This article was modified from its original published form. The most recent modification was on2015-06-14.
It’s time to declutter the house. One of the things I want to get rid of are all the recipe magazines and loose recipes that I have. To do this, I need to keep the recipes that I like or want to try. I need a recipe management program. I currently use Yum 2.7.4, which is good, but not great. I decided to seriously evaluate the various recipe management programs available for the Mac.
There’s a number of them out there, each with different strengths. I’m going to be evaluating these programs on the following criteria:
Browsing: How easy is it to find a recipe without searching?
Reading: How easy is it to read the recipes, once entered? A “kitchen mode” is nice, but absolutely unnecessary in my kitchen—my iMac is in the office. So, I’ll either be reading the recipe to get a sense of the way to make it (and often just a reminder), or I’ll be printing the recipe.
Printing: How good does the output look? How much fiddling do I have to do to get multiple recipes on a single page, if they’re small enough? How much fiddling do I have to do to get a longer recipe on a single page? Sure, I can use the n-up feature on my printer, but that shrinks the whole page down really small.
Searching: How good is the recipe search?
Adding/Editing: While I will be reading, searching and printing recipes most often, I’m going to be most annoyed at a program while adding a recipe by hand.
Import: I’ve been using Yum (see below) for a while, and while I’m not unhappy with it, it has some major annoyances on recipe entry that keep me looking. Whatever I switch to is going to have to handle importing my Yum database one way or another, without screwing it up. Additionally, since I’ll be looking at the latest version of Yum, I want to see the external import techniques (from text or the Web).
Extras: What extras exist for the program? Can I easily transfer a recipe to my iPhone or iPod Touch? Does it have an extensive ingredient list with nutrition data to give a rough approximation of the caloric content? These things aren’t going to be deal breakers, but if everything else works, they could be deal makers.
There are more programs available than I am reviewing here. A number of these programs presented problems early enough in the review process that I didn’t think it was worth spending any more time on them. One that I wish had been better was [Measuring Cup]1. It has some really interesting ideas including sub-recipes and not distinguishing view and edit modes. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have any import facility to speak of, and the controls on the lists are non-standard and finicky. It’s worth looking at if you’re just starting your recipe collection. I’m not.
Only Connoisseur 1.2 is available for direct download; there is a beta version referred to, but you must contact the developer for this information.
Browsing: A Connoisseur has fairly good browsing. It’s laid out much like iTunes with a “sources” list on the left and three filtering criteria on the main panel under the toolbar: Cuisine, Course, and Ingredient. This will make it easy to find recipes based on the ingredients you have at hand and the meal you’re serving.
You can great new “groups” (recipe collections/folders) and smart groups (groups with search criteria) pretty easily.
Reading: C+ After browsing to the recipe, or searching for it, you double click on the recipe in the main list to display it3 in a smaller (but resizable) display window. The window isn’t bad, but it’s too loose: the recipe metadata (such as cook time, yield, etc.) takes up far too much space; blank fields are shown; ingredient lines are 1¼ linespacing, which is too much.
On the up-side, there’s a nice “Cooking View” that fills the screen with the recipe. The directions are too widely spaced, but this is a much better “view” than the default windowed view. As a nice touch, Connoisseur will also read the recipe steps to you.
Printing: F Everything that’s wrong with the display window is wrong with the print function, and it has additional sins of commission. The linespacing per field appears to be about 1½ and the ingredients are still 1¼. The empty fields don’t show here, but the amount of space taken up by the metadata eats up half of the first page. Worse, the metadata is incomplete: it’s cropped if it goes over a certain (small) width. The directions for a “2-Minute Fudge” included with Connoisseur don’t begin until page two—and the heading “Directions” is on page one. The directions are cropped if they’re over a certain (small) width.
Searching: F ⌘F and ⌘⌥F don’t work for search. As far as I can tell, aside from the filtering mechanisms mentioned in browse, there’s no way to search for a recipe.
Adding/Editing: F I’m not sure where to begin with the problems presented by Connoisseur’s add/edit recipe sheet. When adding or editing a recipe, you are presented with a modal sheet on the main program window. If you’re copying information from another recipe, you have to first have displayed that recipe in a separate window before you start editing the current one. The recipe sheet is tabbed and has far too many controls on it (at the bottom of the sheet is a help question mark, previous, next, a “cooked” checkbox, cancel, and save. The recipe scaling feature looks impressive, but I’m not sure why it’s part of the recipe editing—this is something that Connoisseur should be able to figure out automatically, on the fly.
