Apple MacBook Air (13-Inch) Review
Apple's Included Software
For those not familiar with Macs, once you log into the Mac OS, the MacBook Air (by default) places a group of icons located on the bottom of the screen. You'll see this on any OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard)-enabled Mac.
This is called the Dock and it includes shortcuts to a number of applications. Similar to Windows' Taskbar, you can control where and how the Dock appears and what applications you want to include in it.
Similar to Windows' Start menu, you can also access all of the system's pre-installed applications from the Applications icon in the Dock.
All new Macs ship with Apple's iLife suite (which sells for $49 as a stand-alone software suite). iLife is a very robust software suite that provides a number of multimedia-based, consumer-grade applications. Windows machines really don't have a similar suite of apps that are bundled with every single Windows license. iLife '11 was just released, and that's the version that ships with the new 13" MacBook Air. A couple of the iLife apps are similar in functionality to Microsoft's free Windows Live Essentials apps for Windows PCs; but the iLife applications tend to be much more in-depth and feature rich than what the Windows Live Essentials apps offer. For managing your photo library and doing some light image editing, the included iLife app is iPhoto. The Windows equivalent would be Windows Live Photo Gallery.
For video creation and editing, the included app is iMovie. The Windows equivalent would be Windows Live Movie Maker, but most would agree that iMovie is far more intuitive and easier to grasp and use. We definitely feel that way; iMovie is a very solid included app that's perfect acceptable for most anyone save for those looking to make professional movies for clients.
GarageBand is a surprisingly sophisticated audio-creation and editing app that is ideal for budding composers and podcasters. For some potential Windows-based software titles that share at least some similarities with GarageBand, check out the article on the Microsoft at Home Website here. GarageBand '11 includes a wealth of new features, with one of the most notable being the auto-sync feature that helps tighten up recordings that are just slightly out of sync. For starting bands, this feature enables them to take 'so-so' takes and make them 'good enough.' The feature is dubbed Flex Time.
The iWeb app is a fairly simple tool for designing, editing, and publishing Websites. It is primarily meant to be used with Apple's MobileMe subscription service ($99 per year, or $69 per year if purchased with a new Mac, iPhone, or iPad), but it can be used to design and upload Websites to virtually any host. There is no loss of Windows-based Web creation/editing software titles, including a handful of free apps, such as The CoffeeCup Free HTML Editor and Mozilla's SeaMonkey--albeit, neither of these apps are as easy to use as iWeb (note: SeaMonkey is also available for the Mac OS as well).
The final member of the iLife family is iDVD. As its name implies, it is meant for simple authoring of DVDs for home movies and similar projects. It comes with a number of templates that make setting up the DVD's menu design as simple as dragging and dropping. A couple of free Windows alternatives are DVD Flick and DVD Styler.
One of the most interesting things about the software here is how it's bundled. Since there's no optical drive on the MacBook Air, the only way to install software is to either purchase a $79 USB-enabled external SuperDrive, download software via Wi-Fi or install via USB. Apple has chosen to include with the MacBook Air a small USB drive with the full version of OS X 10.6.4 on it as well as the full iLife '11 suite. If you ever need to re-install your OS or iLife '11 suite, simply pop this USB drive in and continue the install. This is a very nice extra, and a well-thought-out inclusion. It definitely eases the pain of having no optical drive.