The Best 37 Free Items for Your Mac

The Best 37 Free Items for Your Mac



Though the Mac is clearly the most stable computing platform around, that doesn't mean it's perfect, nor does it mean that we - as Mac owners - always know how to do everything with our machines. Luckily, you can get good support for free if you know where to look.


Genius Bar


If an Apple Store happens to have sprouted up near your house, you can take advantage of the Genius Bar. And the name is accurate - these folks can be of help with everything from fixing your malfunctioning Mac to showing you the ins and outs of GarageBand. Go online to to make an appointment (or simply call the store directly if your Mac is too sick to get online) and then head on in. Regular Joe customers can reserve appointments the day of, but a $100 ProCare card gets you 14-day advance access to appointments. In hella-busy markets such as New York or San Francisco, that may be the best 100 bucks you'll ever spend.




MUGs - Mac User Groups - are great resources. Your local MUG is a network of fellow Mac users with whom you can share tips and all sorts of Mac geekery. If you're not sure what's available near you, visit to find your closest MUG.


Help on the Web


There are a ton of Web sites where you can tap some knowledgeable Mac gurus and get answers to your questions.


Mac Owners Support Group. You'll find an Apple-endorsed online user group full of some exceptionally knowledgeable, helpful, and active members.


MacFixIt Forums. You'll find another great site full of thousands of devoted geeks ready to share their wisdom with you.


Apple Discussion Groups. Though the quality has diminished since Apple eighty-sixed all of its paid moderators, you'll still find some active volunteers answering questions and keeping things moving.




There are many podcasts dedicated to helping you get the most out of your Mac. Most of these shows will take questions by email as well as voice mail, allowing you to phone in a question that might get answered on the air.


MacCast. Though this show definitely includes quite a bit of news, it has a healthy support aspect to it as well.


The Mac Observer's Mac Geek Gab. Hosted by two longtime Mac geeks (including your humble author), this show often focuses on addressing questions sent in by listeners.


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Apple opened Pandora's box when it let us start audio- and video-chatting with other Mac users via iChat AV - but the conversation doesn't stop there. A few other apps and platforms have cropped up, letting you chat not just with other Mac users, but with folks on all sorts of computers.


Skype 2.5 - Free (or very cheap) phone calls

You need: Mac OS 10.3.9 or later

If you haven't already heard of Skype, you must not get out much. Simply put, Skype not only lets you place free voice and video calls to other computer users (including people using Windows and Linux), but also includes a link to the "real" world, letting you call U.S.-based landlines, as well, for a small fee. The quality of the sound is many times better than that of iChat AV, though Skype basically requires you to use headphones while making calls - it doesn't hold a candle to iChat's near-perfect speakerphone capabilities. That said, Skype is way better at dealing with firewalls and routers than iChat, and it can be a real thing of beauty if you're in an office or hotel that has a funky network. Pay options include voice mail, SMS messaging, and international calling.


skype interface

Gab away - for free - with Skype 2.5.


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Gizmo Project - Not quiiiiite as good as Skype, but cheaper calling landlines

You need: Mac OS 10.3.9 or later

Similar to Skype, Gizmo is a crossplatform (Mac, Windows, Linux) chat client, though currently it only supports audio, not video. Calls to other Gizmo users (including to their landlines and cell phones) are free, but outgoing calls to anyone else's landline or cell will cost you a few cents - a penny per minute in the U.S. Gizmo does have echo cancellation to make for a more natural speakerphone-type experience, and it also includes a way of recording your calls, which can be quite handy when talking to absent-minded coworkers or family members.






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Google's Picasa Web can be used with iPhoto to make quick photo albums for those who may not have .mac service.
As of today, google offers 1 Gb of free page space.
It's free and cool.


MacAddict Reader

Because absolutely none of us read the final issue of MacAddict.



Google spreadsheets and word processor is great, however, it doesn't work well with Safari - I'd go as far as saying one of them won't work at all. You need to install FireFox to get it to work.



Correct link is, not .com.



Good catch - my bad.





Don't forget Inkscape!

A very good open source vector drawing program. I even find it easier to do some things in Inkscape than Illustratior CS2. Excellent support for SVG too.



That's pretty sweet. Thanks a ton!



FreeMacMusic has been taken down by the owner. FreeMacWare is still as awesome as ever though.

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