The ingredients and directions are on separate tabs, requiring flipping tabs to make sure you’re correctly using all of the ingredients as you’re writing the recipe down (as someone who creates recipes from time to time, this matters). Ingredient and direction entry is more complex than it should be, relying on
+/-buttons on each and every ingredient and step.
Import: B Will not import directly from the Yum database format, but recognized the Yum XML format reasonably well. The import itself was fairly pedestrian, although my imported recipes had stupid errors, such as: “2. 1. In a small bowl…” There’s some level of intelligence that should be applied here. There’s no import from a webpage, and the import from text is a little hit-and-miss (in my test of a copied recipe from the New York Times, the instructions were inserted as ingredients, possibly because they were numbered).
Extras: There’s a nice set of default recipes included. You can add a recipe to a shopping list and export it to an iPod as a list, or to the Palm program “HandyShopper” and “SplashShopper” (which would be useful if I used a Palm device anymore). There’s an online component for shared recipes and you can download others’ shared recipes, too. It looks like there’s a moderation process to the recipes, though.
This is not a program that I would recommend to anyone at this point. It looks pretty, and the filtering mechanism is superb, but I don’t think that this is a usable program.
The version reviewed is 3.2.
Browsing: B- Cookware Deluxe starts in a recipe view, requiring explicit switching to a browser. The browse interface is a filtering interface that’s rather busy and confusing. The display has three panels. The recipes are in the main panel on the right, and there is a switch (“First/Any”, defaulting to “First”), followed by the alphabet, “All”, and a heart symbol. Clicking on a letter will filter the display of recipes based on the presence of that letter at the beginning of a word in the recipe name; if the switch is set to “first”, only the first word is considered. Clicking on “All” clears the filters and clicking on the heart selects “collected” recipes (those that carry from version to version).
The upper panel on the left has five tabs that act as filters: Cookbook, Ingredient, Region, Course, Bev (the alcoholic beverage one would have with the recipe, generally limited to wines and some beers). These filters are not co-operative filters; they work independently (one cannot select an ingredient of “Asparagus” and a beverage of “Pinot Grigio” to filter for recipes that call for both). The lower panel are for saved search templates (loading a saved search goes to the Find window) and menu sets (collecting several recipes that are intended to go together as a meal). Clicking on “All” above the menu list removes any of the filters applied from the left panel, too.
Cookware Deluxe also has a planner view where meals and menus can be planned in advance. There’s both a monthly calendar and a weekly calendar view (called “Planner” and “Details”, confusingly). There is no option to make Monday the beginning of the week.
Reading: B- The recipe display panel is fairly decent, divided into two panels (a large upper panel shaped like a recipe card and a lower tabbed panel). The recipe card is divided into three columns. The first column is a quarter of the entire card and contains the name of the recipe, a tabbed box for photographs of the recipe, and other important metadata (cooking time, oven pre-heat temperature, difficulty).
The second column is the ingredient column and also takes up a quarter of the recipe card. The third column has a small toolbar (about 1⁄10 of the vertical space), a description area (about 1⁄5 of the vertical space), and the directions. The toolbar over the directions provide a checkbox (“Multi-Print”), four buttons (Tools, Custom Print Layout, User Prefs, and Large Print Display), another checkbox (“Collected Recipe”, see above), and a bronze badge with a check mark inside for checking spelling.
The font in all of these sections is small, but there are two icons of interest for this: in the lower left hand of the card is an icon that looks like a two item bar graph. Clicking on the taller bar zooms the interface larger; the shorter bar zooms it smaller (and it will go smaller than the default). In the toolbar over the directions column the last button will display the current recipe in a window with a much larger font for viewing from a distance. It’s not as good as Connoisseur’s full screen display, but it works (it also only shows the ingredients and directions).
The bottom tabbed panel allows for category information (cookbooks, course, main ingredient, region, beverage, source, recipes it requires, and recipes that work well with it); additional source information, Weight Watchers™ points, and nutritional data (unformatted and not calculated on purpose); and notes and substitutions.
