The 2012 Mactuts+ Holiday Gift Guide
The holiday season is upon us and it's time for the first annual Mactuts+ Holiday Gift Guide! We know that your list is full of students, gamers, media lovers and most importantly, Mac users. We'll give you some tips for how to go about gifting apps then jump into the best gifts for all types of different Mac users.
Must Have Apps
What better gift could you possibly give a devoted Mac user than a bunch of apps? We've got some great apps for all of the different types of people on your list, but first, let's see how to go about giving someone an app.
How to Gift Mac App Store Apps
When you're on the iTunes App Store, gifting apps is easy. All you have to do is find the app that you want to give, then click on the little drop down menu next to the price. The first item in the list that pops up should be "Gift This App."
The iTunes App Store gives you a "Gift This App" option.
Unfortunately, if we jump over to the Mac App Store, no such option exists. We see a similar page with a similar drop down menu, but no "Gift This App" link.
There is no "Gift This App" option on the Mac App Store.
This is an interesting oversight given that Apple actually tells you that you can gift Mac App Store apps:
"You can send anyone specific songs, custom playlists, movies, TV shows, apps, games, and books. Just find what you want to give on the iTunes Store, App Store, iBookstore, or Mac App Store and click or tap the “Gift This” link." - Source
Pretty lame, right? The best that you can do is visit this page to purchase a gift card, then let the receiver know in the message portion which apps you intended for them to purchase with the gift card.
There is no "Gift This App" option on the Mac App Store.
Now that we know how to gift apps, let's jump into the different type of Mac users on your list and what to give them!
Tip: You can copy any link from the Mac App Store by right-clicking on the app icon.
Think you need MS Word on your Mac?> Think again. Pages is an awesome word processor and a decent beginner's page layout app. You can even export your Pages files as Word files for classmate sharing. At a mere $20, it's a lot cheaper than Word too!
Pages is the Mac version of Word and Keynote is the Mac version of Powerpoint. Keynote is amazingly simple to use and features gorgeous templates and awesome effects that make it effortless to pull of great presentation slides.
Keynote, Pages and Numbers make up a suite called "iWork." Numbers is the spreadsheet application and Excel equivalent. It has all of the features that you'd expect with the ease of use that you know Apple provides.
iStudiez Pro is an impressive suite of tools that allows you to cram the complexities of a student's life into one convenient place. Track tasks, plan homework, track your grades and a lot more.
CourseNotes is the ultimate note-taking app for students. You can take notes in rich text, import images and PDFs, create todo lists, and organize everything by class and subject. Best of all, you can sync everything to the iOS version so you have your notes everywhere. For less than four bucks, it's a no-brainer for a student who needs to get organized.
Professional writers don't need a million formatting options and toolbars getting in their way, they need to write. It's all about putting words on the page and iA Writer is one of the most elegant, distraction free tools to help you reach this goal. The Markdown integration is top-notch so even if you're writing for the rich medium of the web, this app has you covered.
Everyone thinks that they should journal regularly, few ever do. Nevertheless, it's an extremely rewarding and worthwhile task. Few tools make journaling as simple and enjoyable as Day One. The interface is attractive, the workflow is perfect and all the features you need are here: password protection, calendar view, iOS app sync, etc.
Minimal writing apps are great for minimal assignments, but when you're working on a major project such as a novel, you need a collection of tools to help you get the job done. With Scrivener, you can track your sources, add comments, create a synopsis, assign labels and keywords, import web pages, write in fullscreen mode, transcribe audio files, temporarily combine separate documents into a unified view and a ton more. If you find yourself overwhelmed with content and bogged down by a workflow that doesn't make any sense, grab Scrivener and make your life simple again.
Sublime Text 2
It's difficult to describe just how superior Sublime Text 2 is to most, if not all, of the other text editors you've ever used. The entire thing is just so dang flexible, customizable and extensible that it becomes everything you need.
Sublime is amazing, but it's not for everyone. If the coder on your list prefers a more Mac-centric experience, try Coda, another leading development environment from Mac app superstars Panic.
