Take the 2-minute tour ×
Ask Different is a question and answer site for power users of Apple hardware and software. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Please Search Prior To Posting!

There are many applications already listed. In all likelihood, this includes the one you are thinking of. Please check the existing answers to avoid duplicates, and the resulting cleanup it necessitates.

To search, use the search box in the upper-right corner. To search the answers of the current question, use inquestion:this. For example:

inquestion:this Evernote

If it hasn't already been posted, please follow a few simple rules when adding it as an answer.

Rules

  1. Limit to one application per answer.

  2. Add a short description of the application.

  3. Add a link to the website in the name of the application if possible (no direct downloads).

  4. Use ## [appName](link) for citing the application name.

  5. Only Mac OS X (not iOS, OS 9, compatible, etc) applications. All versions of OS X are accepted, but if the application requires a specific version please note.

share

locked by patrix Nov 24 '13 at 9:28

This question exists because it has historical significance, but it is not considered a good, on-topic question for this site, so please do not use it as evidence that you can ask similar questions here. This question and its answers are frozen and cannot be changed. More info: help center.

15  
Voted to close — a good question, but we really should avoid subjective ones here. –  apostlion Aug 17 '10 at 20:19
19  
@Apostlion: Simply because it's subjective does not mean it can't be answered. There are (community defined) "good" applications that are useful on a daily basis. –  Josh K Aug 17 '10 at 20:22
27  
Voted to reopen - it is subjective, but a popular and useful style of question, if kept as a wiki and not repeated too much. These questions are mostly accepted on gadgets.stackexhange.com for example. –  Jon Hadley Aug 17 '10 at 21:08
10  
Can we make this Community Wiki? And also 1 app per answer? Much easier to check if something has already been said and to edit to add information about said app. Thank you. –  Loïc Wolff Aug 19 '10 at 20:39
11  
I did a lot of cleanup. Changed all the app names to ## (because it was the most commonly used in the existing answers. Moved links so that they were within the app names. Removed some first-person descriptors. –  Robert S Ciaccio Aug 23 '10 at 3:18
show 19 more comments

239 Answers 239

Dropbox

Put your files into your Dropbox on one computer, and they'll be instantly available on any of your other computers that you've installed Dropbox on.

share
9  
@Moshe: Sure, many of the apps mentioned (VLC, Chrome, Skype, Evernote, ...) aren't only available for Mac. That doesn't matter. –  Jonik Sep 16 '10 at 20:31
1  
I find it surprising dropbox comes up first... This would never happen with a "Windows Programs you can't live without" in a windows community. –  Cawas Dec 23 '10 at 13:09
2  
@Cawas - Maybe because Dropbox has Mac spirit: it just works. –  mouviciel Jul 28 '11 at 15:31
4  
It is of note that Dropbox has had a sordid history with security and underhanded practices that involve dealing with authorities: news.cnet.com/8301-31921_3-20072755-281/… and paranoia.dubfire.net/2011/04/… –  cksum Sep 19 '11 at 2:20
show 3 more comments

Terminal

Terminal.app opens a UNIX terminal and allows you to access many power-user tools and features, just as you would on a machine running Linux or BSD.

share
7  
Ditto. Open permanently and the main reason I moved from PC's - a decent unix access point. –  Jon Hadley Aug 23 '10 at 7:24
7  
iTerm is even better. –  neoneye Aug 28 '10 at 12:02
21  
What about iTerm2 ? –  Studer Aug 30 '10 at 18:45
4  
Visor is a great addition--a keystroke slides your terminal in from the top of the screen. –  Dan Ray Dec 2 '10 at 14:32
6  
Forget terminal + visor. iTerm 2 offers visor plus much much more... Switched to few weeks ago, will never go back. –  Vincent Apr 24 '11 at 15:42
show 2 more comments

Preview

A lot of people (especially newcomers) completely overlook what the humble built-in Preview app can do. Apart from handling PDFs (including printing them in various layouts etc), you can join PDF files together with it (open the sidebar and start dragging pdf files into it, rearrange pages etc).

You can crop & resize images, adjust colour & saturation (etc), save as different image format and even add text & simple diagrammatical annotations to pictures.

Like a lot of the built-in software, there's an awful lot of flexibility that you simply don't appreciate at first because it's hidden in the GUI - as opposed to huge nested menus of functions, you have to try things with the mouse - often things just work!

share
1  
@robsoft: I didn't know about the joining of PDFs. Can you explain how this happens? (Or am I misunderstanding you?) IE: document1.pdf and document2.pdf and then save it out as a merged document.pdf? I've tried the obvious stuff and it doesn't seem to work. –  Cameron Conner Aug 20 '10 at 20:25
6  
@Cameron - sure, I didn't get this at first. It's not totally intuitive. First, open a PDF document. Press Shift-Cmd-D (or select View Sidebar from View menu). Now drag another PDF file (from Finder, Desktop etc) onto the PDF file you can see in the sidebar (drop your 2nd doc on top of the 1st, not into blank area of sidebar). Preview will join the documents together (you can revert, or save, save as, etc). All of the pdf stuff seems to be driven through the sidebar. Let me know if you get it, otherwise I'll try make a little online tutorial. :-) –  robsoft Aug 21 '10 at 14:15
4  
Also worth noting... you can annotate pdfs using Preview. This is useful for all sorts of things; adding simple shapes to highlight/emphasize things, adding (colored) text for note-taking, etc. –  eykanal Sep 12 '10 at 22:17
show 7 more comments

Growl

Growl is a well-known 'notification' system for the Mac; many different programs support Growl and will pass notifications to it. You have a surprising degree of control over how the notifications appear, how they group themselves together, how they are dismissed from the screen etc. This can be configured universally or on an app-by-app basis, so it's very flexible.

One of the most useful features for me has been the way you can configure it to send notifications to selected other Macs on the network - I can leave one of my Macs doing something (such as downloading a large file) while I'm using my other Mac, and when the first Mac has finished doing its stuff the notification will pop-up on the Mac I'm in front of.

Growl is free, though you can donate to the cause!

Programs that can use Growl include Coda, Dropbox, Firefox, Handbrake, NetNewsWire, SuperDuper!, Transmit, and also Mail & Safari (via helper plugins).

share
10  
Ugh, I can not express to you how much I loath Growl. It's even worse that tons of apps (like Dropbox) install it silently without asking, or simply crash and burn (like Max) if it isn't installed without giving you any error messages or means of troubleshooting. –  Bryson Jun 3 '11 at 17:07
1  
@Bryson what I like about Growl is that it gives a central place where I can control all notifications for apps, whether I want them to pop up or just "shut up about it". I'm surprised that Apple didn't add a standard Notification system to Lion, it seems like centralizing this should be the role of the OS. –  Andrew Vit Sep 7 '11 at 1:56
1  
Apps no longer need to have Growl installed in order to use Growl notifications, so users would only need to purchase it if they want to customize their notifications. This also means apps no longer need to secretly install Growl. More info on their note to developers. Growl is still open source, too, and there's a link to the source code on that page as well. –  joelseph Feb 9 '12 at 21:08
show 3 more comments

Google Chrome

Google Chrome is a lightweight, minimalistic web browser based off the open source project, Chromium.

share
4  
Though some Firefox features still aren't matched in Chrome, I nowadays find myself mostly using Chrome on OS X because it's just so much faster. –  Jonik Aug 28 '10 at 9:42
4  
before firefox4 i had moved almost completely to chrome, but yay for ff4 (esp. tab grouping) –  bronzebeard Oct 31 '10 at 15:55
19  
Quote of the day: "I just ditched Firefox for Chrome. I feel like I just left my wife and kids for a 19 year old cheerleader." –  Jonik Nov 7 '10 at 12:31
1  
Chrome has also had a lot of trouble with caching (specifically clearing cache) in the recent releases. As a web developer, it's a huge problem. I'm on the verge of moving back to FF. –  EmmyS Jun 23 '11 at 16:28
3  
After Lion came out, I switched to Safari because Chrome is way too slow at adapting the goodness. –  Dan Sep 9 '11 at 23:22
show 3 more comments

Homebrew

"The missing package manager for OS X". Like MacPorts and Fink, but simpler to use and easy to contribute to.

share
3  
I love homebrew. Much better than MacPorts. Uses existing libraries that come with OS X to cut down compile times. –  Jack Chu Nov 2 '10 at 22:29
5  
@Ricket: I think those are orthogonal. Homebrew is for CLI Open Source programs. –  LennyAskDifferent Nov 18 '10 at 8:39
show 5 more comments

Xcode

A good IDE for cocoa developers. Xcode 5 is now available on the Mac App Store.

share
4  
+1 use it more than all other apps combined. –  Nippysaurus Aug 31 '10 at 23:12
1  
Xcode is great. It is the reason I got a Mac. –  Josiah Oct 14 '12 at 22:44
show 7 more comments

VLC media player

At its simplest, it's a video player that'll play nearly anything. File extensions supported include: mov, mkv, flv, wmv.

