Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Utilities (Apple) Software

The Best Mac OS X Software Tools 213

An anonymous reader writes "Mac advocate John C. Welch weighs in with his list of the top 20 Mac OS X products (except Welch manages to list 22). The collection of software tools ranges from the obvious, such as Boot Camp, to the obscure but perhaps more useful — little-known apps like Peter Borg's Lingon, for creating launchd configuration files. What's on your personal list of indispensable Mac productivity aids and programming tools? Also, do you think Welch gives too much air time to built-in OS X tools at the expense of third-party products such as NetworkLocation?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Best Mac OS X Software Tools

Comments Filter:
  • The List (Score:3, Informative)

    by BarryJacobsen ( 526926 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @06:10AM (#18306596) Homepage



    Sync Services


    Missing Sync for Windows Mobile

    OmniGraffle Pro


    iChat AV


    Script Debugger

    Microsoft Entourage

    SketchFighter 4000 Alpha



    Apple Remote Desktop 3

    MacLink Plus Deluxe

    Parallels Desktop for Mac

    Remote Desktop Connection

    Snapz Pro X

    Boot Camp



    Workgroup Manager

    • Quicksilver (Score:5, Informative)

      by zaphod_es ( 613312 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @06:59AM (#18306648)
      What, 22 favourite apps and no Quicksilver? This is the one program I just could not live without, it is what makes my Mac usable. I hardly use the mouse anymore and access and/or run almost everything on my computer with two or three keystrokes. And it's free!
      • Re:Quicksilver (Score:5, Informative)

        by bismark.a ( 882874 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @08:04AM (#18306758)
        I don't own a Mac, but I swear that my next laptop will be a Leopard tera-core sexy machine. And one of the reason for that is beautiful apps like Quick Silver. [blacktree.com]
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )
          If there was a quicksilver equivalent that had the same functionality available on the Linux desktop, would you consider Linux?
          • Sorry, he said, "one of the reason". If it also had a program like Indesign, photoshop and their subsequent ability to use CMYK properly, I would. I used linux since RH 5.1 but that was when I was a networker - now I'm a type setter.
            • by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )

              Sorry, he said, "one of the reason".

              Sometimes it just takes one particular thing to make a decision on considering possible. For example, I knew when I switched to Linux on my main desktop not all my Windows games would work... But I got other benefits that I wanted.

              If it also had a program like Indesign, photoshop and their subsequent ability to use CMYK properly, I would.

              I don't know of alternatives to Indesign (mostly because I haven't done much with publishing related things yet). But Krita [koffice.org] offers much

          • For the record, there's a little application for KDE called Katapult [kde-apps.org] that does the exact same thing as Quicksilver.

            But the replying /.er was right: there's still nothing under Linux that compares to Indesign and its amazing typesetting algorithms. Much as I hate Adobe (and believe me, I hate them a lot!), their work on simplifying and automating typesetting is nigh-on breathtaking if you care about beautiful text presentation. The work done on Scribus thus far is impressive, but it's doubtful that it's go

      • Textmate! (Score:4, Informative)

        by thelamecamel ( 561865 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @09:00AM (#18307010)
        No textmate either! It certainly does everything the journo wants from BBEdit. And for LaTeX and Ruby it's utterly indispensable. I think it's the only shareware I've ever bought.
        • Textmate:BBEdit::OSX:OS9

          BBEdit was it back in the day. Bees knees. But they're still stuck in a world of floating palettes and out of date syntax coloring.

          Textmate.... is just amazing. I think I've only scraped the surface of 10% of what it can actually do. The best thing is, if I don't like a keystroke or a syntax coloring, I can change it. I wanted to start writing Matlab. Sure enough, someone has written a bundle for it. There's even a Bundle called 'GetBundle' that will automatically download and update
      • by _|()|\| ( 159991 )

        Launcher apps. like Quicksilver and Launch Bar aare very customizable, and I'm sure I could get used to any of them. The one I've gotten comfortable with is Butler [manytricks.com]. On Windows, I launched programs by navigating the Start menu with sequences of keystrokes that were ingrained in my fingers. Navigating the Dock or the Applications folder felt glacial by comparison. Butler's abbreviations are better than either approach. It's kind of like the WIndows Vista Start menu, except that it recognizes initials; for exa

      • If you had not posted I would have. Before I got quicksilver I had no clue what I was missing. It completely changed how I interact with the computer. I don't use any of it's fancy features I just use it to launch apps from the keyboard. I have not opened my application folder in months. That and BBedit are the two apps I would be sorely pressed to give up.
      • by shmert ( 258705 )
        I was going to say the same thing about LaunchBar [obdev.at]. It's what spotlight should have been. When I'm on a computer without it I'm constantly cursing. Or installing it.
      • by andreyw ( 798182 )
        It's nice, but doesn't like capital cyrillic letters, making it pretty useless for me.

