderbird to the Mac Mail, iCal and Address Book programs.
  • VLC an all purpose video player - - it plays every format I've ever enountered. There are 32- and 64-bit Mac versions, and there are Windows and Linux versions.
  • Calibre - - eReader software that converts open book from one format to another. Diane has a Kindle which does NOT read  ebooks in EPUB format. I found some public domain ebooks for Diane and converted them to MOBI format which Kindle does read.
  • Picassa is a Picture management tool ( - I have tried it, but I am have not decided if I will continue with it. 
  • GnuCash is an accounting program. ( It is more powerful than Quicken, but less user-friendly and perhaps less powerful than Quickbooks.
  • Running a Windows Program. There are a few ways to run Windows programs:
    • BootCamp - install Windows and your Mac will is a dual boot machine, requiring a re-boot to switch between Windows and Mac. I never tried this.
    • CrossOver - software that emulates Windows allowing some programs to run on a Mac. I was able to get Quicken 2008 to run, but it was very slow and I abandoned it for GnuCash - - about $40 to $70.
    • Using a Virtual Machine - There are 2 commercial products, Parallels ( and VMWare's Fusion (, both about $80. There is one free product, Virtual Box ( Diane runs Windows7 in Parallels 6 for Mac on Diane's iMac and she run WindowsXP in Parallels 6 for Mac on her MacBookPro. We need to run Windows for two reasons. We both believe that Legacy ( is best genealogy software an any platform. Also Diane is running QuickBooks in Windows, and Intuit would not give any discount for buying the Mac version.
I tried out Parallels on my MacBook shortly after I got it (in 2009) and loaded WindowsXP and also Ubuntu (Linux). I compared several Windows, Apple and Linux genealogy programs. That is when we concluded that Legacy was far superior. We put Parallels for Mac on her iMac and purchased WindowsVista with upgrade to Windows7. When we got Diane's MacBookPro, I transferred my Parallels and WindowsXP licenses to her computer.
This year I tried VirtualBox. I loaded Windows7 and Ubuntu on it but I found that VirtualBox does not allow the close integration of Windows and Mac that Parallels allows.
For genealogy purposes, I export the Legacy database to a Gedcom file and import into Reunion9 (, the best genealogy program we found for a Mac, so I have a copy of the database on my computer also.
  • AntiVirus software - I also do NOT run antivirus on my Mac, and this article explains why -  I personally have only had one virus on any of my computers and that was a Windows98 machine in 1999 using dial-up, and before I ran a Firewall and was behind a Router. Since then Windows e-mail scanners have caught and identified malicious attached files, but I would not have downloaded/opened the files in any case. I avoid certain sites in browsing. (We do run AntiVirus on the Windows machines in our house.)
    • The MAC Defender hoopla is a Trojan. One downloaded and installed (you have to type in your password to install anything on a Mac), the program prompts you to enter you Credit Card info to you can "purchase" the program to clean the virus. this Trojan is just a way to get your credit card info! It is called a Trojan for a reason, just the the citizens of Troy in, you have invited in the dangerous element. See to uninstall MAC Defender - or I do not know if these removal instructions work, since I have not had this problem, but they seem to suggest the same actions to take.