There are many applications that can help you work faster and efficiently. Though, not many applications come cheap. For this post we tried to digg deep to find the best selection of free and/or open source Mac applications that will help you be a more efficient designer. We’re covering from application launchers, GTD (Getting Things Done) to design utilities that can help you focus on what’s important: create.

1. aLunch

aLunch is a very lightweight but powerful application that does what it’s supposed to do and nothing more: a handy launcher that runs from within the menu bar. The application was written back in 2007, and two years later it still proves to be a strong contender.

aLaunch

aLunch helps you get all your apps organized and get an uncluttered dock. You can customize a hot key combination so a launcher window shows and let’s you choose either a Launcher window or go to the Launcher Menu. You can use this application with a Mac running OSX 10.4 or higher. If you have an earlier OS X such as 10.3, you need to update to version 10.3.9 to use an earlier version of the application.

2. Adobe Kuler

Adobe’s Creative Suite 4 applications – Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, Fireworks and Flash – have an Extension panel that connects directly to Kuler, the web-hosted application for generating color themes. Not many designers take advantage of a powerful tool like this one. Logging into Kuler.com with your Adobe ID, you can create color swatches themes from a color, share, rate and search the community color schemes, and upload or use a Flickr image to extract color themes so you can download them as an Adobe Swatch Exchange file that’s compatible with Adobe applications.

Kuler

But you can also access the Kuler site from it’s own standalone application to get more flexibility. Also there is a Dashboard widget to help you browse through your color schemes and the communities. To install Kuler Desktop you need to have Mac OS X 10.4.11 or Mac OS X 10.5.4 and up, with Adobe Air and Flash Player installed.

3. Name Changer

Name Changer is a very straightforward and simple tool that will help you rename batches of files without the hassle of Automator or Photoshop batch change – the latter can get a little too technical for some users.

Name Changer

This application saves you the time of naming each file manually. Name Changer gives you a wide variety of options that go from select text replacement to fully customizable text replacement. Designed for OSX 10.5, NameChanger is a Universal Binary, so it runs on both Intel and PowerPC macs. If you have a OSX 10.3 or 10.4 Mac, there’s a version that you can use too, so those Macs with earlier OS can still use the application.

4. YemuZip

YemuZip is a more powerful Zip-archive application that with a simple drag and drop interface, makes creating zip files an easy task. YemuZip lets you choose between a PC-compatible format and a Mac format that preserve all the Mac-specific metadata.

Name Changer

The tool lets you choose the destination of your zip file (same as source, Desktop or Documents) and can attach the file to an email message for easy sending. Runs on OS X 10.4 or later and it’s an Universal Binary.

5. Dateline

A subtle replacement for having the date shown on the Menu bar, Dateline gives you a linear calendar on your desktop within a transparent window. One very useful feature is that it has direct access to iCal when double clicking on a day.

Dateline

The background and text colors are fully customizable along with transparency to make it blend seamlessly with your current desktop. This application requires Mac OS X 10.5 and higher.

6. DropBox

DropBox is by far the easiest way to share files if you are on a low budget and do not want to be bothered with server side issues when sharing files with clients. Since it’s an application that runs in the background, you can leave it running and it does the file updates on the machines seamlessly. You have a 2GB limit for the free accounts, 50GB for the Pro account at $99.00 per year or a 100GB for the Premium account at US$199 per year.

Another useful aspect of this app is that you can sign in and access your files from any browser, not necessarily from your Mac. The file sharing is done over SSL and encrypted with AES-256 before storage, so they are safe. From the visual side, a blue sync mark shows when the files are syncing and a green check mark appears when it’s done. What’s best, it’s that it’s not just for Mac, it’s compatible with Windows and Linux.

DropBox

Every time you update a file, Dropbox transfers what was updated from the original uploaded file, so working with large Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign documents is a breeze. If you need to share files with users that don’t have Dropbox, you can use your Public folder and all the files in that folder will be given a unique link so you can send that for a direct download. And if you accidentally delete a file, you can “undelete it” from the web interface. Overall, it’s a time saving application when you want a fast way to share files with clients or co-workers.

7. Quicksilver

Quicksilver is a powerful application launcher, an application that will create catalogs of your frequently used apps, folders and documents. What’s interesting is that the search grows and adapts from what you do everyday. One very useful feature, If you have all your contacts in Address Book is that you can search within Quicksilver the contact name and when you hit enter on the telephone number, it shows on big type over the screen, so it’s a quick way of looking at a phone number without launching Address Book itself. An alternative: Namely.

