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Apps for your new Mac: Useful utilities

post #1 of 66
Thread Starter 
New Mac users will find OS X a capable performer by default, but there are a few gaps that are best filled by third-party apps. AppleInsider has rounded up some of the most useful additions to any Mac user's arsenal.

Useful utilities


For this roundup, we focused on true utilities: small, often single-purpose apps that plug small holes in the Mac experience. While we usually recommend that new Mac owners work with their computers for a while before diving into the Mac App Store, the apps on this list should find a home on nearly every Mac.

Growl


Notifications

Growl


Before Apple introduced Notification Center in OS X Mountain Lion, apps communicated new information to users with Growl. For various reasons, Apple's version has not yet cornered the market --?many popular apps like instant messager Adium and streaming music player Spotify still rely on Growl for notifications.

Growl has some advantages over Notification Center for users as well: notifications can be skinned and resized, for instance, and their contents can be synthesized as speech by OS X's built-in voice synthesis engine. For those who want notifications from the apps that still use Growl but prefer to keep things organized, Growl can now act as a proxy, sending updates to Notification Center.

Formerly a free download, Growl is now available in the Mac App Store as a 6.8-megabyte download.

The Unarchiver


Extract compressed files

The Unarchiver


OS X ships with a built-in compressed file extraction utility aptly named Archive Utility, and while it works well, it has some limitations. Archive Utility's list of supported file formats is slim, and it has been known to suffer performance issues on large zip files or with files created in non-Roman languages.

Enter its equally-aptly-named alternative, The Unarchiver. The Unarchiver is a speedy drop-in replacement for Archive Utility that adds support for nearly 100 older or less popular compressed file formats like 7-Zip and RAR as well as disk image archives like ISO, BIN, and Microsoft's MSI.

The Unarchiver is a free, 5.3-megabyte download from the Mac App Store.

Alfred


Keyboard shortcuts for everything

Alfred


Alfred began life as a replacement for Quicksilver, a popular program that helped users to quickly perform system actions like launching apps using only the keyboard. Quicksilver, despite its then-immense popularity, fell into disrepair around the release of Snow Leopard and Alfred rose to Quicksilver's place.

Thanks to its laundry list of plugins and highly scriptable nature, Alfred can be configured to perform nearly any task with a few simple keystrokes. Even if users choose not to take advantage of its more advanced features, Alfred makes it faster and easier to launch applications, find contacts, create new email drafts, and search the web out of the box.

Basic Alfred functionality can be had with a free download from www.alfredapp.com, though a ?17 ($28) purchase is required to unlock its more advanced features such as Automator-style worflows.

AppCleaner


Completely uninstall apps

AppCleaner


Though Mac apps are often distributed as single-file bundles that can be installed by simply dragging-and-dropping them into your Applications folder, uninstalling those apps is not always as easy. Apps can create related files in many locations around OS X, and Apple does not provide a central "uninstaller" for apps that were not purchased from the Mac App Store.

Many third-party "uninstaller" utilities are available, but AppCleaner is the best. It works quickly and easily --?just drag an app onto its window and AppCleaner will find and display all of its related files, then remove them with a singel click.

AppCleaner is a free download from its developer at www.freemacsoft.net/appcleaner/.

VLC


Play back nearly any video file

VLC


OS X's built-in media player, QuickTime Player, is speedy and well-designed but offers limited support for different types and encodings of media. While some may advocate installing a codec pack that expands QuickTime Player's reach, we recommend usurping QuickTime Player's role entirely with stalwart alternative VLC.

VLC is a cross-platform, open source media player created by the non-profit VideoLAN organization. Put simply, VLC plays absolutely everything you can throw at it --?from 3GP videos recorded on early-2000s camera phones to 4K video streams and even corrupted files, rare is the file that will trip VLC up. If you plan to watch video on your Mac, VLC is the app to use.

VLC is a free download from www.videolan.org/vlc/.
post #2 of 66
I'd add Window Tidy to that list; handy for people with large screens (though the Finder has gotten way more manageable with its tabs)
https://itunes.apple.com/app/window-tidy/id456609775?l=en&mt=12

Also, Rarify to compress, Calibre as an alternative .epub reader, MenuMeters as a SysPrefs plugin, XLD for converting audio, HandBrake.fr and iVI for video converting and so on and so forth.
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post #3 of 66
Adium has supported OS X notifications for about a year already.
post #4 of 66

I wish Apple would obsolete The Unarchiver. It’s great, but we shouldn’t have to use it.