        I thought on the Mac at least, we were done with application that only work correctly in ISO-8859-1?
      • I've just started to get into the mac and reading your post (and the others which followed) I installed quicksilver.

        Yes, it looks useful and interesting... however their website does not help much. I've been trying to follow their docco but its slow going. Its an incredibly inefficient site, its laggy (have to wait for it to catch up when using mouse wheel) and consumes vast amounts of CPU just to scroll down the page. Not such great web design/coding. (This is on an AMD64+1G RAM + Debian Sarge + Firefox. S
    • Re:The List (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 11, 2007 @10:16AM (#18307352)
      Linked version with condensed summary. I wanted to find out more about some of them. Others may benefit too.

      Ecto [kung-foo.tv] a blogging client (but the site seems to be down: try this for more info [versiontracker.com]). Shareware, $17.95.
      Transmit [panic.com] an FTP client. Shareware, $17.95
      Sync Services [apple.com] -- comes with 10.4
      BBedit [bbedit.com] text/html editor. $125, but worth it.
      Missing Synch for Windows Mobile [markspace.com] - synchronize with PDA/smartphones. $49.95/$39.95
      OmniGraffle [omnigroup.com] - diagramming / flowchart program. $79.95 / $149.95
      ConceptDraw [conceptdraw.com] - another diagramming / flowchart program. $299
      IChat AV [apple.com] - built-in to 10.4
      AppleScript, Scriptdebugger - also built-in. No link. I'm getting lazy.
      Microsoft Entourage [apple.com] -- part of MS Office.
      Sketchfigher 4000 Alpha [ambrosiasw.com] -- a game from the great Ambrosia Software [ambrosiasw.com]. $19.00
      TypeIt4Me [ettoresoftware.com] - keyboard macro expander. $27
      NetworkLocation [centrix.ca] - automatically trigger configuration changes depending upon where you are on the network (e.g., at home, work, etc.). $15
      Apple Remote Desktop 3 [apple.com] - control / configure Mac systems remotely. $499 / $299 (unlimited / 10 systems)
      MacLinkPlus [dataviz.com] - file conversion software (e.g., from WordPerfect documents to/from Word, and many others). $79
      Parallels Desktop for Mac [parallels.com] - virtualization software (e.g., run Win XP simultaneously with OS X). $79.
      Remote Desktop Connection [microsoft.com] - connect remotely to a Windows desktop. FREE
      Snap X Pro [ambrosiasw.com] - screen / movie capture. $29
      Boot Camp - dual boot Windows. I'm lazy.
      PDF - Portable Document Format from Adobe? What?
      Lingon [sourceforge.net] - tool for making launchd scripts for 10.4.
      Workgroup Manager [apple.com] - manage local systems - part of 10.4 Server.

      Okay, a mildly interesting list. Here's a few more suggestions:

      Cyberduck [cyberduck.ch] - FTP and SFTP client. Donationware.
      VLC [videolan.org] - cross-platform video viewer / transcoder.
      Blender 3D [blender.org] - cross-platform 3D modelling / rendering.
      Bookends [sonnysoftware.com] - excellent bibliography software. $99
      Celestia [shatters.net] - cross-platform real-time 3D astronomy simulator.
      Plot [plot.micw.eu] - a, uh, plotting / graphing program.
      proFit [quansoft.com] - another plotting / graphing program, non-free. $95
      WordService [devon-technologies.com] - adds a bunch of text reformatting tools to the Services menu, making them accessible in any program. The same page has a bunch of other useful and free services.

