In May I wrote a list of the 44 best Mac Only, Design Apps, easily my most popular blog post, to highlight the proliferation of Mac only applications that are unique to the platform. iOS is the “in” Apple OS but OS X still remains the more powerful/flexible/professional and in my opinion, important OS.
The tools ranged in price and scope greatly, but reflected fine-tuned experiences capable of performing professional level work. I didn’t assign any arbitrary rankings or felt it necessary to prune the list or balloon it to a number like 50. The list is as long as the list needs to be.
Some of the apps were redundant like BBedit/Coda/Espresso, some of the apps were simply utilities like Little Snitch and BetterTouchTool, and several developers nearly had their entire catalogs present. I liked this, as its a more complete picture of the Mac landscape.
My previous requirements:
- Mac only
- Not made by Apple
- Reflect great design/usability and usefulness
I’ve decided that had one too many requirements. Some of the best apps are written by Apple. I haven’t used MS Office for years thanks to Pages.
Also, Apple also doesn’t dominate in the areas it competes. In fact, the areas it competes in are often crowded landscapes. They are one of many choices, for example: Final Cut Pro has two major competitors, Avid and Premiere Pro. Logic X has Cubase/Ableton/Protools/Digital Performer/FL Studio/Reason/etc for competition.
The only requirements for this list are:
- Mac only
- Reflect great design/usability and usefulness
I pruned down a few lesser entries and added some new comers from Apple and other software developers.
53 Mac only Design / Development Utilities and Apps
Flying Meat Inc
“Everyone needs to edit images at some point, but not everyone has the time to learn complicated super pricey image editing programs. This is why we created Acorn. Add text and shapes to your digital pictures. Combine images together to create your own. Work with layers to touch up your favorite photos or make something new from scratch. Do all this and more with Acorn.”
Acorn is the image editor for the people, more powerful than iPhoto and more polished than Photoshop. Its a very compelling alternative to Photoshop Elments with its new non-destructive filters and bezier tools, an interface that is reminiscent of the best of both Photoshop and iPhoto.
Acorn is aimed at the prosumer but bridges the gap between novice and advanced users. Its perfect for quick photo manipulation and breaking into image manipulation.
Running with Crayons Ltd
Free (Powerpack £15)
Alfred is an award-winning productivity application for OS X. Alfred saves you time when you search for files online or on your Mac. Be more productive with hotkeys, keywords, and file actions at your fingertips. Loads of app-launching, file-searching goodness - free for you to download and use with no strings attached. Alfred is the ultimate productivity tool for your Mac
Alfred labels itself as a productivity app but that’s selling this short. It’s powerful utility toolset to make you more productive, making common actions faster.
My personal favorite feature is simple yet essential. Alfred allows you to take any copied text and paste to plain text, stripping any unwanted formatting. It works much better than pasting a wad of text in your browser bar and copying it back.
ERGOSIGN Technologies GmbH
Antetype UI designer is a brand new, ground-breaking design application that supports user-interface designers at every step of their work. Design beautiful interfaces, invent new widgets, style them, and put it all together in an interactive prototype!
Antetype is unusual as its designed for prototyping websites, apps and even manufacturing projects. Its one of the few prototyping apps that boasts responsive wireframes, specifically designed for UI Designers.
Serious projects call for serious tools. It sports smart guides, widget creation, stylizing, collaboration tools and more. It also exports to the web as interactive presentations.
Aperture combines the control and speed pros want for demanding photo tasks with the easy learning curve iPhoto users need to step up to an advanced photo tool. It has been fully optimized for the Retina display on the new MacBook Pro, letting you browse and edit high-resolution images with remarkable clarity and resolution. And with a new unified photo library, you can now move seamlessly from iPhoto to Aperture — and back — without having to import, export, or reprocess your photos. Aperture is packed with innovative adjustment tools to refine your images, including a revolutionary Auto White Balance that uses skin tones to correct color casts, and a professional Auto Enhance that applies Exposure, Vibrancy, Curves, and more with a single click. It also includes powerful Brushes for painting image adjustments onto parts of your photo, and dozens of ready-to-use professional photo Effects. You can share your photos directly to Facebook and Flickr, add them to your Photo Stream, and showcase your best work as an impressive coffee table-style photo book or as stunning slideshows that weave together photos, audio, text, and HD video.
Aperture is Lightroom’s Mr. Pibb. At roughly $60 less than Lightroom, Aperture offers a compelling (although not as full featured) alternative. As a lightroom room user and Having dealt with the constant UI changes from 3 to 4 to 5, I admire the quickness and much more sensible UI of Aperture. The fundamental difference in philosophy is the seperation of concerns, Lighroom treats organization and development as seperate trees whereas Aperture makes editing always a click away.
Aperture shines more at photo organization, with ability to create stacks which can house images multiple times, something that Lightroom has always suffered at. Aperture is a legitamate alternative to LightRoomso here’s to hoping Apple continues development.
Splasm Software, Inc.
Audiobook Builder makes it easy to turn your audio CDs and files into audiobooks for your iPhone, iPod or iPad. Join audio, create enhanced chapter stops, adjust quality settings and let Audiobook Builder handle the rest. When it finishes you get one or a few audiobook tracks in iTunes instead of hundreds or even thousands of music tracks!
While not inherently a creative utility, Audiobook Builder is a essential if you’ve ever wanted to create an AudioBook in the iTunes format from CDs or existing audio files. I’ve used it for simply converting audiobooks I had on CD to the iTunes Audiobook format and for personal projects as you can create chapters.
I highly recommend audio creatives checking it out as you can create your own easily distributable projects in Apple’s own Audiobook format.
Audio Hijack Pro
Record any audio - three simple words to explain Audio Hijack Pro. Record from applications like iTunes, Skype or DVD Player. Record from microphones, Radiosharks and other hardware. If you hear it, you can record it.
To reiterate the above: Audio Hijack Pro allows you to record any audio on your Mac, be it a movie, VoIP chat, radio, web browser, game or otherwise, and export it to AIFF, AAC, MP3, Apple Lossless etc.