 

And VLC can go rot.

Originally Posted by Marvin

The only thing more insecure than Android’s OS is its userbase.
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Originally Posted by Marvin

The only thing more insecure than Android’s OS is its userbase.
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post #5 of 66

Bartender ought to be on the list. Great app for ending Menu Bar clutter.

http://www.macbartender.com

post #6 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

VLC can go rot.

How so? (Not familiar with the phrase, but presume it's meant negatively)
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post #7 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

I'd add Window Tidy to that list; handy for people with large screens (though the Finder has gotten way more manageable with its tabs)
https://itunes.apple.com/app/window-tidy/id456609775?l=en&mt=12

 

I've tried every single windows management app available for Mac and I'm confident to recommend that "Moom" is by far the absolute best. It's packed with features and shortcuts, and best of all I can manage windows between multiple monitors on  my MBA 11" and my external display.

post #8 of 66
Both HandBrake (video converter/ripper) and Onyx (general Mac maintenance) should definitely be on that list.
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post #9 of 66
Growl really doesn't do anything that Notification Center doesn't. It's redundant. If developers haven't updated their apps to take advantage of Notification Center, I won't bother to use their apps. I don't want third party software handling notifications.
post #10 of 66
Quote:
"Originally Posted by Tallest Skil

VLC can go rot.

How so? (Not familiar with the phrase, but presume it's meant negatively)"


I don't know his reason, but I agree with him. VLC has gone down hill for many months now - choppy performance (that being my number one complain; it's irritating when skipping 5-10 sec of a movie and the whole thing freezes and/or loses the audio), over-complicated menus e settings (absolutely one of the worse layouts I ever seen in an App) and -gasp- does not play ALL the videos like it used to. Sometimes, for movies created by Quicktime (or other App that uses quicktime's codecs) it won't play. I have to use movist.
post #11 of 66
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post
How so? (Not familiar with the phrase, but presume it's meant negatively)


It’s terrible software with a horrible interface, ugly design, and exists to prop up the fringe market of formats which don’t need to exist at all.


ONE WORLD.

ONE ENCODING.

ALL DEVICES.

Originally Posted by Marvin

The only thing more insecure than Android’s OS is its userbase.
Reply

Originally Posted by Marvin

The only thing more insecure than Android’s OS is its userbase.
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post #12 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post
 


It’s terrible software with a horrible interface, ugly design, and exists to prop up the fringe market of formats which don’t need to exist at all.


ONE WORLD.

ONE ENCODING.

ALL DEVICES.

 

With that I have to agree - what a terrible UI VLC has.

iMac Intel 27" Core i7 3.4, 16GB RAM, 120GB SSD + 1TB HD + 4TB RAID 1+0, Nuforce Icon HDP, OS X 10.9.1; iPad Air 64GB; iPhone 5 32GB; iPod Classic; iPod Nano 4G; Apple TV 2.
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post #13 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post


It’s terrible software with a horrible interface, ugly design, and exists to prop up the fringe market of formats which don’t need to exist at all.

ONE WORLD.
ONE ENCODING.
ALL DEVICES.

Exactly. Which is why handbrake should be on the list. If it doesn't run on iTunes- handbrake it to the correct format. Don't settle with VLC (although you need VLC to run those on handbrake). 1smile.gif

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2012 27" iMac i7, 2010 27" iMac i7, 2011 Mac Mini i5
iPad Air, iPad Mini Retina, (2) iPhone 5S, iPod Touch 5
Time Capsule 5, (3) AirPort Express 2, (2) Apple TV 3

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post #14 of 66
Amen, tallest skil.

Add to that quirky interface list Handbrake, Gimp and PDFPro. I tolerate the 3rd but wish they'd consult someone to clean up their GI.
post #15 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andysol View Post

Exactly. Which is why handbrake should be on the list. If it doesn't run on iTunes- handbrake it to the correct format. Don't settle with VLC (although you need VLC to run those on handbrake). 1smile.gif

Big Handbrake fan here. The one reason why I need to think about getting a big file server.

As for VLC it is one of those apps that you need to hate but at the same time have to have around just in case. By the way guys, yes the interface sucks but there are far worst bits of software out there.
post #16 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by brlawyer View Post

With that I have to agree - what a terrible UI VLC has.

