Free / $30
Apps

Eltima Software Commander One

Many Mac power users have long felt that the built-in Finder app in OS X doesn’t quite cut the mustard, despite Apple’s incremental improvements with each OS X update. This has spawned a number of alternatives over the years, and one of the latest entries into the group is Eltima Software’s Commander One (free/$30). The new dual-pane file manager for Mac is written entirely in Swift and designed specifically for OS X users, providing not only basic file management but a number of advanced features that power users will love — especially those who grew up in an era when dual-panel tools like this one were more the norm. You can view each panel in one of three view modes, and open unlimited tabs in each, make multiple selections and queue files up for various operations, automatically rename files during copy and move operations, and setup custom hotkeys for any action. Local and network drives are fully supported, and you can use Spotlight for basic searches or construct more advanced searches using regular expressions.

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$15
Apps

Belight Software Swift Publisher 4

If you find that you regularly need to put together fliers, newsletters, and brochures on a regular basis, you may want to take a look at Belight Software’s new update to Swift Publisher 4 ($15), a desktop publishing app that makes it easy to get great results from without breaking your software budget. You can choose from over 270 pre-designed templates, use grids and place your own guides for precision layouts, and set up an unlimited number of layers to achieve complex designs. Sophisticated column layouts, text styles, and gradient and freehand shapes and strokes are also included, along with a library of over 2,000 clipart images and the ability to import photos directly from iPhoto, Aperture, and now in the latest version, the new OS X Photos app.

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$200
Apps

Apple Logic Pro X 10.2

Apple has released its updated Logic Pro X 10.2 ($200) recording app, finally answering the question of what would happen to Camel Audio’s Alchemy music editing suite after Apple bought the company earlier this year. Apple has folded Alchemy into Logic Pro X and rebranded it as a powerful synthesizer that allows for the combination of four types of synthesis in the same plug-in. The updated Alchemy comes with a large library of sounds and the ability to search them by category, timbre, and articulation keywords to quickly locate useful sounds. Once they’re discovered, favorites can also be organized for later use with star ratings and custom keywords. Various synth engines can combine distinct elements from up to four sources to create entirely new sounds — blending the sound of a thunderclap with a snare hit or folding a handclap into the sound of a crashing wave, for example. Sounds can be dragged onto the Transform Pad for manipulation using eight sound variations, and performance controls can be customized by the user or automated to add intricacies to the music on their own. New built-in arpeggiation gives users the ability to create complex compositions using a single chord, and with up to 16 effects able to be applied to any sound, the range of possibilities is seemingly infinite.

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$80
Apps

VMware Fusion 8

Hot on the heels of Parallels 11, VMware has released its own updated Fusion 8 ($80) software, allowing Mac users to run Windows alongside their Mac’s OS. The newest incarnation is optimized for OS X El Capitan and is Windows 10 compatible, allowing Microsoft’s digital assistant Cortana to work on the machine even when Fusion is running in the background. The software supports the iMac’s 5K Retina display and includes an enhanced graphics engine with DirectX 10 and OpenGL 3.3. Thus far, Ars Technica has spotted serious problems with Fusion 8. Some users aren’t able to access the Windows 10 start screen while in Unity mode, while others who are able to access it notice lower parts of the start screen are covered by the Mac’s dock. VMware confirmed the bug and said it won’t be fixed in this initial release, but will be addressed in a point release later.

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Free*
Apps

Purple Cover AnyList for Mac

Macs can do some pretty exciting stuff, but sometimes all we need is something that helps ease more mundane, everyday tasks like grocery shopping. Purple Cover’s AnyList provides one of our favorite ways to keep and share a shopping list for use on the go, but sometimes keying it all in on an iPhone or even an iPad can start to get cumbersome, and that’s where the company’s new AnyList for Mac (free*) comes in. The Mac version replicates much of the look and feel of its iOS counterpart, although it’s naturally optimized for the larger screen.

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$80
Apps

Parallels Software Parallels Desktop 11

Another year brings another release of Parallels’ eponymous PC emulator for Macs. Ready for the release of OS X El Capitan, Parallels Desktop 11 ($80) supports Windows 10 and allows users to make use of Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant. Users can now simply swipe to switch between Mac and Windows screens, but even when Windows is running in the background, saying “Hey Cortana” will still get a reply from the digital assistant. Parallels also makes it possible to cut and paste or drag and drop items freely between Windows and Mac programs. Standard speed improvements are here, with Parallels claiming to have increased Windows startup performance by 50 percent and shaved 20 percent off the time it takes to open Microsoft Excel speadsheets. Battery life is improved 25 percent as well when operating in a new “travel mode.”  Users will be able to tailor the Windows experience to their preferred use (gaming vs. design, for example), allowing them to stretch the battery life further by making it possible to run Windows in a toned-down capacity.