Audio Hijack Pro isn’t the first app of its type and it borrows heavily from Wiretap (another Mac only app with similar functionality). Hijack makes the list as Rogue Amoeba has kept it up-to-date and it costs less than half the price of Wiretap. (I can’t recommend Wiretap as Wiretap users were left in the dark until 2013 regarding 10.7+ support). Audio Hijack also sports some features Wiretap Studio doesn’t, like VST and AU support.
Also check out Audio Hijack Pro’s younger (less expensive) $15 sibling , Piezo. Its even more simplified.
Bares Bones Software
Integrated Development Environmen t/ Text Editor / Show Diff
BBEdit is the leading professional HTML and text editor for the Macintosh. Specifically crafted in response to the needs of Web authors and software developers, this award-winning product provides an abundance of high-performance features for editing, searching, and manipulation of text. An intelligent interface provides easy access to BBEdit’s best-of-class features, including grep pattern matching, search and replace across multiple files, project definition tools, function navigation and syntax coloring for numerous source code languages, code folding, FTP and SFTP open and save, AppleScript, Mac OS X Unix scripting support, text and code completion, and of course a complete set of robust HTML markup tools.
IDEs are personal when it comes to developers, hence why there are so many on this list. BBEdit has a legacy that stretches back to 1991, making it older than some web designers. Old isn’t bad, and its still the preferred IDE of legions of developers for a good reason. It sports in-app FTP, show diff and can be integrated with the OS X terminal.
BBedit was the first IDE I ever touched. Unlike Coda and Espresso, it also has a show diff tool built into the IDE.
Mouse Configuration Utility
BetterTouchTool is a great, feature packed FREE app that allows you to configure many gestures for your Magic Mouse, Macbook Trackpad and Magic Trackpad. It also allows you to configure actions for keyboard shortcuts, normal mice and the Apple Remote. In addition to this it has an iOS companion App (BTT Remote) which can also be configured to control your Mac the way you want.
BetterTouchTool really should be part of OS X. It allows you to configure gestures to the trackpad s that you simply cannot configure within OS X by default on your trackpad or magic mouse. Those familiar with Logitech Mice drivers, USB Overdrive or Intous drivers, will appreciate it features per-app-profiles, allowing for unique gesturues per application. You can even configure 11 point touch gestures for the polydactyl.
Integrated development environment
Welcome to a fresh approach to web coding. Bursting with features but without bloat. Built to make your life better. Coda 2 is the editor you’ve always wanted!
So, you code for the web. And in Coda 1, we revolutionized that process, and put everything you needed in one place. An editor. Terminal. CSS. File management. SVN. But we knew we could do more.
Now, with Coda 2, we went beyond expectations. We added tons of highly-requested features, and a few nobody expected, then wrapped it all up in a shiny, groundbreaking UI fit for the future.
Coda has been my IDE of choice ever since version 1. I might even have a little bit of a mancrush on Panic studios ever since the late Audion, a fantastic audio player from the Mac OS 9 days.
Its a single pane editor that sports a webkit renderer, FTP, terminal and GIT integration, with CSS color panes, and has profiles for many common languages. Its everything in one, and the app I spend the most time in daily (outside of Chrome). I highly recommend Coda, but be sure to check out BBEdit, Espresso and TextMate to see which best fits your needs/workflow.
CodeKit helps you build websites faster and better.
Live Browser Reloads:
Instantly see changes in your browser, with animation and without hitting the refresh button or installing plugins. Great for tweaking layouts!
— Girlfriend’s reaction when I explained what CodeKit does
For those of you who who used Less.app, Codekit is the spiritual successor.
Paired with Safari, the CodeKit is able to edit Less / Sass / Stylus / Coffeescript and see the results in real time. It compiles on the fly, and without the pain of having to run Grunt.js or another system.
The best way to explain CodeKit is to watch the video. Its an avant-garde app that allows for refresh-free CSS updates with Safari. Depending on your needs, it could be your new best binary friend. Now that I’m going down the pit of SCSS, I’m probably going to be using Codekit more and more.
The missing color picker for Mac
ColorSnapper is an easy-to-use tool for quickly finding out the color of any pixel on the screen. It is activated via a system-wide hotkey, giving you a magnifying loupe to easily pick the pixel you need. The resulting color is copied to clipboard in a format of your preference.
If you’re like me, you’re often grabbing colors from images. Prior to this utility, my process required me to:
- Take a screenshot
- Open in photoshop
- Use the eyedropper
- Click the color
Now I just click the icon in the menu bar and click away. That alone is worth $5.
djay transforms your Mac into a full-fledged DJ system, allowing you to mix your iTunes music library on a hyper-realistic turntable interface. Perform live, record mixes on-the-go, or enable Automix mode and let djay mix your favorite playlist automatically. With unprecedented ease-of-use and innovative features like Harmonic Match, djay for Mac takes DJing to the next level and offers a unique experience for beginners and professionals alike.
Since my previous list, djay received a large update to djay 2 for the iPad/iPhone while the desktop continues to add support for more controllers. djay is a surprisingly powerful DJ app for only $19.99. Its a simple two track DJ app, that sports features (sans the high end hardware support) of the defunct Serato Itch. While pro-apps like Serato DJ have an edge, djay manages to offer some unique features like harmonic key detecion, which lets you match songs with similar keys or switch on the fly. This is a feature only foound in the much more expensive Virtual DJ, and is still strangely missing in Serato DJ, Serato Scratch Live and Traktor.
While djay allows midi configuration, it doesn’t support high end Serato specific hardware hardware and the fx do not have BPM matching, nor can you view FX + Loop tools all at once.
Even as an owner of the Numark NS7 with Serato DJ, I found djay to be worth $19.99 as I was able to index the root keys and BPMs (with a fairly good degree of accuracy) on 24,200 songs in several hours on my Mac Pro, making for easier sample matching. That said, the Harmonic matching isn’t perfect so don’t expect miracles.
