This post is inspired by the growing number of Switchers in our office. At this point we have 5 people using macs full time and loving it!
The Mac comes with some great software out of the box, there are still a few missing pieces. Chinese input, for one, is poor in MacOS X. Another issue is playing videos in various formats. Luckily, many of these holes can be solved with small pieces of free software, I hope to list the best ones here. Feel free to add more suggestions in the comments.
Fun Input Toy – Developed in Beijing, this pinyin input system is much better than the built in ITABC pinyin that comes with MacOS X. A MUST download if you want to type in Chinese. This is brought to us by the same team that makes the WeFIT chinese input system for the iPhone.
IMQIM – The gold standard in chinese input. This one does cost $16, but it is really nice, with full intelligent sentence generation for super fast typing. For anyone who spends a lot of time typing in Chinese, this is worth your investment.
Perian – This is a plugin that makes the built in Quicktime Player a powerhouse. After installing perian, pretty much any video format you can throw at it will just play without any fuss. This is great because QT Player is integrated into the OS, and has all the best scrubbing capability of any player out there.
Video Monkey – One of the biggest drawbacks of the iPhone is its refusal to play the videos that you actually have, namely the AVI and WMV files that you have on your hard drive that you may want to take with you. Video Monkey takes care of this by proving an easy way to reformat video. It can take almost any format and convert the file into the right size and format for your iPhone or iPod. It will even put it into your iTunes library for easy syncing.
VLC – when all else fails, VLC to the rescue. VLC can really play anything. The user interface for Quicktime Player is much better, so i don’t recommend using VLC full time, just when it won’t play anywhere else.
UnrarX – For some reason, RAR has become a standard file format within China. UnrarX is the app to open up those files. Its a great little app that does exactly what you would expect.
There are many other excellent programs for the Mac, and finally more and more Chinese software developers are finding that supporting Mac users is a good move. I remember a time when Apple computers were a legend, something that some had heard of but few had ever seen. In the past 5 years, there’s been an explosion of Apple gear, starting with iPods and moving to iPhones and Macbooks. I look forward to seeing many more useful apps in this space, and to hearing your suggestions.