An open source application is a piece of software for which the source code is available and in the public domain. Developers are able to download the code and modify, contribute and change it to suit their needs. This means businesses can ‘tweak’ software according to their needs and individuals can play around with code, add new features and explore how software works. Open source software is also the foundation to many of today’s largest, most renowned software packages – without open source software we might not have the amazing, mind-blowing applications and software packages we use everyday.
In light of this, I have compiled a list of 30 of the best open source applications for Mac. I encourage you to download and have a play with each and, where possible, replace over-priced commercial software.
Adium is a fantastic application for those who use instant messaging services such as AIM, MSN, Yahoo and Gmail. In my opinion, Adium is one of the best IM clients out there and if you use one of the supported services, I’d definitely recommend that you try it out – it features a quick set up, a nice, usable interface that you’re able to customize and it also supports file transfers.
Disk Inventory X allows you to graphically see the contents of your hard drive and also allows you to see what files are taking up the most space. The interface is somewhat simplistic but do not mistake this for a lack features, the application is feature-rich and has recently been updated to work with OS X Lion. It works really well if you want to discover any files that are eating up too much room on your hard drive.
Celestia is a fun, educational application that allows you to explore the universe right from your computer. Celestia gives you to ability to see information of pre-indexed objects and data and it takes data from the European Space Agency, including imagery, telemetry and positional data for objects.
Stellarium is another amazingly fun and interesting planetarium that allows you to explore the skies and beyond. It allows you to see a visual representation of what you’d see in the sky whether you’re using binoculars, telescopes or your naked eye.
Seashore is a popular application that allows you to edit images. It also supports some sophisticated features such gradients, textures and anti-aliasing for both text and brush strokes. The developer’s specifically state that it’s not Seashore’s intention to replace professional image editors but to be a companion for the average, every day editor but it has a full Cocoa user interface that makes up for what it lacks in the industrial standard.
Pixen is an application that is designed and developed to meet the needs of pixel artists. Pixen has the ability to actually create frame-by-frame animations that would allow you to then export the animation as a GIF. Pixen also has a nice, unique colour-management system and for that reason, I’d recommend you check it out.
iStumber is a utility that allows you to see the WiFi networks around you as well as discover other connections such as Bluetooth and Airport networks. This is great if you’re a curious WiFi-snoop or if you travel between different wireless networks frequently. iStumbler also gives you the ability to diagnose any network-related problems and it also gives you a reading that shows you a signal reading which could help you better optimize your network. The interface is simplistic yet functional.
HandBrake is a popular open source application that allows you convert videos. It gives you the convenience of having a digital copy of your movies and TV shows, and comes with a lot of settings/configurations that give you the opportunity to fine-tune the ripping process. HandBrake also includes a handful of presets, meaning you’re able to convert your movies and videos perfectly for your specific device.
Inkscape is a vector-based graphics application and a decent alternative to Adobe Illustrator with many high-end features. The application’s interface is clean and the tools are easily accessible. If your pockets aren’t deep enough to buy CS6, you might want to check this app out.
Cyberduck is a great FTP client that supports FTP, SFTP, WebDav, Cloud Files and many more protocols. It’s widely considered to be the best free FTP client for the Mac. The interface is very easy to use and the application features things like bookmarking and editing making this an FTP client that’s very credible for professional use. The application also features an extensive array of preferences and is highly customizable.
Jext is a handy little text editor that allows you to edit a whole array of different files, from HTML to Java. Unfortunately, the interface is quite out-dated. However, for a free, open source application, it’s more or less up the scratch. You get advanced features such as syntax-highlighting and coloring as well as line numbers so it’s probably just fine for small everyday uses.
Skim is a powerful PDF application similar Adobe Acrobat. It allows you to add notes to PDFs, crop, highlight important text, bookmark, magnify a PDF document and a whole host of other features. If you want to support a small, open source application, you could definitely replace Adobe Acrobat with Skim.
MAMP is a powerful application that allows you to start and stop servers and accompanies MySQL, PHP and Apache on your Mac. The app goes far and beyond Apple’s default Apache configuration, so if you want to run WordPress or on your local machine, MAMP is a must and the set-up and configuration is very simple and painless. MAMP also comes in two different versions: MAMP (free and open source) and MAMP Pro ($50).
AppleJack is essentially a troubleshooting application that allows you to troubleshoot your computer. What’s nice is that it doesn’t even require a GUI to function. Although this application cannot magically fix hardware problems, it’s great for any software problems that you encounter and if you’re unable to boot into your OS, then you can run the command-line interface that’s included within the application.
GIMP is a great image editing application that includes a handful of useful features that allow you to edit your image. GIMP is a rival to Photoshop and features all the high-end graphic tools that beginners need. GIMP’s interface, however, can be rather tedious. But once you’ve gotten past the where-is-everything-stage then you’re sure to be editing pictures in a jiffy!
