Over the last few years, the Mac App Store has turned out to be a far less overwhelming presence than we originally thought it might become. It was not, in fact, an Armageddon for traditional Mac developers.
I even thought the Mac App Store might inspire others (say, Microsoft) to develop their own app stores, which I said gave me "the willies". And, in fact, Microsoft has created its own app store for the Metro (what they call the Windows Store Interface) side of Windows 8 and 8.1. Since there's been so little adoption of Metro apps, and the Windows ecosystem is churning along with regular desktop apps, that threat has not manifested itself, pretty much at all. Yay, that.
Ever since I started using my monster 4-screen iMac, I've been loading and buying Mac applications and utilities to augment my Windows applications that I use in Parallels Coherence mode. One thing I've noticed is that many of the more interesting and useful apps (from my perspective as a power user/tinkerer) are not available via the Mac App Store or are available only as reduced capability versions.
The reason for this is that the Mac App Store requires apps to limit certain functionality, to avoid mucking with certain low-level aspects of system functioning. For Mac Muggles, this is a great security feature, but for a techie, it's just frustrating. In that context, here are 10 great apps I've found that are just too powerful for the sandboxing limitations of the Mac App Store
While there are a ton of keyboard macro programs on Windows, I've found that I really groove on the Mac's Keyboard Maestro program, written by Peter Lewis down under in Perth Australia. While it's interactive-based programming language is certainly a bit funky, I like funky languages. More to the point, for almost every occasion when I've thought, "Gee I wish I could make this darned machine do xxx," I could use Keyboard Maestro to do it.
There are a bunch of ways you can record audio on your Mac, but if you want to record audio from anything, and do it easily, reliably, and even schedule it, the very best tool I've found is Audio Hijack Pro. Even applications that are DRM-protected -- if you can hear them through your Mac's speakers -- you can record their audio with Audio Hijack Pro.
If you want to record audio from anything, anywhere on your Mac, you want Audio Hijack Pro. It will set you back US$32 and you can't get it in the Mac App Store.
I move back and forth between Windows and the OS X maybe 20 or 30 times a day. As I showed in , I often work in both environments at exactly the same time, with windows open on my screen from each OS. Also, for reasons I detailed in , I still haven't moved to Mavericks.
TotalFinder adds tabbed Finder windows like you get in Mavericks and even gives you a split Finder screen, very much like Directory Opus on Windows. Honestly, while those features are nice, that's not the reason I bought a product called TotalFinder. I bought TotalFinder because it adds the ability to copy and paste files from the Finder's right-click menu. I use this all the time in Windows and it drove me to distraction that I couldn't just copy and paste a file, a set of files, or a directory with a right click. TotalFinder makes that possible. It also adds other tweaks that you might find nice, like sidebar icons in color (I'm so used to them now, I forgot that came with TotalFinder).
If you're running Mountain Lion and want tabbed Finder windows or if you're running any recent variant of OS X and want to cut and paste files or split Finder windows, you want TotalFinder. It will set you back US$18 and you can't get it in the Mac App Store.
Those of us who grew up in the sixties remember actress Shirley Booth playing Hazel, the live-in maid to power couple George and Dorothy Baxter. She was a take-charge kind of home manager and kept everything spotless.
Inspired by Booth's Hazel, the folks at Noodlesoft created Hazel for the Mac, what they call "Your Personal Housekeeper." Hazel is basically a rules engine for the Finder, very much like the filters and rules you'd use for email, but for the desktop and individual folders. It's a very powerful tool for automated file management.
If you want automated, rules-like automated file management, you want Hazel. It (she?) will set you back US$28 and you can't get it (her?) in the Mac App Store.
Okay, let's put this right out there. AirParrot got pretty much Sherlocked by Mavericks. This is not new behavior by Apple. Back in my early software developer days (back in the days of HyperCard and the first color Macs), I got Sherlocked, too. Apple (and other OS vendors, to be fair), will blithely go ahead and add features to their products, even if they kill promising applications by third parties.
One such promising application is AirParrot. AirParrot will project a Mac's screen onto an AirPlay device (can you say "Apple TV"? Sure you can.) The ability to assign a screen to an AirPlay device came out in Mavericks, but if you -- like me -- are still using an older version of OS X (mostly because Mavericks breaks stuff), then Parrot is the best way to make your video fly to a new screen. Also, and this is something I just noticed looking at their Web page, AirParrot will also project a Windows screen to an Apple TV. Now, that's pretty slick!
If you're running Mountain Lion and want to send a screen to your Apple TV, you want AirParrot. It will set you back US$9.99 and you can't get it in the Mac App Store.
Parallels Desktop is the mother of all "we bypass the sandbox" applications you might get for OS X. Parallels is a desktop virtualization application that runs Windows, Linux, and even other OS X installations inside a virtual environment.
As I , I use Parallels to work in multiple OSs on my monster iMac. What's interesting is that I'm running Mountain Lion, but I have a VM of Mavericks, so I can actually run Mavericks in a window on Mountain Lion. Sometime in the next few weeks, I'll add a Yosemite VM, so I'll be running the Yosemite beta in Mountain Lion.
If you want to run Yosemite in Mavericks or Mountain Lion, or if you want to run Linux on your Mac or even Windows on your Mac, you want Parallels Desktop 9. It will set you back US$79.99 and you can't get it in the Mac App Store.
Of all the products in this list, Coda is the one I haven't yet used. It looks to be a pretty amazing product, but I'm still doing what little Web development I have time for in Windows. If I did want a high-performance Mac text editor, Coda would certainly be at the top of my list. The reason I'm spotlighting Coda here in this article is that the fine folks at Panic just announced that they will no longer be distributing Coda through the Mac App Store. They have a nice discussion of their reasoning, and it's well worth reading.
If you want to run future versions of Coda, you won't be able to get it in the Mac App Store.
CamTwist is one of the key technologies I use in the Skype Studio. Although it provides a whole lot of special video effects, what I've found to be incredibly useful is the ability of CamTwist to present a virtual webcam to programs that accept it (Skype and Hangouts do, but they're fussy). Since CamTwist is doing so very odd magic to make this possible, it breaks completely out of the Mac App Store sandbox model.
If want to run virtual webcams on your Mac, you want CamTwist. It's free and you can't get it in the Mac App Store.
While we're on the subject of doing slightly perverted things to the underlying driver architecture of the Mac, we should mention SoundFlower. SoundFlower is a tool that lets you re-route your audio from application to application. Until I upgraded my audio hardware, I used SoundFlower to route my audio from Skype into BoinxTV, the tool I use to produce video in the Skype Studio.
If you want the freedom to re-route audio on your Mac, you want SoundFlower. It's also free and you can't get it in the Mac App Store.
As you might imagine, given that I want Windows to coexist with OS X on the same machine, I often have to read and write to NTFS drives. While the Parallels Windows VM can read and write native NTFS mode, and OS X can mostly read native NTFS, I wanted to be able to be able to read and write NTFS files in the OS X environment without additional fuss. Paragon NTFS does that, and it even does it on Mavericks.
If you want to read and write NTFS volumes in OS X, you want Paragon NTFS. It will set you back US$19.95 and you can't get it in the Mac App Store.