OS X Apps Worth Checking Out

There are a ton of good OS X apps out there. These are the ones that I really appreciate, and think you ought to check out too.

Please note that this was written on Feb. 2nd 2012, and that software changes at a very rapid pace.

Writing Apps


If you’re serious about writing, or writing anything significant (book, screenplay, thesis, research paper, etc.), there is only one app to consider, and Scrivener is it. Be sure to go through the tutorial though. Its features do a spectacular job of getting out of your way, which means that a lot of great functionality is hiding in plain sight. The tutorial shows you just how incredible this app is. Also, it’ll generate ePub and Kindle formats for you, and it lets you write in Markdown,* if you want.*

Scrivener is $45 and has a free trial.

Markdown Writing Apps


I’ve tried essentially every Markdown editor available for the Mac, and Byword is hands-down my favorite. I hope to write a post comparing them all, but Byword really is the best in my opinion. Feel free to ping me with questions if you’re considering it or one of the many alternatives.

Byword is $9.99


Most of the good Markdown editors already have the ability to preview your work. With marked you can preview things while you write them without having to switch back and forth. It’s also great for reading Markdown documentation. Also, it can hide the crazy YAML frontmatter that Jekyll / Octopress shove into the top of your posts.

Marked is $3.99

MultiMarkdown Composer

Brought to you by the man who brought us MultiMarkdown in the first place, this is a really good Markdown editor, with a really useful outline navigator. From a features standpoint it’s probably the best, but it just doesn’t feel as nice as Byword to me.

MultiMarkdown Composer is $9.99


Texts deserves an honorary mention. It’s still young, and rough around the edges, but it’s a great WYSIWYM text editor that generates Markdown behind the scenes. It only supports a subset of Markdown at the moment, but it shows good promise. I’m really rooting for this app.

Texts is free

Graphics / Images


Very well made, amazingly capable, and affordable for real humans. Lots of people like Acorn but Pixelmator just feels more professional, polished, and capable to me.

Pixelmator is $29.99


If you ever need to annotate screenshots to report bugs, point out items that need to be improved, or anything like that you need Skitch. Lots of apps can do this. Skitch is the only one that makes it both trivially easy and good looking.

Skitch is free


If you ever need to make flowcharts you want this app. I’ve tried every noteworthy flowchart app on OS X, Linux, and Windows. Nothing compares to OmniGraffle. It’s also great for mocking-up interfaces, and creating complicated paper forms (yeah, some people still use paper). OmniGroup’s stuff costs a bit more but is worth every penny.

OmniGraffle is $99 and $199 for the Pro version, which does have some nice additional features professional designers might be interested in.

Geekery / Coding


True geeks know the power of Vim (and Emacs). True Mac geeks know the power of MacVim. Still don’t know why we love Vim? Read This

MacVim is free



Brought to you by the same guy who brought you Marked, nvAlt is a fork of the original NotationVelocity app that just builds upon the awesome. nvAlt is the best tool out there for storing and managing collections of little notes. It also lets you write in Markdown (and grab the generated HTML), which leads a lot of people to use it for keeping and working on draft versions of blog posts.

nvAlt is free


Nothing beats 1Password for password storage. Get the OS X version, plus a copy for your iOS or Android device and you’ve got all your passwords everywhere. Also lets you securely store credit card numbers and other sensitive information. Combine it with its easy to use browser plugins and nothing else comes close.

The only downside to 1Password is that it ain’t cheap. It’s $49.99 for the mac version plus another $15 for the iPhone + iPad version. Probably the same for the Android version.


If you’re on a OS X, and you need a Bittorrent client, this is the one to get.

Transmission is donationware.


A simple, excellent, app launcher, that’ll stick a moustache in your menu bar. What more could you want. Type a few keystrokes and voilla, the app you need has just been launched. No more reaching for the mouse.

Chuck is free.


Capo deserves every award it has won. “Capo is a revolutionary tool that helps you learn the music in your iTunes library. By slowing your music, and presenting a detailed spectrogram, Capo lets you hear and see your music like never before. ” More importantly to me, you can just drag over the darker bits in the spectrogram and it’ll tell you what notes are being played, and help you figure out the chord changes for that song you want to learn but can’t find any sheet-music / tablature for. There is also an iPhone version of the app which I can’t comment on but is well regarded.

Capo is $50 for the Mac version and $20 for the iPhone version.


The best RSS Feed Reader for the mac. It combines with the wonderful Readability service to make reading everything better.

Reeder is $9.99 for the Mac version, $4.99 for the iPad version and $2.99 for the iPhone version.


A really impressive e-mail client, with a slew of functionality that can’t be found anywhere else, like a little pane that will show you all the prior conversations you’ve had with the person you’re currently reading an e-mail from.

One thing about it that you’ll either love, or hate, is that it intentionally only allows you to write e-mails in plain-text, but it compensates by being the only e-mail client I’ve seen on the Mac that also lets you write in Markdown, and automatically generates a nicely formatted version for your recipient to read.

The author advises using it for a couple weeks before making a decision about it. I’m going to have to agree with him. It’s capabilities definitely grow on you over time. It’s only downside is that, it isn’t quite up to the typically high UI standards that we’ve come to expect from Mac apps. It’s not bad looking, but it’s not great either.

MailMate is $29.99 with a free trial.