My OSX desktop software inventory

14 minute read

I’ve been getting a lot of questions from friends again about what I’m using on OSX. A friend just had to switch over to a government provided Powerbook (yes, I hate her), I managed to switch several other friends to Firefox on a bunch of platforms, and another friend is thinking of retiring her ailing NT laptop for a shiny new iBook.

So, thought I’d better update the previous list, flesh it out, and structure it a little. Only desktop apps. If I’ve missed any categories or there is other stuff you think I should have in there (or apps I should know about), please let me know. Virtually all this software is free or open source.

One other thing: I still think it is the software and the unix based OSX that makes me so much more productive on OSX than any other platform. Without exaggeration, I feel about 3 times as productive on OSX as any other platform. These apps have very much to do with it. YMMV.

What’s on My Dock, on the Menu or a Keystroke away

I’m actually stealing this idea off someone else but it’s true. What is on my dock is generally the things I’m running or using daily and constantly so it’s a good acid test. On top of that, menu apps and background demons which are keystroke activated.

iTerm

For the heavy lifting command line work on remote servers and OSX. Kicks the crap out of Apple’s terminal app in my opinion with it’s tabbed interface and stability. Very much the same tabbed interface idea as gnome terminal on linux. Free.

SubEthaEdit

I hate BBEDit. It is big, bloated and slow though I know some people live and die by it. I prefer SubEthaEdit as a fast, syntax colouring and sharable collaborative text editor. Seriously. It rocks. Great work. Free.

MacJournal

I can’t say enough nice things about MJ, the free journalling app from Dan Schimpf. It just keeps on getting better and better and also allows me to blog posts. Currently I’m being torn between this for journalling and a more blog management app but I love MJ. It really lets me focus on writing (this blog entry for instance). I would like to see (harass) Dan into putting more blog friendly features into it, the most notable, picture uploading and categories for blog posting. Oh, and it rocks with WordPress. This is what I use on Across Weirdish Wild Space though I’ve been playing with MarsEdit below for the gap difference. Free.

MarsEdit

Basically, I’m using this to deal with the fact that the pics I embed in MacJournal don’t get posted. But, in its own right I have to admit it is a handy little blog management tool, particularly when matched with its excellent sister app, NetNewsWire 2. This is becoming a more and more indispensable app though what I really want is MJ to have this sort of functionality. Shareware.

AdiumX

I think this is far and away the best instant messaging app for OSX. I like the borderless windows for the buddy list, the wonderful addressbook integration and fact it lets me keep touch with friends on multiple services. The skins and other extras are great and I dumped Fire for this a while back and find Proteus just steals too much real estate for me (though I’ve noted its highly recommended by people with big cinema screens or 2 screens). It does not , however, support webcams though this has only become an issue for me in one case recently. I use it with skins and am currently running the 0.7rc6 beta. Free. [update: AdiumX just went to the 0.7 release this morning. Grab it.]

Mail.app

Apple’s mail application is awesome, quick, has good spam control, rules and has plenty of extensibility. I use the GPGMail (with MacGPG), Priority, Notification and Hotmail (httpmail) extensions with it as well. Free with OSX.

Firefox

Hands down this is the best browser for the Mac. Free and open source. Safari is nice but the advantages of using Firefox for me outweigh that. Tabbed browsing, popup blocking and solid security are the top ones. Use the Qute theme for a very professional icon and colour scheme. RSS is built in now and the search engine additions of wikipedia, imdb, amazon and dictionary.com must save me so much time in a week I can’t even begin to imagine. I use the incredibly useful WebDeveloper extension with it, as well as the OpenBook, TargetAlert and CopyPlainText settings. There is also a GMail sttus extension which logs in and tells me in the statusbar whether I have new mail on googlemail. Oh, and the bookmarklet for Wordpress and MarsEdit and the LibraryLookup bookmarklets are very handy as well. Free.

NetNewsWire

Just hit 2.0 beta. Flawless. The best rss reader/news aggregator out in the market on any platform in my opinion. Fast and supports everything you’d ever want. Also can cache pics and download now as well as flag pots for followup later. Seriously amazing. Ranchero has also released MarsEdit with it which I find I’m using more and more as a bridge between MJ and my blog. Shareware.

Skype beta

A new addition to the dock, this gets its spot because of its amazing call quality and fact I can call people for free on the Skype network or with a charge up people overseas at a fraction of the cost of telephone calls. I’m actually shocked at how good the call quality is even when calling people on land lines and cell phones. It is an amazing p2p app. Love it. Free (though to call land lines or cell phones you need to buy minutes but they are quite cheap)

SSH Tunnel Manager

OK, this is a lazy boy app. I run ssh tunnels all over the place to various servers and especially to wakatara for incoming and outgoing mail and database work to keep connections encrypted and secure. This app allows me to configure a bunch of tunnels for each server and then simply fires up the ssh -L command in the background. If the connection goes down it tries to re-establish and gives me a dialogue box for the pass. Just convenient as a lot of the time when the peer disconnected I’d try a bunch of things before checking the iTerm window to see it had been disconnected. Technically though, I could do this with a simple script running in the background as well. Free.

iTunes

Basically, always running. Need the music to keep me sane. I use SizzlingiTunes most of the time to control it below via keystrokes which frees up valuable memory space and pops up a cool layer of info when songs change (see below). iTunes is the best of breed application for managing music. Also handles ripping CDs unbelievably effortlessly and synchronizes with my iPod without me even thinking. Free with OSX.

Keystroke Launched Apps

QuickSilver

This app, though still in beta, is great! Currently it is free, and simply allow you to type a cmd-space and then type a few letters and find whatever you want to launch, start of look at. It is amazing and a real productivity enhancer. It is basically like the new Spotlight feature in Tiger I imagine. Well worth the download. Love the way it pops up my friends’ addressbook pictures when I type their names… Great, great app and saves me from keeping apps on the Dock all the time. Free (but in beta)

SizzlingKeys

Key controller for play, pause, next, previous, volume, mute for iTunes along with a realyl cool floater overlay that will tell you the name artist and such of the song that is currently playing. Love it. Much better, in my opinion than synergy and this one is free. Free.

iClock

A simple pull down menu that takes the place of the native OSX clock and allows me to add multiple time zones so I can check what time it is before calling or trying to chat with other friends. Essential when your team is spread out over time zones if you need to figure out conference call or IRC times. Also, has a nice stock portfolio menu built in for tracking stocks (though really needs some alarm triggers for when hit prices or floors happen). Shareware.

Great little app that gives a pocket calendar drop down with schedule and to-dos integrated from iCal. Tremendously useful and much easier than keeping iCal open all the time. A double click on a day launches iCal too. Shareware (a little pricey I think)

IPMenu

This is a nice little free menu bar app to tell you what your IP address is on the internal LAN and public internet. Handy when you’re on the road more than anything. Free.

Meteorologist

A nice little icon for weather conditions and the local temp plus drop down menus for any number of configurable cities. You also get current weather conditions and an extended forecast (which I have configured for up to 5 days). Free.

Security

GPG

Indispensible. The open source implementation of PGP for OSX. Works amazingly and simple plugins exist for using it with the system and especially with Mail.app. Free (and much better than the paid PGP)

GPGKeys

A small, simple key management utility for organizing and managing your secret and public GPG keyring. Free.

Fugu

While scping via the command line is fine, it’s nice to have a graphical client to be able to do secure file transfers around the net. Simple to use, supports drag and drop and makes file transfers secure without you even having to think. Great app. Free.

ipfw Firewall

The excellent and industrial strength ipfw is built into OSX from its BSD heritage and can be easily controlled graphically in Systems Preferences or, if you feel like greater control, you can mess with the config files

Anti-Virus

So far, no real Mac virii, and I keep the thing patched so I only scan with a tool every once in a while. It is amazing when I go to sites sometimes and see them trying to download Spyware and stuff or all the virii that I get in the mail.app which I don’t have to worry about.

SSH

Built in, like it should be. As is a solid sshd server.

Other things I use regularly…

Apple’s builtin Addressbook and iCal along with Mail.app basically make up the trio that would take the place of Outlook or Entourage. Standards compliant, fast, flexible and extensible; I much prefer them to using the bloated, buggy, proprietary and pricey alternatives. MenuCalendar and the excellent ability of QuickSilver to instantly search and find (then launch to the entry) my addressbook contacts means I never need to have these apps physically open for reference (only for adding, editing or deleting which is minimal).

Matched with iSyn and my excellent Sony Ericcson T610 mobile phone and iPod, this keep everything synced everywhere, the iPod is a mobile backup everything and works flawlessly with Bluetooth technology (when is the iPod getting bluetooth?, he wondered aloud). Very, very handy. All free with OSX.

