My Favorite Mac Applications

Ray Wenderlich

I always enjoy when a fellow developer shares their favorite Mac applications in a blog post, because invariably I find something cool that I hadn’t known about before. So I’m going to join the ranks and mention a few of the applications I find especially useful!


Quicksilver Screenshot

Quicksilver is a free application (currently in beta) that makes it easy to run various commands with just a few keystrokes. For example, you hit a button to bring up Quicksilver, and start typing to select the command you want to do (such as opening an app, playing a song, taking a picture, playing an email, you name it).

Even though the sky’s the limit with what you can do with Quicksilver, currently I mainly use it just to launch applications quickly and easily. I like keeping my dock empty except for running processes, so this helps me reduce the clutter a lot.


Evernote Screenshot

Evernote helps you keep track of your notes “in the cloud.” But unlike other options such as Google Documents, Evernote provides a client for almost every platform – Mac, Windows, iPhone, and more. I use this app to jot down ideas I have, solutions to technical issues I run across, and even keep track of my D&D campaign planning :] The reason I like it is when I’m keeping notes like this I really want to be able to access them anywhere easily – but also edit them as quickly as possible in a native environment.

The only drawback to Evernote is I’ve personally experienced a lot of bugs when inserting formatted text into the Mac client’s editor – it often garbles the formatting after I save and load notes that have different fonts, bolding, bullets, etc. But hey they’re still working on it, I’m sure it will improve over time!


AppViz Screenshot

If you’re an iPhone developer, you know how annoying it is to pull down the daily sales data from iTunes Connect, and how hard it is to make sense of the numbers manually. AppViz is an awesome program that pulls down the sales data and converts it into beautiful charts and graphs. You can even keep track of rankings in the App store through the tool. It costs $30 but it is worth the price.


PixelStick Screenshot

PixelStick is a little app that brings a resizable ruler to the foreground that you can move to measure anything on your screen and see how wide/tall it is. This is incredibly useful when trying to see how much space you have on a web site, measuring elements on the iPhone simulator, and much more. Love this thing!


Coda Screenshot

Coda is a very cool editor for web sites by the creators of Transmit. The killer feature is the FTP client is built right into the editor, which makes it easy to upload local files to your web site. It even allows remote editing, which I’ve found incredibly useful while tweaking styles for this site. Another feature I really like about Coda is that you can set up various “sites” you work when you pick them all of your directory and FTP settings come with it.

All in all, Coda is very easy (and even fun) to use, and although it costs $99, I think it’s worth the price.


NetNewsWire Screenshot

NetNewsWire is my RSS reader of choice. It’s quick and easy to use, and the best part about it is it synchronizes seamlessly with Google Reader. This means that I can easily see my subscriptions in Google Reader when I’m away for my computer, and even made migrating my subscriptions when I recently upgraded my Mac Mini a breeze.

Password Generator

PasswordGenerator Screenshot

Password Generator is a simple little app that generates random passwords for you. It’s simple but handy and makes it much easier to make a great password.


Audacity Screenshot

Like I mentioned in my article on audio converting and recording, Audacity is a great open source program for recording and tweaking audio that is a must have for developers.


Accessorizer Screenshot

Last but not least, there’s Accessorizer. If you’re a Cocoa developer, you know how annoying it can be to write the @property, @synthesize, and dealloc statements after the 10,000th time you’ve done so. This tool auto-generates the appropriate statements for you based on the member variable declarations, which can end up saving a lot of time.

Note that Accessorizer costs $15. If you’re looking for something not quite as powerful but free, Matt Gallagher from Cocoa with Love has written a free Xcode user script that generates properties from instance variables.


FileMerge Screenshot

FileMerge actually comes with the XCode development tools and can be found under \Developer\Applications\Utilities\FileMerge, but I just found out about this tool recently so thought I’d mention it. FileMerge is a full featured visual diff utility for the Mac, and works great when you want to compare files or directories for differences.

What about Twitter?

You may notice a lack of a Twitter client on the list – I prefer to use HootSuite for Twitter, but that is a web app so I won’t go into detail about that here except to say that it pwns :]

What About You?

Do you have any favorite Mac applications that I haven’t mentioned? Chime in below!

Ray Wenderlich

Ray is part of a great team - the team, a group of over 100 developers and editors from across the world. He and the rest of the team are passionate both about making apps and teaching others the techniques to make them.

When Ray’s not programming, he’s probably playing video games, role playing games, or board games.

