Apr 2007

Must have apps for OSX

As everyone has one, I just thought I might as well also put together my personal list of the most useful applications for your nifty Mac running the one and only truly user-friendly, working windowed OS: X! The lists are ordered by importance, some apps are non-free, but I explain why I use them and why you might want to as well.

System Tools

  • Quicksilver - application launcher, action and command window - THE most important app to have on any Mac, just get it (and learn to use it...).
  • OnMyCommand - custom right click context menus. Great tool, I use it for a tons of stuff from SVN repository interaction, file settings and archiving, to things like "select a Madrid address to automatically open the location in Google maps" or "translate the selected text to English/Spanish."
  • Cyberduck - is a great FTP/SFTP client, if you need one - and definitely more elegant than using Finder...


  • Aquamacs - is the one-in-all solution and my favorite emacs port for the Mac. Although, I only use it for LisP and C programming now, as I have TextMate (see below) for my Python and web development as well as simple text editing.
  • TexShop - is the most comfortable WYSINWYG (what you see is NOT what you get...) editor for LaTeX, which is the most reliable and stable environment to write books and papers. Yet, you naturally just can keep editing your TeX in emacs/Aquamacs...
  • TextMate - editor is kinda cool in some senses, but has some drawbacks: first, it ain't free - I have it because my research institute bought a license for me without even asking. It doesn't know LisP and C. Most features it has you can have with emacs or (if things would come to worst) write them with ELisP for emacs instead of learning the TM macro commands. Yet, some things are kinda cool, especially the filebrowser and codebrowser I prefer over the emacs Speedbar. It is great for Python, Ruby, XML, Perl, JavaScript and SVN interaction (if you are damned to program Java, use Eclipse...). So that, incredibly fast startup, and decent column selection (you can have that in emacs with a plug, too!) are my reasons for using it. If you are willing to spend the bucks, get it. If you want an all-in-one solution stick with some emacs.

Getting Things Done

  • Yojimbo - if you are only willing to spend money on just one single application, this is it. This is sort of a multi-functional archiver: it stores your serial numbers, passwords, credit card details, invoices, interesting documents, webpages and pdfs, the metro plan of your city - whatever, you name it. Stuff is properly encrypted using AES for protection. You can sort, tag, file your content in a very decent way and you actually get to immediately find the information again. This thing should be standard in any OS X distribution, makes life so much simpler.
  • Journler - is a nice diary to keep track of what you are doing and your ideas about it. I use it as my development diary ("lab journal" would be the term, I guess...). You can add all sorts of media to your entries (videos, sound (voice recordings!), images) and even upload your entries to your blog. Cool!
  • iGTD - yet another GettingThingsDone client - if you are in a situation like me and have 10k things in your head and another 10k todos, this is what helps you keeping track of what's next.
  • Keynote - from the iWork package; if you need to do presentations: please do not try to infest your gorgeous Mac with crap software from Redmond. Do your presentations with Keynote - their just better, nicer and more aesthetic.


  • VideoLANClient (VLC) - the media player for the Mac: no more problems with missing audio/video codes, plays (almost) everything and allows full screen for free (a two thumbs down on QuickTime for this one!).
  • Democracy - player, the most fun way to handle, download and archive your video collection from YouTube, Yahoo! and Google Video, Blogdigger, et al. as well as any clips, vids and movies you have locally. Supports full screen viewing for free (as opposed to QuickTime...), but ain't as versatile with codecs as VLC - but you can teach Democracy to launch those vids in VLC.
  • iTunes - is a must have if you own an iPod (or, eventually, an iPhone...). If not, it is still the coolest way to keep track of your podcasts, radio stations and browse your local MP3s (covers).
  • iPhoto - should come with your Mac anyway AFAIK. The most practical way of staying on top of your ever-growing picture and image collection while integrating nicely with other apps (like Keynote, Journler and many others).

Safari Plugins

If you are just such a Cocoa-fan as me, and prefer browsing with Safari over Firefox (yes, OK, decent web development can only be done with the fox, so you do need it anyway in this case...) here are some plugs. There are some reasons to use Safari: integrates websites from your Address Book into your Bookmarks, your bookmarks are system-wide searchable, you can aggregate feeds very nicely, pushing URLs (weblocs) to other apps is easy are just some. UPDATE: now back to the Fox again, the plugins for it just rule! UPDATE (2008): and to Safari - high-speed, nicest rendering of all browsers and WebKit rule even more!

  • Saft - is the only plugin I can recommend to buy. And if only for the full screen mode. This is just so much cooler than even the crappy IExploder 7 full screen mode, as it actually intelligently hides what you do not want to see currently (status bar, booksmarks, URL bar). Naturally, it has tons of other features, too - check it out.
  • Inquisitor - is the coolest enhancement for the (Google) search box and possibly the best free plugin. Just get it.
  • SafariBlock - is a good way to block images, popups and frames you don't wanna see. Not as powerful as Pith or Saft, but a free alternative.