DJ works great and has all the basics, plus some surprising additions (AU plugin support!? Harmonic Mixing?). One of my still standing criticisms remains tall, too much screen real-estate is wasted to an (admittedly nice looking) skumorphic interface. DJ apps have been minimalist before minimalist/flat design was a fad for functionality’s sake.
djay could easily power a professional set and novices can get surprising results out of the box. The bigest weak point for djay is lack of truly high end hardware and an interface that requires too much clicking to bounce between looping and FX. If you’re looking to try your hand at DJing,this is your entry point. DJay 2 on the iPad is nice but still lags significantly behind the power of djay for the Mac.
Integrated Development Environment
You design and develop for the Web? Espresso turbo-charges your workflowwith the perfect blend of features. Speed through day-to-day edits with extensive language support, contextual completions, powerful smart snippets, and Zen actions. Use the Navigator and code folding to prevail over the most complicated documents. Watch your web pages update in real time with live styling, visualize and inspect your layouts with X-ray, then push the changes to your server withSync or Quick Publish. Oh, and did we mention CSSEdit 3 is built in?
Coda’s $25 drop in price to $75 probably has something to do with Espresso. Espresso is a web centric IDE, much like Coda with slightly different ambitions. Espresso has tighter CSS integration than Coda, but lacks the built in WebKit render and git integration.
Espresso vs Coda has become the Coke vs Pepsi debate for Web IDEs. MacTalk had an excellent write up why one user switched from Coda to Espresso, and it’s not the only one.
I’m still married to Coda, but had I started with Espresso, I doubt I’d be swayed to Coda. Very highly recommended.
Final Cut Pro X
Completely redesigned from the ground up, Final Cut Pro adds extraordinary speed, quality, and flexibility to every part of the post-production workflow.
Revolutionary Video Editing
• Assemble clips in the Magnetic Timeline without clip collisions or sync problems
• Use Clip Connections to attach B-roll, sound effects, and music to the timeline
• Reduce clutter by grouping clips into a Compound Clip. Easily expand it back to single clips
• Perfect your pacing right in the timeline with the Inline Precision Editor
• Cycle through different shots, graphics, or effects at one place in the timeline with Auditions
• Edit multi-camera projects with automatic sync and support for up to 64 camera angles
How the mighty have fallen, once THE VIDEO EDITOR app that fueled Hollywood, only to self implode with the “not ready for prime time” Final Cut Pro X.
It initially lacked too many key features like multi-cam management, support for mixed formats, mixed frame rates, broadcast monitoring, Sony XAVC Codec, RED Camera support, direct multichannel file imports, MXF plug in support, dual viewers, XML 1.2 metadata, and so forth.
Final Cut Pro isn’t quite its former glory but its still one hell of an app and brought many of the missing features (esoteric and standard) that caused people such as myself to question Apple’s direction. Final Cut Pro X is a better performing and flow wise, is an improvement in many ways. Overall, there isn’t a better video editor for the coin.
Crop and trim audio, paste in or join files, or just rapidly split one long file into many. Fission is streamlined for fast editing. Plus, it works without the quality loss caused by other editors, so you can get perfect quality audio even when editing MP3 and AAC files.
If you need to convert formats, Fission can do that too! You can rapidly export or batch convert files to the MP3, AAC, Apple Lossless, FLAC, AIFF, and WAV formats.
Fission isn’t my favorite two track editor but it can edit AAC and MP3s without having to re-encode for lossless editing which alone makes it worth purchasing. It also strips the iTunes Personal Identifier information from iTunes purchases by saving as… but you didn’t hear that from me.
Its perfect for cleaning up MP3s such as splitting tracks and joining tracks. Its the tool for the ultimate music nerd music collection maintenance. Its been a life saver.
Webkit HTML wrapper
Web applications like Gmail, Facebook, Campfire and Pandora are becoming more and more like desktop applications every day. Running each of these web apps in a separate tab in your browser can be a real pain.
Fluid lets you create a Real Mac App (or “Fluid App”) out of any website or web application, effectively turning your favorite web apps into OS X desktop apps.
Creating a Fluid App out of your favorite website is simple. Enter the website’s URL, provide a name, and optionally choose an icon. Click “Create”, and within seconds your chosen website has a permanent home on your Mac as a real Mac application that appears in your Dock.
This particular app seems a bit silly…. that is until you realize you can create a wrapper for your favorite website and simply command-tab to it. I run HelpScout using Fluid daily. While we live in the era of protected memory per browser tabs, its nice having a separate webkit just for NPR.
Fontcase is a professional font manager in an elegant package with beautiful font previews and robust (auto-activation) support. It effortlessly handles libraries with thousands of fonts and organising your fonts is dead-simple thanks to our Typedia integration.
Fontcase operates a lot like OS X’s Font Book, it allows you to preview fonts and quickly activate and deactivate font families, but that’s underselling it. It shines brightly when previewing entire font families, glyphs and text bodies.
It also makes genre organization and font family merging fast and simple. The real killer is the Typesetter mode, that allows you to drag fonts onto other documents/websites for live previewing.
Web Font Conversion
PREPARE ALL OF YOUR WEBFONTS
FontPrep takes your TTF and OTF font files and generates all of the respective font-formats for the web: WOFF, EOT, and SVG.
RAG & DROP FONT GENERATION
Convert one, ten, one-hundred legally eligible webfonts. FontPrep is great when you’re working on your latest icon font project. Simply drag your OTF or TTF files into FontPrep, and you’re done. Now that’s more like it!
INDUSTRY STANDARD CSS
Each converted web-font is automagically bundled with industry standard @font-face declarations so that you can easily plop ‘em into your working styles.
The best analogy for FontPrep “What if Font Squirell offered a pro version?” I wrote a much more extensive review of FontPrep here. Its an app that can be a life-saver, as you can easily create webfonts from existing TrueType or other formats of fonts and specifiy the subsets/glyphs used.
FTP/Amazon S3/Bluetooth Client
ForkLift is a powerful file manager and ferociously fast FTP client clothed in a clean and versatile UI that offers the combination of absolute simplicity and raw power expected from a well-executed Mac software.