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$10
Apps

Grailr CARROT Weather for Mac

“Just remember, every cloud has a silver lining. Except for mushroom clouds. They have a lining of Iridium and Strontium-90.” This is just one of many witticisms that the new Carrot Weather for Mac ($10) will entertain you with as you try to figure out whether to bring an umbrella with you for the day. Billed as an app “overflowing with personality,” Carrot’s weather forecasts are anything but dull, with dialogue, characters, and scenery that will change in surprising and unexpected ways.

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$35
Apps

Aspyr Media Homeworld Remastered Collection

The epic three-dimensional real-time-strategy game that set the standard for its genre returns on the Mac App Store as Homeworld Remastered ($35), a new compilation of the all of the campaigns from the original 1999 Homeworld and the 2003 sequel, Homeworld 2, remastered with high-definition graphics, a fully remastered score, and high-fidelity voice recordings by the original actors. As an added bonus, the Remastered edition also includes the Classic versions of both games for the purists that want the nostalgia of playing the originals.

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Juiceboxx MacBook Charger Case

Juiceboxx’s MacBook Charger Case ($20) is exactly what it claims to be — a two-piece hardshell case that snaps in place around a MacBook charger to prevent the cord from fraying. The polycarbonate case attaches to a charger — Juiceboxx currently offers cases for MacBook Air and MacBook Pro chargers — and the cord is threaded through a hole to the outside before snapping the case into place. A built-in groove still allows for winding the charger’s cord up for storage.

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$5
Apps

Apple GarageBand 10.1

In tandem with today’s launch of Apple Music, the company has also pushed out an update to its GarageBand ($5) music creation software, with a tie-in that allows artists to now publish their tracks directly to the Apple Music Connect service, allowing jams and mixes in progress to be quickly shared with fans.

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$4
Apps

Menu Bar Labs Diapositive

For casual Instagram users, the web site and mobile apps are probably more than sufficient, but if you’re heavily into the social photo service, Menu Bar Labs’ Diapositive ($4) provides an OS X app for getting at your Instagram feed. Designed exclusively for OS X Yosemite, this app provides a stream-like browsing experience similar to Twitter clients we’ve seen, with tabs at the top that let you access your own feed, Instagram’s most popular posts, posts you’ve liked, profiles, and a search for users and tags. The feed itself is elegantly simple, with photos front and center, descriptions and tags, and easily accessible buttons for liking and commenting on posts.

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Fall 2015
Apps

Apple OS X El Capitan

Apple introduced the next version of OS X today during its Worldwide Developers Conference. Dubbed OS X El Capitan, the update focuses on a number of user interface improvements, including iOS-like swipe gestures in the Mail app, pinned tabs in Safari, the ability to mute other tabs in Safari to deal with background audio, enhancements to Spotlight search that add more contextual information to searches, and a new natural language search in Spotlight, Mail, and Finder, allowing users to find information with searches such as “documents I worked on last June.” Several improvements have also been made to mission control and the windowing interface, allowing for full-screen enhancements to apps like Mail, and split-screen side-by-side window presentations for improved multitasking. Metal has also been added to the Mac version, providing significant graphics improvements and better battery life.

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$100-$200
Peripherals

Western Digital My Passport for Mac (mid-2015)

Western Digital’s newest update to its My Passport for Mac ($100-$200) portable hard drive features 256-bit AES password-protected hardware encryption. The Time Machine-compatible hard drive uses USB 3.0 for fast transfer rates. Backed by a three-year limited warranty, the updated My Passport for Mac comes in 1TB, 2TB, or 3TB options — we received the 2TB version.

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Logitech MX Anywhere 2 Wireless Mobile Mouse

Although trackpads are becoming more popular options for Mac users, a lot of folks still prefer to use traditional mice as their pointing device, and Logitech continues to up the game in this area with its MX Anywhere 2 Wireless Mobile Mouse ($80). Designed for portability, this new mouse features a new Darkfield Laser Sensor that’s designed to track on any surface you put it on — including glass — so you can use it just about anywhere you happen to be, with nothing more than a flat surface required. The compact design allows you to easily slip it into a bag, and a countered shape and rubber surface makes it comfortable even for prolonged use.

The scroll wheel on the MX Anywhere 2 mouse is equipped with hyper-fast scrolling, so you can quickly read through long documents or Web pages and then shift to click-­to-­click mode for more precise navigation.
Similar to the Logitech MX Master Wireless Mouse, the Logitech MX Anywhere 2 Wireless Mobile Mouse can be customized by using Logitech OptionsTM software to replicate touch gesture controls on Mac® computers so you can accomplish more with precise control. The rechargeable battery lasts up to two months replacing the need for spare batteries, and one minute of USB-cord charging gives you up to two hours of usage.

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$10
Apps

Frogmind Badland: Game of the Year Edition

Long an iLounge favorite for iOS, Frogmind’s Badland: Game of the Year Edition ($10) finally arrived on Mac last week. Originally released in 2013, the physics-based side-scroller has been updated with above full-HD visuals and totally reconfigured controls for the Mac.

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