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List of open source applications for macOS (github.com/serhii-londar)
327 points by rayascott on Oct 7, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 87 comments

I have a personal list of macOS apps I use that is similar & goes in detail in how I use the apps.


Karabiner specifically is life changing software.

At this point ALL keys on my keyboard are custom modifier keys. It's wild.


Thank you very much for sharing. Using almost all of the tools you mention myself[^1]. But you give lots of new inspiration. And mention many new tools that I will explore.

Funny that today I started using SublimeText again for the exact same purpose you describe: Creating a wiki / knowledge base that is text based (markdown FTW), editing those markdown files, quickly jumping to files within nested folders (via Cmd+P = Goto anywhere). Was searching an alternative to `Quiver App` or `Dash App` to create a code snippet database / repository.

After I started using `iA Writer` for writing markdown, I realized how much better it is to move away from Evernote, Quiver or other proprietary writing apps to markdown (=plaintext) + folders. A little research later I narrowed down to: Emacs+Orgmode+Terminal or Vim+FZF+Ripgrep+Terminal. I realized that SublimeText gives me all the Ripgrep+FZF capabilities, and a decent markdown editor. (Still I love and use `iA Writer` for non-technical writing and SublimeText for all else.)

[^1]: Karabiner Elements, Alfred App, Keyboard Maestro and many more.

OMG, I skimmed over your mappings and macros.

The keyboard maestro and karabiner folks need to hire you to help them market their tools.

I thought I was pretty good with karabiner and KM. You... are a true power user!

> All the apps are in one desktop because there is delay in switching between macOS multiple desktops.

Huh, this is a weird one for me.

I believe there is a Terminal command to shorten the animation time which I've used, but other than that it would take more time for me to cycle through so many windows to find the one I want, than to just lay out task specific desktops and switch between them with Ctrl+Left/Right.

Not only that but I already am at a limit where I have so many windows in one of those (several Firefox windows, each with many tabs of stuff to read) where all of the windows become sluggish unless I move the one I'm trying to use to a less crowded desktop.

Did you do something to avoid this slowdown? How do you efficiently move between all those applications in a single desktop?

I avoid this slowdown by mapping every single app I use to a two key binding.


i.e. w+l opens VS Code. w+k opens Safari and so on. It's instant, no lag at all.

I also bind four finger swipes to open top apps with BetterTouchTool.

i.e. four finger swipe up opens Safari, swipe right = VS Code, swipe left = iTerm.

Wow! I'm definitely going to take some inspiration from this. IMO, this should've been the submission since it felt a lot more readable to me than the other list.

With the other list I got bored quite quick, but with this one I was able to read it for a lot longer. This was mostly due to the screenshots and the explanations of how you use it.

What do you do if you lose your data and have to start over? As far as I know, there is no way to automate the settings of all of these macOS apps that don't have config files that can be backed up like VSCode. Do you use Time Machine?

They all have to be saved somewhere. A lot of Mac only apps also use the defaults[0] system which allows you to read/write values there.

  man defaults
  defaults domains | tr " " "\n"
  defaults read com.apple.Safari
For dot files, I personally use stow[1] but there are other utilities and workflows out there[2].

  [0] https://ss64.com/osx/defaults.html
  [1] https://www.gnu.org/software/stow/
  [2] https://dotfiles.github.io/

Note that, at least as of 10.14 (Mojave), lots of built-in macOS preferences do not like their settings to be changed this way. For example, you can use `defaults` to change preferences for the trackpad to your heart's content, but they won't take effect immediately because IOKit (I think) has a shadow copy of the preferences that is much harder to modify. The pref pane for the trackpad ends up changing both the plist and the IOKit prefs to make preference changes take effect immediately.

If you use a lot of `defaults` commands, you'll want to reboot immediately afterwards.

I'm still forming my backup strategy. In your particular usecase, it's a bit clunky, but I'd use Carbon Copy Cloner for Mac and make monthly backups.

Personally I just do time machine over the air. You just need to setup a Netatalk server with mdns on a raspberry pi or any other spare computer and that’s it.

Now I’m trying to sort out how to push backups over vpn since it’s not identifying the drive correctly, but when I’m home it’s flawless.


I back it up to Backblaze every 80 hours. And I am slowly moving my config files to Nix.

I will elaborate a bit more. You've taken the time to have this macOS set up configured exactly to your liking. All of these apps have settings and application data. Sometimes the application data and settings are synchronized in the cloud and sometimes they aren't. Maybe you use an app like Notes which has application data (your notes) that is synced to iCloud but application settings which reside somewhere on the computer locally. How do you handle situations like this? Do your back up solutions essentially allow you to back up the complete state of your computer so that if something happens you can restore it back to to the exact state you left it? What about upgrading macOS versions?

This is a puzzle I've struggled with both on macOS and iOS.

You might find this app useful. I plan to use it as I move to a new mac soon.


Yes! Thank you! I'll even see if I can help contribute.

Does iCloud iOS backup accomplish an exact sync for iPhone and iOS? I've never used it so I am not sure. If I use iCloud backup and I lose my phone, will an iCloud backup restore bring my phone back to exactly what it was like before?