ForkLift will connect to any remote server FTP, SFTP, Amazon S3, WebDAV, the SMB, NIS and AFP shares on your local network, or your Bluetooth mobile phone- pretty much anything you can plug into or hook up to a Mac. ForkLift also carries a complete toolbox for managing your files, including Folder Synchronization, Batch Renaming, Archive handling, Application deleter, editing files over remote connections and many more. All these power features are packaged into a Finder-like, dual-pane interface that delivers superior workflow while remaining absolutely familiar to use, along with QuickLook, Spotlight search and all.
Forklift is the only FTP that stands it the same realm as OS 9/OS X’s undefeated champion. It boasts a few features Transmit does not such as Bluetooth support.
That said, the interface just lacks the fine polish of Transmit. Its still a damn fine FTP and a hair cheaper than Transmit. Some users even prefer it to Transmit, so check it out.
Hello, Resolven Apps
GIF Brewery lets you convert brief clips from your video files into GIFs. Whether you want to create the newest cat GIF or provide a preview of a longer video, GIF Brewery is for you.
No longer must you extract frames from your movies and fiddle with layers in Adobe® Photoshop®. Instead, let GIF Brewery do all the tedious work for you.
In addition, GIF Brewery contains plenty of other features to express your creativity. You can add captions to recreate dialogue or add multiple image filters.
I recently wrote a mini review of this piece of software. It’s not a full-fledged GIF animation suite, that allows frame-by-frame GIF creation. Instead, it converts videos to GIF and does it extremely well, and at an exceptionally reasonable price.
Tumblr users: This app is for you.
One-click commit, push and pull. Unique search in history and undo for Git commands. Powerful commands like rebase, branch reset and cherry picking. And now it works with submodules.
Gitbox is the minimalist’s Git management choice. At $15, its significantly cheaper than Tower. It integrates with other ShowDiff tools (Changes, Kaleidoscope), Xcode and others.
It remains one of the highest reviewed Mac Store Apps and makes Git much more accessible for the non-CLI users. While I prefer Tower, I’d be happy to use Gitbox.
Tumult Hype’s keyframe-based animation system brings your content to life. Click “Record” and Tumult Hype watches your every move, automatically creating keyframes as needed. Or, if you’d prefer to be more hands-on, manually add, remove, and re-arrange keyframes to fine-tune your content. It is easy to create natural curves by clicking and dragging on an element’s motion path to add bézier control points.
Hype is the app anyone once married to Flash should be downloading, as its the HTML 5 app you’ve been looking for. Powered by Webkit, its a WYSIWYG editor for animations.
Despite Google’s Web Designer being released for free, Hype has the advantage of being a fully native app, and simply works better.
ImageOptim optimizes images — so they take up less disk space and load faster — by finding best compression parameters and by removing unnecessary comments and color profiles. It handles PNG, JPEG and GIF animations.
ImageOptim seamlessly integrates various optimisation tools: PNGOUT, AdvPNG, Pngcrush, extended OptiPNG, JpegOptim, jpegrescan, jpegtran, and Gifsicle.
It’s excellent for publishing images on the web (easily shrinks images “Saved for Web” in Photoshop) and also useful for making Mac and iPhone/iPad applications smaller.
Simply drag and drop batches of images into ImageOptim and watch it do its magic. I’ve had it do wonders on PNGs without any issues, shaving often 20% off the png filesize. It can be a little pokey when dealing with larger PNGs but at the price, its hard to beat.
From your Facebook Wall to your coffee table to your best friend’s inbox (or mailbox). Do more with your photos than you ever thought possible. And do it all in one place. iPhoto.
iPhoto as a pro App? Surely not!? iPhoto shines at photo organization with automatic date organization making for sane and fast management. Its much better than simply dragging files over by SD Card manually. Not everyone is or needs to be a pro-photographer but almost everyone takes photos and wants to send them to people, be it for work or for play. If you don’t have Lightroom or Aperture and you have a smart phone or camera, you really really really should have iPhoto.
Also, if you’re ever presenting a project the auto-book generation is amazing ;)
Show Differences Utility
Use Kaleidoscope to spot the differences in text, images, and folders. Review and merge changes in seconds with the world’s most advanced file comparison application.
What makes Kaleidoscope special is the ability to show differences on a variety of situations: Text, Images and Folders.
It integrates with a variety of tools, (Gitbox, Tower, SourceTree, Versions) and boasts support for mercurial, git and subversion. Paired with an easy drag and drop interface, it takes little effort to spot differences (as it should be). Completely awesome.
LaunchBar is a smart and powerful, keyboard driven productivity utility that lets you access and control every aspect of your digital life. Whatever you want to get done on your Mac – with LaunchBar it’s only a few keystrokes away.
Get instant access to applications, documents, contacts, calendars, bookmarks, media libraries, search engines and so much more – just by typing short abbreviations.
It’s a file manager, a web and desktop search tool, an app launcher, a clipboard manager, a jukebox, a calculator, an information browser, … or quite simply a tremendous time saver!
Launchers have been around since the beginning of Mac OS, including Apple’s own Launcher and AtEase (and not mention tons of Windows-esq Start menu utilities) and the OS X Dock.
Unlike any of the aforementioned, Launchbar is the only one focusing on a mouseless experience. It won’t untether you completely but you’ll drastically reduce your mousing once you get into the flow.
Firewall / Network Monitor / Process monitor
Little Snitch sees what happens under the hood.
A firewall protects your computer against unwanted guests from the Internet. But who protects your private data from being sent out? Little Snitch does!
As soon as you’re connected to the Internet, applications can potentially send whatever information they want to wherever they want.
Sometimes they do this for good reason, on your explicit request. But often they don’t. Little Snitch allows you to intercept these unwanted connection attempts, and lets you decide how to proceed.
Little Snitch is essential to anyone looking to protect their privacy and monitor what their computer is actually doing online. With the ability to block network connections of all stripes, and identify processes, Little Snitch is indispensable, especially for power users. Little Snitch is battle tested, as its been around for more than a decade and has grown into possibly the best firewall money can buy.
Pair it with VPN (like privateinternetaccess.com) and a few Chrome Extensions, and you can be a ghost in the wires. Take that Zuck.