I partially agree but I consider Quicktime X's UI bad too for the main reason that it overlaps the video. If you are reviewing videos for artifacts, the UI can obscure some of them entirely and you can't see where you are in the video until you hover over the video. VLC can be customized to skip back/forward with the arrow keys - great for skipping to the good parts in your favorite movies. You can resync audio on the fly with f/g keys. Also recrop video and change aspect on the fly. The format support is great for transcoding - just use the convert/stream option and it can convert all the old formats to MP4, I've used it a couple of times for movies Handbrake didn't support. It also lets you take screenshots from DVDs unlike DVD Player. It only supports one movie open at a time though, which is annoying.

Other apps I would add to the list would be
- Carbon Copy Cloner for backups
- Diskwave for finding what's using file space
- Easyfind for when Spotlight doesn't find something in hidden folders
- Pacifist for installations that won't install or extracting files from installers
- Quickboot for restarting in Bootcamp without holding the alt-key
- R-name for batch file renaming
- Soundflower for looping audio back into recordings so that you can screen record streaming video with audio
- Steam for games
- TextWrangler for when TextEdit is no good (more and more often unfortunately)
- Xee, a hardware-accelerated image viewer that will let you flip through hundreds of images in a folder and delete ones you want very quickly once you map the arrow keys
post #17 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post


I partially agree but I consider Quicktime X's UI bad too for the main reason that it overlaps the video. If you are reviewing videos for artifacts, the UI can obscure some of them entirely and you can't see where you are in the video until you hover over the video. VLC can be customized to skip back/forward with the arrow keys - great for skipping to the good parts in your favorite movies. You can resync audio on the fly with f/g keys. The format support is great for transcoding - just use the convert/stream option and it can convert all the old formats to MP4, I've used it a couple of times for movies Handbrake didn't support. It also lets you take screenshots from DVDs unlike DVD Player. It only supports one movie open at a time though, which is annoying.

Other apps I would add to the list would be
- Carbon Copy Cloner for backups
- Diskwave for finding what's using file space
- Easyfind for when Spotlight doesn't find something in hidden folders
- Pacifist for installations that won't install or extracting files from installers
- Quickboot for restarting in Bootcamp without holding the alt-key
- R-name for batch file renaming
- Soundflower for looping audio back into recordings so that you can screen record streaming video with audio
- Steam for games
- TextWrangler for when TextEdit is no good (more and more often unfortunately)
- Xee, a hardware-accelerated image viewer that will let you flip through hundreds of images in a folder and delete ones you want very quickly once you map the arrow keys

 

Good additions, but pls note that CCC is no longer free.

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post #18 of 66
You do know Quicksilver is quite alive again? And IMHO it's much better than Alfred and free..
post #19 of 66
In case you're not aware: Quicksilver is quite alive again and IMHO a whole lot better than Alfred plus you can't beat free...
post #20 of 66

Sorry about the double post. For some reason my posts don't show up on the main page.

post #21 of 66

I was a user of VLC for many years but for some reason (can't remember now) switched to Movist on the Mac App Store. It's really very good, the developer keeps it up to date with new OS X features.

 

Steam has the most games now, but what about in the future? Mac has it's own app store, Windows has it's own app store, and Valve has launched Steam OS. The writing is on the wall, Steam will become Steam OS only.

post #22 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by brlawyer View Post

Both HandBrake (video converter/ripper) and Onyx (general Mac maintenance) should definitely be on that list.

Yes, especially Onyx. I have been waiting since the beginning of the App Store to see Onyx there. I don't like to do any financial transactions online  (call me paranoid, I don't mind)... but make an exception for iTunes and Appstore, and nothing would please me more than to be able to buy Onyx at Apple App Store .... yes I know it's a free download but I have used it in the past and think it's a terrific app and worthwhile buying ... would love for Apple to have something similar for Mac, but Onyx does a fantastic job.

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post #23 of 66

Sounds like there are some guys on here that know their apps pretty well.  Slilghtly off the subject of OS-x...but does anyone know of a good app for the iPad that works kind of like the finder (which I like because I am comfortable with this kind of filing system)?  I got my new mini coming in soon and would be interested in suggestions. (Or am I confused and will discover that I won/t actually need this)?

