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  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.

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Voted to close — a good question, but we really should avoid subjective ones here. –  apostlion Aug 17 '10 at 20:19
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@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
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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
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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
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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

239 Answers 239

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.

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@am1 could make your answer community wiki, please? –  Loïc Wolff Aug 20 '10 at 12:14
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@Loïc Wolff I make it. –  Am1rr3zA Aug 20 '10 at 12:16
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Firefox and Mac OS X just don't mix :( Safari also has add-ons :) –  rightføld Aug 25 '10 at 12:46
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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
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Firefox is sssllllooowww. –  Jonathan. Nov 1 '10 at 19:32

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.

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“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
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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
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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
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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 "System Preferences" if you use that a lot, or "Steve Porter" 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

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!

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

Notational Velocity

is an application that stores and retrieves notes.

It is an attempt to loosen the mental blockages to recording information and to scrape away the tartar of convention that handicaps its retrieval. The solution is by nature nonconformist.

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could make your answer community wiki, please? –  Loïc Wolff Aug 20 '10 at 12:13
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+1, and I'll add nvALT, a fork of Notational Velocity that adds support for Markdown, Textile and MultiMarkdown in Preview and a bunch more: brettterpstra.com/project/nvalt –  Matthew Frederick Feb 20 '11 at 3:52

1Password

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

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@Jacob could make your answer community wiki, please? –  Loïc Wolff Aug 20 '10 at 12:10
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@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
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+100 I can't even remember my password now –  nanda Aug 31 '10 at 12:37
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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

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).

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

F.lux

f.lux makes your computer screen look like the room you're in, all the time. When the sun sets, it makes your computer look like your indoor lights. In the morning, it makes things look like sunlight again.

Tell f.lux what kind of lighting you have, and where you live. Then forget about it. F.lux will do the rest, automatically.

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Handbrake

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

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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.

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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

LaunchBar

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.

Indespensible as a keyboard utility to launch applications, open websites, search the web and a million other things.

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It's also a great clipboard manager, giving access to history via a keystroke. One of the most feature-rich apps I've used. –  evanmcd Aug 21 '10 at 23:58

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.

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I use InsomniaX - any idea how it compares to Caffeine? –  Kyle Cronin Sep 8 '10 at 23:59
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@joshdick: I use Jiggler for that. –  Josh K Nov 30 '10 at 14:04
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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

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.

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

Perian

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

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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

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!

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@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
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@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
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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

Aquamacs

  • emacs on the Mac.
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Not just emacs, but emacs that feels like a Mac app -- at least, as much as you want it to. (Very configurable.) –  khedron Oct 16 '10 at 3:13

MacTeX

-- TeXLive distribution and assorted goodies for the Mac.

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Skim

  • PDF reader and note-taker.
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It's a great application to present slides in PDF format. Preview.app always has this irritating overlay you can't disable. –  Raim Sep 6 '10 at 3:56

Transmit

FTP, SFTP, Amazon S3 and WebDav client.

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Cyberduck

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

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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.

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Adium is not needed anymore starting with Lion :) –  sorin Jul 2 '11 at 14:14
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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

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.

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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
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iTerm is even better. –  neoneye Aug 28 '10 at 12:02
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What about iTerm2 ? –  Studer Aug 30 '10 at 18:45
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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
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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

xGestures

  • adds mouse gestures to every program.
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TotalTerminal (formerly Visor)

  • "A system-wide terminal on a hot-key." I press ctrl-T (the hot key I chose), and a tab-able terminal window slides down from the top of my screen. This invaluable for anyone who, like me, is constantly between the terminal and other apps.

This great little tool was originally by Blacktree, who made Quicksilver.

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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.

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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
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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
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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
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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

BetterTouchTool

Take your Magic Mouse and add some more magic to it. Lets you do tons more gestures than OS X alone.

Works for the new trackpad and the multitouch trackpads in laptops too. It's still a bit buggy, but really, really cool.

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Technically just a utility, but I love it so much. –  r00fus Sep 15 '10 at 4:22
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It would be awesome if not so buggy and heavy. –  Cawas Dec 23 '10 at 13:05

Google Chrome

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

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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
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before firefox4 i had moved almost completely to chrome, but yay for ff4 (esp. tab grouping) –  bronzebeard Oct 31 '10 at 15:55
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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
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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
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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

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.

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@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
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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
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@Cawas - Maybe because Dropbox has Mac spirit: it just works. –  mouviciel Jul 28 '11 at 15:31
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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

Notify

Notify is an awesome email notifier for Mac OS X. It fits seamlessly into your menubar, only vying for your attention when you have new mail. Notify supports mutliple accounts, including Gmail, MobileMe, and Rackspace Email.

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Echofon

A really simple, intuitive twitter client. This is the one that got me to switch from Tweetie.

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Overflow

Overflow is an application designed to quickly launch applications, open documents, or access folders while reducing the number of items needed in your Dock.

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