Six Must-Have Free Apps for Your MacBook

The ones that will help you get the most out of your Mac

If you just bought your first MacBook and you do not yet know what applications you should first download and install on it, then I have the perfect six-pack of apps to get you up and going.

The applications presented in this article will allow you to know what your MacBook’s battery status is, to control your laptop’s fans, to keep an eye on your system, to find any wireless networks you might stumble upon on your journeys, to keep your MacBook always running by disabling its sleep mode feature, and last, but not least, to make sure you will always know when your MacBook has been moved behind your back.

The first application of the list is coconutBattery, a Mac app that will help you view all the information you will ever need to know (and more than that) about your MacBook’s battery.

Using coconutBattery, you will be able to view the current and maximum battery charge and capacity, how many load cycles the battery has gone through, and even the age of your Mac. In its developer’s words, coconutBattery will show you “the current maximum capacity of it in relation to the original capacity your battery had as it left the factory.”

The next app, smcFanControl, will allow you to closely monitor the CPU temperature via its menu bar entry and to make sure that your machine will never get too hot so that the MacBook will always deliver peak performance. And, as its author says, “official support for every so far released Macbook, Macbook Pro, Macbook Air, Mac Mini” is included.

If you want your newly acquired Apple-branded laptop to be as cool as can be without you having to do much work about it, then downloading and installing smcFanControl is the way to go.

Although iStat menus, the next application on the list, is not MacBook-only oriented, it is definitely one of the few that I warmly recommend to all new Mac users. iStat menus is the tool that will allow you to always keep an eye on your system by taking a quick glimpse at your Mac’s menu bar.

Using iStat menus, you will be able to monitor your CPU usage, memory usage, disk usage and activity, current and total bandwidth, peak bandwidth, IP addresses, the temperature of your Mac, the fan speeds, control the Bluetooth status and battery level of your Apple wireless devices (mouse and/or keyboard), and keep the time and date of multiple locations around the world in your menu bar.

As its developer says, “with 8 separate and highly configurable menu extras, iStat menus will let you know exactly what’s going on inside your Mac.”

iStumbler, the fourth app that you should install on your new MacBook, will help you quickly and easily find AirPort networks, Bluetooth devices and Bonjour services. As written on its homepage, “iStumbler combines a compact user interface with a real time graph of signal strength and complete debugging information such as network type, name and mac address.” In addition, “real-time visual feedback of signal strength and encryption allows you to quickly find open networks, perform site surveys or just have a look at your wireless neighborhood.”

These being said, I am sure you will agree that iStumbler is a must-have tool for anyone that uses his/her MacBook while being on the road and wants to quickly find and tap into any available wireless network in the surrounding area.

The fifth application, InsomniaX, while not being an obvious choice to be added to a must-have list of software for a MacBook, will definitely make your life a lot easier if you want to, for example, run a web server that should run 24/7. InsomniaX will make sure that you Mac will not enter sleep mode after you close its lid, thus maintaining all running applications alive and kicking.

Disabling the sleep mode may not be the safest thing to do if you plan to carry your MacBook in a protective case or in your backpack afterwards. However, if you let it run on your desk, InsomniaX is the thing that will get the job done with a single click of the mouse.

The sixth and last application on the list, MarcoPolo, is the one you want installed on your MacBook if you do not wish to change the network settings each time you move your laptop from one location to the other. Also, MarcoPolo will automatically switch the default printer, the desktop wallpaper, mount a certain device, and change the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth settings. To keep it short, MarcoPolo will automate any action you would have to perform on your own once you have changed your MacBook's location.

A seventh application has made it to the list at the last moment and, although I did not add it to the count, it can be a valuable addition to your MacBook-oriented app toolkit. I'm talking about iAlertU, which will help you know when anyone besides you touches your MacBook behind your back, without asking for permission. If you want to know exactly what this small tool does, think car alarm for MacBooks.

This little gem can be operated by employing your Apple Remote directly using the laptop’s keyboard. Thus, the only thing you have to do to arm it when using the Apple Remote is click and hold on the “Menu” button. To disarm it, you have to perform the exact same action. Let us see now who wants to mess with your MacBook while you are not around!

These are the first applications that I add to the default set of apps and those that you will always find on my MacBook. If you know of other useful MacBook-oriented apps that have not been included in this list, please share them with everyone else in the comments.


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