60 Open Source and Free Mac Apps

We regularly feature commercial software on AppStorm, so decided it was time to bring a roundup of completely free (and often open source) apps to your attention. If you’re on a budget, you’ll be pleased to know that a variety of great OS X software is available free.

Applications are broken down into various categories, with each one containing a ‘featured’ app and several other free solutions. I hope you find something useful, and do let me know if your favorite freeware app isn’t on the list!

Web Browsers




There’s a reason why Firefox has stormed ahead over the past few years to take such a large share of the browser market. It’s fast, completely free, and works on any platform available.

A variety of different extensions are available, taking the functionality of the browser far beyond the basics. Whilst lacking the scorching speed of the latest Safari beta, it offers a brilliant alternative if you’re looking for a free, open source browser.

  • Camino – A good looking Mac-styled browser, built on the Firefox engine.
  • Safari – The default browser included with OS X, with a bunch of new features in the latest release.
  • Opera – A powerful browser with a few new interesting features; speed dial, search shortcuts, and a tab trash can.
  • Omniweb – Taking a different approach, and assisting you with online research
  • Fluid – A site specific browser, allowing you create a separate app for various websites.

Email & Communication




Developed by the same people behind Firefox, Thunderbird is a worthy alternative to Mail.app on the Mac. It has a lovely interface, with in-built junk filtering and anti-phishing support.

With additions in the new version, it’s easier to prioritize and find your important email with tags. Extensions also work well, allowing various extra features to be added.

  • Adium X – The ultimate instant messaging client
  • Skype – For free computer-to-computer calls, and great video conferencing
  • Eudora – A free email client. Great functionality, but a little dated.
  • Colloquy – IRC in Mac style.
  • Revolver – A free business/email package
  • WideMail – Extend mail with a completely different view





Previously a commercial application, NetNewsWire is now completely free. It offers a bunch of advanced features, and an easy way to keep feeds in sync across different devices.

The app interacts well with a variety of other desktop applications for extra functionality.

  • NewsFire – A stylish RSS reader
  • Vienna – Providing features comparable to commercial newsreaders for free.
  • Shrook – A next-generation news reader
  • RSSOwl – Filtering, labels and completely cross platform
  • Dashboard RSS Reader – Keep RSS information easily accessible via Dashboard





A relatively new entrant to the Twitter client market, Nambu offers a mail-like interface for Twitter messages. Easily managing several accounts, it has the makings of a solid client.

It’s completely free, and will soon support its own in-built URL shortening and picture hosting services.

  • TweetDeck – Multi paned browsing, and very popular
  • Twitteriffic – The classic Twitter client, with a great UI
  • Twhirl – Friendly, colorful, and great multiple account support
  • EventBox – For Twitter, and a bunch of other social media networks
  • Tweetr – Easy file sharing and webcam support

Music & Audio




Quickly making a name for itself as a competitor to Last.fm, Spotify allows you to stream almost any song you can imagine via the internet. Access is free, though you’ll need to listen to a short advertisement every few songs.

I’m still fond of owning my own music, but Spotify compliments iTunes excellently.

  • Songbird – A non-proprietary, cross platform, extensible tool with a great interface
  • iTunes – The de-facto music player for OS X, Windows and iPod users
  • Audion 3 – Now discontinued, but worth checking out
  • Juice – A quality app for browsing and downloading podcasts
  • Audacity – For editing and converting audio files





If you need the ability to play absolutely any video format, VLC is for you. It’s as versatile as a swiss army knife, and offers a brilliant alternative to QuickTime.

  • Miro – Aiming to provide easily accessible, fully intergrated internet video
  • Flip4Mac WMV – For enabling WMV videos in QuickTime
  • Handbrake – The ultimate tool for converting video between formats
  • Perian – An open source QuickTime component that adds native support for many popular video formats
  • DivX Player – A simple, free player for DivX files.