SkyKing
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post #24 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sky King View Post

does anyone know of a good app for the iPad that works kind of like the finder (which I like because I am comfortable with this kind of filing system)?  I got my new mini coming in soon and would be interested in suggestions. (Or am I confused and will discover that I won/t actually need this)?

It depends on what you plan to use the filesystem for. There's a couple of apps here for multiple file types:

http://www.getfilesapp.com
http://www.stratospherix.com/products/filebrowser/

The latter one is closer to the Finder layout and you can manage files on a server quite easily with it so you can shuttle files back and forward from either a local NAS drive or a remote server and open files in chosen apps.

If you just want something to play movies in formats other than Apple's preferred formats, there's the likes of GPlayer and you copy movies directly into the app:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gplayer/id438402174?mt=8

Apps are sandboxed for security so opening files from a shared file browser app will copy files into other apps and have to copy them back. I think it would be good if Apple had a documents area that was shared between apps and every app sandbox only had access to their own space and the shared space. The shared space could have protections if an app chooses to delete or modify more than one file at a time.
post #25 of 66

I'd add 'HandyPrint' to the list for those with iOS devices; it lets you print to any printer on your OSX machine from your iOS devices.  Saves the cost of buying an 'AirPrint' compatible printer and simply works.

post #26 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

I'd add Window Tidy to that list; handy for people with large screens (though the Finder has gotten way more manageable with its tabs)
https://itunes.apple.com/app/window-tidy/id456609775?l=en&mt=12

Also, Rarify to compress, Calibre as an alternative .epub reader, MenuMeters as a SysPrefs plugin, XLD for converting audio, HandBrake.fr and iVI for video converting and so on and so forth.

I want to talk up iVI. It's an amazing app and then you look at the price and it's unbelievable. I paid $10 long before it dropped to it's current $3.99 price and it's been worth every penny.

Besides the configuration options and automation that will take a file added to a folder, locate the metadata, "convert" it and put it into iTunes in the right area (TV Show or Movie), it can do most conversions in under 1-2 minutes on my MBP because instead of foolishly converting H.264/AAC or H.264/Mp3 encoded file wrapped in a MKV container it will intelligently strip off the MKV container and add the MP4 container around the video and audio data using Apple's M4V extension.

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"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #27 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

I want to talk up iVI.

Sure, no problem. I thought we discussed this already 1biggrin.gif

I bought it after your recommendation last year (or so). Yep, $10 back then. Been using it for all the concerts I download from my favourite artist (audience shot, so wide variety of codecs/containers), so I can have them all in my iTunes. Walking into a friends house and AirPlay a video they like through the AppleTV is simply the best there is. A unified, constant naming convention in my iTunes library because iVI makes this so easy is really great.

So, thanks for the recommendation. Again.
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post #28 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

Sure, no problem. I thought we discussed this already 1biggrin.gif

I remember, but I didn't want your mention to get lost and others to miss out on what I think is a great time saver for those that want an organized media server.

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"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #29 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by cwoloszynski View Post

I'd add 'HandyPrint' to the list for those with iOS devices; it lets you print to any printer on your OSX machine from your iOS devices.  Saves the cost of buying an 'AirPrint' compatible printer and simply works.

Link? I can't find it. Not in my Store, nor in the US one.
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post #30 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by brlawyer View Post

Good additions, but pls note that CCC is no longer free.

True, but they do have a 30 day trial.
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post #31 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

Link? I can't find it. Not in my Store, nor in the US one.

It is available at netputing.com. http://netputing.com
post #32 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by cwoloszynski View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

Link? I can't find it. Not in my Store, nor in the US one.

It is available at netputing.com. http://netputing.com

Stupid me; I was looking in the iOS Store. Thanks! A mere $5 donation OSX utility. Handy
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post #33 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by CommentSF View Post

VLC has gone down hill for many months now - choppy performance (that being my number one complain; it's irritating when skipping 5-10 sec of a movie and the whole thing freezes and/or loses the audio)

If that's the case then my hardware is simply newer or 'more maxed out'. I've never seen anything lag/gone choppy/freeze. MacPro5.1 dual quad core, 20GB RAM, 1GB 5770 GPU. Also my mini (cheapest, I think one year old) runs just fine, with I believe 8GB RAM. Nothing to complain. Yes the interface is ...whatever, but that's to be expected from open source. I just open a video in the Finder and sometimes FF by using the arrow key. That's the only thing I touch in VLC.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

It’s terrible software with a horrible interface, ugly design, and exists to prop up the fringe market of formats which don’t need to exist at all.

