Many people use their computers for a multitude of things. Some just want to surf the internet and check email. These aren’t the people I am addressing here. The people I am focusing on right now do some very specific things. Some are podcasters, bloggers, video editors, photographers or graphic designers. If you do any of these I am talking to you. Every one of these disciplines requires a toolbox of tools that you need to achieve your goal, making the best end product possible.
Podcasters – The key to doing a good podcast is a good Mic. I would recommend a good USB mic. That way the input to the computer is already in digital format and the computer won’t have to do any additional work to convert your audio to digital. Now for software, if you are using a Mac, you already have a pretty impressive podcast studio pre-installed. Garageband. GarageBand can record your podcast, add effects to you voice, provide you with sound effects and so on. Now if you don’t want to be the sole talent and want to have guests on, and they aren’t able to be in your “studio”, you can buy a copy of Rogue Amoeba’s Audio Hijack pro for $32.00 US and record from Skype or Google+. Once your interview is done, you can then import it into Garage band for your post-production, to add your effects and so forth.
Bloggers – Depending on the platform you are using, be it Blogger, WordPress and so forth most of these have really good web interfaces and make it easy for you to create your content. But if you would rather use a local client I have one for you. Ecto the blog editor for OSX. This one is a judgement call. If you are happy using the web interface, continue to do so, Ecto is $19.95 US. It isn’t a bad alternative, but personally I work using the web interfaces.
Video Editors – Editing video is a fun and with the low prices of pretty decent video cameras, video editing is more affordable than ever. iMovie, which ships preinstalled on a Mac is a very capable video editor. With built in pro style tools to reduces camera shake and so forth, I would recommend anyone that thinks they want to start editing video, I would highly recommend using iMovie. Once you feel that you have outgrown iMovie, you can “graduate” to Final Cut Pro. The good news is the new version of Final Cut Pro is $299.99 US. Previously the only way to get Final Cut was to buy the Final Cut Suite which as about $1200.00 US. Most of the transitions and so forth are available in iMovie, but you are only allowed a single video track and editing with multiple cameras is difficult, (Not impossible but a lot more work). If you are planning on being the next Peter Jackson, I would recommend Final Cut Pro.
Photographers – This is one category where you can spend a lot of money on tools. Apple installs iPhoto on every Mac, and iPhoto is sufficient for family photos or “snapshots” that you have taken and it does a great job cleaning up the pictures by boosting levels and so forth. But if you are planning to be the next Annie Leibovitz, you may be better served using an application like Adobe’s Light Room for $149.00 US or Apples Aperture for $79.00 US. There are also countless photo editing apps for your smartphone and there isn’t enough room here for me to discuss them all.
Graphics Designers – There are many graphics applications, but the Grand Daddy of them all is Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop has been around for a long time and is a VERY intense application. Starting at $699.00 US, this isn’t an application that I would suggest to someone that wasn’t really sure if they would really be interested in it. A more affordable option could be Adobe’s Fireworks, that starts off at $299.00 US. Which is still more than I would pay if I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I would suggest starting off with a free graphic application like Seashore free for the Mac or Gimp. Both are free and while they may not have all the bells and whistles as some of the more expensive applications, you will still be able to find out if you enjoy doing this type of work before sinking a lot of money into something you are unsure of.
The bottom line – While the applications mentioned here are some of the more popular, there are many, many many, more. Some are more expensive, some are open source. I would always say to try the open source or free applications before spending a lot of money on something you don’t know you will like.
Are there any good tools I left out? Let me know about them in the comments.