User Comments


  • I love Namely. The easiest, fastes app launcher I've found.
    Novamind for mind maping
    Things to keep track of all my projects in a GTD way.
    and Google Chrome
  • I use two all the time:

    1Password - for saving all my passwords, wallet, software registrations etc. It syncs with my iOS devices so I always have it all with me.

    Pixelmator - for when you can't afford or don't want Adobe products this is a great substitute for photoshop and more than capable of producing iOS UI components.
  • I have another new favourite: NSLogger - see github:

    If you currently use NSLog to output debug messages you need to consider switching to this right away. It takes very little effort to install. When you have done it you get logging of messages, images, chunks of memory etc. all outside Xcode. You get easy macros that can turn various parts of your debugging output on and off, and you get to direct your output by facility and importance just like syslogd.

    I heard about this yesterday at Swipe Conference in Melbourne. This morning I converted a project to use it in about 15 minutes! Highly recommended for every developer.
  • Thx for the tips! I need a password manager actually, maybe I'll pick up 1Password :]
  • DitialColor Meter is a good one to find the color in simulator etc.
  • Hate to say it, and a little off-topic, but my favorite Mac application at the moment is Parallels. I have to use Windows for school (in order to use Visual Studio), and it saved me from actually having to buy a P.C. (horrors!). Sure, I could use BootCamp, but Parallels has a feature set that makes it worth the money IMO. It just works...and I can run Windows on one monitor, Mac OS on the other, and start or stop Windows as needed. No need to boot into one or the other. It's a perfect solution for me.

    More on topic, PaintCode has been one of my best purchases. It's extremely easy to use, and replacing pre-rendered images with code keeps the bundle size down and makes it so much easier to create dynamic controls. With the flatness and de-emphasis on heavy design in iOS7, you can probably make most of your visual assets these days in PaintCode.

    Balsamiq Mockups has been an awesome tool to help flesh out ideas, both for my own projects and with clients. Highly recommended.

    Kaleidoscope is an invaluable diff that I can't do without, when working collaboratively. Makes fixing merge conflicts a breeze.

    TextWrangler for writing scripts or any sort of coding for which I don't need/want an IDE, or for any intensive text-processing tasks, or for opening files in some weird old format. GREP search-and-replace can save hours and hours of painstaking editing.
  • Soulver - It's like a calculator / notepad which is just useful as hell, a programmers best friend

    It is especially useful if you need to run frequent calculations based on foreign currencies, pre-calculate your months earnings by getting the latest conversion rates automatically.
  • Reveal was an app I was recently introduced to that was extremely useful. It's amazing for debugging issues with view hierarchies, or testing how a change to the UI would look without rebuilding the app.
  • Reveal is an awesome app. It may be the best third-party developer app of all time, in fact.

    I work for Itty Bitty Apps these days - but that has nothing to do with how much I love Reveal. Most of the time I don't get to work on Reveal itself but on apps for other people, and Reveal gets used constantly. When you have a big code base and you often need to know "what is that view?", Reveal saves so much time. We've had feedback from many developers with big, successful apps you would have heard of, and they've told us that Reveal showed them problems they never knew they had. Once you have used it there is no going back, it's as big a difference as moving away from manual memory management.
  • I'm relatively new to the MAC world, so my opinions my not carry as much weight. I'm also very frugal :) (*AHEM*cheap*AHEM*)

    TextWrangler for an awfully nice, free, fairly robust and feature-rich text editor. I know long-time Mac fans will definitely use BBEdit in many cases, but TextWrangler had a great price ($0) for a Mac-newbie to get used to it.

    Visual JSON - again, I'm sure long-time Mac/iOS devs have better tools that they prefer, but Visual JSON is the same price as TextWrangler (free) It also has a nice enough interface to quickly test your backend/server APIs with your URL calls.

    Photoshop - yeah I know, it's not free, but it's always been a work took and worth the cost to a business, and honestly, I think the new cloud pricing makes it terribly affordable for just about anybody doing this kind of stuff for work. It's a daily (sometimes all-day) app for me since version 3, and I've tried nearly every alternative since then - I keep coming back to Photoshop. (If I were brand new to that level of graphic-editing needs, I might be able to go a different direction, but my long-term knowledge and personal preference help me justify the cost - that is, I'm just that much better/quicker with PS)

    LastPass - for years (decades technically) I swore I would never use (didn't need) a password manager. I scoffed at those tools and those who used them. As my client base expanded, not only the sheer number of sites/servers/passwords ballooned, but also the need to remain secure. The secure password generation feature helps. The 2-factor authentication is a must. I'm a new convert and big fan of this one.
  • i think u already know this, i mean Sublime Text. The perfect text editor for all

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