It's actually considerably more powerful than that in terms of streaming and converting, but even as a straight up video player, it's impressive.

share
8  
I really can't stand VLC. Buggy, extremely difficult to configure, ugly as hades... the only thing it has going for it is the sheer number of different formats it will play. Why should I have to be an expert in video and audio codecs to configure my player? Movist beats this one by far. –  Robert S Ciaccio Sep 12 '10 at 22:51
1  
I've never had luck with VLC. It is constantly crashing, and terribly buggy. Seconding Movist a hundred times. –  Bryson Sep 15 '10 at 22:20
4  
Never configured anything on VLC, it works for me out of the box, with flv, wmv, mkv, mp4, avi, mov, mpeg. Unexpected crashes do happen, you have to deal with it, but other than that, it's great. –  Petruza Feb 4 '11 at 14:10
4  
Use MplayerX for Mac, it's free on Mac App Store. Although i prefer the command line version mplayer –  Lamnk Apr 6 '11 at 13:43
show 5 more comments

1Password

1Password can create strong, unique passwords for you, remember them, and restore them, all directly in your web browser.

share
1  
@Jacob could make your answer community wiki, please? –  Loïc Wolff Aug 20 '10 at 12:10
1  
@Jacob Community Wiki means every user can edit and add information to your answer. See cl.ly/24dW for more information. –  Loïc Wolff Aug 21 '10 at 9:40
3  
+100 I can't even remember my password now –  nanda Aug 31 '10 at 12:37
5  
LastPass does the same thing for a lot less money, and it's available cross-platform (including Linux) so you can keep your passwords synced regardless of where you are and what system you're on. –  EmmyS Jun 23 '11 at 16:24
show 4 more comments

TextMate

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.

If you’re looking for a good editor, Sublime Text 2 is quite good too by now!

share
30  
TextMate 2.0 is the new Duke Nukem Forever ;-) –  Chealion Aug 21 '10 at 15:19
1  
The CMD T shortcut would be hard for me to live without. –  neoneye Aug 30 '10 at 17:18
6  
If you're into TextMate, have a look at Sublime Text 2. You won't be disappointed. –  Dan Oct 13 '11 at 12:30
show 3 more comments

Alfred

Alfred is a productivity application for Mac OS X, which aims to save you time in searching your local computer and the web. Whether it's maps, Amazon, eBay, Wikipedia, you can feed your web addiction quicker than ever before.

It's a wonderful piece because it enables you to:

  • Increase your productivity by launching apps with shortcuts
  • Instant access to web searches, bookmarks & more
  • Browse and play music from your iTunes library quickly
  • Perform actions – copy, move & email files & folders
  • Ward off RSI – skip using the mouse with easy shortcuts
share
9  
Buy the 'PowerPack' for this - it adds even more functionality. Alfred is a really nice little utility - replaced QuickSilver for me. –  robsoft Sep 14 '10 at 17:12
1  
Best powerpack feature: clipboard history. I can now "copy up" three things, then paste them back out in whatever order I like. Brillig! –  Dan Ray Dec 2 '10 at 14:52
show 4 more comments

Handbrake

HandBrake is an open-source, GPL-licensed, multiplatform, multithreaded video transcoder.

share
show 2 more comments

Adium

Adium is a free instant messaging application for Mac OS X that can connect to AIM, MSN, Jabber, Yahoo, and more. It provides enhanced security by supporting the OTR messaging protocol out of the box.

share
2  
Adium is not needed anymore starting with Lion :) –  sorin Jul 2 '11 at 14:14
2  
It can do many! Even Facebook. Yeah not all of them but some of those are pretty obscure. I must say the iChat updates in Lion made me ditch Adium. –  Paul Eccles Aug 1 '11 at 17:34
show 1 more comment

Perian

Perian is a free, open source QuickTime component that adds native support for many popular video formats.

share
3  
Perian developers decided to cease any further development on Perian. There won't be any new releases or fixes for MKV support if nobody stakes over. –  Michael Nordmeyer Jul 18 '12 at 14:26
add comment

Transmission

Transmission is a cross-platform BitTorrent client that is: Free and Community-Driven. Easy. Lean. Native. Powerful.

share
2  
+1, Transmission rocks. For those with servers there is even a slick web-ui. –  Josh K Aug 26 '10 at 4:04
show 1 more comment

The Unarchiver

The Unarchiver is a much more capable replacement for "BOMArchiveHelper.app", the built-in archive unpacker program in Mac OS X. The Unarchiver is designed to handle many more formats than BOMArchiveHelper, and to better fit in with the design of the Finder. It can also handle filenames in foreign character sets, created with non-English versions of other operating systems.

