14 Applications to Make Your OSX Installation Better

I really get a kick out of trying out new software, even if it ends up being something I don’t like or can’t find a big use for – I try at least a couple different wares out each month to see what they’re all about and there are a few that make the cut and end up being a permanent part of my computer set up. I thought I’d share with you some of the wares that I use regularly, some free, some available more than just Mac and some better quality replacements for software that comes stocked on your machine.

VLC Media Player

VLC Player (better than Quicktime Player) This free media player is all I use. I haven’t opened Quicktime in years! VLC plays more file formats and opens faster than Quicktime. VLC is available for Windows, Mac and Linux.

  • Free
  • Better than Quicktime
  • Available for Windows, Mac & Linux

Virtual Box

I know I have mentioned Virtual Box on this blog before, but it really deserves another mention! This software available for free is an alternative to doing a dual install on your computer. You can instead run a 2nd operating system within your native one using this virtual computer. For example, I have a Mac running OSX 10.5, I have an installation of Windows XP on Virtual box – so I am able to open it at any time to use a Windows program without ever leaving OSX! The software is free, but be aware if you would like to run Windows in it you will need to obtain a copy of that.

  • Free
  • Available for Windows, Mac & Linux


This is a Twitter client that runs on AdobAir and is ideal for the serious tweeter. If you are only following your closest 15 friends and you don’t do any hash tagging then this app is going to be more than you need (but you might want to check out Twirl) Tweet Deck allows you to organize your friends into groups, view direct and @messages in a separate panel and has built in features to shorted URLs, upload TwitPics and update your Facebook status without ever opening a new browser tab.

  • Free
  • Available for Windows, Mac & Linux


Now, I am a big fan of Dreamweaver – that is, Dreamweaver as a text editor, I think that for the most part, the code that Dreamweaver creates when you build within the WYSIWYG is atrocious, but if you are versed in markup, Dreamweaver offers some awesome time saving features that have saves me from tasks that could’ve been unbearably tedious in a bare bones text editor. However – sometimes you NEED a simple bare bones text editor. When I just need to do some quick hand coding, instead of opening up Dreamweaver (which is a monster of a program) I pop into TextMate. It’s simple, offers a few bells and whistles, bt for the most part is just a nice straight forward text editor than any web developer will find handy. A single user license is $53 and well worth it! Sorry Windows and Linux users — TextMate is only available on Mac.

  • $53
  • Only for Mac

Song Bird

Now, I’ve only been using Songbird for a  few days, so I am not yet ready to say it is BETTER than iTunes, but it is definitely a great alternative! Songbird offers a lot of the same great features as iTunes, but supports more file types and even have some cool extras that iTunes does NOT offer like tabbed browsing, tour searches for bands in your library, plugin integration with sites like Last.fm, and a bunch more. Plus, it’s icon is WAY cute!

  • Free
  • May be better than iTunes
  • Available for Windows, Mac & Linux


Senuti allows you to rip the media from your iPod onto your computer. This is great if you misplaced the original file or (knock on wood – loose your backup.) It’s only $18, but there is a 30 day trial if you want to use it once for a quick backup of your iPod. To me this is a feature I feel like should b part of iTunes, but I understand why Apple doesn’t agree with me on that.  Sorry Windows and Linux users — Senuti is only available on Mac.

  • $18
  • Only for Mac


This one I have also mentioned before. Screenflow allows you to capture video of your desktop activity and record audio from your computer or from a microphone. I use this to make tutorials for clients and to communicate briefs to developers. The UI is intuitive and sleek and although it is $99, I recommend this above many of the free alternatives for screen video capture that I have tried out. Sorry Windows and Linux users — ScreenFlow is only available on Mac.

  • $99
  • Only for Mac

Name Mangler

Name Mangler is my latest favorite addition to my software arsenal. While the name makes it sound like a German Metal band, what it actually is you will find even more epic! Name mangler performs batch renames on designated files.  This is a must have function for anyone doing web development and I can see it being helpful to print designer, photographers or any one who is looking to clean up messy file names in their image library! Sorry Windows and Linux users — NameMangler is only available on Mac.

  • Free
  • Only for Mac


Another one I only got turned onto recently is Dropbox. This is the hands-down WAY BETTER alternative to yousendit.com. With Dropbox you can share large files without having to deal with email attachments or handing off FTP information. Dropbox creates a directory on your hard drive where you simply drop the files you would like to share, those files get assigned unique urls and you just send out the url to give people the ability to download it, it really is THAT simple! I love it!

  • Free
  • Better than You Send It
  • Available for Windows, Mac & Linux


I’ve used a few FTP clients over the years and Cyberduck is my favorite (much btter than Transmit or Fetch.) It’s sleek, simple and you gotta love that little rubber ducky when he bounces up and down in your dock! Cyberduck offers features like bookmarking file paths, point and click quick launch pages on your server in Firefox (meaning you don’t have to type out the location) Also you can quick launch files in TextMate to make quick code changes live fast. Cyberduck is free, but  sorry Windows and Linux users — Cyberduck is only available on Mac.