Chronosync

Technically, no one cares about their applications. They care about their data. However, data is what it is all about and very few people make backups like they should. I use the excellent Chronosync which syncs my home folder to my iPod as a backup. The cool thing about this is that I have it set up to automatically launch a backup whenever I plug the iPod into the laptop. Super brainless backups which is really like it should. Keep waiting for bluetooth or ultrawideband on the iPod, so it automatically syncs whenever it’s in range of the laptop. Shareware. $. (someone else has informed me you can do this with the free iPodBackup and a program called Do This When though I’ll stick with this for now.

iPhoto

is amazing. I have never found an easier app to manage photos and it just keeps getting better. I also use the iPhoto2Gallery plugin to export albums up to Gallery running on my web server (which is then linked to my blog). Warning though, all of the iLife apps (especially iTunes) make capturing, storing and manipulating large file libraries of music, photos and video so brainlessly simple that you will not notice that you are nearly out of hard drive space until it it nearly too late. Free with OSX and plugin is free too.

CocoaMySQL

I use MySQL for virtually everything these days. I really do think it has pulled ahead of PostgreSQL. It is light, flexible, has amazing web integration and is easy for even beginners to understand as well as having industrial strength features like replication. I have still found the best application to handle MySQL on the Mac to be CocoaMySQL. Does everything you need to do and the interface is much more intuitive than YourSQL or Navicat in my opinion. Free (as is YourSQL)

XFactor

I used to use Acquisition but it’s been getting steadily less useful in finding files I’m looking for. So, just recently I tried XFactor. It simultaneously looks over the several FastTrack and Gnutella networks and reports back the results. Overall, I have to say it is much better at finding files than Acquisition at least anecdotally for me. Free (whereas Acquisition is paid).

BitTorrent

This is really the way files should be shunted around the internet. BT basically creates a scalable ad hoc network of peers which increases bandwidth as more people download the file to avoid slow connections and web site bottlenecks. it rocks. This matched with rss enclosures makes grabbing stuff a snap.

Fink - Package Management

Basically apt-get from debian for Mac OSX. Fantastic for getting all those open source apps you live and die by (which are considerable for me - mtr, gnucash, pan, gqview, nessus, etherape, etc). Highly recommended.

MS Office 2004

Until NeoOffice/J gets past alpha to beta (a native Cocoa OpenOffice implementation), I am still using Office’s Word, Excel and Powerpoint even though it absolutely galls me to do so. OpenOffice works on the Mac but it is a bit kludgey and the fonts are ugly compared to the rest of the OS. Looking forward to NeoOffice making progress so I can dump MS once and for all. Sadly all I end up using these days is Word. Commercial. $$$..

IRC - Colloquy

Great IRC client for masters or novices, though I find I am using IRC less and less these days. Free and open source.

Project Management - Fastrack Schedule

I actually like this better than MS Project. The diagrams are better which is really what most people I work with seem to care about. It does not have resource levelling though and while it claims to be capable of exchanging files with MS Project, I have no had a chance to check it out. Commercial. $$$.

DVD Ripping - Mac the Ripper

Absolutely great. I love using this to rip a DVD I’ve rented so I can watch it on the plane or other long trip. Much better than carting the DVD around with me and much more easy on the battery power than using the optical drive. Even does subtitles so is incredibly handy for foreign films as well. Free.

Finance - Moneydance

My big problems with both Quicken and Money were that they were not really designed for people dealing with a lot of multiple currencies that move between countries. I still have to say I have yet to find a finance app that really does everything I want. Moneydance does not have great budget planning or tracking (and neither does Gnucash which I used when on Linux and at first on the Mac). Monydance is also a Java app so not as nice as native Cocoa. Any suggestions here I’d be willing to listen to (must support multiple currencies, strong budgeting/tracking, double entry accounting and ideally be cross platform). Commercial $.

Design - SketchUp

is a fairly new discovery for me. This program is fantastic. It basically allows you to use really simple tools to draw designs and then flesh them out like you would models. It is phenominally easy to work on anything from a house design (which I think is its main market) to rapid 3D prototyping. Personally, I’d love to see better curves support on this so I could flesh out the interior of a boat design. Commercial (trial available). $$$

SnapNDrag

Fantastic little screen capture utility that allows screen, windows or selection capture. Very well thought out and makes grabbing images for the blog drop dead easy. Free.

