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Ask HN: What are some well-designed, but less well-known native Mac apps?
88 points by Wowfunhappy on Oct 12, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 129 comments
I'm familiar—as I'm sure many are—with the big names: BBEdit, Fantastical, Transmission, etc. I want to hear about great, lesser-known Mac apps, and about the design elements that made them so great.

It's fine if the app is no longer actively supported. At a time when the Mac platform seems to be shifting direction, I'm as interested in old apps as new ones.

(I suspect someone will ask what "Mac-Native" means, and I'm not particularly eager to weigh into that discussion. The apps do not need to be Mac exclusive, but they should feel highly tuned to the platform. No electron!)

Anything by Rogue Amoeba. I'm not sure there's anything "clever" about the design they choose for their apps. They're nice to interact with, they do the obvious thing and they're well engineered (rarely crash, don't have memory leaks, etc).


Reeder 2. The one thing it had that other RSS apps didn't have is collapsable columns. Accounts was the leftmost column. When you selected an account, it would collapse to the width of a small icon. The next column is the RSS feeds, which would do the same after you selected a feed. This left only the list of news items and the viewer taking up most of the space. Screen real estate is less of an issue in this day and age of 4k screens, so they removed this particular feature, but I always appreciated it.

DaisyDisk. Again, nothing clever, just a beautiful interface that always works and always does what you expect it to. I wish it was a little faster, like WizTree, but that might have more to do with HFS+ than the app itself.


Quicksilver. It's mostly been replaced by Alfred at this point, but there were things you could do with Quicksilver that you can't do with Alfred, such as chaining files, actions and apps together on the fly. I think you can do something similar in Alfred with Workflows, but you have to set it up ahead of time. Quicksilver had a set of built in actions that would let you do a surprising number of things on the fly, like open an application in AppZapper.


AppZapper. I don't know if this one qualifies as a "big name" or not, but it's always the first app I install on a new Mac.


> I'm not sure there's anything "clever" about the design they choose for their apps.

That's a feature in itself, though. Being clever usually means you're being at least somewhat unpredictable, which is bad for UI. It's much harder to come up with a simple design than a 'clever' one.

^ Using the word "clever" in the submission was a poor choice on my part. I'm still within the edit window, so I've removed it.

Quicksilver is still very much alive and still works wonderfully, even on Catalina. I use it all day, every day.

Tried AppZapper, it asked for access to my contacts and crashed when I denied.

I’ve been using AppCleaner for a number of years.


Good call. AppCleaner is better than AppZapper in almost every way. I used AppCleaner to delete AppZapper. :D

Yea, it's a shame - I was excited but I don't see why it needs my contacts. Appreciate your comment.

Paw is hands-down the best REST app one I’ve ever used, and it’s a glorious, native macOS app. If you have any use for such a thing, give it a look.

It's chock full of those little touches that you didn't know you needed, like generating <language of choice> code snippets, being able to copy and paste responsive request/response elements...I even realized yesterday you can paste a JSON clip into the JSON request body tab (which is an active native control, not just a rich text area). I've had a few crashes but it seems to save everything quite well. And imports Postman (and others) quite well!

Being able to claim requests together with such an easy to use interface is fantastic.

My only real gripe with Paw is that the default save mechanic produces a binary file. If you're providing paw files as documentation in a repo, this makes concurrent branches a pain because there's no ability to merge changes.

Unless I'm missing something? It's been a while since I've used it in anger.

This is a huge complaint for me with most of these HTTP clients. I don't get why Git/VCS workflow is not considered in these applications. Imo, it needs to be first class.

This is the reason I still use Postman.

It's got a nice interface for throwing some HTTP requests around, but compared to the likes of Paw it's a pain in the ass to set up an API spec. