The Ultimate Mac Setup for Web Designers (60 Apps)

There’s little doubt that OS X is a popular platform for web designers – it offers an enormous range of software for designing, managing, developing and publishing websites. Whether you prefer to use an all-in-one environment for designing websites or a range of different applications, there’s a tool to suit you perfectly.

This article will round up 60 different web design apps for every different conceivable need. And don’t worry if design isn’t your area of expertise; much of the software covered is fairly multi-purpose, suited to a variety of tasks.

Client & Project Management


  • Billings – An excellent tool for managing the details of clients, billing, and tracking payments and receipts.
  • iCal – Bundled with OS X, iCal can offer a simple and inexpensive method to track projects and deadlines. Email reminders are handy too!
  • OmniPlan – More advanced planning software with Gantt charting, robust task management, and a great interface
  • iTaskX – Seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Project to be another fairly advanced planning and project management tool.
  • Daylite – From the makers of Billings, Daylite is a more professional app capable of organizing an entire design team!
  • Merlin – Yet another advanced project management tool, with a great looking interface.

Creating an Asset Library


  • LittleSnapper – An awesome tool for capturing and organizing screenshots, ensuring you’re never stuck for inspiration.
  • TextExpander – Allows you to build up a library of code or text snippets, and quickly drop them into a document.
  • Yojimbo – An “information organizer”, which can be used for building up a library of code snippets, images, icons, or client material.
  • DevonThink – Similar to Yojimbo, but with a few advanced features such as OCR and scanner integration.
  • FontExplorer – The de facto font management tool for OS X, with automatic activation.
  • Fontcase – A great looking interface and robust comparison tools makes Fontcase a worthy competitor to FontExplorer.

Designing: All-in-one

    Coda and Espresso

  • Coda – The original (and, some would say, best) integrated web design environment for OS X with robust CSS tools, live previewing, and one-click publishing.
  • Espresso – Bringing several features across from CSSEdit, Espresso is a worthy Coda competitor with a built-in code snippet manager.
  • iWeb – Bundled with iLife, iWeb is Apple’s take on a WYSIWYG editor. Simple, easy-to-use, and capable of creating wonderfully designed sites. More of a consumer tool, with fewer advanced features than Coda/Espresso.
  • RapidWeaver – The undisputed king of visual web design apps on OS X, RapidWeaver has an extensive community creating hundreds of excellent themes.

Designing: Images


  • Adobe CS4 – The daddy of design suites, CS4 includes Photoshop and Illustrator – two essential apps for designing graphics for the web.
  • Pixelmator – Billed as a Photoshop competitor for “the rest of us”, Pixelmator is inexpensive and remarkably fast for editing photos and graphics.
  • GIMP – A completely free image editing tool. It lacks the same polish as Photoshop or Pixelmator, but packs a decent punch.
  • Keynote – Often overlooked, Keynote can create stunning diagrams and charts which are only a screenshot away from looking brilliant on your website.
  • Photoshop Elements – Photoshop’s little brother, Elements offers an inexpensive way to organize and edit a photo library for the web.
  • Acorn – The “image editor for humans”, Acorn has a bunch of excellent export-for-web options.
  • Picturesque – It’s easy to add reflections, borders, shadows, curves and change the perspective of photographs with Picturesque. Great for adding life to a dull image.

Designing: CSS & HTML


  • BBEdit – Undoubtedly the leading OS X text editor, BBEdit is incredibly powerful whilst retaining a simple interface. Particularly useful is the auto-complete feature.
  • TextWrangler – The free alternative to BBEdit, retaining much of the functionality at a price that’s too good to resist.
  • SubEthaEdit – Another great text editing tool, with powerful features for allowing multiple designers to collaborate on a document at the same time.
  • TextMate – A simple, unobtrusive text editor for editing HTML, CSS, or another programming language you throw at it.
  • CSSEdit – A game-changing app for editing and previewing CSS, packed with useful features such as a visual editing tool and “selector builder”.
  • Slammer – Capable of placing a grid over your screen to assist with laying out webpage elements and keeping a good structure.
  • xScope – A fantastic all-rounder for measuring and analyzing any element on your screen. xScope is worth every penny!
  • Screen Calipers – Focusing on one small subset of xScope, Screen Calipers floats above any other application so you can measure anything on your screen

Audio & Video


  • Handbrake – A powerful video conversion application, which is ideally suited for converting videos into a web format. It can happily handle almost any video format available, and is completely free.
  • ScreenFlow – If you’re considering using a screencast on your website, ScreenFlow is worth every penny. It can record your screen/webcam/audio simultaneously, and packs a range of editing tools.
  • Audacity – An open source app for editing and encoding audio across a variety of different formats.
  • GarageBand – For podcasting website designers, GarageBand is a simple (and free) way to edit a recording and export it in a suitable podcast format.



  • MAMP – Whilst OS X ships with an in-built web server, MAMP also ensures that PHP and MySQL are installed. A quick way to set up a local website testing server.
  • Alkaline – A great app for generating screenshots of how a website will display in various Windows browsers.
  • ies4osx – Providing a way to test your website locally in various versions of Internet Explorer. A headache, but necessary!
  • Parallels Desktop – If you’re prefer to test websites in an actual Windows environment, Parallels is the virtualization industry leader.
  • VirtualBox – For the budget-conscious, VirtualBox is a free alternative to Parallels which can provide an equally useful testing setup.



  • Transmit – Transmit is probably the best known FTP client for the Mac, with good reason – it packs a great deal of functionality and is notoriously well designed.
  • CyberDuck – The most full-featured open source client available, Cyberduck packs a decent punch and is a free rival to Transmit.
  • YummyFTP – Notable features include auto-recovery of failed transfers, filtering of upload synchronization, robust scheduling and FTP alias support
  • Interarchy – Supporting a range of SSH functionality, mirroring, Dashboard and Automator integration, and downloading of entire websites.
  • Forklift – Offering a great interface, but quite an expensive price tag for the features on offer.
  • Fetch -Support for a range of protocols with a few new Leopard-centric features in the latest release.

Version Control


  • Versions – A wonderfully designed subversion app, making it simple for a non-technical web designer to get started.
  • Cornerstone – A worthy Versions competitor with a stunning interface, and the latest version of Subversion built-in.
  • svnX – A free, open source, subversion client with a decent range of features.
  • GitX – Offering a history viewer and commit interface with OS X style.



  • Querious – A throughly full-featured SQL database manager, which unfortunately only works with MySQL5 at present. If you’re rocking the latest MySQL version, however, this is an incredibly useful app.
  • Sequel Pro – A free alternative to Querious, with a recent update bringing the interface up to a much improved standard. Reliable, and easy-to-use.

Monitoring & Statistics


  • Dashalytics – A simple Dashboard widget for monitoring Google Analytics statistics. I’m a fan of the simple graphical interface.
  • WatchMouse – Allows you to monitor the uptime of your website or server through the OS X Dashboard.
  • Junior Mint – If you use Mint as a statistics system, this is a simple way to stay up-to-date through Dashboard.
  • Reinvigorate (Beta) – Currently an invite-only beta, Reinvigorate allows desktop monitoring of website visitors and statistics. Get signed up to be a tester!



  • Time Machine – The OS X Leopard backup solution. All that you require is an external hard drive, and to keep a copy of your website locally.
  • Dropbox – I use Dropbox as a means of keeping an off-site backup of important website documents and files (though it’s also great at keeping multiple computers in sync!)
  • SuperDuper – If you’d like to keep a bootable backup of your Mac hard drive, SuperDuper is an excellent solution.
  • Syncplicity – Similar to Dropbox, Syncplicity can easily maintain a fully versioned remote backup of any folder(s) on your hard drive.


I hope to have covered most of the areas you’ll come across as a web designer, with a variety of applications for each. Whether you have a huge budget to blow or are working on a shoestring, nothing can hold you back with a combination of the above software (apart from IE6…).

I’m sure there are several fantastic applications not mentioned, so please feel free to share in the comments. I look forward to learning about a few new gems!


Add Yours
  • Great roundup – while most of them should be very well known already, I still discovered a couple of useful apps I’ll definitely evaluate later. Thanks!

  • Being fairly new to designing on a mac I find this list a great resource. Thanks for the insight!

  • Great post. I use a number of these in my current work flow.

  • I think you forgot Expandrive which is a must have for doing quick edits. Of course the price is a bit hefty.

    • A free alternative is MacFusion, which pretty much does the same thing.

      • Both transmit and forklift do the same, forklift being the cheaper of the 2.

  • Bah, Humbug! You list BBEdit as “Undoubtedly the leading OS X text editor” over Textmate? You might have an argument based solely on numbers, but the “undoubtedly” part is itself in doubt.

    Yay Textmate!

  • Another vote for TextMate!

  • +1 for Expandrive

    I’d also add ImageOptim for serious image compression goodness. For a free but awesome screenshot program, I’d also check out InstantShot!

  • Also, I think VMware Fusion should be included. Its UI is much better than the alternatives.

  • Is there nobody who is using Adobe Dreamweaver for writing HTML, CSS and so on…?

    • I use to but have since changed to Coda. Much nicer, simpler interface. I’m more productive with Coda than when I was using Dreamweaver.

      • Just done exactly the same and couldn’t agree more. Aside from a couple of niggles with Coda, it’s a breath of fresh air compared to DW.

    • I use Dw mainly for ASP sites. I think it still has a better handle on ASP than other IDE’s out there. (Hoping an Espresso ASP sugar will change that!) Coda/Textmate for everything else.

    • I used to use DW on both Windows and OS X, but since finding Coda have done the same as many others as it is simply easier and as said, more productive to work with. Especially as I did have a few bugs with DW on my mac, it crashed occasionally. Which was not a common thing for my mac to-do.

      However I have stuck with it on Windows as I do not think it can be beat. Top notch when running on Windows.

    • Is CODA off the market? Their website is offline…
      For designers DW is a help since it is visual, a wysiwyg (alas, it try to be…). Problem occur as soon PHP is used. Does anybody knows a really good wysiwyg editor? Or is is non-existing…

      • I use textmate as a remplacement of textedit and NetBeans for project…

        And what about FileZilla? It’s a realy full feature ftp client… and free.

  • Nice list! For billing I’ve since changed from Billings to the Invoice Machine, an online invoicing system and I love it!

  • Fantastic, know most (but certainly not all) of them – thanks heaps.

  • I think you should include “On The Job”, much like billings but in my oppinion a bit more intuative.

  • Awesome collection and reviews. Well done

  • Great post!!
    very useful :)

  • Well Done. Great collection. Thank you.

  • This is a great list! :)

  • Woah, where’s Silverback?

  • BBEdit? The leading Mac editor?

    Um, no. TextMate FTW

    It’s the most imitated editor ever – from emulation modes in Emacs to gedit plugins to entire clones in Windows, like e. I didn’t even know BBEdit was still around.

    • Yeah, Im going to have to agree and say Textmate as #1. Also how could you not mention Navicat (there is a free version) for db? It’s by far cake to use and not to bad to look at.

      And for version control/svn, Forget about Terminal?

      • TextMate is a fine simple editor, but it has nowhere near the power of BBEdit. If you have the time and inclination to spend building it up into an app you’d want to use, with any of various bundles, maybe it would work for you. Instead, BBEdit comes with everything already built in, and is expandable with AppleScript. TextMate’s support is ‘community’ support (think IRC and forums), while BBEdit engineers answer their own support mail, quickly, PLUS there is community support.

        Let’s see, a Mac app that acts like Unix/FOSS, or a Mac app that acts like the Mac? No contest. BBEdit FTW.

  • i see you prefer billings in every recommendation. there are a lot of other very good programs for invoices an client management which should be mentioned.

  • Funny to see, no apps from the free OSX developerkit included! And what about the Aptana IDE?

  • I think Coda should be under the “Designing CSS & HTML” (you mean text editors) category with TextMate. Coda is not a WYSIWYG editor. Maybe just for the CSS but certainly not for entire page designs.

  • I’d not seen the IE on a Mac stuff before, I’ll have to take a look because it does wear thin running VMWare in the background all the time!

  • Ok David, now do the same list over again, but without mentioning any of the names already on the list – Just replace every name on the list with a new one. Can you do it? I’m fairly certain I could.

    My point is, many of these apps seem to appear on every list on every Web site. Some of them I’m not even sure why.

    Still, it’s a great list – I just wish people would stop taking the quick and easy way out and start doing just a little research on these lists before posting them. I’ve grown quite tired of seeing the same apps.

