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Essential OS X Software

by Rob Friesel

Been toying around with doing this list for a while now. The question: What are the top 10 software applications for OS X (that aren’t out-of-the-box, mind you) that are absolutely essential? The top 10 apps that I couldn’t live without:

  1. [tag]Quicksilver[/tag] ( – The launcher to end all launchers. Is there anything this app can’t do? “Oh, that? There’s a plug-in for that.” Seriously, having used it for a over a year now, I can’t imagine computing without Quicksilver. Not just computing on a Mac without it. Computing. (In other words, Quicksilver is the reason I’ll never be able to go back to the PC.) Some folks say [tag]Spotlight[/tag] can do the same thing. Clearly, they weren’t using Quicksilver to its utmost.
  2. [tag]VoodooPad[/tag] ( – A personal wiki and info manager. Fast and easy to use, if works the way a notepad app should. Because it’s a wiki at heart. Encryption, backlinks, document-wide searches, categorization, sketching; the list goes on. Also available in “Lite” version.
  3. [tag]Cyberduck[/tag] ( – Fully-featured FTP application. Complete with SFTP support. Complete with [tag]Rendezvous[/tag]/[tag]Bonjour[/tag] support. Complete with [tag]AppleScript[/tag] support. Complete with [tag]Keychain[/tag] support. (Insert your localization here.) Oh, and it’s open source. (Honorable mention here: [tag]Fugu[/tag]!)
  4. [tag]OmniGraffle[/tag] ( – Pretty much the perfect diagramming application. And with some sweet drawing capabilities wrapped up in it, too. (Because those are prett intrinsically linked.) Worth the price. And so is the Professional version.
  5. [tag]Camino[/tag] ( – Don’t get me wrong, [tag]Safari[/tag] is a great browser. (And apparently the first browser to pass the Acid2 test.) But in the “real world” there are plenty of sites that either don’t support it (or that Safari doesn’t support). Politics and rhetoric aside, Camino is a great browser in its own right and the superior Gecko-based browser on OS X. For when you need to (you know) use a WYSIWYG editor like the one in [tag]WordPress[/tag].
  6. [tag]ImageWell[/tag] ( – A lightweight image editor for running certain quickie image manipulations. Including the ones that you’d expect to see in [tag]iPhoto[/tag] but didn’t manage to make it there. (And this is another one of those freebies…)
  7. [tag]Lingon[/tag] ( – The [tag]launchd[/tag] editor/manager. And it’s open source.
  8. [tag]OnyX[/tag] ( – A little app that opens up some of OS X’s secret preferences. Like sticking your Dock flush right.
  9. [tag]Flip4Mac[/tag] ( – A plug-in for [tag]Quicktime[/tag] that lets you play Windows Media files. Nothing spectacular here except that it rids you of having to download RealPlayer in order to browse the music on [tag][/tag]. (And recently made free!)
  10. (insert your [tag]text editor[/tag] here) – A controversial subject, I know… Many folks would shout “[tag]BBEdit[/tag]!” here … but I’m not one of those. I tried it. I could see how someone might fall in love with it. But I had a hard time getting used to it. Didn’t “do it” for me. That said, I’ve recently discovered [tag]TextMate[/tag] and am rather enjoying that. As far as text editors go at least. Also, honorable mention here: [tag]jEdit[/tag] – – a Java-based text editor. Open source and free, it’s pretty powerful and has a slew of awesome plug-ins. I’ve used it for 3 or 4 years now and have been pretty happy with it. Except that (like all Java apps) it’s hella slow…

Another Honorable Mention: [tag]Adium X[/tag] … a neat little chat client. And (in my experience) a hell of a lot better than [tag]iChat[/tag]. But I don’t include it in the top 10 because frankly, I kind of abhor chat. A.k.a. “latent messenger”…

currently playing: Chris Connelly “Come Down Here”

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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