From 2006 to 2015, I did most of my professional work an Apple Computer desktop and/or laptop. I grew up on Intel-based PCs and can still use and reconfigure Windows-based workstations like the best of them. For many years my my desktop at home was still a PC running XP (thankfully it’s been a MacBook Air since 2015).
While there are lots of great applications developed for Windows by the independent and open source communities — I was and continue to be amazed by the large number and high quality of free and relatively low-cost applications available for OS X.
Now, almost two decades after finally having a regular Mac of my own to love and adore, I found myself wanting to maintain a list of a few of my favorite free and paid OS X applications on my blog — so that when I perform system maintenance or OS reinstalls in the near and distant future it will be easy for me to download and install software that I have come to use on a daily basis.
So, without further ado, here are a few of my favorite OS X applications. Links to the developer’s Web site are included. A description of the application from the developer’s site is also provided as a general overview of what the application does.
Featured and special callouts
- Affinity Photo, Designer, and Publisher is an amazing collection of ridiculously cheap graphics and desktop publishing software that easily displaces Adobe.
- Blender – “is a free open source 3D content creation suite, available for all major operating systems”
- OmniFocus is productivity and task management done right
- On the Job is a wonderful time tracking and invoice utility with no subscriptions and just simple, fantastic focus (I’m literally dying for version 4 and Big Sur compatibility, the beta is pretty darn nice)
- Scrivener is thought by many to be one of the greatest writing apps of all time (and who could argue with them)
- Sublime Text is so darn good for text editing, regular expression find and replace, and code editing
- Transmit – the FTP and network disk mounting utility from Panic that I’ve loved for years and years.
- Adium – “A free instant messaging application for Mac OS X that can connect to AIM, MSN, Jabber, Yahoo, and more.”
- AntiRSI – “a program for Mac OS X that helps prevent RSI (repetitive strain injury) and other computer related stress. It does so by forcing you to take regular breaks, yet without getting in the way. It also detects natural breaks so it won’t force too many breaks on you.”
- Apimac Timer – “a complete and professional stopwatch, alarm clock, countdown and clock utility for Mac OS X. “
- Carbon Copy Cloner – “Clone, synchronize, backup. Schedule and forget it.”
- Celestia – “a free space simulation that lets you explore our universe in three dimensions.”
- Coconut Identity Card – “a small app that reads out where and when your Mac and your iPod were built by Apple.”
- Cyberduck – “an open source FTP, SFTP, WebDAV and Amazon S3 browser.”
- Disk Inventory X – “a disk usage utility that shows the sizes of files and folders in a special graphical way called treemaps.”
- DotMatrix – “easily make pop-art using your web or iSight camera”
- Electric Sheep – “Electric Sheep is a free, open source screen saver created by Scott Draves. It’s run by thousands of people all over the world, and can be installed on any ordinary PC or Mac. When these computers “sleep”, the screen saver comes on and the computers communicate with each other by the internet to share the work of creating morphing abstract animations known as “sheep”. The result is a collective “android dream”, an homage to Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.”
- GrandPerspective – “a small utility application for Mac OS X that graphically shows the disk usage within a file system.”
- It’s a life saver when you need a copy of your media, but don’t have immediate access to an account or local copy of a video. You can also use Grappler to extract the audio track from a video as an MP3 in order to do some editing, adjustments, or for use with creating a transcription.
- Halo Demo – “an online multiplayer demo of the first person shooter many consider to be the best. Hours of fun can be had by playing the demo and mastering the Blood Gulch map.”
- HandBrake – “an open-source, GPL-licensed, multiplatform, multithreaded DVD to MPEG-4 converter.”
- HexEdit – “a hexadecimal file editor for the Macintosh. The most widely used editor of its kind on the platform, HexEdit can handle file sizes of up to four gigabytes with ease, yet has memory requirements of less than a megabyte (with colour turned off). It can also compare files for similarities or differences.”
- Integrity – “an powerful utility for finding broken links on large Web sites.”
- Paparaazi! – “a small utility for Mac OS X that makes screenshots of webpages.”
- Plasma Pong – “a really impressive real-time fluid dynamics version of Pong created by Steve Taylor. Sadly, it is no longer available online.”
- Quicksilver – “A unified, extensible interface for working with applications, contacts, music, and other data.”