  • Another good project management software is RationalPlan:

  • I prefer OnTheJob ( to billings. I like its simplicity.

  • Nice list, thanks for sharing.

  • Great list! You listed keynote and mentioned creating a screen shot of your charts or graphs. Instead of a screen shot just export as a jpeg.

  • I use SCPlugin for version control. It’s free and it integrates directly into the finder so it’s there all the time and I don’t need to run another app to use it.

  • Great article, thanks! I’d recommend Freshbooks for invoicing and Outright for keeping track of taxes.

  • Firebug, the add-on to Firefox is completely essential.

    • amen.

    • Yep, it is!

    • Hell yeah James! Oh Yslow as well!

      • Amen, again.

  • I used to use this outdated timesheet program appropriately named ‘Timesheet’; but I’ve recently switched to Billings and even though I only use it to log hours for my boss (In other words, I don’t bill them myself) I love it.

    I use that, Adobe CS4, TextWrangler, MAMP, and VirtualBox. I’d love to start using some sort of program to organize all my files; but as I keep them on an external drive in folders under our clients names it’s not yet that big of a problem.

  • When performing any kind of usability testing, Silverback is the app!

  • FYI, Dropbox also does versioning backup. Each changes of the file in any computer is stored as a new version.

  • Thanks!
    I’m thinking whether to switch to mac, and this post will definitely help me get started when I do.

  • Another vote for Textmate here too…. no chance i would use BBedit over it..

  • No one has mentioned Shovebox which is one of the few apps that I really consider essential to my workflow. It’s the perfect tool for saving anything you don’t want to forget, like code snippets or screenshots or files for future downloading.

    And it syncs with my iPhone!

  • Wow! This is a great list of apps. Thanks for the resources. I have been trying to find out what some of the top Version Control apps were out there.

  • Missing DrawIt, the graphic editor that makes most sense for Web 2.0 designers…

  • Alkaline’s price points are a hard sell compared to the free offerings like for websites.

    Transmit, Versions, CS4 all work well for me.

  • Alternative to Yojimbo = Evernote

  • Great post! Thank you!

  • Great list! Will definitely check out some of these apps. (+1) each for Dropbox and Littlesnapper.

  • No one using Fireworks anymore? I much prefer it to Photoshop due to its excellent handling of both Vector and Raster elements in a layout. It greatly reduces the number of layers you need to create when doing a layout and the slice tool is also a win.

    • Yes ! Yes ! I prefer Fireworks too. Much more flexible than Photoshop for webdesign. Let’s support Fireworks !

    • I use Fireworks! It’s the unsung hero of image creation/manipulation.

  • YouControlDesktops is a must!

    It is like Spaces on crack. You can actually have different desktops for each space (different backgrounds, desktop folders, etc). I run one for work and one for play. Come Friday, I just switch desktops and all of my work clutter is gone.

  • Is there no good desktop app for google analytics? not a big fan of dash widgets….

    • Adobe Air has one.

  • You should’ve just put 1 app of each type there. For instance, pick if you like Coda or Espresso better, and only put the winner on this page. It’s hard to find the best apps when you’ve got 60, and only about 10 actual different TYPES of apps. Still a good article though :) I like the huge lists of apps that you guys do…it helps me find new apps

    Of the apps listed, I use Little Snapper, Espresso, Adobe CS4, Handbrake, Screenflow, Audacity, MAMP, Forklift, and Versions (although sometimes command line svn is appealing). I’m VERY picky about the beauty of the apps used on my Mac. Little Snapper, Espresso, Screenflow, Forklift, and Versions all have amazing interfaces. Handbrake, Audacity, and CS4 are so great, their semi-mediocre interfaces are excusable.

  • thanks for this resourceful list. plenty to make fabulous work with.

  • TextMate+

  • You forgot Integrity! It’s a super-fast link checker. It comes in handy when you have a large website and don’t want to click every single link to make sure it works.

  • If you are going to put Espresso in there, Flux 2 should be!! It’s in far better shape right now and has a WYSIWYG editor (drag stuff about) a full preview (and it actually works!) and a code editor too.

    It’s RapidWeaver and Flux 2 for me. Awesome combo.

    • I agree with WebKarnage. Flux 2 should really be getting more attention. It’s like an undiscovered gem.