  • Free
  • Better than Transmit or Fetch
  • Only for Mac

SMC FanController

This is one of those wares that isnt really essential. In fact, I can’t even tell you exactly why you should be using it, I’ll just let you know what I like it and you can be the judge. Now, my Mac gets frickin’ HOT sometimes and being the worrier that I am, this makes me paranoid sometimes. SMC FanController gives you information on how hot your machine is runnung and at what RPM your internal fan is spinning. It allows you to force the fans speed up or slow down, however — I never use that feature since I figure my computer knows what it’s doing.  So like I said I’m not even sure why FanController is so facinating to me, but it is. For instance, I know that my machine tends to run between 119 to 160 Degrees Fahrenheit. If you enjoy know what your computer inards are up to, you can try this one out.

  • Free
  • Only for Mac


This one seems pretty obvious, I know. Firefox is the best browser for a few reasons, but to me – it’s mainly because of the plugins available to it which make my work in web design much more efficient and enjoyable. If you’re using Safari and don’t work in web design then you may not see what’s so hot about the Fox, but any and all of you out there still rocking Internet Explorer, need to get on board! After many many years of trying to coax my 65+year old mother into making the switch from IE she finally listened earlier this year and said “I couldn’t believe it — the internet is faster and it looks better! Who knew?” Well Mom, I knew and I told you that how many times?!

  • Free
  • Better than whatever browser your using
  • Available for Windows, Mac & Linux

Font Xplorer

Linotype FontXplorer was my pick back in November when a dozen Design/Devs shared their favorite resources. Font Xplorer is a must download if you’re using FontBook to manage your fonts and it is, in my opinion (and may others) BETTER than Suitcase for Font Management. This Font Manager includes integration with the Linotype Foundry Store, so you can purchase and organize your typefaces all within one interface. The newly released Font Xplorer Pro is $79 and has a server version available.

  • $79
  • Better than FontBook and Extensis Suitcase
  • Only for Mac


I should be using this program more than I do, but the sheer fact that I need it is also the reason why I have a hard time using it. AntiRSI is the web designer and internet nerds guard against Repetitive Strain Injury. AntiRSI can be set to custom intervals and will remind you to take keyboard/mouse breaks by fading out your screen and displaying a countdown clock. The only problem with it is that the type of person who really should be using this is also the type of person who will get into the groove on a project and turn AntiRSI OFF so that they can code non-stop for 5 hours.

  • Free
  • Only for Mac


  1. I like how you had VLC Media Player as the first app, I absolutely love it. I know Firefox has a plethora of plugins, but I prefer to use Opera. There’s a typo btw [can you find it? lol]. I’ve heard of ScreenFlow but Name Mangler sounds pretty damn awesome.

    Thanks for the list, this is being bookmarked.

  2. Nice list. I wasn’t aware of VirtualBox. Going to give it a spin here. And I agree, that SongBird icon is a cute one!

  3. Yeah, I gotta go with Screenflick too for making screencasts. It’s amazing and cheap.

  4. Good list – encouraging to note that the really really useful ones are all for Linux as well, and the ones that aren’t have readily available alternatives. Keep up the good posts!

    BTW, Geany on Linux is my favourite text/code editor – fast, sleek, with coding goodies.

  5. I only use Firefox & Textmate out of this list and still have a great workflow. There are better apps then cyberduck, tweedeck and Senuti out there.

  6. Great list. If I had to pick one out of the list that you must have it would def be Dropbox. Sync files between computers, share files…an extremely useful app to stay productive.

  7. Good alternative for ScreenFlow is Jing! I use it for a week now. Upgrade costs only $15 a year. I love it. Screen and Video capture. (Direct Youtube, Flickr, FTP, web upload, etc.)

  8. For Windows users, there is a port of TextMate that I use on a daily basis called e text editor. Being someone who codes custom, bespoke web applications all day, the snippets in e make it so much better than a clunky and expensive program like Dreamweaver.

  9. Crap list – too many Mac only apps. Sorry but many of us don’t run on Macs.

  10. The title of this article is “14 Application That Should Be On EVERY Web Designers [sic] Computer” but the list is full of applications you have only been using for a few days, are not sure why you like them so much, and/or have absolutely nothing to do with web design.

    I enjoyed the list only because it linked to some projects I’ve never heard of, but as far as fulfilling the role the title suggests…failure.

    1. @Neill Horsman SORRY! :) Im only a mac and ubuntu user, so i don’t get the chance to try out as many web applications! I’ll plan a post for good Windows wares and get some input from Windows based web designers!