Quickilver

You can enhance Quicksilver with plugins to do more powerful things, like uploading files using applications as Transmit, Queue albums on iTunes, emailing files or even moving the file’s location without doing it from the Finder. To run Quicksilver, you need a Mac with OS X 10.4 or higher.

8. iClockr

This is a small application that tracks your work time. You can set up different projects, and tasks for each project, and associate them to a client. The concept around iClockr is to have actions timed, for that you create tasks to be timed and those tasks add up to create a project. Each task is timed with a stopwatch, even the application’s dock icon changes to a stopwatch.

iClockr

You can edit the task durations for better and more exact timing. iClockr also offers two modes to manage your times: Flat Rate or Range based. You can match each project with customers (within the application’s Preferences pane). iClockr is a Mac Universal application that runs on Leopard only.

9. Caffeine

When video chatting or having a voice-only-call with a client, Caffeine has proved it’s place on Macs. Caffeine prevents your mac of going to sleep, dimming the screen and avoids the screen savers to start.

Caffeine

To get to the application’s preferences, hold down the Command key while clicking to show the menu. Lightheads’ website doesn’t specify if Caffeine works with other OS versions different than Leopard.

10. iTool

iTool is a free application that offers a complete system maintenance and cleaning. It has a friendly user interface that guides you to complete the needed maitenance task.

iTool

Also, hidden on the Application menu (not found on the application’s main window), you can reach other options to tweak the look of the Dock (2D or 3D) or the Finder among others. This application is Leopard only.

11. The Unarchiver

For those short on budget, there’s a very light and powerfull free app called The Unarchiver. It allows you to extract many more file formats besides the .zip, such as .tar-gzip, .tar-bzip2, .rar, 7-zip, .lhA and stuffIt. Also it better handles filenames from foreign character sets, created with non-English versions of other operating systems.

The Unarchiver

The installation is very simple: copy the applications into your Applications folder and start using the application. The Unarchiver requires Mac OS X 10.3.9.

12. Paparazzi!

Paparazzi! is a small utility for Mac OS X that makes screenshots of web-pages. Paparazzi! allows you to define minimum size and capture size, so you can capture the best screenshot according to your needs. You can choose between saving the resulting picture as .jpeg, .pdf, .png or .tiff, also adding a thumbnail and thumbnail icon. It’s current version, 0.4.3 works on Mac OS X 10.3 or later, and their 0.5 beta is Leopard only.

Paparazzi!

13. AllBookmarks

AllBookmarks is a small menu bar item that provides you with a quick access to your browser’s bookmarks. It grabs Safari, Firefox and Flock bookmarks and also gives you access to 1Password 1Click bookmarks so you can navigate, fill a form and submit it with ease. The tool is a Universal Binary application which means that it works on Intel or PowerPC Macs, running OS X 10.4 (Tiger) or Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard).

AllBookmarks

14. DockSpaces

DockSpaces is a small application that allows you to have up to 10 different docks, and swap them from the menu bar. You can also link a Dock with a Leopard’s Spaces so you can redefine your productivity. With Growl notification, you know which dock you are using. You can change the configuration for each dock for a more personalized usage. This application is a Universal Binary and Leopard only.

DockSpaces

15. TaskMate

TaskMate is a very simple and light task management application. Create a task, check it off when completed and it disappears from your list. The completed tasks are visible on the sidebar that you can toggle on and off. TaskMate runs on Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard and it’s a Universal Binary Application.

TaskMate

16. Symbol Caddy

The Symbol Caddy Dashboard widget keeps a bunch of common special characters at your fingertips. Keyboard mode copies the special character and HTML mode copies the HTML entity code. Mac OS X 10.5.0 or higher is required. CharacterPal does the same and is also freeware.

Symbol Caddy Dashboard widget

17. iZoom

iZoom is a simple application designed to allow you to easily resize and crop your photos for optimized display on your iPod photo, on the web, or in email messages to friends. Built using Java, iZoom is available for Mac OS X, Linux, and Windows. Currently, JPEG is the only supported image format.

Screenshot

18. JumpCut

Jumpcut is an application that provides “clipboard buffering” — that is, access to text that you’ve cut or copied, even if you’ve subsequently cut or copied something else. The goal of Jumpcut’s interface is to provide quick, natural, intuitive access to your clipboard’s history. The application is available as a Universal Binary that requires OS X 10.3.9 or later. Users running earlier versions of OS X should try Jumpcut 0.54, which should work with OS X 10.1 and later. Source code is also available. Jumpcut is open sourced under the MIT License.