Recently featured in our photo client roundup, Picasa is designed and owned by Google. It offers a bunch of great features, and is also capable of sharing photos online.

If you’re not a fan of iPhoto, Picasa has an equally impressive interface, a solid way to organize photos, and various editing tools.

  • iPhoto – The in-built photo app on OS X, with face recognition and geo-tagging support.
  • Gimp – A free, cross platform photo editor.
  • Seashore – Built on GIMP, with a slightly different user interface
  • Flickr Uploader – A simple and free solution for uploading Flickr photos
  • JetPhoto – Feature-rich and easy-to-use digital photo software

File Sharing & FTP




Transmission is a fast, easy, and free multi-platform BitTorrent client. It’s fast, incredibly simple, and offers the easiest experience I’ve ever seen for dealing with torrent files.

Not enough? How about encryption, a web-based interface, peer exchange, and UPnP and NAT-PMP port forwarding?

  • Cyberduck – A free alternative to commercial FTP applications
  • Filezilla – Great for accessing FTP servers, and completely cross-platform
  • Acquisition – In-built torrent searching and integration with iTunes
  • Tomato Torrent – A slightly dated but perfectly functional torrent manager

Office & Text Editing

Open Office

Open Office


OpenOffice is a worthy alternative to Microsoft Office, and comes at a far more attractive price. It supports word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics and databases.

It works on all platforms, and stores files in an international open standard format.

  • TextWrangler – A great, free, code editor for OS X
  • Bean – A small, easy-to-use rich text processor
  • AbiWord – A full featured, open source alternative to Open Office
  • Smultron – Good looking, and great for web programming, script editing, making a to do list etc.
  • jEdit – Aimed at technical users, an editor specifically for programming





A unified, extensible interface for working with applications, contacts, music, and other data. Quicksilver is a powerful shortcut tool, which allows you to manipulate files and work with applications – all without needing to open them.

Confused? I was at first! Read more about the app to find out exactly what it’s capable of.

  • Growl – A great system-wide notification system
  • Disk Inventory X – For viewing a graphical representation of what’s eating up your hard drive
  • AppCleaner – Allows you to remove any trace of an application
  • Smart Reporter – Be notified if your hard drive seems likely to fail
  • FuzzyClock – A fun and slightly less formal way to display the time in your menu bar

Please Share!

Whilst 60 applications may sound like a lot, we’ve only touched the surface of what’s available for OS X. If this post has missed a tool which you regularly use, please let me know via the comments. Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy a new budget-conscious Mac experience!


Add Yours
  • Well, it’s a good list, but not all of them are free. Eventbox, iPhoto (part of iLife) and Acquisition are not free (in the latter the functions are crippled if not payed).

    • Aqcuisition is free. Acquisition Pro is not. :-P

    • oo my bad ;) (I missed this bit)–> “(in the latter the functions are crippled if not payed)”

  • Would love to share my little gmail notification client: http://ashchan.com/projects/gmail-notifr, which makes getting gmail notification more productive.

    • Is there a way to have Gmail Notifr’s popup menu time adjusted?

  • I recommend mentioning Boxee some time.

    • I agree. It may still be in alpha, but it’s very stable and very usable.

      I would also like to suggest a mac-specific verison of MPlayer I’ve been using which is far better than VLC (VLC has a hard time using layered SSA/ASS subtitles). http://mplayerosx.sttz.ch/

      • Movist is a great alternative to MPlayer, as well.

    • Especially lately, Plex is far more stable and seems to use less system resources.

  • FireFTP is a fantastic and free extension for Firefox that really should be on this list. I use it daily and from within my browser which is perfect.

    • Agree – FireFTP is great

    • I agree too! its awesome. Why would anyone need a separate app for ftp, while the mozilla can do it?

  • You missed the best *new* mail option. Postbox is free and it totally rocks! http://www.postbox-inc.com/ It’s definitely worth being in the email/communication list.