      • Wow… Flux2 seems to be fantastic. Do you guys have experience developing WordPress-templates with Flux?

      • ooof. I tried to develop wordpress templates in flux 3. It was horrible. They have a built in FTP client which is inflexible, and causes problems displaying PHP. Getting it to work with PHP in general was quite difficult, and I ended up opting to save directly to the server (via forklift’s mount point), and then using a custom link to view changes, as I went along. The support is so-so.

        It has some things I like, but I pretty much haven’t used it since I got it. Those who like it, what do you like about it?

  • You should really have BackBlaze under Backups. Only $5 month for encrypted backups. Its like TimeMachine but it but it backs up to the web.

  • I have 1 app from each category. Though I would love to get !

    Expensive for SVN client !!

  • How sould you make a list of the best apps and not have Charles Proxy. Testing anything over the network without Charles is crazy. Simulate slower internet connection. It’s the most useful app for web developers/designers.

  • Legit. I love it!!!

    What about Snes 9x for those who wanna kill some snes roms!

  • One very powerfull all-in-one design solution is Freeway 5 from Softpress ( Much better than Coda… check it out !

  • Thanks for the list.
    What about Smultron ? I’m using it everyday : simple, efficient, free text editor with syntax highlighting and text encoding support.

  • Hi,

    There is a french software called webacappella, it’s also in english and it’s much better than Rapidweaver!


    follow me on twitter;

  • Really great compiled list. I wish you had added commercial or free app information.

  • Thanks for the Parallels shout out

    Alex (from Parallels)

  • This is awesome. I am taking a look at everything I don’t have, as I will most likely utilize a lot of these tools especially because of my job.

  • Thanks for putting all this up together!
    Best wishes


  • You left PageSpinner from Optima-Systems off the HTML/CSS editor list. It is a very fast, light weight editor. If you code by hand, it offers everything you need and the built in Applescript support allows it to be extended to almost any role. It is the only HTML editor I use on the Mac.

  • Great article…….And i am happy to see lots of information in your articles.I am also vote for Textmate.
    Thanks for sharing the information and add some more stuff in your list.


  • Great list and article.

  • I’m surprised no one has mentioned Skitch from Plasq for screen captures. It’s still in public beta (so it’s free) and it’s by far the best screen capture app for the Mac.

    I don’t see it mentioned much in these types of lists, I would hate to see such a great program get shut down because no one knows about it.

    Regards … Scott

  • Paparazzi for taking screenshots of your website work for you portfolio.

    • great list! exactly what i’m looking for!! thank you :)

      i think you could also add Logic, Final Cut or iMovie to the Audio and Video Apps!


  • Thanks for thos grate list of links with tools.
    Keep up the good work with this website

  • This is a great collection. I use several of these items already, but you introduced me to several new ones as well. Thanks!

  • Thanks for this. I was thinking of apps I would add as scrolling down and it looks like you have them all covered. How about Kompozer though?

  • Thank you for the list.

  • a very good list of programs and tools – thank you for the very useful list

    • We use Coda and it seems a great program. We have tried others but none that we like.

  • Great list, but you should also include for local PHP/MySQL installs and testing.

  • Fantastic list! thanks very much!

  • That’s a really useful article. I still look for an easy way to develop WordPress templates on my my. At the moment I am testing ExpanDrive in combination with Flux 2. Does any of you have a more productive or just easier solution?

  • A handy tool you perhaps overlooked in the ‘Backup’ category is Bombich Software’s Carbon Copy Cloner. It’s yet to let me down.

  • I discovered a nice well priced pixel & vector/layout app: (It’s better than the website appears)

  • You’re missing quite a lot great apps, like PhotoLine (best Photoshop competitor out there, imho) or TextMate (best text/code editor out there, imho)

  • Great post and very usefull list !

  • Syncplicity is now a windows only app.. shame.. it was just what I was looking for..

    From Their Blog:

    July 9th, 2009
    Today, we’ve made the decision to withdraw our Mac Beta Client. As of today, the Mac Beta Client is no longer available for new users to download. Existing users of the Mac Beta Client can continue to use it until July 31st at which time service will be discontinued.

  • Great article. Deveoping on OS X is the only way to go.

  • Thanks million for your hard work. This is great stuff.