- Rember – “a front-end GUI to the ‘memtest’ command line memory testing program. This application will allow the user to select the number of test loops, as well as the amount of memory to test. There is a ‘Log’ tab that will allow the user to monitor memory testing. The user can toggle a ‘verbose’ switch to limit the amount of output.The user can choose to quit Finder and other applications.Defective memory can cause computers to malfunction, crash, and behave in a variety of ways which can sometimes baffle end users and computer technicians alike. Apple provides hardware test CDs with most of their products, and there are some third-party utilties for Mac OS X which perform memory testing. In my experience, these tools have not always been able to quickly and efficiently diagnose memory problems. Rember has been designed to simplify the testing, and diagnosis of these problems.This software is free, and is covered under the GNU GPL. Please read accompanying “COPYING” file for more info.”
- Permanent Eraser – “provides an even stronger level of security by implementing the Gutmann Method. This utility overwrites your data thirty-five times, scrambles the original file name, and truncates the file size to nothing before Permanent Eraser finally unlinks it from the system. Once your data has been erased, it can no longer be read through traditional means. “
- Pixer – “a little application that helps you to scale (or rotate, add pad and, crop) PNG, JPG, Tiff, PSD , BMP or PICT images in batch.”
- SiteSucker – “a Macintosh application that automatically downloads Web sites from the Internet. It does this by copying the site’s Web pages, images, backgrounds, movies, and other files to your local hard drive. Just enter a URL (Uniform Resource Locator), press return, and SiteSucker can download an entire Web site.”
- ThinkingRock – “a platform independent Java application for Getting Things Done (GTD) – the action management methodology and best-selling book by David Allen.”
- Time Tracker – “Track the time you spend on projects with this simple and easy-to-use application. Divide your work into projects, and split each into individual tasks.”
The graveyard of dead (or abandoned) apps that I miss dearly
7zX– “7zX was a file archiver with high compression ratio. Compression ratio results are very dependent upon the data used for the tests.Usually 7zX compresses to 7z format 30-70% better than to zip format, and 2-10% better than most of other zip compatible programs.7zX currently supports tar, zip, gzip, bzip2, UNIX compress, 7z, s7z and various kinds of segmented archives.” Changes Meter– allowed you to check a web page or a local file frequently, to note that a change had been made. Tracking and syncing files could be a challenge, Changes Meter would notify you with a colorful, useful and unobtrusive pie chart icon on the menu bar regarding all changes made to files online or on your workstation. FileSync– was a free utility from designersdomain.com for copying files in multiple folders/locations to an external or network drive. Fireworks– the app that when it was introduced to me I thought, “why would anyone ever want that.” Which, I then went on to use for like 15 years for rapid and fantastic web design and prototyping. It really hit the sweet spot between raster and vector graphic work. Flash– back in the day, I was a pretty good animator and developer with this tool, I would say that Unity 3D is the only thing even close to being like it or Macromedia Director. Grapplerwas published by The Little App Factory and enabled you to easily save audio and video from the Web. It can easily archive or recover full HD from YouTube.
- GridWars – was an extremely fun shoot-em-up game developed by Marco Incitti. The title was taken offline to comply with a request from BizarreCreations: “We’re beginning to feel the effects of the Geometry Wars clones on our sales via Microsoft now and are beginning a process to begin to more robustly protect our copyright and intellectual property. Therefore, I’d like to ask you in an amicable fashion to stop infringing our IP and pull the game ‘Grid Wars’ from the internet for download. I hope you understand and are able to do this without us having to take further steps.”
TextWrangler– “was a powerful general purpose text editor, and Unix and server administrator’s tool” Think– a small application that lets you focus on one application at a time using an illumination panel and backdrop. viJournal– “designed as an analogue of the good old-fashioned page-a-day bound diary – the kind you buy in a stationer’s. You write your entries under dated headers and save them collectively by month and year.”
Apps that I gave up on (it’s been a while old friends)
- Adobe Creative Suite is something I loved to use for years and years. I picked up my first copy as a student back in the Adobe Photoshop 4 days (that was before layers of type were editable — yikes!). I’ve used it professionally off and on over the years and can still get the job done as needed. They are wonderful tools and so gosh darn expensive.
- Dreamweaver was one a place that I spent the entire day in for years, now it’s been what feels like forever since I’ve touched it. Long live the code editors.