Essential Apps for a new Mac

It has become abundantly clear to me over the past year (while attending CSS and NFJS) that to have any hope of being taken seriously as a software developer, a Mac must be purchased.  With OSCON 2008 rapidly closing in, a decision had to be made. So….

A shiny new MacBook Pro landed on the doorstep of Breo Media Labs HQ on Friday, so I decided to reach out to the geek community at large for their recommendations for must have Mac apps. Many thanks to Alex and Scott for sending me links to their previously blogged lists.

A little over 24hrs into owning a new Mac, here’s the list:

  • Firefox
  • Quicksilver – I know there’s more to this thing, but at the least it’s a super quick way for me to start apps without having to take my hands off of the keyboard.
  • Adium – Multi-protocol IM client.  I thought I would give Digsby a spin to kill 2 birds with 1 app (IM + Twitter)..but alas their Mac version is not ready yet.
  • Thwirl – An Adobe AIR Twitter client
  • NetNewsWire – RSS Reader.  I’ve been using Google Reader for a little over a year, but have been underwhelmed in it’s ability to manage my bazillion feeds.  While my preference is for a more “cloud-centric” reader, NetNewsWire seems to be cool enough that I’ll stick with a thick client based reader for now.  It will sync with newsgator online, but I’m holding out for the (remote) possibility of it syncing with Google Reader.
  • Growl – Alerts and such.  Seems to be leveraged heavily by Adium.  A nice side effect thus far is that I’ve setup my IM+Twitter apps in a different space (Space 2).  Because of the growl integration with Adium, I get IM responses as alerts on my currently active space…thus saving time flipping back’n'forth between spaces.  A small, but nice, touch.
  • iTerm -  All the super-geek presenters at the aforementioned conferences use it, so it must be good?
  • iStatPro – Dashboard widget that displays all sorts of system resources (CPU/Disk/Memory/etc)
  • Transmission – Bittorrent Client
  • Cyberduck – FTP Client.  Using it because I’m cheap and it’s free.  I’ve heard good things about Transmit though…
  • Textmate $$ – Text editing.

UPDATE (6/23/2008):

Clearly…this is not an exhausitive list, but just a list of apps that someone new to the Mac platform will install right off the bat to make their environment feel more like home.  Got some good feedback in the comments, so some additional apps would be:


  • VLC – Probably the best media player out there…for any platform.  I wish all pre-1.0 software was as useful and stable as VLC.  Java developers should take a look at DJNativeSwing for integrating VLC into a client app.  We use it at work and have had great success.
  • Miro – While not strictly Mac software, if you want to get your IPTV on, it’s pretty cool.  Combine it with for TiVo-like functionality.
  • MediaLink/Connect360 ($) – If you have an PS3 or Xbox360 and want to push your media to it, both of these programs will make that a breeze.


Seems like I’m hearing pros/cons pretty evenly between Parallels ($) and VMWare Fusion ($).  Having a windows desktop (and most of my life lives in “the cloud” now) leaves me with little need (currently) to have Windows app on my laptop.  I have had pretty good luck running Xubuntu within VirtualBox on my Vista machine, so I might also give that a spin on the Mac and see how it goes.


  • Neo Office / – Time was, you had to use Neo Office if you wanted a OS X native clone.  This appears to be coming to an end with the advent of 3.  For a lot of the basic things I do these days, Google Docs is serving me quite well…especially when I need to collaborate with someone on a spreadsheet/word doc.
  • SpanningSync ($) – Syncs iCal with Google Calendar.  The wife uses it on her MacBook at home and MBP at the office and loves it.  A friend mentioned that Sunbird from Mozilla is a great replacement for iCal and syncs with Google Calendar for free.

6 Comments so far »

  1. Alex Miller said,

    Wrote on June 22, 2008 @ 9:37 pm

    Glad my list helped. For FTP, I happily use FireFTP (FireFox addon) instead of Cyberduck. I like iStats a lot for system resources – goes in the menu bar, very configurable.

    I use iTerm although I started using it in Tiger where Terminal didn’t have tabbed terms. Terminal in Leopard meets the minimum bar (although I’m still partial to some details of iTerm).

    TextWrangler is a decent free alternative to TextMate if you just want to do basic text editing stuff.

  2. Chad Udell said,

    Wrote on June 23, 2008 @ 7:32 am

    Don’t forget the following:
    VLC for media playback
    VMWare Fusion for windows/linux virtualization
    OmniGraffle for flowcharts/wireframes
    I also second using Transmit for FTP
    A couple Dashboard widgets I like: Dashalytics and Dolor Sit Amet (A Greek text generator)
    WhatSize will help keep you HD clean by letting you know where all your disk space is going.

  3. James Hawes said,

    Wrote on June 23, 2008 @ 12:50 pm

    FUGU is an excellent FREE FTP client I use on my Mac.

  4. Ryan Eibling said,

    Wrote on June 23, 2008 @ 2:09 pm

    I second the VLC recommendation, but I have to recommend Parallels Desktop over VMWare Fusion. I used Fusion for a month after reading many positive comments about it, but I found the integration features lacking. With Parallels you could forget you’re running a VM if it weren’t for the distinctly different window frames.

  5. Jon Gretar said,

    Wrote on June 23, 2008 @ 2:46 pm

    I prefer Butler to Quicksilver. Butler does a lot fewer things but when it comes just to launching application i prefer Butler. QS’s powers seem more to be in the document area.

    I loved iTerm in Tiger. But now I just use the built in Terminal in Leopard. What I was mostly going for in iTerm was tabbing and such. And Terminal just seems to have a lot fewer problems.

  6. pic.micro23 said,

    Wrote on June 23, 2008 @ 3:17 pm

    Hi – I’m a convert… I used windows for several years, then Linux and now Mac (Every OS sucks :)

    But what I found out is that I and a lot of people don’t care about the OS BUT we care about our APPS… so now I only use APPS that are cross platform apps and specially that my info is not hostage of any app or OS.

    I would add add OpenOffice to your list.

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