Real Mac Software
LittleSnapper was built to help designers and other creative-minded Mac users build up a design scrapbook. Whether it’s proofs of client work, live sites that interest you, or screenshots of your favourite Mac applications, LittleSnapper allows you to capture, organise, annotate and share them all - from one beautiful OS X application.
I scored LittleSnapper in a bundle. I’ve forgotten what else came in it, but I still use LittleSnapper years later.
LittleSnapper shines at quick screenshot annotation, great for quickly communicating ideas and/or documentation. Its on the spendy side but keeps your desktop clutter to a minimum.
Web Development Utility
What does LiveReload do? LiveReload monitors changes in the file system. As soon as you save a file, it is preprocessed as needed, and the browser is refreshed. Even cooler, when you change a CSS file or an image, the browser is updated instantly without reloading the page.
Live Reload isn’t ideal in every situation as its mostly relegated to local development. If you’re working and running code directly off a remote server, it may or may not work with your work flow. That said, its amazing when you can use it.
Full disclosure: Yes, LiveReload has a public alpha for Windows. That said, for now it stays on this list.
Digital Audio Workstation
Logic X is one hell of an App for the price, at $200, its set the bar high for so little money you get: a great interface, rock solid performance, hundreds of exceptionally high quality mastering plugins, several great virtual instruments (including one hell of a virtual organ worth $200 alone), thousands of the highest quality loops, all the midi I/O support you’ve come to expect and so on.
Naming features would take all day with the modern DAWs. I’m still more of a Cubase guy, as for chopping samples and tuning, its still a step behind Cubase and Ableton. That said, there’s absolutely no better bang for the buck on this list and its a better mastering tool than Cubase and Ableton.
Logic X powers probably more famous artists than you realize and for a good reason, its a damn fine music tool.
Diagramming / Wireframing
Need a diagram, process chart, quick page-layout, website wireframe or graphic design? OmniGraffle can help you make eye-popping graphic documents quickly by keeping lines connected to shapes even when they’re moved, providing powerful styling tools, importing and exporting Microsoft Visio files, and magically organizing diagrams with just one click. Whether you need a quick sketch or an epic technical figure, OmniGraffle keeps it gorgeously understandable.
Omnigraffle started out as a diagramming application but has evolved to be so much more. You can create/download UI libraries (iOS, Bootstrap) and create high quality mockups, or stick the stand by of simply creating idea charts and mapping out structures.
Its on the spendy side but white boards aren’t e-mailed as PDFs very easily ;)
PaintCode is a simple vector drawing app that instantly generates resolution-independent Objective-C or C#/MonoTouch drawing code for both OS X and iOS.
You no longer have to tweak and recompile your drawing code over and over again to achieve the desired result. With PaintCode, a graphic designer with no programming experience can draw beautiful controls, icons and other user interface elements, and the app automatically generates code that is equally beautiful.
Paint Code lets you draw vectors and export them to native objective C, for OS X and iOS. It sports your standard vector operations you know and love (Union, Intersection and Difference), blend modes, smart guides, and SVG import. You can define the resizing behavior for control points which allows you to set rules to determine how UI elements are reused.
I’ve test driven it and I’m very impressed. If I ever jump deep into iOS development, it’ll be one of my first purchases.
Word Processor / Layout
Pages ’09 is both a streamlined word processor and an easy-to-use page layout application. It allows you to be a writer one minute and a designer the next, always with a perfect document in the works.
Pages starts with an enhanced Template Chooser that lets you skim through more than 180 Apple-designed templates. You can easily create stunning documents, ranging from a simple letter to a professionally polished resume to a newsletter and more. Or start with a blank page and create your own design on a free-form canvas. Everything you create in Pages looks stunning on the MacBook Pro with Retina Display. And with iCloud built right in on OS X Mountain Lion, the documents you create are kept up to date across all your devices. Whatever you write, Pages puts powerful tools at your fingertips. So you can create beautiful, media-rich documents in minutes.
One day in 2006 I discovered that I didn’t have Word on my computer. Unsure as to how/why it was deleted, I was on a time budget and I had Pages installed. I wrote my college paper and never have had Office installed on a home computer since. Pages feels like a perfectly timed symphony compared the cacophony and dissoance of MS Word. Quite simply, it does what you want (mostly) how you’d expect it too quickly.
It shines at layouts too. I’ve found myself using it for PDF document layout more and more. You won’t be laying out your next magazine with it, but you might for a digital manual. At $20, its still worth every penny against the free alternatives of Google Docs or Open Office.
Parallels IP Holdings GmbH
Parallels Desktop for Mac is the most tested, trusted and talked-about solution for running Windows applications on your Mac - without rebooting.
Even Walt Mossberg of The Wall Street Journal is talking about the new version and how well Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac runs Windows and Mac apps side by side.
With Parallels Desktop for Mac, you can seamlessly run both Windows and Mac OS X applications side-by-side with speed, control and confidence.
Setting up Parallels Desktop for Mac is easy. Bring all your PC programs, documents, photos, music and browser bookmarks to your Mac, then run them all like they were made for your Mac. It’s the best of both worlds on one desktop.
Parallels Desktop and VMware Fusion are the two virtual machine giants on OS X. Both products are locked in fierce competition, which has been great for the end user. No matter which you choose, you can’t lose. I use VMware at work and Parallels at home. I can attest each works great with Windows XP, Vista, 7 and 8. Sure VirtualBox is free but it feels like a dinosaur compared to the polished experience that the aforementioned offer.
Each is a fantastic product but Parallels has been a little more Mac centric, has a performance edge, slightly better Linux support and supports retina in VMed machines. Opt for Parallels over VMware.
Permute is the perfect A/V conversion tool for those of us that are not A/V experts. With its drag and drop ease of use and simple, custom settings behind the curtain, it’s the answer to all the “other” confusing and complicated alternatives.
While there are some great freebies like Handbreak, ffMPEGx (if you can find a working download), Permute makes video conversion dead simple. If you don’t like looking at bit rates and complicated settings, Permute will give you great results without much work. You can create your own presets but codec geeks (self included) might be slightly put off.