Some things (e.g. Photo library tagging) doesn't get included in the backup, and all your photos need to be re-processed by the new device.

FWIW I tried Mackup for a few days to try and sync prefs between two macOS machines, and it broke more than it fixed. Many applications don't like having their preferences files symlinked or preferences changed while they're running.

Great list!

Found a couple of gems that I didn't know existed.

Another shout-out for Karabiner. It's amazing.

I was using Linux primarily, but recently switched fully to MacOS. With an IBM Model-M keyboard (old-school, missing the Apple/Window keys), I wouldn't be able to live without Karabiner.

Unicomp makes (modifies?) Model-M type keybaords that are Mac-ish; I've got a Command and Option Key, the F keys do the same thing as the ones on the Mac (change volume, brightness, etc.). I love it.

Tell, me, how do you connect your Model-M to the Mac? I bought this from Unicomp because IIRC just adding a USB adapter to the three Model-M's in my closet didn't work out.

> IBM Model-M keyboard

I hope you work in a sound proof room.

Working remotely from home. But I used to have one at the office when we had one, and nobody complained. Although they were entertained by the artifact of years gone by.

you can live/work without a clipboard manager :O ?!

Every time I come across a paid 30 dollar version of software being sold for macos, I can find a free open source alternative that often works better pretty quickly.

Yet when I look it's mostly buggy, poorly supported and half finished.

Have you tried paying for the open source software?

Why would I pay for something that's mostly buggy, poorly supported and half finished.

So that it is not "mostly buggy, poorly supported and half finished".

Because it's a chicken and egg problem.

Not really, there is already well written solid software for the Mac which I do pay for. What would happen if these companies open sourced their software is most users would stop paying and they would be forced out of business.

Open source devalues developers work.

That is a cop out. It is not "abstract concept devalues", YOU are the one that chooses not to pay.

It’s not a cop out, it’s the objective reality. I and MOST other people choose not to pay.

When something is given out for free, why are you surprised when people take it for free?

Explicitly not the reason tonyedgecomb gave and not the topic of this subthread.

It was implied in what I said.

Open source is better for libraries than applications. I’m happy to pay for software written with open source libraries that works well so I can support developers like myself.

Cannot tell if you are referring to FOSS or $30 software.

That’s funny, every time I come across some piece of unsupported free software, I can usually find a $30 paid alternative that looks better, probably runs better, and someone will answer my questions about it, no matter how stupid they might be.

freeware and people like you have killed indie development. Great software should be paid for. Unless or cures cancer or solves humanity’s issues, it should not he made available for free. Otherwise the author of a paid version is forced into office jobs because some idiot makes a free clone just to have something on their cv.

VLC - though it doesn't cure cancer or anything , its a cure for video player industry(if one exist).. cant think of any other open source video players with billions of installs, and FREE.. calling someone who does opensource as idiot is just ridiculous..

Meh, if the proprietary software has a good UI, it's going to do well -- open source tends to suck on that front, quite often because it's cross-platform and that doesn't favor the OS X look.

Sure, for programmers and command line users there will be alternatives, but that still leaves a large market.

Y'know what's going to kill Apple indie development in our reality? Apple. A lot of the paid shareware has a long pedigree, and the upcoming de-Carbonization will put an end to many small-shop software.

Indie shops that are still shipping Carbon in 2019 haven’t been making good Mac apps for a long time.

They may be making useful tools, which their customers really need, but they haven’t been good (in the sense most people mean by good on Mac, which is notably different from on other platforms) for a long time.

There are several perks to paid software that is typically missing from just free software:

* Guaranteed updates/bug fixes

* Better support

* More polished product

There are free alternatives to basically everything, but people still pay for stuff.

>Guaranteed updates/bug fixes

Such a bold statement. Numerous times paid software produced errors, which went unfixed until the product was discontinued and then you had to buy a new version.

I think "Guaranteed" was a bad choice, but I'm sure it's still better on average than the majority of free/OSS projects.

Unfortunately there will always be a small number of companies using scummy tactics like that, but not most of them.

Also documentation, when it exists (not all apps have or need it) tend to actually be useful instead of a half-assed, incomplete wiki.

(though some paid software in the recent years also have half-assed, incomplete wikis for documentation... my guess is that the proliferation of open source software made a lot of newer developers think that this is how software is supposed to be documented)

Definitely. As someone that helps write wiki content for a open source project it's quite a bit of work, for little-to-no recognition, so I can understand why that happens. Plus you don't know if anyone even ends up reading it.

I still do it because of passion for the project, but it would certainly be easier to be paid for it!

Great software should be paid AND respect your freedom:


Conflating freeware and free software is a really annoying flaw of the English language.

I think using the "gratis" vs "libre" distinction can help alleviate the issue: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gratis_versus_libre

So you're saying people should stop making free software just so some guy can make a profit off of his overpriced basic utility app?