      The original article lists PDF, but no tools. While its true OS X native support makes PDF pretty easy to use, there's still some tasks that are awkward and some useful tools out there to do t
      • by Hao Wu ( 652581 )
        Onyx [versiontracker.com] should be #1

      • My addition: Growl [growl.info] - Notification manager. Free. Supported by enough Mac apps to make you wish they all supported it.
      • Ecto 2 has serious flaws and the developer suppresses this information on his developer page. Quoting my own blog entry [mistersquid.com] regarding the problem:

        If after posting a blog entry (with or without Ecto) you edit the code for a blog entry in a text editor, say BBEdit, and then load that entry into Ecto, Ecto wipes out all advanced tagging, including but not limited to CSS tags, XML markup, and HTML styling. Ecto will not notify you that it has made these changes. So if, for example, you use Ecto to do a minor edit

      • Remote Desktop Connection - connect remotely to a Windows desktop. FREE

        rdesktop [rdesktop.org] Is better and it's also free. Of course you'll have to install the Apple development kit that comes with your computer and compile rdesktop (three commands IIRC and it takes less than 30 seconds, there used to be a bug in the makefile, they seem to have fixed that). The last time I downloaded rdesktop didn't come with a newbie proof GUI client and the only help is a the man page, which I suppose is a show-stopper for some people. You'll also probably have to modify the $PATH and $MANPATH variable

        • by bjohnson ( 3225 )
          rdesktop is only better in that you can connect to more than one system at a time.

          Remote Desktop Connection also gives local disk access on the romote system, very useful.
      • I find it funny that people are soo fond of all this crippleware. Infact, the is unique *most* useful package is obviously: Fink

        Oh, thanks for all those services! You might check out Equation Services.

        Does anybody have a good free gui text editor for the mac? The GUI ports of Emacs and Vim act a little funny.
    • .. and then he never lists any actual pdf tools.

      My favorite is PDFLab - lets you extract, merge, add, delete, reorder pages. It's freeware.

      http://www.iconus.ch/fabien/pdflab/ [iconus.ch]

      The same group also do cocoabooklet, an app for turning a pdf'd document into booklets (link on the page above).
    • by dracvl ( 541254 )

      ...and we all know what the KDE port of this tool would be called.

    • First, there are far too many criticial/essential Mac OS X apps to narrow down to 20. This is a silly, arbitrary number because people seem to like lists, and have very short attention spans. Any list of 20 is easily criticized because it leaves out too many goodies. Go beyond critical/essential to the merely excellent/marvelous, and the list will quickly quadruple, at least. Second, this list reflects the opinion of someone who tried the first app he liked in a given category and hasn't researched the alt
  • BootCamp (Score:3, Interesting)

    by suv4x4 ( 956391 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @07:44AM (#18306690)
    Who else thinks that BootCamp being in the top 20 best OSX products is kinda silly?

    On Windows (or even Linux) you don't see "top 10 best products" list that often, if at all, simply because they are too many to just list a "top 20 best".

    Computers have moved to a point where different people use them for wildly different purposes. As such, you simply can't have "top X products" for an entire OS. If on Mac it's not the same, it's that much sadder.
    • Have you even read the freaking list? It's obviously a top-20 list for sysadmins.
      • I am glad to see Parallels on there - but, for the needs of most people, also including Boot Camp is rather redundant. Unless you're a gamer, dual-booting is so last millenium. :-)

        And even that qualifier may be about to disappear with the next generation of Parallels and/or VMware.

    • it's because, on linux, there are too few.
    • Computers have moved to a point where different people use them for wildly different purposes. As such, you simply can't have "top X products" for an entire OS.

      This wasn't a list of the top 22 products for the entire OS. It was a list of 22 products this guy finds indispensible.

      I could easily make a similar list for OS X or Windows, based on what I use and the needs of my work. I'd include dev tools and DBMS packages, plus a couple of casual games for relaxing. It wouldn't apply to many other people, but I'
  • Some of Mine: (Score:2, Informative)

    by sugapablo ( 600023 )
    Being a web developer who works from home, here's my short list of tools I like:

    Web Developer Ext. for Mozilla: https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/60/ [mozilla.org]
    MailTags: http://www.indev.ca/MailTags.html [indev.ca]
    FTP/SFTP Client: http://cyberduck.ch/ [cyberduck.ch]
    Text Editor: http://www.barebones.com/products/textwrangler/ [barebones.com]
    OpenOffice: http://porting.openoffice.org/mac/ [openoffice.org]
    Image Editor: http://www.macgimp.org/ [macgimp.org]
  • No mention of fink or Darwin ? Those are pretty much the only tools I know on OSX.
    • fink sucks, and darwin isn't a tool, it's the operating system...