Its great if you’re looking to drag and drop files and apply profiles, and amazing if you’re looking to quickly convert videos for your iOS devices.
PhotoSweeper is a fast and powerful duplicate photo cleaner built to help you get rid of duplicate or similar photos on your Mac. It works with iPhoto, Aperture and Adobe Lightroom libraries as well as photos from your hard drives.
It works like the blurb above, complete side-by-side comparisons. Anyone bouncing between iPhoto, Aperture, Lightroom and/or manual copies will love the sanity Photosweepr will bring.
Pixelmator Team LTD
Pixelmator is an inspiring, easy-to-use, beautifully designed image editor built to help you create stunning new images and edit your existing photos.
Pixelmator takes full advantage of the latest Mac technologies, giving you speedy, powerful tools that let you touch up and enhance images, draw or paint, apply gorgeous effects, and just have fun with your pictures. Once your images are ready, access them anywhere with iCloud, send them to iPhoto or Aperture, email, print, or save them to popular image formats, or share them through Facebook, Flickr, and more—all right from Pixelmator.
Ever wonder if you could survive without Photoshop? Pixelmator makes it rather feasible for $15. It boasts most of the Photoshop standbys, layers, masking, pressure sensitivity and even basic vector support, and a few things like Autosave that Photoshop doesn’t.
Ask Different did a shootout of Photoshop vs GIMP vs Pixelmator, spoiler, Photoshop wins but Pixelmator is a close second. CNET in 2011 gave it a perfect review and Macworld gave it a 4 out of 5.
At $15, you’re capable of doing professional level editing. I’ve seen some great stuff from GIMP users, but having tried GIMP twice over the years, Pixelmator is worth every penny over the free alternative. The planned 2.2 update will allow text to be converted to paths and photo filters (surely overplayed by now… right?) that offer significantly more control than any would-be Instagram. Pixelmator can open any RAW images that OS X can open, but it won’t do any pre-import color correction.
If they give me smart objects and bezier masks, I’d probably ditch Photoshop as my go to editor. Hear that Pixelmator Team? You could who’s beenusing Photoshop for over two decades to switch…
Pixel Image Editor
Pixen is an open source pixel art editor designed for working with low-resolution raster art, such as those 8-bit sprites found in old-school video games. With innovative features like a unique color palette system, patterns, layers, and high-zoom support, Pixen packs all the tools pixel artists need in an intuitive, Mac-native interface. Pixen also makes creating frame-by-frame animations fun and easy.
Formerly a free app, Pixen is a specialty image editor with a strong focus on pixel art. It sports animations, layers, tablet support but specializes in color management. As a bonus you can export your animations as animated gifs and spritesheets.
Pixen is a gem for anyone in the world of pixel art… indie game devs look no further.
Playback allows you to share your media with any Playstation 3, Xbox 360, or other UPnP compatible device. It automatically integrates with iTunes, iPhoto, Aperture, Adobe Lightroom 2 & 3, Photobooth, EyeTV, and more. You can share all content from these applications or choose specific playlists and albums.
Playback can also share media stored in folders or even make entire disks available to your Playstation 3 or Xbox 360. By default, Playback will share almost any content on your system. No configuration required! If you prefer to tinker, you’ll appreciate Playback’s built-in access control list (ACL) and bandwidth throttling. The ACL allows you to control which devices have access to your media. Bandwidth throttling limits the transfer rate from your computer to your UPnP device so others on your network can still surf the Web and check their email.
I was a bit hesitant to include Playback as it falls outside of scope. In short, its a media server for UPnP devices, including the PS3 and Xbox 360.
What makes it special is the ability to integrate with, Lightroom, Aperture & iPhoto, which makes easy photo presentation, so you can show off your creations without much preparation.
However, playback isn’t a transcoder, so unsupported codecs will not play on your Xbox 360 or PS3. That said, it has the ability to repackage H.264 video from an MKV file into an MP4 file on the fly. Also, as it is not a transcoder, the CPU overhead is minimal compared to a transcoder so multiple devices can connect to a single server.
$49.99 ($99 with Pro Pack)
Prizmo is a revolutionary scanning application with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) in over 40 languages with powerful editing capability, text-to-speech, and iCloud support.
No matter what capture device’s at hand, Prizmo is the key for scanning and performing OCR. It works with pictures taken with your iPhone, iPad, or digital camera, with documents coming from connected or Wi-Fi scanners, even with screenshots! It will help you easily scan any documents (invoices, receipts, boards, giant advertisements…) of any sizes (US Letter, US Legal, A4, and custom)…
Paper still exists, even for the us web developers.
Prizmo boasts the ability to use your iPhone and iPad as a digital camera but the older versions of these devices won’t give you great results due to the low resolution. Despite the gimmicky marketing text, this is a true work horse application.
Prizmo is probably the best OCR software for OS X despite a few missing features: it can do multipage PDFs but not multipage TIFFs. It can export to .RTF but not .DOC. These minor caveats are not make or break, plus they can be worked around. That said, it would be nice to see them in an app that already boasts serious Pro features such as batch processing, automator actions and Apple script support (in the Pro Pack edition).
Outside of a few limitations, it outputs multipage docs in RTF and PDF, and can do onscreen OCR.
ProCSSor is a CSS formatter and compressor, ProCSSor is an essential tool for seasoned professionals and hobbyist Web designers alike.
Let’s face it - we’ve all come across badly written CSS with no style, mixed styles, or even machine generated CSS. Then, there’s our own lazy, late-night CSS which makes no sense in the morning. Now with ProCSSor you have no more excuses for confusing and ugly CSS!
ProCSSor formats your CSS in an elegant and readable way. Instead of pouring over an unformated CSS file, let ProCSSor turn it into a readable document. It automatically indents, spaces, and styles your CSS according to your specifications. ProCSSor also compresses your CSS for production and quickly lets you prettify when you’re ready to code, so you’ll never have to keep separate copies for development and production.
