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Meeting Notes

September 2006 - Software Alternatives

Apple provides many fine software products with Mac OS X (Safari, Mail, Address Book, iCal, iChat, ...). They also provide nice additions via iWork (Pages and Keynote) and iLife (iTunes, iMovie, iPhoto, GarageBand, iDVD, and iWeb).

Many of these products are excellent. But most (if not all) do have competitors (commercial, shareware and/or open source). Our goal in this presentation is to broaden your horizons and let you know about some of that competition. To start with, here is a chart showing Apple's offering and some of the competitors (as always, visit VersionTracker or MacUpdates.com for the latest versions of these products).

CategoryApple's ProductAlternatives
Browser Safari Firefox, Camino, Opera
e-mail Mail Thunderbird, Entourage, Eudora, Pine
Instant Messaging iChat Adium, Skype

Now lets add a little detail to the comparisons. We will start with browsers.

  • Comes with OS
  • Renders pages nicely
  • Has Mac OS X look and feel
  • Has Apple watching it for security problems and enhancing it
  • Supports tabbed browsing
  • Has some third-party add-ons (such as syntax highlighting, search features)
  • Nice bookmark editor
  • Limited 3rd party add-ons
  • Closed source
  • No ability to control animated iamges
  • Has big memory leak problems
  • Slow with multiple windows with multiple tabs open
  • Major updates are infrequent
  • Small market share - sites unlikely to code for it
  • Crashes sometimes
  • Closed source
  • Limited toolbar customization - Can't add "new tab" button
  • Freely downloadable
  • Renders pages nicely and quickly
  • Has the Mozilla development team behind it
  • Supports tabbed browsing
  • Many extensions available (public API for adding extensions) with supported download, install and update system
  • Bookmark manager is separate window
  • Supports themes
  • DOM Inspector -- great for seeing the various parts of a web page
  • Cross platform
  • Works with Gmail Chat
  • Foreign look and feel
  • Crashes sometimes
  • Poor tab closing mechanism
  • Feels sluggish
  • Freely downloadable
  • Renders pages nicely and quickly
  • Has the Mozilla development team behind basic engine
  • Supports tabbed browsing
  • Looks and feels a lot like Safari
  • Feels quick
  • Works with Gmail Chat
  • Very Customizable
  • Small team doing Mac look-and-feel -- lags behind Firefox
  • Freely downloadable (recently)
  • Very standards oriented
  • Nice page rendering
  • Pretty quick displaying pages
  • Cross platform
  • Supports extensions (via widgets)
  • Manages bookmarks via a new tab
  • Very Mac look-and-feel
  • Little slow to load initially
  • Small Mac audience
  • Small market share

The e-mail client world is very confusing. There really is not a clear choice across the board. It is much more important what e-mail server(s) you talk to mostly. Here is a table for quick comparison:
  • Comes with Mac OS X
  • Has a lot of flexibility
  • Is not overly standards compliant (can be a big problem when talking to other mail servers that also loosely support standards)
  • Can connect to Microsoft Exchange server, but limited functionality
  • Plentiful plugins for added support
  • Closed source
  • Has the Mozilla development team behind it
  • Supports IMAP, POP, and html-mail
  • Secure: Anti-phishing, attachments handled well, built in spam filter
  • Automatic updates
  • Supports themes and extension, Very customizable
  • Adheres to the Mac OSX look-and-feel
  • Supports News and RSS
  • FREE
  • No Support for syncing with Apple's Address Book
  • Comes as part of the Microsoft Office Suite
  • Adheres to the Mac OSX look-and-feel
  • Supports IMAP, POP, html-mail, and Exchange
  • Handles mail, tasks, contacts, schedules / PIM
  • Industry standard for business-type email
  • Plentiful good documentation, books, tutorials
  • Closed source
  • Expensive
  • No "free" updates
  • Can take a while to learn and customize
  • Syncs with Apple's Address Book
  • Supports IMAP and POP
  • Very Customizable
  • Secure: Good spam filter, attachments handled well
  • Closed source
  • Limited-feature "free" mode
  • Updates by paid subscription
  • Program for Internet News and Email
  • Runs on Unix variants, Windows, OSX
  • Lightweight
  • Secure - updated often
  • Developed by the University of Washington
  • FREE
  • No graphical support for Mac OSX
  • Only text based
  • Not installed by default under OSX

iChat is the dominant Instant Messaging client in the Mac world (by simply being there). Adium is worth considering -- depending on needs. And Skype has its merits also.
  • Comes with Mac OS X
  • Works with .Mac, AOL, jabber and BonJour
  • Audio chatting supported
  • Video chatting supported (to iChat and XP AOL users)
  • Just works
  • Does not support tabbed messenging
  • Closed source
  • Limited chat protocol support
  • Freely downloadable
  • Works with .Mac, AOL, jabber and BonJour
  • Also works with Yahoo, MSN, Lotus Sametime and Novell Groupwise
  • Supports Tabs (separate tab for each conversation)
  • Source code available
  • Highly configurable
  • No video or audio conferencing
  • Freely avaialble
  • Source code available
  • Cross platform
  • For Audio or video conferencing
  • PC to "land-line" phones works GREAT
  • Skype to Skype or SKype to phone system only
  • Need a handset (camera for video)
  • Future uncertain (legal system may impact)

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