My Current Mac Applications

A colleague recently bought a MacBook Pro. As a switcher, I figured he would need some recommendations on applications to use on his new Mac, and I know it had been quite some time (3 years!) since I’d discussed what Mac applications I use on a day-to-day basis. To kill two birds with one stone, I figured I would post a quick list about some of my recommended Macintosh applications.

Free or Open Source Applications

We’ll start with free and/or open source applications. (I break out “free” and “open source” because there are applications that may be available at no charge, but whose source is not available.)

Adium: This multi-service IM client is, in my opinion, the best Mac OS X IM client available, hands down. Aside from not supporting video chat—the only reason I can come up with to use iChat instead of Adium—this client does pretty much everything you need. Adium supports AppleScript and Growl notifications. Support for OTR (Off The Record) chat encryption is built in. Adium is available for download from the Adium web site.

Camino: Camino is a Mac OS X-native web browser from Mozilla. Unlike Firefox, Camino was built from the ground up to be a Mac application. It uses the same rendering engine as Firefox, but doesn’t support Firefox extensions. If you’re big on Firefox extensions, stick with the Mac build of Firefox. Visit the Camino web site for more information. If I had one complaint about Camino, it would be the fairly limited AppleScript support in the current release.

Colloquy: Into IRC? This is an excellent IRC application for Mac OS X. It supports AppleScript, Growl notifications, and can connect to multiple servers. I especially like Colloquy’s Smart Transcripts feature, which let me filter out conversations in busy chat rooms so that I can see the ones I’m most interested in joining. That’s pretty handy at times. Colloquy’s web site has more information.

Cyberduck: Cyberduck is an FTP/SFTP application. It supports AppleScript and Spotlight, Growl notifications, and Bonjour. It’s not the fastest FTP/SFTP application out there (last time I checked, that honor went to Interarchy), but it’s pretty slick. Visit the Cyberduck web site for downloads.

Growl: Growl isn’t an application per se; it’s a way for applications to supply notifications to the user in a consistent yet highly customizable fashion. Growl support is quickly becoming a “must have” for Mac applications, and you’ll see that almost all the applications I use support Growl. Surf on over to the Growl web site to download the latest version.

NetNewsWire: I’m into RSS feeds, and my RSS reader of choice is NetNewsWire. NetNewsWire offers integration with various clients (like Pukka) , weblog editors (like ecto), and supports AppleScript and Growl notifications. You can get NetNewsWire from the Newsgator web site. NetNewsWire is free, but not open source (at least, not to my knowledge).

Quicksilver: How does one describe Quicksilver? To call it an application launcher doesn’t really do it justice. Yes, you can use it to quickly launch applications, but you can also use it to build ad-hoc workflows like finding a contact in Address Book and creating a new e-mail message to that contact. Or finding a document and attaching it to a new e-mail message. Or quickly opening a URL in your default web browser. Or initiating a Google search. Or…well, you get the idea. I believe you can still get Quicksilver from the Blacktree web site, as well as from a Google Code site. (Some people have reported problems getting Quicksilver to run, but it’s been rock solid for me.)

Paid Applications

There are a number of paid applications that I use on a daily basis as well.

ecto: This weblog editor allows me to compose all my blog entries offline and then post them later. It works with a number of different weblog systems. I’ve been using ecto since the very first days of this site and I can’t imagine doing it any other way. More information on ecto is available from their web site.

Microsoft Office 2008: Like it or not, compatibility with the rest of the professional world still remains a critical issue, so I use Microsoft Office 2008. Yes, I know that OpenOffice exists (and has a native Aqua port), and I know that iWork supports Office formats, but it’s easier for me to just use Office and not have to worry about it. At least in this version Microsoft has added Automator support for building workflows using Office applications.

OmniFocus: If you are a GTD fan, you’ll like OmniFocus. (You may also like OmniFocus for iPhone as well, which has the ability to synchronize with the Mac version.) Projects, contexts, next actions—it’s all there. And it supports AppleScript, comes with a plug-in of sorts for Apple Mail, and leverages Growl notifications. See the OmniGroup web site for information.

OmniGraffle Professional: Also by the same folks that make OmniFocus (as if you couldn’t tell by the name of the application) comes OmniGraffle. It’s the closest you’ll come to Visio on the Mac, and in fact has the ability to read Visio binary (.VSD) files. It can also export Visio XML (.VDX) files. The OmniGroup web site has more details.

TextMate: There are numerous free text editors out there, but something about TextMate makes me like it. UNIX die-hards like it, Mac fans like it, and it offers great integration with other applications (like your FTP/SFTP client, so that you can edit files directly on remote servers). Visit the Macromates web site for information on TextMate.