ImageWell

Another indispensible little freeware tool. Imagewell allows you to resize and otherwise manipulate whatever image you drop in the graphic well. Awesome for resizing images to a blog standard size or anything else you need it to do. Free.

Adobe Photoshop or the GIMP

Take your pick. Commercial or open source freeware, both these tools work great on OSX and do all the heavy lifting work you could possibly need. PS has a native Cocoa version on OSX and the GIMP works with the included X11 on OSX. PS is Commercial . The GIMP is free.

Preview.app

For viewing graphics (and pdfs), most times I find that Preview does the trick fine and have yet to use a dedicated app besides this for the purpose. Built into OSX and free.

TimeLog - Time and Billing

This is a great, well-integrated time tracking application that allows you to create projects and track them from your menu bar and dumps the data into iCal. Tight integration with iCal and the addressbook. Use it for all my consulting and pro bono work. Can easily export reports and then create invoices and the like. Shareware $.

VLC

VLC is an amazingly good video client that is open source and cross platform. It plays just about every video format I’ve thrown at it and has a nice full screen view mode for watching non-DVD videos which addresses a serious shortcoming in the Quicktime player provided free with OSX. Free and open source.

DivX 5.2

If you’re using any files that have been ripped from DVD and then compressed chances are high that divx may have been used. As such, the OSX compatible version comes in very handy particularly with Quicktime. Free for decoding. Commercial for encoder.

iMovie and iDVD

Both amazing apps if you need to do anything below the level of FinalCut Pro. Since I’m still working on my screenplay don’t mess with them that much. iMovie is so good in fact that a recent winner of Sundance produced his film Tarnation with it at unbelievably low cost.

XCode

is fabulous though it heavily leans towards ObjC coding and the native Cocoa layers. For coding Mac stuff though you can’t beat it and the programming tools are fantastic. Free with OSX. Other than that I simply use SubEthaEdit for hand coding - especially with php or other simple coding tasks where its syntax highlighting comes in handy.

Diagrams - Omnigraffle

Basically my Visio replacement. Find I don’t really use it all that much anymore and that Powerpoint or Presenter do well enough for me though that may change with depending on how much technical architecture work I’ll be expected to do. So far, though, for everything PPT has been ok.

Inventory Holes and shortfalls

There are still some apps I’m looking around for or ones I think could be better or current implementations leave a lot to be desired.

ERD Diagrammer

One app I did think was well thought out on windows was Charonware’s excellent CASE Studio 2 which allowed you to draw ERD diagrams and their fields and then simply output the SQL code for the database. Incredible timesaver and really helpful. If I don’t find something soon I may need to implement it myself.

Financial

As mentioned, Quicken doesn’t work well for me internationally and both GnuCash and Moneydance are fine for recording but not great for planning, tracking to plan or real financial management. This is my excuse for being broke all the time though. I do actually track what I spend but it should give me a better idea of things like projections, shortfalls and sticking to budget.

Query Building and reporting tool

In a sense I can understand why Access is so popular. I’d love to find something that allows me to build, with the same simplicity as Access, web-based query building, app construction and reporting interface. And er, it should be free and open source. OK, wishful thinking, but still. You never know what someone might know or have up their sleeve.

Project Management

While FastTrack is great, I really find that I’d prefer something simpler, faster, more intuitive and more seamlessly usable with MS Project (which every project managing neb I know uses). I don’t like MS Project either, but I have no idea why no one seems to be able to make a good project planning application. Could be the need to break away from the gantt idea and move to a more intuitive project representation graphically.

CRM

This is a little bugbear as there is Daylite (much like Act or Goldmine) and CRM4Mac, however neither of them really fills the need/hole that I have which is basically something which integrates across the existing tools but builds data on top of that. CRM4Mac does works that way, but I find it kludgey and not really working the way I want it to. Basically, I am still looking for something as incredibly effective as EccoPro was for me.

Goal Setting and Tracking

A weird little thing I have as I am very goal oriented. I do like the idea behind Life Balance software which takes long term goals and recurrences and breaks them into categories and figures out where you are spending your time as, much like other people, sometimes my short term crap makes it so I never get to the longer term things I should be getting to. I’d love it if someone came up with the same idea but built it on top of the existing iCal, addressbook and other tools existing in OSX. I want a view/shell, not a complete replacement.

osx tools