Software to make your OSX usable in my opinion

This post is mostly for friends who have recently gotten Apple laptops and are trying to use them to code. I’m an OSX novice, but do have a particular style of work and I’ve found the few tools needed to turn OSX into a usable platform for my style. They may help you too.

Last Updated: Jan 10, 2012

  • Google Chrome
  • Better Touch Tool & Better Snap Tool (please pay for it! It’s the most useful non-free app on this list, and is about $3.00!) –
    I use them to do :
    • three finger tap is a middle click (great for pasting in terminal, and closing tabs in chrome, etc.)
    • command 2 (maximize window), command 1 (left half window), command 3 (right half window) … etc the pattern
    • three finger swipe left/right in chrome is forward/back tab
    • three finger swipe up in chrome is close tab (nice!)
    • dragging windows to screen edges does the right maximize/size effect
    • option arrows moves around spaces (though now four finger gesture with Lion is pretty sweet)
    • middle click (three fingers) on ‘fit’ button actually does maximize
    • and so many more.
    • Better Snap Tool: also: function-control – move window under cursor. function-option – resize window under cursor. This alone is worth your $3.00.
    • Seriously, better touch tool MAKES OSX WORK, and you should donate by purchasing better snap tool, as the developer requested.
  • Caffeine – stop computer from dimming after 15 minutes/etc while watching movies
  • Lime Chat – Irc
  • iTerm2   (was: TotalTerminal (used to be Visor) -) I bind the slide-down visor terminal to F12, so whenever I hit f12 a nice terminal (with opacity) slides down and I do my thing. Used constantly, along with emacs.
  • iterm2 – Thanks to feedback in the comments, I’ve tried out iterm2 and like it a LOT. It’s likely to replace TotalTerminal for me. They are both Very similar (and both have a top-screen mode that can be shown using a single key. But you have to turn this on in iterm2).
  • LibraOffice – I don’t really use MS office, doing most of my work in google docs/sheets/etc or wikis, but for me LibraOffice is sufficient for those rare cases
  • Adium – Chat
  • Skype – sometimes you gotta’
  • Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection – works fine
  • Chicken of the VNC – works fine for now, though I am a rare VNC user (I prefer NX when I can)
  • Emacs – I prefer the windowed version rather than the default command line version of emacs right now. I’m still working on making them play nice together, but I use this for most of my development.
  • homebrew – I try to keep my dev machine pretty sparse, but my job requires mysql, rabbitmq, memcached, and some other things. All well ‘scripted’ by the folks on homebrew. Things I have installed through brew: git, aspell, memcached, markdown, mysql, nmap, wget, tree, readline, rabbitmq…
  • dropbox– works nicely
  • noobproof as a firewall GUI to make sure some ports I use for $WORK are not available to the outside world (along with the OSX firewall being enabled)
  • MouseLocator is pretty cool, I use it right now, though I’m not sure how long I’ll use it.
  • AppCleaner – it’s what I use to delete apps, since it’s pretty good at throwing away preferences as well
  • AppFresh – Keep those apps up to date.
  • I cannot recommend gfxCardStatus because it kept causing problems for flash on Chrome, sorry! It would have been useful. I’ll keep trying it.
  • Monolingual – Only if you’ve got space problems (you bought the 120GB SSD?) you can strip some languages from some OSX apps. I wouldn’t try this on Microsoft apps, and be sure to google before use to find any problems. If you’ve got the HD space, don’t bother.
  • Notational Velocity / nvAlt – pretty good for some types of notes. I like it. [Note: I’m not really using this anymore, though I still think it’s a good application]
  • I also use iCal and, gasp,! Both of these of course are backed by google mail and calendar. iCal works fine, no issues. is about where gmail was a few years ago, but I find it much more convenient to have a local mail app rather than go into browser. Just a personal preference, gmail still kicks ass. I use IMAP with my many gmail accounts. Let me know if you have any questions about the setup.
  • I also use meteorologist for my weather lookup needs, and I’ve got growl installed for notifications.
  • Use use spotlight as my launcher – which means:
    • I set my dock to only show running programs (and chrome, which I do occasionally close to free mem).
    • I just use command-space – program name to launch things, I don’t use the ios launcher feature nor do I go to Applications directory
    • Although I thought I would immediately get it – I did not bother with quicksilver / Jeeves yet. That may change.
    • I now primarily use QuickSilver, and while I find it annoying for a few things, it’s better than spotlight for the rest. I mostly use it as an app launcher along with clipboard history, nothing too fancy.
  • perlbrew of course to get a current perl. Don’t mess with the downlevel Apple perl
  • I sometimes use JackSMS for fun when I leave my laptop at coffee shops, but I haven’t relied on it yet. I was hoping to build a solution with Proximity to have my phone auto-control Jack.
  • ack for code search
  • Herald for notifications of new mail. [Note: I’m note using this anymore, since I check mail relatively regularly by revealing the dock which I normally have hidden]
  • OmniGraffle for diagraming (not free)
  • DashExpander – text expander, though I don’t use it often
I’ll update if I think of more things or if I change my usage.

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About Tom
I work in a healthcare technology startup. These days, I attempt to code in Perl, and this blog is about the Wild Perl we write, startup life, and many other things.

3 Responses to Software to make your OSX usable in my opinion

  1. Tom Davis says:

    Safari also opens PDFs in the browser. Additionally, the very same developer tools as in Chrome are available in Safari (the tools are actually part of the community developed WebKit), you just have to turn them on in Preferences on the Advanced tab.

    In Lion, Safari also restores all windows and tabs that were open when the application was quit the last time, which Chrome does not yet do.

    You can also use the WebKit nightly builds which utilizes the Safari app for the user interface but with the latest WebKit version. Not everything always works. Right now the Adobe flash plugin isn’t working.

  2. michael says:

    nice list. iterm2 is handy too.

  3. Tom says:

    Very true, I’ll update my post. Thanks!

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