LiveReload automatically compiles your preprocessor code (Sass, LESS, CoffeeScript) and refreshes your browser every time a file is saved. If you don't remotely understand what that means, don't worry, the developer on your list will love you for it.
The Hardcore Gamer
Call of Duty: Black Ops
The Call of Duty series needs no introduction. Black Ops features a Cold War historical setting, awesome multiplayer, secret missions, a slew of weapons, and yes, zombies. Grab your gun, things are about to get messy.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Many consider this to be the best Star Wars game ever made. Whether the gamer on your list agrees or not, he/she will definitely appreciate the immersive gameplay that allows players to make their own way and choose which side of the force holds their allegiance. It's one of the best $5 gaming experiences you can get on the App Store.
Explore Mars, stop the alien invasion and save Earth! The game has definitely aged a bit in the past few years, but it's definitely worth a play and has been optimized to run quite smoothly on a Mac.
The Casual Gamer
Angry Birds Star Wars
Just look at the title: it's Angry Birds, meets Star Wars. I honestly can't imagine how you would need more convincing than that. The fact that this game exists is reason enough to go buy it.
Machinarium is a true visual and mental treat. Check out some of the screenshots and you'll be hooked before you even play. Gameplay is basic point and click puzzle solving with just enough of a challenge to keep you interested but not frustrated.
Braid is a lot like Super Mario Bros. with a rewind key. As you progress through the game, you manipulate time to solve puzzles and even recover from death. Sound weird? It is, but in a really fun and addicting sort of way.
The Productivity Guru
Todo lists are an app-addict's kryptonite. Everyone's latest favorite is Clear from Realmac. Like its iOS counterpart, it's simple, attractive and heavily gesture based. iCloud syncs everything between the two versions so you'll always stay up to date.
Evernote Premium Gift Pack
Evernote is a free app and indeed a free service, so it makes a lousy gift. However, Evernote Premium goes even further by giving you larger uploads, better sharing, a comprehensive note history, a PIN lock and more. Gift a year of Evernote Premium to someone and they'll toss in a cool t-shirt.
Fantastical is the absolute best menu bar calendar app for Mac. The UI is pixel perfect and the usability is awesome: simply type in a natural language appointment and Fantastical will add it to your calendars and automatically set up multiple reminders. It integrates perfectly with iCal and iCloud too so it'll fit right into your Apple lifestyle.
The Media Lover
djay is a complete DJ system that effortlessly integrates into your iTunes library. You can mix your favorite tracks live with a wealth of tools or enable to Automix mode and let your Mac do all the work. There's also support for external audio interfaces so you can hook up to your current kit.
Aperture is Apple's professional photo editing and organization application. As the big brother of iPhoto, it goes way beyond the Mac's built-in photo editing capabilities. The workflow is a lot like that of Adobe's Lightroom and many of the features are comparable.
Final Cut Pro
If you've got a son, daughter, sibling or favorite nephew that really wants to get into video editing, and you're really going all out on their present this year, you can't go wrong with Final Cut Pro. It's an industry standard and is lightyears beyond the iMovie app that comes built into every Mac. Dropping $300 is tough, but considering that it could lead to a career's worth of opportunities, it's worth it.
Apple Battery Charger
It seems simple, but I received one of these as a gift and I love it. Between the Apple Wireless Keyboard, Magic Mouse and Magic Trackpad, Apple users burn through AAs like crazy. This nifty charger works great and fits nicely into a backpack or laptop case.
Rain Design mStand
This is particularly great if the person that you're buying for works on a MacBook with a second display. It provides a nice elevated view, cools the computer and looks right at home next to your aluminum Apple products.
ColcaSac MacBook Sleeves
There's only one MacBook sleeve that I personally recommend, and it's ColcaSac. They're super stylish, custom made to fit your computer and very well padded, so you know your Mac will be safe.
What Do You Want to See Under the Tree?
Now that you've read through our suggestions for the best Mac apps and accessories, leave a comment below and tell us what we missed. Perhaps the most accurate way to help other holiday shoppers is to tell us what you want. If you were going to get an app as a gift, which app would you want? How about a specific Mac accessory? We want to know!