Supported file formats include Zip, Tar-GZip, Tar-BZip2, RAR, 7-zip, LhA, StuffIt and many other more and less obscure formats.

share
4  
The Unarchiver team also provide a command line utility urar that uses the same compression library, so you can extract all those obscure formats from a script. –  Slomojo Jan 31 '11 at 0:24
show 1 more comment

Caffeine

Caffeine is a tiny program that puts an icon in the right side of your menu bar. Click it to prevent your Mac from automatically going to sleep, dimming the screen or starting screen savers. Click it again to go back. Right-click (or ^-click) the icon to show the menu.

share
2  
I use InsomniaX - any idea how it compares to Caffeine? –  Kyle Cronin Sep 8 '10 at 23:59
2  
@joshdick: I use Jiggler for that. –  Josh K Nov 30 '10 at 14:04
1  
I up-voted the comment about InsomniaX but actually wanted to recommend InsomniaX 2.0 – Built for Lion from the same developer - makes it easy to run clamshell mode on Snow-Leopard with external display –  iolsmit Dec 22 '11 at 0:52
show 4 more comments

Transmit

FTP, SFTP, Amazon S3 and WebDav client.

share
show 2 more comments

MacVim

A very good port of Vim. I used both Emacs and TextMate for quite some time, but finally became a Vim user. I think I'll have a look at TextMate 2, if it will actually be released some time…

share
2  
I also recently discovered the GUI port of vim for the Mac, and I must say I really love editing C and C++ code in it. It also helps to better edit makefiles, since Xcode hasn't really got any support for makefiles. I only write Objective-C code in my Xcode editor, since Xcode has phenomenal text completion for Cocoa and the vim editor lacks this. –  hver Jan 30 '11 at 18:07
show 1 more comment

Skype

With skype, you can make

  • Voice and video calls to anyone else on Skype
  • Conference calls with three or more people
  • Instant messaging, file transfer and screen sharing
share
3  
Sadly, Beta 5 is as awful as a UI can get. –  Martín Marconcini Nov 30 '10 at 14:44
2  
The problem with skype now is that was bought from Microsoft. I don't think they will be keeping good. I'm waiting for some Google response offered in Brazil. –  Ed Pichler Jun 26 '11 at 17:05
show 1 more comment

MacPorts

The MacPorts Project is an open-source community initiative to design an easy-to-use system for compiling, installing, and upgrading either command-line, X11 or Aqua based open-source software on the Mac OS X operating system. To that end we provide the command-line driven MacPorts software package under a BSD License, and through it easy access to thousands of ports that greatly simplify the task of compiling and installing open-source software on your Mac.

share
2  
what about homebrew and fink? –  Jason Sundram Jan 16 '11 at 6:55
20  
I would recommend Homebrew over MacPorts by a long way. github.com/mxcl/homebrew –  Dave Verwer Feb 14 '11 at 14:43
3  
+1 for Homebrew. –  Robert Audi Feb 20 '11 at 22:08
show 3 more comments

Cyberduck

for Upload, Download and Sync of FTP, SFTP, WebDav, iCloud, S3, ...

share
show 5 more comments

Quicksilver

More then just an application launcher, Quicksilver is an intuitive, self learning, application launcher and system manipulator.

It can also assign global hotkeys to actions, store clipboard history, show the current iTunes song and much more.

share
11  
“I’m inclined to encourage users to move over to the more stable and well supported alternatives like LaunchBar” – Nicholas Jitkoff, Developer of Quicksilver –  Carmine Paolino Aug 28 '10 at 16:42
3  
I used Quicksilver for a long time, but I think Launchbar has the edge at this point. –  Bryan Schuetz Sep 19 '10 at 14:35
9  
Never understood why I should use an app to do what Spotlight already does. I understand people using Quicksilver from before Spotlight existed, but I don't see any reason to switch for new users. Is there one? –  IlDan Oct 14 '10 at 23:55
1  
Spotlight and Quicksilver are two different beasts. Quicksilver allows you to match entries in your catalog with a few keystrokes, and spotlight allows you to search your computer for words. If you type "sp" in Quicksilver you might get "**S**ystem **P**references" if you use that a lot, or "**S**teve **P**orter" if you send him a lot of mails/IMs. Spotlight will just show you all things with "sp" in their name or contents –  w00t Sep 29 '11 at 11:26
show 16 more comments

