Start Cooking: Recipe managers for your Mac

by Milind Alvares

Start Cooking: Recipe managers for your Mac

by Milind Alvares on August 3, 2009

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I’m a nocturnal creature, staying awake till at the wee hours of the morning. Well it so happens that no one cooks for late nighters so I have to fend for myself. I’ve so far been surviving on some of the simplest things, of which I’m starting to get bored of. Plus, if I learnt how to cook a few things, I get to use a bunch of Mac apps I thought, and that’s always a good thing. Now I know that using a recipe manager for my usage scenario isn’t exactly required, since I could very well just plonk them in a text file and be done with it. I’m doing this for the purpose of the audience—you.

The main thing I was looking for in these apps was an easy way to enter in recipes, and view them in a clean user interface. I’d like the manager to hook up to the web to download recipes, and be able to show up in my spotlight results as well. With those key requirements in mind, here’s what I think three weeks later.

myRecipes

From the makers of Monitor app, comes a simple and easy to use recipe manager. I wouldn’t say the UI looks great, but it’s just standard Leopard elements dragged in from Xcode. Recipe organisation goes as Groups in the sidebar, to a list in the upper column, and the recipe itself in the lower column. To add a new recipe you simply type it out in the lower column itself, which is handy since you don’t have to fill in columns and such. You can set the ethnicity of the recipe, quantity, amount in time, and difficulty. I’d say entering recipes into myRecipes is as simple as can get.

myrecipes

To view the recipe itself, you can very well view it just within the viewer, but you can also go full screen which takes up your entire screen, leaving you with only the large text from the recipe. The print command has a nice way of presenting itself. You can either print everything, the ingredients, the directions, or both, and below all that lies a “Please don’t waste paper” message.

myRecipes also has a web view, which allows you to visit any website and look up recipes. At EUR14 (~$20), it’s quite affordable.

SousChef

The more popular of the lot, SousChef came along with the rest of the MacHeist bundle. It’s got a nice looking interface, spread across three colums which is especially good for smaller widescreen monitors. Adding in recipes is like adding contacts in your address book. It also autocompletes things like ingredients as you type them in. Another way to add recipes is to import them using the recipe importer. Copy any bit of text from a text document, or web page, and the importer will automatically parse through it. You then mark the zones for Ingredients, Directions, Description, Notes, etc., and import it in.

SousChef

To sort your recipes you have folders on the side as well as sub folders for larger organisation. It also has folders for recently cooked, recent imports. The grocery list feature is also nicely done and it’s super easy to add in new items to your grocery list.

When it comes to cooking, SousChef has a brilliant fullscreen view, which can be voice controlled. I didn’t have any luck with the voice control (something wasn’t working I suppose), but the view itself is very easy to read from across the room. It’s very much like the Front Row 1.0. At $30 a pop, SousChef’s features and good user interface make it worth the price.

MacGourmet

I think MacGourmet was one of the first recipe managers for the Mac, and it shows. The user interface looks a little dated, with too many things going on for its own good. The layout is very much like your average email client, with sorting options like folders as well as smart folders. You can store clippings, notes, shopping lists, wine notes, all in the single interface. The worst bit of MacGourmet, is adding recipes. It’s got this complex window for adding different details spread across multiple tabs, which is a little too overwhelming.

MacGourmet-Deluxe

Once you’ve entered the required for recipes, MacGourmet sorts out everything for you in the main view. There’s separate boxes for equipment required, preparations times, and a whole lot more. The “Chef View” will put the important details up on screen, which you can zoom into. Although, this view isn’t as good as SousChef or myRecipes.

Overall I get the feeling that MacGourmet is more geared towards the professional cook in a restaurant rather than for a home user. It’s got a whole lot of power, but along with that it also brings in unnecessary complexity. On the flip side, MacGourmet comes with an iPhone app companion which allows you to take your recipes with you (whip em out at your friend’s birthday party). I haven’t tested the iPhone version though. At $25 for a license, and a $4.99 iPhone app, I just wish its data entry was a little simpler.

YummySoup!

Featuring plain UI elements coupled with a gorgeous thumbnail view of your recipes, YummySoup is a tough one to judge. The whole jazz depends on you using photographs for all your recipes, which I’m not sure everyone would like to go through. You can switch to the list view which makes YummySoup less of a star and more of a factory worker. The recipe window itself is pretty well laid out, although you it needs the window to be a little larger since it’s all laid out in single column. Going into full screen, the whole view is a classic example of bad typography (something doesn’t feel right).

YummySoup!

For adding recipes, it throws up a single data input sheet which is fairly easy to use (although not as simple as Sous or myRecipes). Once added in, organising them is the fair and simple folder/sub folder based structure. You can of course search your database using the different search criteria. It’s also got the Grocies list and Liquors list, which both sort of feel alien to the app.

Overall YummySoup! feels a little boring and dated for something fun as cooking. It’s good, but there’s better. At $20 a license, it’s the same as myRecipes.

Time to cook!

It feels like each of these apps was made for a different level of cook. For the novice and casual user, myRecipes is nicely done and easy to use. For the home user, I’d say SousChef takes the cake (or should I say, bakes it). And for the professional chef, if they do use such an app, MacGourmet has the power. That is all.

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