Well, that’s not all the applications I use, but these are the ones that I find myself using on a daily basis. I can’t think of a day that goes by that I’m not running Adium, Camino, NetNewsWire, OmniFocus, TextMate, and Office—typically all at the same time.

Some other applications that I also use include:

So there it is—my list of most commonly-used Macintosh applications. I hope it’s helpful to some of you switchers out there!

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  1. Andrew Miller’s avatar

    Great list…if only because it overlaps a good bit with the one I’ve sent people at various times (which makes me feel good ;-).

    Some additional items I might stick in there would be… (stealing from my email)

    -TextWrangler – free and very good (little brother to BBEdit). Smultron is also free but I prefer TextWrangler (even after trying TextMate off and on).
    -Transmit – shareware (but worth it) – probably the best file transfer client on Mac (SCP, SFTP, FTP, S3) – CyberDuck is definitely nice for free but I’ve found I prefer Transmit over Interarcy.
    -SmartReporter – free – nice SMART status monitor that goes in your menubar
    -Menumeters – free – fantastic menubar item for bandwidth, cpu, disk and memory monitoring (donations requested)
    -Memory – go to 4 GB if not 6 GB (if you look, a quality 4 GB chip isn’t too bad)
    -Perian – free – lets you place lots of video codecs inside QuickTime
    -Flip4Mac – free – lets you play M$ specific codecs inside quicktime
    -Unplugged – free – handy power notifications whenever plug/unplug + levels
    -MenuCalendarClock iCal – free (if disable extra features) – turn off the builtin menu clock and use this for a nice calendar dropdown
    -Shimo – free – clean VPN client frontend that’s integrated into the menubar/Growl/etc.
    -Tinkertool – free – lets you tinker with lots of hidden settings (that you’d have to adjust using the Terminal otherwise)
    -SmartSleep (if using a laptop)  - lets you toggle the sleep modes depending on battery level – very important
    -ie4osx – nice lightweight way to run IE 6 on your machine (Intel only) for sites that require it

  2. Brad Hedlund’s avatar

    On the topic of Mac’s — I just installed the new OCZ Vertex series 250GB SSD into my MacBook Pro. All I can say is WOW!
    My desktop and all the start-up apps (My Day etc.) fully load within 3 seconds, what used to take 20+ seconds.
    The Mac also shuts down very fast — no more annoying hang.
    The battery life might be a little better, nothing extraordinary, but there is a noticeable reduction in the heat output — not cooking my legs anymore when sitting in bed with the Mac on my lap.

  3. Tony’s avatar

    DOH…someone beat me but Flip for Mac for any Windows convert and Handbrake as well. I’ve recently become a fan of XMind for mindmapping which seems to be a popular trend lately!

  4. Roland’s avatar

    What about iTerm? I really use it a lot!

  5. Ernie Oporto’s avatar

    Great thread.
    I have love using the CLI on my Mac, but somehow I can’t really get into Quicksilver.
    Chicken of the VNC is a must for managing my servers at home, although I recommend NX from for the same type of access through your firewalls.
    I agree that Microsoft Office is a must, although I’ve been hobbling on OpenOffice on my Mac Mini until I get my MacBook Pro in a few months.
    TextMate is a wonderful modular text editor. I really liked it when I demo’d it, but found that I had just as much functionality when I ssh’d from the Mac into my unix systems.
    I didn’t really like Transmission since I come from the PC world, previously using uTorrent and thought it was missing a few features. The authors were pretty adamant about not ever wanting to add those, so I was pretty happy when uTorrent shipped a native client for Mac.

    My list:
    iTalk Sync

  6. slowe’s avatar


    Good list of your own–thanks for sharing it! I do use Perian and TinkerTool (forgot to mention those).


    Send me a link to that drive–I’m shopping for a new hard drive for my MBP and might want to go that route. Thanks!


    I love Handbrake! Forgot to mention that one, too.


    I tried iTerm but just couldn’t get into it–it never seemed as comfortable as plain old Terminal. I’m not a big fan of tabs, anyway, so the idea of a tabbed terminal doesn’t really do anything for me. I don’t use tabs in NetNewsWire, or Camino, or Safari, or Adium. I prefer individual windows.


    I’m not a huge user of torrents, so I’ve never had any great need for an advanced BitTorrent client. Quicksilver takes some time to get used to using–if you don’t give yourself a couple of weeks with it, you’ll just toss it aside. After a couple of weeks of really using it, though, I suspect you’ll come to love it.

    Thanks for responding everyone! Keep the comments coming.

  7. slowe’s avatar

    Wow, that drive isn’t cheap. Now I have to decide if I want to do that to my current MBP, or wait until I upgrade…decisions, decisions!

    Thanks for the link, Brad.

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