    • nice looking app, Postbox.


    • Postbox is definately the best mail client out there at the moment. Its thread view trumps that of Thunderbird, and overall it has a more Mac look to it. I was a faithful to Mail.app but Postbox took me over and still puts Thunderbird to shame on many levels.

      • I agree on that. Postbox rocks!

    • Postbox, sadly, is no longer free.

  • Great list David. I use many of these. I’m kind of surprised you missed NeoOffice though. It’s just as full featured as OpenOffice, is native to OS X (and doesn’t need X11). http://www.neooffice.org/

    • Agreed. I love NeoOffice.

    • OpenOffice 3.0 is native, and doesn’t require X11.

    • I dig NeoOffice as well. Great app, and it seems to be a little more polished than OO.org

      • Also, NeoOffice 3.0 correctly handles Hebrew (right-to-left), whereas OpenOffice.org 3.0 does not, nor does the developer version of OO.org 3.1.

      • Just a note: NeoOffice 3.1.1 has been solid again through several updates.

        And OpenOffice.org 3.2 finally gets the Hebrew direction correct for the Mac (Windows and Linux never had problems).

  • Nice list. Also some other basics:

    Adobe (Acrobat) Reader (preview screws up PDFs too often)
    Freemind for mindmapping
    Chicken of the VNC for remote administration
    Adium instant messsanger
    muCommander as an improved file manager and emergency FTP client

  • AppFresh http://metaquark.de/appfresh/
    #1, that’s n u m b e r ONE at iusethis http://osx.iusethis.com/top

    flickery http://www.eternalstorms.at/
    Super clean alternative to Flickr Uploadr

    MacTracker http://www.mactracker.ca/
    Incredibly complete virtual coffee-table book about every Mac ever made

    Secrets http://secrets.blacktree.com/
    An already vast, growing database of hidden OSX features in a PrefPane, from the makers of QuickSilver.

    Stainless http://www.stainlessapp.com/
    Can’t wait for Google Chrome?

    Max http://sbooth.org/Max/
    Rip audio CD’s using a plethora of codecs and options, including FLAC, ogg, CDParanoia, & EAC.

    GrandPerspective http://grandperspectiv.sourceforge.net/
    That Apple doesn’t put something like this in the Utilities folder at least, is an insult.

    Hardware Growler http://growl.info/documentation/hardwaregrowler.php
    Power user 101. The most useful Growl companion, hands down. Tunes you in to real-time hardware activity.

    iStat menus http://islayer.com/apps/istatmenus/
    Power user 102 Monitor things such as the CPU temp and network activity in your menu bar.

    Xbench http://www.xbench.com/
    Flex your machine’s muscles with the rest of the world’s.

    KisMAC http://kismac.macpirate.ch/
    MacTheRipper http://osx.iusethis.com/app/mactheripper3

    Evernote http://www.evernote.com/about/download/
    Scribd Desktop Uploader http://www.scribd.com/tools/uploader

    • Nice list, dude!

      • +1. Downloading a few right now.

  • BTW Nambu has for several versions supported it’s own url shortening service. Very good client, moving very quickly in development.

    Another vote for Postbox as the best email option. Very Impressed.

    OnyX for triggering all the maintenance scripts on your Mac, and so much more. Been around a good while too.

    KompoZer for web design.

  • Nice post!

  • Twitterific isn’t free.

    • with ads, it is

      • With ads it is free only for iPhone/iPod touch.
        Desktop version will say you goodbye withour registration

  • A nice list. But for a better website that lists real opensource and free applications for Mac: http://www.opensourcemac.org/

    Regarding Postbox, I think this is a Beta application currently and is soon to be a commercial application when it goes final.

    For FTP software, Cyberduck is probably as good as it gets for free.

  • Twitter client: DestroyTwitter

  • damn, must give a try on Quicksilver oO

  • great list but acquisition isn’t freeware..