Screenshot
Image source

19. Name Mangler

Name Mangler is a batch file renamer that supports all common renaming tasks: Find and Replace (including support for regular expressions); Number Sequentially; Change Case; Set Extension; Add Prefix/Suffix; Remove/Insert Characters. You can combine all of these using the Advanced renaming mode, which even comes with some extra features, such as conditional statements, nested counters etc. Name Mangler 2.0 runs natively on both Intel- and PowerPC-based Macs and requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later.

Screenshot

20. CyberDuck

Cyberduck is an open source FTP, SFTP-client and also a WebDAV, Mosso Cloud Files and Amazon S3 browser for the Mac. It features an easy to use interface with quickly accessible bookmarks. The outline view of the browser allows to browse large folder structures efficiently and you can quickly preview files with Quick Look. To edit files, a seamless integration with several external editors makes it easy to change content quickly. An alternative: Filezilla.

Screenshot

21. TextWrangler

TextWrangler is the powerful general purpose text editor, and Unix and server administrator’s tool. Essentially, it is a free version of BBEdit (see below). It offers a broad range of support for different programming languages, and fantastic find and replace functionality. A reliable and powerful tool, especially considering its freeware status. (via appstorm.net). Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later. Alternatives: eMacs, Smultron, TextEdit (native Mac-app).

Screenshot
Image source

22. Growl

Growl is a notification system for Mac OS X: it allows applications that support Growl to send you notifications. Growl offers you complete control over which notifications are shown and how they are displayed. You will not receive any notifications that you do not want, because you can easily turn notifications (specific ones or all of them) off. Growl requires Mac OS X 10.4 or higher.

Screenshot

23. Gmail Notifr

Gmail Notifr sends you notifications about the received e-mails and other events in your Google account. It supports multiple accounts, checks mail at a specified interval, has Growl and sound notifications and has no background daemon processes installed as Google’s official notifier. Requirements: Mac OS X 10.5+ (Leopard).

Screenshot

24. MAMP

MAMP installs a local server environment in a matter of seconds on your Mac OS X computer, be it PowerBook or iMac. MAMP will not compromise any existing Apache installation already running with your OS X. You can install Apache, PHP and MySQL without starting a script or having to change any configuration files.

Screenshot

25. And so many more!

Our friends from Appstorm.net have recently published The Ultimate Mac Setup For Web Designers: 60 Apps and 60 Open Source and Free Mac Apps which cover dozens of extremely useful and powerful applications that you can download and use for free. You can also check out the list of open source Mac applications on OpenSourceMac.org.

We missed some really cool open source Mac-application? Please let us know in the comments to this post!

Reference Links

All the links mentioned in the article.

  • aLunch
    A very handy launcher that runs from your Mac’s menu bar.
  • Kuler
    Color themes generator.
  • Name Changer
    A powerful batch name changer.
  • YemuZip
    Creating Zip files has never been so easy.
  • Dateline
    Linear calendar for your desktop.
  • DropBox
    Online file sharing system.
  • Quicksilver
    Adaptive appliction launcher.
  • Transmit
    Powerful FTP client software.
  • iTunes
    Digital media player from Apple.
  • iClockr
    Timing application for multiple projects.
  • Caffeine
    Keep your mac from sleep.
  • iTool
    Complete System Maintenance, cleaning and customizing the look of Leopard.
  • The Unarchiver
    Unarchive with power.
  • Paparazzi!
    Grab stunning screenshots of webpages.
  • AllBookmarks
    Bookmarks from your menu bar.
  • TaskMate
    Task management made easy with a OS X feel.
  • Symbol Caddy
    Keeps a bunch of common special characters at your fingertips.
  • iZoom
    Allows you to easily resize and crop your photos for optimized display.
  • JumpCut
    Provides “clipboard buffering” – access to text that you’ve cut or copied, even if you’ve subsequently cut or copied something else.
  • Name Mangler
    A batch file renamer that supports all common renaming tasks.
  • CyberDuck
    An open source FTP, SFTP-client.
  • TextWrangler
    The powerful general purpose text editor, and Unix and server administrator’s tool.
  • Growl
    A notification system for Mac OS X.
  • Gmail Notifr
    Sends you notifications about the received e-mails and other events in your Google account.
  • MAMP
    Installs a local server environment in a matter of seconds on your Mac OS X computer.

About the author

Kitty Florido is a graphic designer and photographer from Guatemala, big fan of macs and music. You can follow her on Twitter.


© Kitty Florido for Smashing Magazine, 2009. |
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25 Free Mac Apps That Will Boost Your Productivity

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