Article: Back to School Software Spectacular 2005

by on August 11, 2005

On Tuesday, we took a look at hardware for students. In this article, we’ve compiled our picks for software…

Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger

New Macs will come with it, but if you’re giving a student an older Mac, it might not be installed. Not only are there new and better features, but it plays much better on a Windows network, works great with networked printers, and has all kinds of bells and whistles that just make life easier.


iChat is good for a few things—taking up a lot of screen space, making instant messaging easy, and audio/video chats. Adium is much better for anyone who just wants something small, fast, powerful, and customizable. It’ll connect to almost every service out there and lets you personalize it however you want. Best of all, it’s free.

Microsoft Office or Apple iWork

Some schools offer Microsoft Office for $5 or $10. If that’s the case, putting up with Microsoft’s annoyances can be worth it, and you get a pretty powerful set of programs. If your school doesn’t offer that as an option, Apple’s iWork suite (Pages & Keynote) gives you slightly different features, the ability to make fancier presentations, and is much cheaper. It also works with Office documents.


Most schools give students a bit of web space. To make use of it, you’ll need an FTP client. CyberDuck is free, works with Growl (a notification system gaining use on many OS X programs), and offers quite a few features. It’s also very easy to use.


Some students find themselves having to make web pages for classes, or deal with lots of code for computer programming. TextWrangler was made free a little while ago by Bare Bones Software, and is basically the little brother to BBEdit. It offers quite a few features and even has a built-in FTP upload tool.

Carbon Copy Cloner

As we mentioned backup options in the hardware section, those who have an external hard drive might want to back up their entire Mac. The advantage of this is that if your main hard drive fails, you can bring it back to a completely bootable state from another drive (if the hard drive just needs to be formatted). Carbon Copy Cloner is a free utility that will duplicate your boot drive to another and make it remain bootable. Make sure you have a version of Mac OS X before 10.4 or that you have 10.4.2, as CCC doesn’t work with 10.4 or 10.4.1.

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