  • iPhoto, Picasa, iTunes… since when are these open-source?

  • Plex is a greate mediacenter for mac.

  • For the File Sharing/FTP category, I’d have to add Vuze:


    It’s a bit more complex than Transmission, but it has the ability to encrypt transfers. For what reason, I don’t know. *ahem* *cough*

  • You missed out some of the best Twitter clients.


    Good list, though..

    • yes tweetie +1 :)

  • I don’t mean to be negative but +/- half of those apps are cross platform, not at all Mac specific. And a significant # of them are not even close to open source.

  • Some of my favorites (all are free, but not all OSS):

    * Butler as a QS alternative. I find it faster than QS and it has a built-in multi-level clipboard. It’s also great for assigning global shortcuts. http://www.manytricks.com/butler/
    * Shadow (multi-level clipboard in case you don’t use Butler). (http://www.theescapers.com/shadow/)
    * GPGMail (PGP encryption for Mail.app)
    * MainUnreadMenu (http://www.loganrockmore.com/MailUnreadMenu/). My favorite way to see if I have new mail and how many unread (with Mail.app).
    * Sidenote for note-taking (http://www.chatelp.org/?p=50). (An alternative is Notational Velocity: http://notational.net/, or VoodooPad Lite http://flyingmeat.com/voodoopad/voodoopadlite.html)
    * SpotInside (spotlight search but with additional features): http://www.oneriver.jp/SpotInside/index_e.html
    * Micon (change your file icons. Not exactly CandyBar, but free :-) http://www.filewell.com/micon/)
    * ImageWell for simple image processing, cropping, converting, touching up. (http://xtralean.com/IWOverview.html)
    * Cocoalicious, for posting to and managing delicious account. (http://www.scifihifi.com/cocoalicious/)
    * CoRD for remoting into Windows machines. (http://cord.sourceforge.net/)
    * CronniX (easily manage your cron jobs).
    * Chmox for reading CHM files. (http://chmox.sourceforge.net/)
    * ClamXav for virus control. (http://www.clamxav.com/)
    * SecureFiles for creating encrypted volumes. (Yes, I know you could just do this with DiskUtility, but this has a couple more options.) (http://mac-free.com/download/SecureFiles.html)
    * CarbonCopyCloner. Great drive clone/backup system (though I personally prefer a simple rsync script) http://www.bombich.com/software/ccc.html.

    Not mac-specific, but MacPorts (gives you tons of Unix OSS ported to mac, like GnuCash (http://wiki.gnucash.org/wiki/MacOSXInstallation), an excellent free money-manager. You can use Porticus (http://porticus.alittledrop.com/index.html), which is Mac-specific, to manage your ports.

  • Spotify is not (yet?) free in my country (Italy), there’s only the commercial version

  • One of my favorites for running multiple OS’s right from the OS X desktop is Virtual Box from Sun Microsystems. It’s an open source virtualization desktop program. I’ve run Windows XP and Ubuntu from it already. I like it better than Parallels.

  • Vox is a nice little audio player (which is in active development, unlike ye olde Audion):


    Handy for just taking a quick listen to something.

    • Very cool! I hope they release a library based version soon.

  • Fluke http://blowintopieces.com/fluke/
    Adds FLAC functionality to iTunes

    Poisoned http://gottsilla.net/
    OpenFT, Fasttrack, Gnutella, Ares all rolled into one. Donkey P2P coming in the works. WAY better than LimeWire.

  • http://ragingmenace.com/software/menumeters/

    menu meters rocks too – really simple but great for troubleshooting!

  • Great list . . . thanks for sharing. I’m always looking for new, useful open source mac apps, and I found a few new ones thanks to the post.

  • Found great software that has a fine minimal design at http://destroytoday.com. Destroyflicker, Destroytwitter as well as a cool calender screensaver are available for free.
    Destroyflicker is an award winning App.