Printing: A- Very strong. Includes the ability to customize where each section of a recipe, although the sections themselves include very weak formatting. The “Multi-print” selection (in recipes and the browse list) allows you to print multiple recipes on a single page (if they fit).
Searching: C Has relatively strong search capabilities, but the layout is pretty confusing.
Adding/Editing: B- Recipes can only be created from the “Recipe” view; not from the “Browser” view. The strengths of the recipe view are present, but each of the fields is unformatted, leaving it to the user to know the appropriate abbreviations and names of each ingredient. This makes for easy cut and paste, but explains why the “main ingredient” must be entered separately; the ingredients are not stored individually, but in aggregate. Note that I did not attempt drag and drop adding, but I would expect it to work well given the lack of formatting in the fields.
Import: C- Only supports importing past CookWare recipes, recipe sets, and MasterCook recipes. This is found under the application menu, not a “File” menu.
Extras: Supports an iPod cookbook or recipe (presumably just a text note). Supports QuickTime movies for each recipe. Has a Windows version.
This is another program that I can’t recommend. There are some nice features, but this program is written on top of FileMaker and it feels like it. The layout is crowded and hard to read; if there’s been thought given to making this program easier to use, it seems to have been hampered by FileMaker forms options.
I reviewed version 2.3. MacGourmet and MacGourmet Deluxe are essentially the same program. MacGourmet Deluxe includes all of the available MacGourmet plug-ins (“Cookbook”, “Mealplan”, and “Nutrition”) and is a better value than buying the plug-ins individually. Because the plug-ins are extra for MacGourmet, I will only cover them in the Extras section of the review.
Browsing: B+ The interface for MacGourmet looks like the Apple Mail or NetNewsWire interface with sources and folders on the left, a recipe index on the top right and recipe details on the bottom right. There are two views for the recipe index: a standard tabular view and a simplified image, name, source, and rating view. By default, the simplified view only shows two recipes at a time; the standard view shows seven.
Reading: A The recipe layout is beautiful. The ingredients are in a formatted box with the source, yield, pictures, and other metadata on the right side of the recipe4. The directions are below the ingredients. There’s a very readable chef view; as a nice touch, if multiple recipes are selected, the chef view is a tabbed interface, one tab per recipe. In the standard view, only one recipe can be displayed at a time; multiple recipes can be displayed in separate chef view windows as well.
Printing: A Standard printing facilities are superb and support printing on Avery 3x5 and 4x6 cards as well as several other templates.
Searching: A Simple but effective rule-based “cupboard” searching (like Spotlight) with ⌘F. ⌘⌥F provides access to the quick search box, which is very effective. Explicit note, recipe, and wine note searches are also available.
Adding/Editing: B- Some of the problems seen in Connoisseur’s add/edit screen are here to a lesser degree. By default the recipe add/edit screen isn’t a modal sheet (but it can be configured as such), but it is a modal dialog that blocks the main view. Otherwise, it takes an iTunes approach to editing: multiple tabs for Info, Ingredients, Directions, Preparation, Notes, Picture, and Nutrition data (which can be calculated from the ingredient list). The ingredients list is pretty easy to use, but there are two columns of checkboxes (“D” and “M”) which aren’t explained in the help documents. “D” marks the ingredient line as a descriptive title separating distinct portions of the ingredient list; I haven’t figured out what “M” does. The other sections are unformatted text entry.
Import: A Importing is strengthened by the clippings section to turn clipboard results into recipes relatively quickly. Featured recipes from MacGourmet.com and Amazon.com are also automatically importable through the “Featured” section. It supports importing from Yum, but only imported 70 of the 116 recipes that I have in Yum; I’m not sure if this is a demo limitation or not.
Extras: There’s a shopping list, a generic note list, and wine notes. Easily supports publishing to standalone sites or weblogs (the ability to use a weblog publisher like MarsEdit would be nice). The Cookbook Builder plug-in is a fairly nice idea and works reasonably well (drag and drop recipes into the appropriate places), although I don’t think it’s something that I would use often, if at all. The meal planner works similarly but is a little finicky as to where things should be dragged (if I drag the “breakfast” meal into the day area, even if it’s not on the day row, the “breakfast” meal should land in the right spot; don’t make me care about your hierarchies when adding—you just need to do the right thing). It’s nice that the meal planner can easily become a shopping list. The nutritional plug-in is a little confusing as to how it works at first (you need to edit the recipe to calculate the nutritional value for it based on ingredients), but it does a very nice job of calculating once it’s clear.