VirtualBox

VirtualBox is a powerful x86 and AMD64/Intel64 virtualization product for enterprise as well as home use. Not only is VirtualBox an extremely feature rich, high performance product for enterprise customers, it is also the only professional solution that is freely available as Open Source Software under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL).

share
2  
VirtualBox is just plain awesome. –  Robert S Ciaccio Aug 20 '10 at 3:18
1  
could make your answer community wiki, please? –  Loïc Wolff Aug 20 '10 at 12:05
show 1 more comment

iWork

Pages is both a streamlined word processor and an easy-to-use page layout tool. It allows you to be a writer one minute and a designer the next, always with a perfect document in the works.

 

With great-looking templates, easy-to-create formulas, and dynamic tables and charts, spreadsheets suddenly make perfect sense.

 

Create your presentation in Keynote, and you’ll be a hard act to follow. Powerful yet easy-to-use tools and dazzling effects put the show in slideshow.

I use iWork constantly. Both on my Mac and iPad. It's just great :D

share
1  
At work I have use Word, however I write my text in Pages and then export to Word. Pages is a well crafted product. –  neoneye Aug 28 '10 at 12:07
1  
Personally I think Excel is more powerful than Numbers, or at least the power is not hidden. –  Jonathan. Nov 1 '10 at 19:32
1  
I really tried to use iWork, but I just can't. The support for more advanced features - like multiple Tables of Contents - just isn't there. It's a slick piece of software for more uses though. –  Fomite Sep 19 '11 at 20:53
show 7 more comments

Evernote

Evernote is an app for note taking that features online syncing, much like Dropbox. Install Evernote on your desktop, laptop, iPhone and iPad and have access to all your notes, and if you've left all them all at home, access them on the web.

share
1  
Evernote is now available on the Mac App Store. (Which, by the way, has resulted in a huge influx of new users.) –  Jonik Jan 12 '11 at 10:51
show 1 more comment

Safari

While I adore Chrome, but Chrome on Mac is not on the same level as Chrome on Windows yet.

share
7  
It's getting there! –  Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Jan 31 '11 at 17:21
1  
Safari integrates better with the whole OS X Lion experience –  Sam May 3 '12 at 1:53
show 3 more comments

Firefox

Firefox is an open-source web browser from Mozilla, based off Netscape.

With a few OS X specific tweaks it can be made to behave like a OS X browser should, including font rendering, Keychain Access and Retina display support.

share
1  
@am1 could make your answer community wiki, please? –  Loïc Wolff Aug 20 '10 at 12:14
1  
@Loïc Wolff I make it. –  Am1rr3zA Aug 20 '10 at 12:16
2  
Firefox and Mac OS X just don't mix :( Safari also has add-ons :) –  rightfold Aug 25 '10 at 12:46
9  
Some things still put Firefox above competition: intelligent (learning) address bar autocomplete; huge selection of good add-ons (Safari or Chrome don't even come close). Too bad Firefox is slower than Chrome... –  Jonik Aug 28 '10 at 9:41
5  
Firefox is sssllllooowww. –  Jonathan. Nov 1 '10 at 19:32
show 5 more comments

OmniGraffle

The only diagramming application worth using.

share
3  
I can't say enough good things about OmniGraffle. –  khedron Oct 16 '10 at 3:22
3  
@JFW: I think there was a parsing problem somewhere -- I think OmniGraffle is fantastic. Maybe do a search on "can't say enough good things" to see how I was using this? –  khedron Nov 23 '10 at 17:32
show 5 more comments

VMware Fusion

Yet another virtual machine product. I have tried Parallels and am using VirtualBox on and off, but VMware's Fusion is what I find to be most efficient and feature-full. Unity view is quite efficient when you want to run something side-by-side, while full screen or windowed modes are good for when you need a focus or are just testing out something.

share
3  
VMWare Fusion is great! I can share my VMs with VMWare Player for Windows and Fusion can even boot my Bootcamp installation as a VM. –  Marc Sep 14 '10 at 21:34
3  
Fusion's strength is definitely compatibility with it's bigger siblings (ie, Server-class). I can play around with an appliance, configure and demo it, then migrate the image straight to our server fabric if it fits our usage patterns. Amazing for small companies or departments. –  r00fus Sep 15 '10 at 4:17
show 1 more comment

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.