Essential Free OS X Apps
Since I recently setup a new computer, I had the chance to take inventory of all the software I use. I try a lot of different applications to find the best for each task, and I prefer free and open-source software whenever possible. Here’s my current list of must-have free applications for Mac OS X, in no particular order.
Chrome and/or Firefox
Both are better than Safari. I prefer Chrome for its cleaner UI and isolation of tabs into processes, but keep Firefox around to try things out. These extensions are also useful:
Postponer (Chrome) / ReadItLater (Firefox)
ReadItLater is basically a link queue service, perfect for keeping a list of websites you want to check out later or as a way to share links between devices.
Saves and restores tab/window arrangements. This helps with context switching; for example, I can switch from programming to apartment hunting in a few clicks and pick up where I left off.
Open-source FTP/SFTP/WebDAV/etc client.
Chicken of the VNC
Open-source VNC client, which can be used to remotely access OSX machines (if you enable Screen Sharing) or any other VNC server.
Open-source audio editor. Use the Beta version for the latest features.
VLC Media Player
Open-source media player, it can play any video format you throw at it.
NeoOffice or Google Docs
I haven’t needed a copy of Microsoft Office for many years. I use Google Docs for nearly everything and the open-source NeoOffice (Mac-specific fork of LibreOffice/OpenOffice) for anything Google Docs can’t handle.
Seashore and Gimp
Both are open-source Photoshop-like image editors with multiple layer support. Gimp is a lot more advanced but has a hideous UI, Seashore is more basic but much easier to use and with a cleaner native-looking UI.
I prefer Picasa to iPhoto for photo management, and it works well with the Google ecosystem which has fully enslaved me.
An open-source tool for handling/creating archive files (zip/rar/7z/tar/etc). A lot more powerful than the built-in compression support of OSX.
I use it mainly to keep certain files synced between my computers and my phone and to share large files with others (it’s amazing that sharing files over the Internet is still complicated). There are many more possible uses with ifttt, like automatically saving any photos of you tagged in Facebook to a folder.
An open-source password database, it can be used to store all kinds of sensitive data (serial numbers, account info, etc.). The database file is encrypted with 256-bit AES, which is secure enough that I can leave it on DropBox and access it anywhere, including on my phone. Once it saved my ass at the airport, true story.
Open-source instant messaging client that supports Google Talk/MSN/etc. Instant messaging is not so popular anymore but I still like having a native app, perhaps just out of habit. The other advantage is encryption support for all those top-secret chats.
A fancier text editor than TextEdit, but I actually use TextEdit more often for the simplicity.
There is a lot of quality open-source and free software out there. At the moment the only commercial software I have installed on my system is Traktor, and Mixxx looks like a solid open-source alternative. I would like to dig into the code some day and see how DJ software works under the hood, and this is the great advantage of open-source.
Support these projects when you can, because more developers (like me) need to be encouraged to create quality free software for the benefit of all (freeloaders, like me). I’m just dangling my own carrot.