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for people making a profit from their dev work but when I see something as basic as a cpu temperature meter costing $30 on the Apple store, I'm going straight for the free version. What's even worse with apps like these on the Mac in particular is that the developers often bloat them with useless features in order to justify the price, so in my case I'd end up paying $30 for something I'm only going to use one small portion of.

> Great software should be paid for.


Great software - Linux - is not paid, and it is taking over the hosting world, and the IOT world.

GNU is great software. nano / pico is great software. python is great software. .NET is great software. it is all open source.

'The best business man serves the communal good.'

I'd be curious to see a survey of founders of FOSS and hear their take.

You wont find too many, as most are either contract workers or just volunteers, because “we want free software” doesn't really translate to pay for hard work and dedication.

> because “we want free software” doesn't really translate to pay for hard work and dedication.

That is one hell of a hot take. RedHat, SUSE, Canonical, would all probably disagree. (also, fwiw, so would I - I have been working on Open Source software for 5+ years, and have been paid for it for the entire time)

> as most are either contract workers or just volunteers

The linux kernel called, said something about having a large amount of fully paid, long term staff.

I get it, you don't like free software - but there is plenty of free software that people are paid to maintain and develop, and it has been a great benefit to software development as a result. Even paid for software is probably using some open source components, (runtimes, languages, compilers, libraries to name a few of them).

These are too few from the massive list of open source software out there. For almost any piece of technical software there is a free clone for it. I like free software, as in free to read the code, but not necessarily freeware.

If the software is simple enough that someone can make it just to have something on their CV, I think a paid developer needs to do something more substantial.

This is how you get bloated apps.

No, this is how you get things that take more effort to make. Bloatware does fit though.

Asking for software that is not "simple enough" is exactly how you get bloated software with unnecessary features that only exist to justify whatever notion of "worth the price" you may have.

Programs should strive to be simple and focus on doing one thing, not try to be Swiss Army Knives to justify their price.

I’ll pay you $30 if you point to me a free open source alternative to Sketch that works better. /s if that isn’t obvious.

P.S. As a non-designer who’d like to use Sketch maybe once every two to three months, the price is pretty steep.

I actually prefer Figma than Sketch, and it's free.

We’ll have to disagree here. Anyway, Figma certainly isn’t open source.

Figma is free as in beer, but not free as in freedom.

part of the reason for this is it costs money to distribute apps for apple devices. $100 a year and xcode (ie mac hardware) at a minimum.

Cool list. I'd love to the the equivalent for Linux. I know I can open some package manager and check, but it would nice to see the cream of the crop.

The arch wiki has a great list here:


You could also use the graphical interface to the said package manager.

On Ubuntu for example, the Ubuntu software center has sections for editors picks and recommended applications for audio/video/gaming/productivity/...

(Not all open source thought)

Somewhat unrelated but does anyone know why there isn't a basic open source local-file MP3 player for iOS? I can't seem to find one (all of the ones on the app store are either scummy looking or "radio" players) -- does Apple block competitors to Apple Music?

I've considered building a simple open source MP3 player for iOS (which has no baked in ties to any other radio services or online services), but surely the reason one doesn't exist is because it would never pass review or is against Apple's ToS somehow?

Thanks so much for the recommendation -- amazed that I didn't manage to find VLC in all my searching. I don't think of VLC for playing music so much so maybe that was where my blindspot was.

A bit off topic, but why can't you just use the Music app? It plays local MP3s just fine.

I haven't checked recently, but it used to be that you couldn't add things directly from your phone to it.

Ah, I actually don't think it can do that. I purchase pretty much all my music from the iTunes store since it is DRM free and the only other place I get music from is CDs I win in radio contests, so I haven't needed to do that.

Super late but yeah that's why -- I use bandcamp almost exclusively to download music now so I have a large bunch of MP3s.

I also run a linux on all my computers so apple ecosystem interop is a bit harder to come by.

It doesn't seem like aesprite is open source


The source is available but the license seems to say you must pay for a copy and that while you can download the source and compile you can not distribute what you make, custom compiles for personal use only.

It does look like a great program though and I'd happily pay the $14.99 they are asking if I was in the market for a pixel editor

Technically, it is Open Source, in the sense that the source code is available to the public.

It is not, however, free software [0]. It also probably fails the official Open Source Definition [1].

[0]: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.en.html [1]: https://opensource.org/osd-annotated

It's not Open Source in the same sense that Unreal Engine is not Open Source. Apparently the term "source-available" license is used to describe software you can access the source but don't have permission do use it freely the same ways as "open source".

Aesprite was open source until 2016 thoughs so maybe the reason it's on the list is the list was created before 2016.


The term for this situation is usually "Source-available software": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Source-available_software

Not to hijack from this thread, but is there a similar list for Windows? That would be great to have.

I'd add Downlink [1] to the Wallpaper category. No connection to the developer, just a user here.

[1] https://downlinkapp.com

I'd like to see SolveSpace (CAD) on there, but the mac support will be dropped soon unless someone can jump in to help.

Where is VideoLAN's VLC

I really wish a tool like EA Architect but for Mac.

This list is missing tons of app for Mac OS that are written using JavaFX.

When apple opensource ios Simulator :)

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