      Last time I used fink it was buggy, and the packages were perpetually out of date. It doesn't matter that much anyway since there are usually osx packages available directly from most large open source projects. The only thing I miss is the uninstaller, which traditionally hasn't existed because it hasn't been necessary on mac systems that kept all files related to an application in one folder.
      • I'm assuming he means darwinports (now renamed to be macports [macports.org]

        The thing where you do:

              sudo port install gimp ... and it does the bsd "ports" thing, downloads the source, patches it, compiles it, and installs it. Very useful.

  • I was quite fond of CodeTek's Virtual Desktop. http://codetek.com/ctvd/ [codetek.com] It made me feel right at home when jumping between my Linux desktop and the Mac. Lots of real-estate, some nice customization features, and mouse focus behavior I preferred to OS X's. Sadly, the application hasn't been properly supported for a while. It does work, mostly, but isn't as flawless as it once was. I recently had to turn it off because of some misbehaviors with Firefox.
  • Kiddie pools... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Beefslaya ( 832030 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @09:54AM (#18307244)
    For starters:

    I would throw in iTerm, virtueDesktops, Parallels, TextMate, Navicat for Mac.

    Without these programs, I couldn't make it in the fast paced Graphic Design field of Macs (Any other IT people out there want to shit nails when someone says Mac's are for graphic design? Last time I checked, my Macs didn't look like big blue pumpkins.)

    ----My Motto:
    I don't care if the customer's stuff is working or not. I just don't want to be affected by whatever they have. My equipment MUST work, Therefore I use Apple.
    • iTerm is essential to me, tabbed terminals are something I can't live without.

      Check out Quicksilver if you haven't yet, it's by Blacktree. I have no affiliation with them, but it's the bomb:

      http://blacktree.com/ [blacktree.com]
      • I tried using I term 2 years ago and it was a horrible experience. very slow and it would crash taking all my terminals with it. Has it improved?
        • by tres ( 151637 )

          I use iTerm for hours every day. It's much more stable than it was a couple years back, and has some cool new features.

          command+enter gives a full screen of terminal. Combine that with Virtue desktops & I've got my "terminal" desktop.

    • by tres ( 151637 )

      For anyone interested in an open source Navicat alternative, check out Yoursql [ludit.it].

      For a Postgres GUI, check out pgAdmin [pgadmin.org] (I've had some stability issues with this one, but there's not much else out there that's Free and Open.

    • > I would throw in iTerm

      While iTerm does some nifty stuff, it is just not responsive enough for me to agree having it on a top-anything list.
  • Little Snitch from ObDev [obdev.com].

    BBEdit or TextWrangler from Bare Bones Software [barebones.com].

    Opera [opera.com].

  • by tji ( 74570 )

    For others moving from Linux to Mac OS X, like I did (for my laptop at least, my server & mythtv boxes are still Linux), iTerm is the first thing to install. Mac OS X has a terminal program, but it's weak at best. iTerm is a good terminal program, with multiple tabs and cutomizable display settings.

    http://iterm.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]
    • I don't know why you'd replace terminal.app with iterm. terminal.app is by far the best terminal I've ever used.

      Consider that most terminals for linux either fall into the category of small and quick to boot, but missing lots of features and are difficult to configure (rxvt, xterm, etc). Otherwise there's the big bulky terminals like konsole that take forever to boot, have kind of an ugly and bulky UI, and have lots of features, probably too many...

      Let's not even think about what the one and only terminal f
      • What the hell is with Mac people (probably just OS X people too) and .app? It was bad enough when Apple adopted file extensions in OS X. Now people write things like terminal.app. I have never referred to MS Word on Windows as winword.exe (except when telling people how to start it quickly). So bizarre. As for best terminal ever -- I do like that it is light and simple. With Expose, tabs are sort of pointless (I will not open anywhere the number of Terminal windows as I would Firefox tabs, what's the point)
  • I'd substitute Interarchy for Transmit. Otherwise, looks reasonable.

    Also, OmniOutliner is VERY nice for many tasks. And Silverkeeper is a free basic backup program that does well enough for me.
  • ...but, as always, subjective at best. I still have a G5 iMac, and many of the apps on the list are useless to me, as they're specifically for the Intel processor. However, these lists are informative in that they help to become aware of potentially useful apps to any mac users out there.