  • Twitter client – Pwitter http://wiki.github.com/koroshiya1/pwitter
    File Transfer – uTorrent http://www.utorrent.com/
    iDrive – Data backup http://www.idrive.com/
    Hotspot Shield – VPN for those of us who don’t have it http://www.hotspotshield.com/

    http://hackthemac.blogspot.com/2009/01/must-have-items-for-any-macbook-owner.html for more of the same.

    • uTorrent is a something awesome, I agree on that :)

  • What about a bit of Fun?, Boxer: http://boxerapp.com is a great DOS emulator for running old abandoned DOS games. There is also OpenTTD: http://www.openttd.org which is an open source version of Transport Tycoon Deluxe. Oh, and another free photo app is iLovePhotos: http://ilovephotos.com

  • Nice List! I recommend Movist (video player) http://code.google.com/p/movist/

  • You’re missing my favorite little app., called SmallDVD:


    It allows one to create a simple DVD with a static menu. SmallDVD will convert most any mpeg encoded video file to a layered mpeg-2 file. Just create your menu background, load it, load your video, position the buttons, and you’re good to go.

  • Thanks for the nice list!

  • This is good. Really good.

  • Tweetie is missing from the Twitter section :) http://www.atebits.com/tweetie-mac

  • Nice list – I’m a sucker for Mac apps!

  • For screenwriters and film producers: Celt X, a great tool!

  • This is great. But Twitteriffic is not free.

  • More Mac freeware app reviews are at http://www.macfreewarereviews.com – there are some good apps there.

  • iPhoto isn’t free.

  • SABnzbd+ is a great Usenet reader.. Great tool for those involved in newsgroups.

  • Well, the 3D software for dummies is Sketchup from Google labs.

  • We can’t miss out Disk Utility ,which can help us backup dvd movies free and easily.

  • No mention of LaTeX typesetting software like TeXShop?

  • I’m highly surprised to not see Tweetie there? Surely that should be the “best” Tweetie app on the list?

  • great list but acquisition isn’t freeware..

  • Great list! Will also be trying our evernote and some of the other from the comments.

  • LBackup is great if you are a system administrator.

  • It’s really great listing and useful.

  • FluidTunes is a great app if you like to control iTunes without going into iTunes. It looks awesome too! You wave our hands over “buttons” on the screen to navigate through your music, and play and stop it as well.

  • I am just not realizing that people make open sourced Mac desktop apps. Anytime I hear open sourced I get excited.

  • How about Dropbox – free with 2GB online storage – synced across multiple computers and op. systems, inlcudes Public Folder and shareable folders.

  • Ok i have a old IMac and i need a App the will clean all the old stuff off it

  • Another great free RSS reader for the Mac is Gruml. Missed on it on the list !

  • Thanks for sharing dear.
    JCpenny Credit Card

  • Some great advice on apps, i’ve made a list of about 10 i’m gonna get myself, should be handy for all sorts of stuff. Cheers.


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  • MSI laptops look pretty nice, but I’m not too loving of the low res screens. I dont mind on a smaller format, but when you’re at 15″ or higher, I don’t think XGA and WXGA are the way to go.

  • when can I expect to see more articles about this one.

  • I thank you so much for all this insight here.

  • can you tell me when this might happen again.. or will it be soon

  • I loved it when I saw this last

  • can you tell me if they are ever coming back through town

  • I can’t believe this has been going on for so long

  • it’s a crime that they tried to do this stuff to you guys

  • can you tell me more about this stuff some time

  • Alfred. Have to have Alfred in there

  • “NewsFire” is no longer free. it should be removed from the list.

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  • Thanks for the great list of free apps i will bw sure to check back soon

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  • Hi, thanks for all..

  • List is old a bit but thank you anyway! Now you should write some words about best free apps for iPhone 4S.

  • Yes this list is a bit old but is very useful. I would like to point out that it would be better to use Chrome rather than Firefox on Mac!

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