You may know this one as it’s also a website that is available for free use. ProCCSor is a one trick pony. It prettifies an minifies CSS. That’s it, but damn if it isn’t handy. It gives you plenty of prettifying options to fit your formatting style. Drag and Drop or CLI, your choice for instant gratification. Its worth the $5 for the native app.
If they added auto-minification on file modification like one can set up with Grunt.js,, this would be worth 5x what they’re charging. *HINT* *HINT* DEVELOPER
TextMate brings Apple’s approach to operating systems into the world of text editors. By bridging UNIX underpinnings and GUI, TextMate cherry-picks the best of both worlds to the benefit of expert scripters and novice users alike.
Whether you are a programmer or a designer, the production of code and markup is hard work. Without an editor dedicated to the task, it is also often cumbersome, overwhelming, and repetitive. Especially when you are dealing with a lot of files at once — like most projects do. TextMate puts you back in control, reduces the mental overhead, and turns manual work into something the computer does.
Textmate is a shoe-in for almost any best of OS X app list. Its not an IDE but it can easily function as one. It has massive syntax support, snippets, plugin/add-ons, integrates with the terminal and macro support.
TextMate is the Terminal user’s best friend.
Need Diff comparison Add it on. HTML? Add it on. SQL, Subversion, LaTeX, Xcode? You guessed it… add it on.
Fournova Software GmbH
Tower is a powerful Git client for OS X that makes using Git easy and more efficient. Users benefit from its elegant and comprehensive interface and a feature set that lets them enjoy the full power of Git.
Learn Git with Tower. With its easy-to-use interface you’ll be up to speed in no time. Tower takes the pain out of Git and makes complex tasks simple.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t crazy about Git until Github released a GUI version. While I’m not afraid of the CLI, I’ve never been as comfortable with the CLI as a GUI.
Tower makes Git management sane. Even version control newbies like myself can dive in and start branching, merging and making commits (and misusing Rebase). Its powerful and easy to use. While its internal diffs leaves something to be desired, it integrates very nicely with show diff tools like Kaleidoscope.
Its considerably more expensive than Gitbox, which offers roughly the same level of functionality. Tower feels more evolved than Gitbox. At my new agency, I live by Tower, commiting, pushing and pulling. Its $59 well spent.
FTP/Amazon S3 client
Transmit is an excellent FTP (file transfer protocol), SFTP, S3 (Amazon.com file hosting) and iDisk/WebDAV client that allows you to upload, download, and delete files over the internet. With the most Mac-like interface available, Transmit makes FTP as simple, fun, and easy as it can possibly be.
I <3 the Transmit Icon. Other people <3 the Transmit icon enough to steal it.
Seems crazy to pay for an FTP when there’s Filezilla and CyberDuck for free, right? If you think that, you haven’t used Transmit (or Forklift). Transmit supports FTP/SFTP, Amazon S3, WebDAV and iDisk. It also can mount your various bookmarked FTPs on your desktop… from your menubar.
You can create droplets, little icons you can place anywhere, including your dock, and drag files onto them to upload.
If it sounds like I’m gushing, its because I totally am. Forklift gives Transmit a serious run for its money, but I’m still sold on Transmit.
Protip, purchase directly from Panic, as you’ll get the updates quicker without App Store delays.
Introducing the new Radium, the most beautiful and intuitive internet radio player you’ll ever use. Find stations in real time by name, genre or region, and tune in to your favourite radios with just one click.
Radium’s 6000+ high quality stations, full AirPlay support, Smart Equalizer and built-in Wish List make listening to your favourite radio a breeze. (Again!)
Redesigned from the ground up, Radium 3 features a new, elegant and minimal user interface that sits in the menubar and stays out of the way. Feel free to concentrate on doing what you love and let Radium take care of the sounds.
Music (and caffeine) fuel design. Radium is just too good not to mention. There’s been plenty of internet Radio station apps but none are this easily. Want BBC World News? Just search for it from your menu bar and click.
It also supports popular subscription services SiriusXM, Live365, Last.fm, Calm Radio etc plus 60,000 free radio stations preprogrammed. You also can save the names of song you enjoy into a wishlist with a click of the mouse.
Radium is how I get my BBC World News on. I’d use it for SiriusXM if I didn’t have to pay friggin’ double just to get XM internet streaming. I <3 Radium. I do not <3 SiriusXM.
Sequel Pro & CocoaMySQL Teams
MySQL/CSV Database Browser
Sequel Pro is a fork of the abandoned CocoaMySQL project, with plans to expand to other database engines and improve the user interface. For more information, visit the Sequel Pro website.
Years ago at a previous position, I had to enter in products using Navicat to our SQL database as we didn’t have an in house CMS, I haven’t touched Navicat since. Impressively, Sequel Pro offers the same level of functionality as Navicat, without any price tag.
Also, unlike a few other SQL management utilities like Querious, Sequel Pro is still being actively developed. Sequel Pro is a total win for mac users.
Slicy (was Layer Cake) turns PSD elements into images for the Web and for Apps, simply name your layer groups once and let Slicy do its magic. Bye bye, “Save for Web/Devices”. Hello, boost in productivity and creativity!
Designers and Developers, rejoice – exporting is no longer a workflow killer. Name layer groups like the files you want to create, and Slicy will extract them individually. Enjoy complete freedom to move, obscure and even hide these named layer groups without affecting the extracted images.
Formerly Layer Cake, Slicy is a miracle worker.
Slicy will take a PSD and export the layers into separate files with a simple drag and drop. Oh but wait, it gets better, you can auto-generate retina versions, set up auto-repeat exports (hit save and photoshop and update your individual files).
It takes minimal Photoshop set up, name your folders properly and let Slicy kick some ass.
Sketch is a innovative and fresh look at vector drawing for the Mac. Its intentionally minimalist design is based upon a drawing space of unlimited size and layers, free of palettes, panels, menus, windows, and controls. Though simple to use, it offers powerful vector drawing and text tools like perfect Boolean operations, Symbols and powerful Rulers, Guides and Grids.
Sketch is the new kid on the block who’s been lighting up the UIX world. Its a vector based app targeted at web design. Its super lightweight, fast, can do retina exports, SVG and some CSS, and its fast. Since I’ve purchased Sketch, it has grown by leaps and bounds..
