Apple’s .Mac service provides Mac users with a number of unique tools: the ability to sync contacts and bookmarks between multiple computers, the ability to share iCal calendar events, free web hosting with built-in support for blogging/podcasting with comments, access to free backup software, and remote storage using an iDisk. All these features come through seamless integration with Mac OS X and Apple’s iLife suite. Apple has also made the .Mac software development kit publicly available, enabling Mac programmers to add support for .Mac to their applications.
Most developers who embrace .Mac are developers who already create products that support blog or HTML export features. The majority of these tools simply add publishing to .Mac’s iDisk as an alternative to publishing to a local folder or FTP server. However, some developers have taken the .Mac concept further, providing unique tools that expand the features and ease of use that .Mac offers. The following is a list of my top picks for enhancing .Mac and increasing its value to users.
Infinite Nexus’ Dotmac Menu is a tool that seems almost unimportant when you hear about it. But after you install it, you might wonder why Apple didn’t build it into Mac OS X. As its name implies, dotMac Menu adds a menu to the Mac OS X menubar that provides easy access to all the major .Mac features, most of which are typically hidden in various places throughout Mac OS X and the various parts of the .Mac website.
Among the features that dotMac Menu makes available at a single click are access to iCards, .Mac’s WebMail, your .Mac homepage (both to view and edit), your .Mac bookmarks and address book, your .Mac groups, and your account details and preferences pages. It also provides access to iSync and Backup (and Infinite Nexus’ Compare Folders tool), as well as the status of your iDisk and .Mac membership. Finally, it includes an option to open the .Mac pane of System Preferences.
Although dotMac Menu doesn’t really provide any new features, having a single convenient place to access almost all .Mac’s features is a great idea. After installing it, I actually found myself using more parts of .Mac than I ever had.