Open up to Mac software
Bean is a very neat, simple and yet fairly fully featured word processor. Although it doesn’t provide all the features of Microsoft Word, nor indeed of OpenOffice, for many people it will provide everything they need at a price that’s more than fair. If you don’t need a lot of high-end (and seldom-used) features, it’s well worth checking out.
I’m a big fan of Bean, and the things I really like about it include a slider to control the magnification of document pages, its live word count (as a writer, it’s always useful to know how close you’re getting to the requested wordage), its integration of Apple’s Dictionary application, and the fact it’s mostly able to cope with documents created in Microsoft Word, so long as they don’t include images. Things Bean doesn’t support, however, include footnotes (it will import Word documents with footnotes, but all those footnotes will be moved to the end of the document) and Outliner mode.
There are several other free word processors out there – AbiWord and OpenOffice are perhaps Bean’s two most immediate competitors in this area – but in Bean I feel I’ve finally found a program I’m entirely happy to recommend that people install rather than fork out the cash for Office 2008, since most non-professionals only ever use their word processor as a glorified typewriter anyway. More often, I find myself firing up Bean rather than Word even when I need to write something substantial. Bean’s developer, James Hoover, is to be congratulated on providing a great little product.
We’ve raved about HandBrake before and make no apologies for raving about it again. If you have a video-capable iPod, an iPhone, or you just hate carrying DVDs around with you when you travel, this is an essential product that allows you to “rip” DVDs to MPEG4 or H.264 format, so you can simply copy your DVD content onto your hard disk and open it from there using Apple’s QuickTime player, transfer it to your iPod or whatever. This program has always been great, but the latest version is better still, adding faster processing, better display of subtitles and generally improved stability.
To go alongside HandBrake, I use MPEG Streamclip on an almost daily basis – part of my job involves creating clips from DVDs, and MPEG Streamclip provides probably the most flexibility around for doing that. It will read just about any file format you can throw at it – including standard DVD VOB files – and will export either the entire thing or just clips in a huge range of formats, using any of dozens of encoders. Simon and I particularly enjoy its ease of editing (hit “I” at the in-point while the clip is playing, and “O” at the out-point, which is pure joy compared to messing around with QuickTime’s start and end markers) and the fact you can trim, crop and resize easily before you finally export the clip. A hint if you’re doing lots of clips at once: bring up the Batch window, and from then on all the clips you work on are placed in a queue, to be processed together at the end. MPEG Streamclip should be a part of the standard toolkit for anyone working with video – it’s as simple as that.
And talking of video, Miro provides access to more than 2,500 “internet video channels”, including content from several American PBS (public broadcasting system) stations, organisations like NASA, podcasts from cable channels such as Comedy Central, commercial TV and films that are now in the public domain, and amateur filmmakers from all over the world – think of it as “TV on the internet”. It’s a similar idea to systems such as Joost, but it’s totally open source; you can also use Miro to search for YouTube videos.