Its a vector app that makes you think about the math in your graphics, which is a very good thing.
So far its won an Apple Design Award Winner, 2012, maintained a 5 star review in the App Store and continues to make splashes across the blogosphere. I’ve started making my mobile UI in Sketch instead of Photoshop and haven’t looked back.
Sad about the impending death of Fireworks? Check out the future of sketch…
Snapz Pro X
Ambrosia Software inc
Snapz Pro X allows you to effortlessly record anything on your screen*, saving it as a QuickTime® movie or screenshot that can be e-mailed, put up on the web, or passed around however you want. Snapz Pro X 2.x costs $69. New version 2.5.0 has been rewritten from the ground up with the most modern APIs to take maximum advantage of Mac OS X 10.7.4 or later. It is OS X Mountain Lion & Retina Display compatible!
Why take a static screenshot when Snapz Pro X makes creating a movie just as easy? Snapz Pro X does that, and so much more! Download a free demo version right now, or check out the video tutorials we’ve created and see for yourself.
Famed classic shareware game makers, Ambrosia, once upon a time decided to venture outside of 2D games and made a screen capture app. Snapz Pro. At the time it was revolutionary and oddles better than other competing solutions.
Along came OS X and to delineate the OS X version, X was added to the namesake. After over a decade of OS X support, remains one of the better screen capture utilities on the Mac. It even has full retina support for capturing video (and possibly the only as of writing this). It hangs in an elite club on this list with BBEdit and Transmit, making the transition from OS 9 to OS X, and from PPC to Intel.
The more expensive Camtasia (cross platform) offers considerably more in the way of editing but Snapz Pro X gets the point, capture video.
Felt Tip Studios
Features at your fingertips.
Digitize tapes and vinyl records, record live performances, create your own mixes with crossfades, tweak the levels and EQ, apply digital effects, and save in all major file formats with Sound Studio.
Professional quality recordings.
Record professional-sounding Podcasts and other audio dialog. Spoken word, speeches, presentations, music, and other audio can all be recorded and edited with the same high fidelity.
Easy batch processing.
Process multiple files using Monbots, developed specifically for Sound Studio. Sound Studio also supports Applescript and Automator.
Sound Studio is regularly updated to add new features and take advantage of the very latest Apple technologies.
I miss Macromedia SoundEdit 16.
It was completely ahead of its time as a multitrack waveform editor. Even today, it still does things that some basic editors have trouble with.
That said, the closest thing since is Sound Studio. The UI is dead on and as a two track editor, its my favorite for years and years running.
Despite owning Logic & Cubase, I still use Sound Studio quite regularly to chop up samples into loops before moving on to Recycle or Battery or Cubase/Logic.
Its much better than Peak or Soundbooth, or Audacity or the disgraceful Mac port of SoundForge and the UI is easier to use than Fission. Plus, they survived the acquisition of their publisher, Freeverse, by ngmoco.
Sound studio is great for pros down to beginners.
Versions offers the best way to work with Subversion on the Mac. Thanks to its clear-cut approach, you’ll hit the ground running.
New to Subversion?
Don’t panic. Versions makes Subversion easy. Even if you’re new to version control systems altogether. Commit your work, stay up to date, and easily track changes to your files. All from Versions’ pleasant, true to the Mac interface.
Take your workflow to the next level with Versions. There is no better, faster or more efficient way to stay on top of your projects. Download the demo and see how Versions beats the CLI — or anything else, for that matter.
Using Subversion control or not a fan of Git? Versions is an awesome subversion management GUI, including a spiffy timeline view. It contests Tower as the best GUI front end to a popular version control software.
They boast it “Integrates with Kaleidoscope, FileMerge, Changes, BBEdit, TextWrangler, Araxis Merge and other file comparison apps” and I can attest it works well with Kaleidoscope. I might even recommend this over Tower if you’re strictly a designer looking to break into version control on your own.
Illustration/Vector (SVG) to CSS Editor
If you are doing a lot of HTML5 Canvas drawing, WebCode will become your best friend.
CSS + HTML
Stop writing CSS3 gradients, shadows and media queries by hand - from now on, WebCode will do that for you.
In fact, it will convert as much of your drawings as possible to CSS+HTML code! Rectangles, rounded rectangles, ovals, texts, images, gradients, inner and outer shadows, strokes and fills are all well supported.
And for things like beziers that simply cannot be converted to CSS+HTML, WebCode will let you know by generating helpful warnings.
SVG shines when making infographics, and WebCode is a great tool that instantly transforms your drawings to readable, succinct and beautiful SVG code.
All of these features are designed to save your time, so you can focus on what is really important - the content itself.
Webcode is hard to classify hence the massive description above. Its a vector illustration/animation app that generates HTML5/CSS/JS Canvas code for the web. Its designed with high resolution independence in mind is a true undiscovered gem.
There’s no lag between browser refreshes when designing, simply draw and see the code magically appear.
I’ll be picking this tool up in the near future, its exceptionally promising. High five to new comer PixelCut, both PaintCode and WebCode are unique and awesome apps.
The Iconfactory & ARTIS Software
Created specifically for designers & developers, xScope is a powerful set of tools that are ideal for measuring, inspecting & testing on-screen graphics and layouts.
xScope is another genre buster, its a collection of several tools, Mirror Dimensions Rulers Screens Loupe Guides Frames and Crosshair. xScope allows you get get dimensions, colors of anything on screen, accessibility testing (color blindness), preview designs on iOS devices and so on. There’s several Mac Store apps that replicate some of the functionality but none are as full featured.
Its a user-interface designer’s toolbox, designed for on-screen content delivery.
There’s a few apps I debated mentioning, like Diskwarrior which has saved my ass so many times over the years but fell too far out of scope. iDraw and iFFmpeg are both quality products and worth buying but I do not depend on these.
Diskwarrior - HFS maintenance tool - $99.95
iFFmpeg - FFmpeg GUI for video conversion - $15
iDraw - Vector Illustration - $24.99
Techtool Pro - Computer repair utility suite - $99.99
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