Journal | Christofer Sandin

My favorite Mac OS X programs

Switching to a new operating system can be quite a challenge, I bought a 12” PowerBook in July 2004 with almost no Mac experience. Mac OS X is now my first choice on a daily basis.

There’s a lot of great software for Mac OS X, some completely free, some really cheap and some really, really expensive. In the last category you got programs like Adobe’s Photoshop and Illustrator, which I really love, but this is a list of programs that are either completely free to use, or programs you can try for free, with a very reasonable price tag.

These are all programs that I use and have bought my self so there’s no other kind of advertising involved…

System tools

Quicksilver is a program launcher and extensible interface for working with applications, contacts, music, and other data. Once you tried it I think you’re hooked. Free.

Linotype FontExplorer X is an excellent font manager for your Mac. It got almost all the features you had to spend hundreds of dollars for, just a few years ago, built in for free. Nice.


OnyX is a system tool for maintenance, optimization, and personalization of Mac OS X. One of the “must haves”. Free.

TinkerTool is an application that gives you access to additional preference settings Apple has built into Mac OS X. This allows to activate hidden features in the operating system and in some of the applications delivered with the system. Togheter with OnyX you got most areas covered.

Chicken of the VNC

The best title award goes to Chicken of the VNC - a VNC client if you need to connect to remote systems with your Mac. Free.

Show Desktop is a small “must have”. It lives in the dock and will hide/show all apps and show the desktop when clicked on. Thats about it, but oh so nice…

Another small application is MenuMeters- an easy way to see current memory and CPU load in the menu bar. Simple and functional. Free.

To finish of the system tools I really like to recommend the WebServerXKit installer package. It provides an easy way to install Apache, PHP, MySQL and Ruby On Rails on Mac OS X Client - all in one Mac OS X package file. Smooth. Free.



I’ve been using skEdit for quite some time now. The current version is 3.6.1 but the 4.0 is on its way any day now. It’s a really nice development editor for HTML, CSS and a lot of server side languages like PHP. It has a build in project manager, FTP/SFTP/WebDAV client, autocompletion, syntax highlighting and a Subversion plug-in is available if thats your cup of tea. You can try it out for 25 days, than you have to spend $24.95 for a life time license with free upgrades.


The other editor on my machine which I spend the company cash on is TextMate. This is a more powerful editor than skEdit with tons of bundles and extra functionality - a really great editor for all kinds of projects. It’s a bit more expensive ($39) but I really think it is well spent money if it is an environment you’re gonna spend hours in each day.

I haven’t decided on if I like skEdit or TextMate better yet, so try out both and decide for yourself. If you want a completely free alternative, people seems to like Smultron

But sometimes you just want to write, then you fire up WriteRoom - one of the most retro user interfaces of all time. But it works, and it works really well.

Office software

NeoOffice is a set of office applications (including word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation) for Mac OS X. It is based on the ( office suite and is a slow, but otherwise quite nice application for working with the Microsoft de facto standards like Word and Excel without having to buy Microsoft Office. Free.


OmniGraffle is the Mac equivalent of Microsoft Visio on the PC. I use it to make diagrams and process views at work. Looks amazing and got tons of stencils with all kind of graphics, from electrical circuits to office furniture and computer related icons. Comes in a free version and a commercial one, it’s up to you.


I recently bought my first organizing software ever. Yojimbo from BareBones is a really nice way to organize everything that doesn’t fit in somewhere else… Try it out, if you like it it’s well worth the $39 it costs. One organized project and you got that amount of money back - multiplied by ten.


If you just want to save text you might want to give Sidenote a try. Minimalistic and nice - with a beautiful icon.

Video and music

I really like iTunes for organizing my music, and Mac OS X got a lot of great music and video software built in.

But for playing all kinds of videos I use VLC or MPlayer. Both free software with a broad file type support. One of the two always deliver.



Adium is a free instant messaging (IM) application that can connect to MSN, ICQ, Google Talk, Jabber, Yahoo, and a lot of other protocols. The only IM client I use at the moment. Skinnable.

I used to use with Proteus which is a similar program but the slow development cycle made me switch. Seems like Proteus is on the move again though…

NetNewsWire Lite is the RSS fetcher I use. Got everything I need - and displays the news items just like I want it. Supports skins and is a free version of the full-featured NetNewsWire application.

File transfer


I’ve bought Panic’s Transmit 3 and I really love the program. I use and FTP program on daily basis in work and I want my FTP program to have curtain features, like two file panels, a clean look and a “Norton Commander”-feeling. Try it out for free, if you like it it’s $29.95.


Before I bought Transmit 3 I used Cyberduck - a lovely free FTP client. I didn’t feel comfortable with only one source window though, since I want to see both local and server files in the FTP program, but if you don’t mind this, this is the application for you. Free.

Transmission is a free BitTorrent client for Mac OS X. Since I’m not that keen on running Java applications like Azureus ( I tend to use Transmission the times I need a BitTorrent program.

Last words

That became quite a long post, but there you have it - that’s a list of my favorite Mac OS X applications. I probably have to squeese one or two more in before it’s finished, but anyways… Of course there’s a lot of non Mac OS X specific programs too. These are the ones that runs on both my PC and my Mac; Skype, Firefox, Thunderbird, Opera, Flock and Acrobat Reader.

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