Update: Michael Dupuis, the developer of MacGourmet, indicated that the Yum import failure with MacGourmet is related to an XML format change in the Yum format, not a limitation in the demo. This will be fixed in the next update of MacGourmet. I discovered that I had forgotten to put a grade on the Import feature. He also mentioned that the “D” and “M” checkboxes in recipes are explained on pages 23–24 of the user guide as “Divider” (descriptive title, as I surmised) and “Main Ingredient”. Finally, the post editor allows you to choose an extern blog posting tool such as MarsEdit by choosing it under the “Post using” menu.
This is a great program. There’s enough here that I can possibly see replacing Yum with MacGourmet. I suspect that although I don’t see myself using the cookbook builder, I would consider using the meal planner and the nutrition calculator, so I might go with MacGourmet Deluxe.
I reviewed version 1.0.1.
Browsing: A- The app is divided into three panels: a source list, a recipe list, and a recipe display. It looks very much like the Address Book application provided with Mac OS X. The source list contains a master recipe library, a search results entry, recent imports, and then user-added folders and collections. Folders can only contain collections; collections contain recipes. Collections are associative; recipes can belong to more than one collection at a time. Deleting a recipe from a collection only deletes it from the collection; it does not appear that there is a way to delete a recipe from the recipe library permanently except using the recipe library view.
Reading: A The reading pane is clear, well laid out, and easy to read. This is not as flexible as the display in MacGourmet, but I am pleased to say that it’s easily readable. The full-screen “Cook” view is the best I’ve seen in any of these programs: it will not only speak your recipe (which Connoisseur also does), but you can also turn on voice recognition so that you can tell it you want the next instruction to be read. Drop down menus in the ingredients list let you search for other recipes with this ingredient with ease.
Printing: B- The print layout is functional and well laid out, but you can’t print more than one recipe at a time.
Searching: A+ Excellent search on ingredients, name, category, or cuisine. Simultaneously searches local and “cloud” recipes.
Adding/Editing: A- Heavy reminders of Address Book here; ingredients and directions are added and removed with the red “-” and green “+” circles. Can’t drag and drop ingredients, and the green “+” isn’t always visible on entry. Sub-recipes (the crust for a cheesecake) are handled manually (possibly poorly). Directions are automatically numbered. Notes are automatically bulleted.
Import: B Can only import one recipe at a time essentially from the clipboard or a single text file. Does not handle heavily formatted recipes well. No support for Yum importing.
Extras: Blogging, although how it works is not clear without a licence. “Cloud” recipe sharing of recipes in yours and others cookbooks.
This is another program that I really like. I’m not happy about the state of import for multiple recipes—I have an extensive collection that I want to import already. Conversion utilities would be very useful here. I’d also like to see print improved some, or at least some sort of iPhone integration.
Yum was recently acquired by “Dare to be Creative” and has been turned into a shareware program as of Yum 3.0. I’m currently using Yum 2.7.4 which is no longer supported—and I’m reasonably happy with it. This review is based on the trial version of Yum 3.0.
Browsing: A- Like several other recipe programs, Yum uses a 3 column layout. In this case, it’s category, recipe list, and then the recipe itself. Categories are associative (and in Yum 2.7.4, able to be managed in the “categories drawer”; this appears to be read-only in Yum 3). A nice touch carried over from Yum 2.7 is that when you select a recipe, all of the categories to which it belongs are highlighted (similar to Address Book).
Reading: A- Simple, well-laid out. Ingredients are always on the left; the method (directions) are always on the right. There’s a full-screen mode, but the default configuration misses the point (it doesn’t increase the font size at all)—you need to go into the Format|Manage Layouts and change the “step-by-step” layout to “Step-by-Step” to be meaningful.
Printing: A- Layouts can be edited (it’s not completely clear how they work) and multiple recipes can be printed on a single page if they fit. Layout is completely customizable (but I have never done so).
Searching: B+ It works well enough, but there’s no keyboard shortcut.
Adding/Editing: B+ Fairly good adding and editing. It’s been improved from 2.7 (which allowed the method to be formatted rich text). Automatically converts fractions to their proper display form. Has a “paste ingredients” for quick addition from a copied list. Scaling is done in here and not elsewhere.