    That said, here are a few apps the guy neglected to mention:
    - Claris Filemaker http://www.filemaker.com/ [filemaker.com]. Hands down, the best database software out there, for the Mac or any other OS.
    - iWeb http://www.apple.com/ilife/iwe [apple.com]
  • Just my personal preferences, but I imagine lots of people will agree with me.

    0. Start Safari, get Firefox, remove Safari from the dock.
    1. OS X Developer tools. Going to be compiling lots of stuff.
    2. Subversion.
    3. VLC
    4. TextMate
    5. GraphViz
    6. Clisp
    7. SBCL
    8. XWindows

    I was so impressed with the compile speed on my new MacBook. I blink and it is done. (Except for compiling
    Erlang, that took 30 minutes and burned a hole through my desk. Dude.)
  • I use Path Finder (http://www.cocoatech.com) every day, all during the day.
    Can't imagine only having the Finder to use.
  • Missing Program (Score:3, Informative)

    by maytagman ( 971263 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @01:03PM (#18308306)
    How on earth did he not include Onyx? I'd probably say its top 5... http://www.titanium.free.fr/pgs/english.html [titanium.free.fr] from the site: It allows you to run misc tasks of system maintenance, to configure certain hidden parameters of the Finder, Dock, Dashboard, Exposé, Safari, Login window and many Apple's applications, to delete cache, to remove a certain number of files and folders that may become cumbersome, to see the detailed info of your configuration, to preview the different logs and CrashReporter reports, to check the Preferences files and more. I would even go so far as to say it deserved to be number one...
  • Menumeters (Score:3, Informative)

    by Espectr0 ( 577637 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @03:22PM (#18309194) Journal
    Come on, who doesn't have menumeters? It's even free. Handy little tool to know the transfer rate of your network card.
  • What about Growl? (Score:3, Informative)

    by libwolf ( 1074434 ) on Sunday March 11, 2007 @05:32PM (#18310194)
    Don't forget http://www.growl.info/ [growl.info] - just need to know a tiny bit of scripting and it's amazingly useful
  • iPhoto is great, but I need something more "traditional" like ACDSee or XnView for windows. XnView for mac basically sucks, so it doesn't count. I usually end up firing up gqview under X11, which is almost ok, except that I would prefer a native app.

    I would welcome any other suggestions.

  • by 10sball ( 80009 )
    A few things I personally couldn't live without that are missing from this list

    * VoodooPad [flyingmeat.com] - for general note taking, todo lists, etc
    * TextMate [macromates.com] - self explanatory
    * Camino [caminobrowser.org] - for web surfing
    * Paparazzi! [derailer.org] - for taking quick screenshots or thumbnails of web pages
    * Colloquy [colloquy.info] - irc client
    * twitterific [iconfactory.com] - interface for twitter
    * NetNewsWire [newsgator.com] - Feed reader
  • My personal List. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pjludlow ( 707302 )

    Looking at the folder of software I use for new installs this is what I would have (no particular order):

    1. Firefox
    2. Flip4Mac
    3. Littlesnitch
    4. menuCalendarClock-iCal
    5. MenuMeters
    6. Onyx
    7. LotsaWater (screensaver, seriously it is awesome!)
    8. StuffitExpander
    9. Synergy
    10. Toast (or use "Burn" if you want freeware)
    11. Transmit
    12. VLC
    13. Whatsize
    14. GoogleEarth
    15. Azureus

    Some other nice programs (although not essential):

    1. Fission
    2. MacTheRipper
    3. Handbrake

    Obviously I have more programs but these are

    • Camino rather than Firefox. Same HTML rendering engine, better user interface, no security-hole XUL and Microsoft-style XPI installer. And Safari is not bad, once you turn off the daft "Open 'Safe' files after downloading" option.

      It's a shame there's so little choice for good secure browsers on Windows. Mac's got an embarassment of riches here.
  • I love MacFUSE and sshfs for using my webpage provider as a cheaper, faster, and better alternative to iDisk. No more syncing files from work and home. I just edit the file directly on the server. I mount it on my Ubuntu box at work. The old iMac G3 at work needs to be upgraded to Tiger before I can use it. Grr.
  • WTF! No mention of Adium in the article or in the thread. It is only the best chat program on the planet.

1 Mole = 007 Secret Agents