I have no issues whatsoever. Yep, fugly, but I watch the video, not the UI 1biggrin.gif
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

I partially agree but I consider Quicktime X's UI bad too for the main reason that it overlaps the video. If you are reviewing videos for artifacts, the UI can obscure some of them entirely and you can't see where you are in the video until you hover over the video. VLC can be customized to skip back/forward with the arrow keys - great for skipping to the good parts in your favorite movies. You can resync audio on the fly with f/g keys. Also recrop video and change aspect on the fly. The format support is great for transcoding - just use the convert/stream option and it can convert all the old formats to MP4, I've used it a couple of times for movies Handbrake didn't support. It also lets you take screenshots from DVDs unlike DVD Player. It only supports one movie open at a time though, which is annoying.

Indeed, QTX UI is just as bad. Good thing I still have v7. And VLC certainly has the above pros, with the one movie open at a time as my only con.
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post #34 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

Indeed, QTX UI is just as bad. Good thing I still have v7. And VLC certainly has the above pros, with the one movie open at a time as my only con.

I like QTX, after I altered the PLIST so it will auto play files on launch. I use it for quick editing video and audio, as well as combining clips together. Firing up iMovie or Garageband is just too time consuming, and I've never had luck trying to use VLC for editing.

If I am playing a video outside of iTunes on my Mac I use Movist. It's just simpler than VLC but it hasn't been updated in years.

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"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #35 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

I like QTX, after I altered the PLIST so it will auto play files on launch. I use it for quick editing video and audio, as well as combining clips together. Firing up iMovie or Garageband is just too time consuming, and I've never had luck trying to use VLC for editing.

If I am playing a video outside of iTunes on my Mac I use Movist. It's just simpler than VLC but it hasn't been updated in years.

I agree on the ease of editing in QTX. Just don't like the controls over the video. I think they took the HUD (Heads Up Display) from Aperture, which works there, very nicely, but not in a video player (for me).

Movist. So, should I check it out? You're not the first to mention it.
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post #36 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

Movist. So, should I check it out? You're not the first to mention it.

The buttons allow you to skip forward and back 10 seconds (by default) which I like better than the click to rewind and fast-forward which I can never seem to time right. It also will remember the place your video left off even if you close the app or restart (like with the old DVD Player app in OS X); however, if you have played another video with Movist it won't remember it so it's very limited in scope.

"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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"The real haunted empire?  It's the New York Times." ~SockRolid

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #37 of 66
AppCleaner is a keeper! I have been hassling all week with a corrupted copy of MacDraft, getting nowhere with their support on doing a complete uninstall and reinstall... it kept crashing after being reloaded, despite following all of their instructions for digging into the System files to find and trash the various bits and pieces... So I was VERY pleased when I gave AppCleaner a try today and it quickly found EVERYTHING of MacDraft on the HD, got it trashed and when I dumped the files and rebooted, the reinstall worked like a champ! Nice Christmas present for me! Thanks for the suggestion Shane!
-eb
post #38 of 66
And the most relevant of all: DiskWarrior. Also, I would add CopyPaste Pro.
post #39 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post
 


It’s terrible software with a horrible interface, ugly design, and exists to prop up the fringe market of formats which don’t need to exist at all.


ONE WORLD.

ONE ENCODING.

ALL DEVICES.


Dude, get over yourself.  Stupid statement.  VLC is a good tool.  It was unfortunate when they dropped shoutcast support though.  On my iPad, VLC works great to access my MythTV recordings via UPNP.

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post #40 of 66
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

Movist. So, should I check it out? You're not the first to mention it.

The buttons allow you to skip forward and back 10 seconds (by default) which I like better than the click to rewind and fast-forward which I can never seem to time right. It also will remember the place your video left off even if you close the app or restart (like with the old DVD Player app in OS X); however, if you have played another video with Movist it won't remember it so it's very limited in scope.

VLC doesn't remember playhead position, not even for a single movie; which sucks. The keyboard shortcuts for winding can be altered, which I always do after a fresh install because the defaults are moronic.

So, in short, there isn't a player out there 'which does it all' as far as our wishes are concerned.

"Bad to know"
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