Import: Imports from Yum, MasterCook, and XML only. Doesn’t have a single recipe import mode (although “paste ingredients” helps with that).
Extras: Now comes with a shopping list mode.
This is a fair update to a good recipe manager. I’m not sure that it’s worth the shareware cost, when others that offer more features are just a few dollars more. However, I am excited to see that Yum has been acquired and is under active development again; I would not be surprised to see Yum become a viable competitor to YummySoup!, MacGourmet, and SousChef moving forward.
I’ve tried YummySoup! a few times and never been quite convinced by it. I reviewed version 126.96.36.199.
Browsing: A Like MacGourmet, this is somewhat reminiscent of Mail or NetNewsWire; there’s a source list on the left and recipes on the right. There’s both the “My Library” and the “Online Library” view for viewing and sharing recipes online. The default recipe index (top right panel) is the image browser. This isn’t quite Recipe CoverFlow, but it’s pretty damned close. This view alone argues in favour of taking pictures of your masterpieces. There’s also a standard tabular view which is clear and readable. There are both groups (folders) and smart groups (live search folders); groups are associative (recipes can exist in more than one group at a time). Recipes can be removed from a group or from the library.
Reading: B+ Functional and pleasant, but it still puts metadata at the top and too prominent. The first thing I care about when looking at a recipe is the ingredients. I don’t care about the source, difficulty, ethnicity or anything else. The full screen view is well done, but not as nice as SousChef (and, to be honest, I don’t care about the recipe picture in full screen mode).
Printing: C+ Only one recipe can be printed at a time. Standard print format.
Searching: B No keyboard shortcut. It works well from the search box, and the smart groups really are smart.
Adding/Editing: A- A modal sheet for editing, but everything is on one pane (no tabs!). Easily make new ingredient groups; good auto-fill values. Bullet (●), ℃ and ℉ buttons. It gets nearly everything right (modal?).
Import: B+ Doesn’t support importing from Yum; I could import Connoisseur or MacGourmet recipes if I wanted to. Importing from a web site could not be easier (and works very similarly to SousChef; YummySoup! had it first, though).
Extras: An easy to use grocery list; a liquor cabinet tracker. Online publishing (via email to HungrySeacow) and downloading.
I’m still undecided about what to think about YummySoup!. I like what it has, but it has some weaknesses that I’m not fond of. I don’t think that it’s as good as MacGourmet or SousChef.
Tonight, the verdict is to change nothing—I’m not convinced that the alternatives are worth the price today (including the new Yum 3), and the stronger contenders (MacGourmet, SousChef, YummySoup!, Yum 3) have serious flaws with how I need to use a recipe management program. If I were forced to make a choice, I think that MacGourmet Deluxe would be the winner, but I’m not sure that the expense is worth the time and effort it would take me to switch. I really want to like SousChef, but it’s not quite there yet for me.
- Measuring Cup no longer appears to be available. I could not find an acceptable download version. ↩
- This program no longer appears to be available. You can download the most recently avialable version from MacUpdate. ↩
- A preference allows this to be changed to “edit.” ↩
- This is controlled by the display template and style, which suggests that user styles are possible. ↩
- Yum is no longer available and I could not find an appropriate download. ↩
- 2015-06-14: I didn’t mention it when I reinstated this, but I currently use Paprika on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Android. It’s pretty good for browsing, and the search is really good. Reading is damned fine on portable devices. Because I have a device handy most of the time, printing is completely unnecessary. Importing had a small hiccup, but their support helped work it out just fine a couple of years ago when I switched. Adding is slightly annoying unless you are on one of the dozens of sites that Paprika knows how to parse recipes from. In that case, you select and push buttons. It also has an easy way to send people your entire Paprika recipe book and they have their own service to synchronize data. This last is perhaps the most worrisome bit—if they decide to shut down, synchronization between installations becomes impossible—but they do have a nice export format that uses the hrecipe microformat.[ back ]
- 2014-09-29: Six years on, some of these programs are no longer available. Notes have been added to that effect.[ back ]
- 2008-11-30: I sent links of this review to the publishers involved (except for SousChef, because Ben Lachman the developer found this post on his own and reminded me that I hadn’t done this even though I meant to). I received a note from the developer of MacGourmet and have added some additional notes.[ back ]