One feature of Lion has already launched. The Mac App Store means you’ll have to start thinking about applications in a different way. Browsing, buying and downloading programs will be a snap. When Lion arrives each and every app will work in full screen, with no distractions. Right now there are a handful of programs that have that functionality. We look at two of the best. We also pick up a couple of tools that also offer App Store-like feature.

AppFresh (www.metaquark.de/appfresh)
Price:
Free (in beta)  Min Specs: Mac OS X 10.4

An alternative to the Mac App  Store, AppFresh is like Apple Software Update, but for all the software on your machine.

AppFresh unifies Apple Software Update, Microsoft Update and Adobe Updater in one window. It also connects directly with two online services that track third-party applications with automatic updaters – Sparkle Update and I Use This. The Finder-inspired user interface is much slicker than Apple’s own updater.

After scanning, the main window displays a list of programs that can be updated. You easily navigate around applications with updates available, those without and programs AppFresh doesn’t recognise. In those cases, you’ll be able to download updates from the app’s site.


Bodega (www.appbodega.com)
Price:
Free  Min Specs: Mac OS X 10.5

Now that Apple has released the Mac App Store for Snow Leopard Bodega’s days could be numbered.

While it’s still up and running you should give Bodega a spin. It’s a cute, shop-front styled application that enables you to browse for, buy and download Mac programs. It’s easy to use, incorporates update-tracking features and stores your licence details in the cloud so you’ll never lose a serial number.

A great feature, in common with Apple’s Mac and iOS App Stores, is the ability to review tools you like. Or tools you don’t like. It’s an effective way to sort the wheat from the chaff when you’re looking for a program that does a particular job.


Google Chrome (chrome.google.com)
Price:
Free  Min Specs: Mac OS X 10.5, Intel only

Mac OS X Lion will have the ability to display applications in full-screen mode. That’s full, full-screen mode too – no Dock, no distracting menus. Again, the cue comes from iOS.

While we’ve been unable to find a tool that can do that for every app on your Snow Leopard-powered Mac, there are programs with full-screen built in. Google Chrome’s one of them. The lightweight, speedy browser can be used in full-screen mode by  going to the Tools icon and clicking the Full-Screen icon. Both Chrome and your Mac’s menus disappear for distraction-free browsing.

On the Mac, you can get access to menus by mousing at the top of the screen. They’ll slide back into view.


WriteRoom (www.hogbaysoftware.com/products/writeroom)
Price:
$24.99 (£15.76)  Min Specs: Mac OS X 10.4

On the surface, WriteRoom is merely a simple text editor. But don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s no good. We’d rate it as one of the Mac’s must-have applications, for two good reasons.

The first is WriteRoom’s base functionality. It launches in frill-free full-screen mode with no visible menus and no distractions. You get a black screen, a blinking green cursor and a word count discreetly displayed in the bottom corner. It’s ideal for heads down, diversion-free writing and a taste of full-screen apps in Lion. The second is that if you don’t like the colour scheme, you can change it. It’ll soon become your go-to editor for basic writing tasks.