OS X offers tons of creative software, but most of the popular options come at a premium price. If you don’t need a crazy amount of features, you can probably get by with a still very powerful, less expensive alternative. Here are some of the best.
When it comes to photo editing, most of us don’t need Photoshop. Sure, it’s great and powerful but it’s not the only thing out there that earns those adjectives. While always a beautiful underdog in the game, the latest version of Pixelmator ($30) just kicks some serious Photoshop butt.
For the cost of one month of renting Photoshop you get seemingly unlimited updates of the app. Pixelmator’s creators have yet to charge for an update. Once you have a license, it seems you’ll have it indefinitely. They just keep adding features, too, like beautiful filters, layer styles, drawing tools, and much more. It’s quite possibly the best software value you’ll find on OS X outside of Apple’s free-ish iLife and iWork suite (and that’s debatable).
Digital Drawing and Painting
Adobe Illustrator isn’t the only option for making digital artwork on your Mac. You could use the aforementioned Pixelmator, but you have a few other awesome options that are dedicated to more illustrative tasks.
On the free side, you can do a reasonable amount of work with AutoDesk’s Sketchbook Express. The pro version only costs $60, which isn’t too high considering you get highly capable software. For a little more, you can pick up Sketch ($70) which is a serious Illustrator replacement for significantly less money.
Novel and Screenwriting
You don’t need to invest in a fancy word processing program like Microsoft Word to write your next novel or Final Draft for your screenplay. You can easily find cheaper alternatives that may even work better for you.
Both Highland ($30) and Slugline ($40) both cost a fraction of Final Draft’s scary price ($200) and get the job done. They can even export into Final Draft format. The downside—or upside, depending on how you look at it—is that they both use the Fountain Screenwriting Syntax. You’ll have to learn how to use it, but it’s not terribly complicated. You can just type in plain text and then export your work as a correctly formatted screenplay when you’re done. It’s kind of like the markup syntax, but for screenwriters.
For novelists, you have lots of great options on the Mac. Ulysses III ($45) is my personal favorite of the bunch, as it provides plenty of organizational tools and a wonderful simple interface. Everyone has their preferences, however, and so the best option for you may be one of the other top choices: Scrivener ($45) and StoryMill ($50). For some, even the free and versatile Evernote will be enough to get the job done.
Final Cut Pro X will run you $300 and nobody really likes it. Adobe Premiere requires a subscription. Avid software comes with a premium price tag as well. Unless you’re a fan of iMovie’s interesting interface, you don’t really have a lot of choices for cutting some quick clips together. For $99, screencasting app Screenflow can do the trick just fine.
While not cheap in its own right or even a video editing app by trade, it’s well worth the still kind of high but much lower price tag. Screenflow allows you to add all kinds of media Quicktime supports and doesn’t require any rendering. This can be a bit of a problem on slower computers, but a reasonably fast Mac laptop or any recent Mac desktop should be able to handle 1080p without much of a problem. This won’t replace complex editing tasks that will require one of the aforementioned pricey programs, but it will quickly become your favorite way to casually edit your shorter videos that don’t require so many features.