RSSOwl is a functional RSS reader. Regardless of its dodgy icon, RSSOwl is something that is tailored to specific kind of user. It’s not really meant for those that want to glance at their RSS feeds,but is more for those that like to browse and scroll through their feeds to be kept up to date. It almost certainly isn’t for everyone but if you’re the kind of person that appreciates where something has come from (in this case, an RSS feed), then I suppose this application is for you.
Miro is a video and media player that supports a bunch of the most popular codecs and video formats. With the new version, there’s a nicely laid out and darn-right stunning new interface that makes everything get out of the way and allows you to focus solely on the content that matters the most to you. Miro also features the ability to watch Internet TV. It’s a great app that I truly would recommend to those that enjoy watching Internet TV or streaming other media.
Bitcoin is a digital currency and allows instant payment to anyone in the world using the same currency. Although this is a strange concept, it’s interesting in that there’s no fee to accept the payment and its available globally. The only problem is that not many places accept the currency, but nonetheless, it’s a great open source project that I’m sure many would be able to make use of.
The Unarchiver is a wonderfully useful application that allows you to extract files from many of the popular compression formats. This application also integrates seamlessly into OS X and works like a charm. Strangely, OS X doesn’t natively support RAR files and as they’re a somewhat popular file format, The Unarchiver is a natural addition to anyone’s Mac.
Vienna is another RSS/Atom reader and allows you to keep up with your favorite blogs and news sources. It allows you to categorize your feeds elegantly and it also features tools such as flagging and bookmarking your favorite articles and news. It’s definitely more along the lines of old school readers such as NetNewsWire than the widescreen, Reeder-like RSS apps that are popular today.
Transmission is a great, popular torrent client. It is lightweight and efficient. Transmission features a clean, small and unblemished interface and seems a natural addition to OS X. If Apple had built a torrent client (just for the sake of argument), it would look like Transmission. The “lightweight” client will quietly sit in the background downloading your legal torrents, creative commons music and other data.
Perian is a useful QuickTime component and gives QuickTime the ability to play various popular file formats. This means you can watch AVI and other non-supported files right in the QuickTime app you know and love. Perian really is the “swiss-army knife of QuickTime components.” No longer do you have to worry about converting your favorite videos just to watch them, now you can open and watch them easily in QuickTime.
iPodDisk gives you the ability to use your iOS device as a file system as well as copy your music and other files back and forth. iPodDisk works seamlessly with Finder and enumerates Finder well. This doesn’t mean you’re only able to use the features supported by Finder, you can also use more advanced commands such as tar, scp, rsync etc.
Burn is a simple app that allows you to burn files to a disc and features powerful capabilities. As the built-in OS X burning feature is rather simplistic and standard, it’s useful to have an app that can be configured to burn your media in the way you want it to be burned. The simplistic nature of the interface really does mask a great deal of complexity and support for various disc-burning methods.
BlueGriffon is a WYSIWYG editor that allows you to design web pages easily and supports the latest web technologies, such as HTML5 and CSS3 and it’s probably one of the best HTML editors on the market today (both free and paid) and there’s also a vibrant community backing the application so if you run into a problem, there’s alway someone willing to help you out.
WaveMaker is a great application for designing and developing web-based applications. It supports the WYSIWYG editing, so you don’t have to worry too much about the code involved. However, for those in need of a more technical approach, WaveMaker features a whole array of options and although it claims to eliminate complexity, it is capable of performing some rather advanced feats.
Tincta is a fast, notably stable text editor. It’s a rather simplistic and basic approach to text editing and is a great app to simply note something down without the need to apply anything too advanced to the text and formatting.
TrueCrypt is a secure and easy to use encryption application that allows you to keep your files safe and secure. You can encrypt, using industry and military encryption, your files and data easily, as well as complete volumes and partitions. It also creates hidden volumes, so if you need a quick and easy approach to data encryption then TrueCrypt is something I’d highly recommend to anyone, be it home or business user.
GnuCash is an easy to use accounting application that’s perfect for personal and small business use. You can perform a variety of tasks with GnuCash: manage small business accounting, create financial reports and graphs, or manage stock, bond and mutual fund accounts. I personally have found the interface to be slightly outdated but nonetheless, the application does support a rich feature set which, in my opinion overshadows the flaws with the interface and overall, GnuCash is a generally good open source application.
That concludes a round-up of 30 open source applications. I recommend that before you fork out for some shiny, over-priced, commercial software you think about exploring the world of open source applications because you never know, there might be a perfectly credible alternative that’s free and is constantly being updated.
Leave a comment below and tell us about your favorite open source apps. Have you tried any of those listed above? What did we miss?