Mac OS X Software Recommendations

This is my list of indispensable Mac OS X software. This is the stuff I use daily, so a lot of these recommendations are specific to the geek and academic crowd. In addition to these gems, there's lots of other great Mac software. Check out these sites for more software.

Network Applications

Price: $15

Using the same web engine as Safari, Omniweb offers many excellent features including site-specific preferences, ad blocking, full-text search of history, graphical tabs, and much more.

Price: Free–$25

RSS Web news reader. Indispensible for tracking news online and also for subscribing to podcasts.

Price: Free

a multi-protocol instant messenging application. Features tabbed chats and slick but usable interface.

Price: Free–$8

A weather monitor and forcaster for your menu bar.

Price: $15

Comic Reader for web comics. You can start off with my comic list.

Word Processing and Typography

Price: Free

An extremely powerful, yet Mac-like, text editor. TextWrangler would be a bargin at $50. I use it for everything from plain text, to HTML, to TeX, to coding Python and Java. It's integration with the unix command line is phenomenal.

Price: Free

An excellent front end and editor for the TeX typesetting system.

Font Explorer X
Price: Free

An unbelievably good app for managing, previewing, and purchasing fonts. What Font Book wishes it could be.

Equation Editor
Price: Free

typesets TeX equations to PDF for figures and presentations. Should work with Omnigraffle and Keynote, via LinkBack.


Price: $35

An excellent image editing application. Understands dozens of formats.

Price: Free

A quicktime component for playing all sorts of MPEG variants, including AVI-based formats like DIVX.

Flip4Mac Windows Media Components
Price: Free

A quicktime component for playing all sorts of Windows Media files.

Price: $60

An excellent diagramming tool.

Price: $15

A "Photo triage" app designed to speed up the task of deciding which of the photos on your camera you actually want to keep. I use this between taking pictures and organizing in iPhoto.

Price: $10

Takes a pair of icons or images and converts them into a single MacOS X icon. Great for creating custom folder or dock icons.

Remote Access

Price: Free

Server for remote graphical logins via VNC.

Chicken of the VNC
Price: Free

Client for remote graphical logins via VNC.

Remote Desktop Client
Price: Free

Client for remote graphical logins to Windows XP Pro machines.

System Utilities and Enhancements

LiteSwitch X
Price: $15

It looks pretty much like the app switcher of 10.3 and beyond, but has a number of nice features that aren't available with the built-in switcher.

Price: Free

Exposes many useful, but hidden, system settings.

Price: $28

A functional and reliable disk cloning tool

Price: Free

Makes the keyboard shortcuts of services immediately available after launching applications.

Personal Productivity


It would take pages to describe everything that QuickSilver can do. I use it primarily as an app launcher.


A very powerful outlining tool. I use it to organize thoughts, keep track of tasks, and write papers.


An interesting and useful approach to repetitive task management.


A wrist break reminder that doesn't suck. Knows when you're typing, for starters.

UNIX and X Windows

Price: Free

A package manager for open-source UNIX software

Price: Free

A GUI front end for cron.

Price: Free

A GUI front end for scp and ssh tunnelling.

More Comprehensive Software Listings

Mac OS X Apps

An easy to navigate site with a comprehensive listing.

For when you need to run some software from one of the other platforms.


The standard for software updates.

Please send comments or questions to Nick Matsakis