  11. Great list of must-have apps but just like the previous comment, some of the apps aren’t even related to web design, as the title suggests.

    Anyway, thanks for introducing me to Virtualbox. Will definitely give it a try! :)

  12. I prefer Notepad++ over TextMate. To add to the list, the Opera browser which is very fast and has accessibility options/testing. Also, I don’t think any Mac-only apps should be listed here. I love Mac, but seems unfair.

  13. Re: Screenflow. I’m sure it’s great, but iShowU from Shiny White Box does the exact same thing for much less. My company uses it all the time to do screencaps for tutorials and the such and you can have the program recognize a plugged in microphone, etc. There are 3 different versions depending on your OS and needs- we’ve used the $20 and $30 version and found no reason to jump to the $60.
    If there’s a similar program for PCs that can record in HD resolutions and pixels, I’d love to know about that. We have to use Parallels with Vista and have iShowU running on the mac to get high quality screen captures. Bit of an annoyance.

  14. Great list Ms Liz.

    I’ve been using dropbox from the start and you might be missing out on what I believe is the most fantastic feature.

    I use dropbox as a folder to save all current code/photoshop files. Every time you hit save it keeps a version of the file. So even though it is only showing the single file and one file size, it has a copy of that file for EVERY time you save.

    Instead of writing it all up right now, just read this article.

  15. I’m not agree with your list. Most applications doesn’t something to do with webdesign.

    Hmm, and why Firefox? Safari is the best choice for the webdesigner. Have a look to the ACID3 Test.

    1. @Nachtmeister, yea i had to put in that disclaimer at the start about it really being more about just apps i like.

  16. Adobe AIR is heavy and slow. Webapps should stay in a web browser, in my opinion. Tweetie is a better alternative on OS X.

    If you need an iPod manager try Floola: it’s donationware and for all platforms.

    Songbird is nice but needs to be polished: it’s very heavy and eats too much ram.

    A cheaper alternative to Font Xplorer is Fontcase

  17. Hey, nice list. I think I use most of them.
    But I siwtched from Firefox to Safari because Firefox breaked down to often. And I’m very happy with the new development features in Safari. ;)

  18. Nice list. I hadn’t seen Name Mangler before, will check that out.

    I disagree on Firefox though, and I do web design. I always find that Firefox is full of bloat (esp. with a lot of plugins). I can see why it’s useful, and for specific tasks I will use it, but I am currently running Safari 4 beta, and it’s so much faster. Plus there are some plugins you can get for Safari which make it extra scrumptious.

  19. @twe4ked: SMC allows you to change the speed of the fan, iStat only read temperature and speed, I think…

  20. Thanks for the attempt, but I appreciate the fact that a majority of these apps are only available for mac. How…considerate.

  21. Thanks! This is a great list, and I am looking forward to checking out some of the ones I haven’t heard of before.

  22. a better ftp client is FireFTP- I’ve used CyberDuck and didn’t like it anywhere near as much as FireFTP

  23. An alternative that I much prefer to SMC FanController is iCyclone (mac-only; donation-ware)

    I’m going to have to give AntiRSI a try, but an alternative that I like is TimeOut (mac-only; donation-ware)

  24. hey.. nice article and i totally agree on vlc. however, what with that smc fan control app and all.. if u’re using it only for information, you might actually wanna try the dashboard.app iStat Pro (for free)

    about cyberduck.. definitely one of the best ftp clients for os x, but then again i recently found that ftp ain’t half as cool as ftpFS.. you’ll need macfuse from google code (which you might already have for ntfs and/or ext drives, if not.. get it here: http://code.google.com/p/macfuse/ ) and then you’ll need macfusion (get it at: http://www.macfusionapp.org/ ) and you’re free to actually mount your ftp sessions to your box.. they’ll be totally finder-integrated and everything. that’s even greater than standard ftp.

    anyway, gotta run.. read you later, uni

    p.s.: last but not least in an article about must have os x apps.. you definitely do need to have quicksilver ( http://blacktree.com/projects/quicksilver.html ), imho.

  25. I’ve been using AntiRSI for quite a while now and it has drastically reduced eye strain, wrist pain, and back pain. I also have a problem using it though because it gets annoying. But, the pain that I avoid by using it is more than well worth the annoyance.

  26. I think Transmit is a much better FTP client than Cyberduck. It crashes less (actually I’ve never had Transmit crash), faster, easier to use, clean looking, the list goes on.

    Sure, it’s not free, but it’s worth more than it’s price tag.

  27. “14 Application That Should Be On EVERY Web Designers Computer” but only a few of them have a cross platform feature. And apps such as video player, ipod ripper and screen recorder are definitely not in a must have category for even ANY, not EVERY, designer/developer. My poing – post titles as well as key aspects of the post should be more accurate and thought out.

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