  • Hi,

    Thanks for your list.
    I have switched to a Mac recently and found this list useful.

  • It’s worth to notice that Coda by itself fulfills multiple of these needs. It’s a text-editor, subversion-client, ftp-client and you can also edit remote files as if they were local.

  • tz tz tz … when I read things like “I am very picky about the look of the apps” or “Webdeveloping on OSX is the only way to go” … OMG … C’mon kids! We all know, most of you are no professional webdesigners at all here ?!?! Let’s face it. For a pro, it doesn’t matter what GUI and what Computer. It is more about options and its reliability …visavi

    BTW: Nice list for first time mac users. better than most others. But it doesn’t go deep enough into the alternatives of pro webdesign apps.

  • Very nice stuff! I use alot of those apps :)

  • In most cases, I’ve found Gity to work better than GitX:

  • Missing Flux by the Escapers in your list of web editors. It’s a great WYSIWYG editor for the web.

  • Let’s face it. For a pro, it doesn’t matter what GUI and what Computer

  • The ‘Calipers’ software mentioned in this article is a blatant rip-off of our own Screen Calipers software. The user interface and the functionality has been poorly copied by a publisher who has not identified us as the originator of the idea and has proceeded to create this software without our permission.

    I strongly urge everyone to support the hard work that went into the idea of the Screen Calipers by not downloading this application but instead using the original here:

  • Deep in the frigid Siberian wilderness, an Amur tiger hunts. Fearsome strength is at the command of a calculating mind that relentlessly stalks its newest prey: man. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the taiga, John Vaillant provides an unforgettable true account of a lethal collision between man and beast in a remote Russian village during the late 1990’s. At its core,

  • @ Monitoring & Statistics
    I would also like to recommend – A Free Website Monitoring Service. Monitor 2 websites with 15 min interval for FREE! Free instant alerts through E-mail, RSS Feed, Twitter, iGoogle gadget and also through paid SMS on downtime / uptime of your websites.

  • I really like what you guys are usually up too. This kind of clever work and coverage! Keep up the excellent works guys I’ve included you guys to my personal blogroll.

  • Hi I am so glad I found your weblog, I really found you by error, while I was browsing on Google for something else, Regardless I am here now and would just like to say kudos for a marvelous post and a all round entertaining blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through it all at the minute but I have bookmarked it and also included your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read much more, Please do keep up the great job.

  • This is definitely a great round up. But it would be great if you covered and compared the apps that are for managing client information. I’d love to have one app that let me keep track of it all beautifully and securely.

    I’ve only come across 3 so far. Serverskine, (which is free but is quite bare) Master of my domain (which you reviewed and left me less than enthusiastic) and finally Rage Domainer which is more than twice the price of MOMD. I’m considering shelling out for Rage Domainer, so it would be great if you reviewed it or wrote about any other similar apps.

    It’s be awesome if one of these apps would let you create custom fields so you wouldn’t have to fill in the note area with additional login information for stuff like wordpress…

  • Nice collection there, found it funny at the end (apart from IE 6…) says it all really :P haha

  • We tried loads of project management options and settled on, Paparazzi is also useful for full screen web shots.

    Great roundup though – need to try Coda by the looks of the comments, still plugging away in Dreamweaver.

  • Great list. I’ve been checking out a lot of them since I am new to the Mac. I can’t seem to get SuperDuper to operate. Any ideas what I’m doing wrong?

  • As a web designer with a Mac, I found myself needing Windows at time. A friend told me about Parallels 7, a software that runs Windows on your Mac, and now I have the best of both worlds. The same friend is giving away 4 copies of the software. To all you web designers, I highly recommend it.

  • Great post! Listed many new apps I didn’t knew about. But, I think you should of listed Xcode. ;)

  • Great List. I already use Versions. Its one of the best SVN clients around.

  • You forgot one of the most important.
    An aplication to recover your stolen mac

  • Hi-Ya! our family just adores your incredible write-up thank you and pls carry on it

  • Your posts continually have a lot of really up to date info. Where do you come up with this? Just declaring you are very inspiring. Thanks again

  • Nice list. Here is another one i created on Tell me what you think about it. There are only the essentials one :

  • Very nice list. For backup I am using Goodsync. It has a lot of options.
    More over with a cloud storage( eg: ) it is the best choice.