Synium Software MacFamilyTree 5.1

The Virtual Globe is almost as fun to twirl as a real one.  Family rifts aside, it’s a nice idea to keep track of where you’re from and who your ancestors are. MacFamilyTree 5.1 makes it easy to organize the myriad limbs of your family’s tree—even those you wish you could lop off at times.

HDRSoft Photomatic Pro 3.0

HDR and tone mapping bring out all the detail in this shot of Venice’s Grand Canal.  High dynamic range (HDR) photography is a technique designed to capture much more detail in color and contrast than traditional photography can. When taking a photograph, a camera can only capture a single exposure. A shaded subject with a bright sky behind it presents a classic conundrum. Capturing the details of the shaded subject requires an exposure that will wash out the sky. Yet an exposure optimized for the sky will underexpose the shaded area, swamping its details in inky darkness. HDR photography captures all those details by snapping three or more images at differing exposures and blending them together.

Modartt Pianoteq 2

While there are lots of controls for tweaking the sound, you’ll fall in love with Pianoteq by just playing the darn thing.  While the digital music world is ruled by gnarly synthesizers, decked-out drum machines, and spacey sound effects, most musicians will tell you that the Holy Grail of software is one that can emulate the good old acoustic piano. Sampled piano instruments typically require sample libraries that eat up between 15 and 30 gigabytes of hard drive space, and are constrained by the limitations of sampling technology. Well, fear not: A group of French geniuses have come up with the ultimate nonsampled piano, and it’s downright luscious.

Susie Ochs's picture

Our level 10 knight battles a level 11 troll to become Lord of the Swamp.  Practically everyone has played a board or two of Bejeweled, the match-three puzzle classic that sucks casual gamers in on Macs, PCs, consoles, iPods, and mobile phones. Puzzle Quest starts with the same gameplay, but adds strategy and RPG elements to keep things interesting.

Adobe Photoshop Elements 6

The Guided Edit mode gives you a column of options for easy editing.  Photoshop Elements has long played the role of little brother, with a streamlined interface and toolset designed for amateur photographers, hobbyists, and anyone who doesn’t need all of Photoshop’s advanced functionality—or $649 price tag. At $90, Elements 6 is a tremendous bargain, and head and shoulders above previous versions. This is the first Universal binary version of Elements, and the performance boost on Intel Macs closely mirrors that of Photoshop CS3—it boots quickly and generally feels smooth and responsive. We also ran it on a G4 Titanium PowerBook and a Dual Power Mac G5 with respectable speeds. While Adobe claims that Elements can run with 512MB of RAM (1GB is recommended), we found that the program sometimes crashed on our PowerBook, which has 1GB of RAM, but never on our MacBook Pro or Power Mac G5, with 3GB and 2GB of RAM, respectively. We suggest downloading the trial version to see how it performs on your machine.

Return to Dark Castle

Dark Castle’s infamous henchmen return—and bring friends.  Return to Dark Castle revisits two classic Mac games from 1986 and 1987. Back then, the black-and-white Dark Castle titles introduced sharp graphics and smart gameplay to a young side-view, platform genre. But other than color and more levels, little has been added to Return to Dark Castle. This lovingly crafted game could have come out 20 years ago—we were hoping for more updates and innovation. 

Martin Jahn iBackup

iBackup’s list of default sources includes all the files that most home users will want to save.  iBackup’s Spartan interface may give the impression of a featherweight, but looks in this case are deceiving. Although it eschews the slew of options offered by ChronoSync, the application retains just enough power to best Apple’s Backup 3 at running regular network backups. iBackup saves and organizes backup plans as profiles, each of which has its own set of options within the Preferences menu. For network backups, the application can automatically connect to network volumes by IP address, and can automatically disconnect when the backup is finished. Backup profiles can be scheduled to repeat daily or weekly.

Neon Tango

Bank shots are even better when you shoot them on purpose!  With Neon Tango, Freeverse conjures up the spirit of classic, vector-line arcade games. This unabashedly retro shooter features typical, blast-anything-that-moves gameplay that would normally cost you an afternoon pumping quarters into a cabinet. And even though Neon Tango never feels completely original, its high standards make for some fun shooting.

Déjà Vu lists all saved backup plans in its pane inside System Preferences.  Déjà Vu stands out as the most effortless and invisible application that we tested, offering an intuitive interface that collects all of the features most essential for network backups.

Detailed videos show proper finger and hand position from multiple angles.  The mention of guitar lessons probably conjures images of hunching over an acoustic guitar in the back room of a strip-mall music shop while an aging hippie prods your unwilling fingers to contort to the chords of “Kumbaya.” Fortunately, iPlayMusic has a more effective and humane way to teach you guitar with Beginner Guitar Lessons and Play Music Together.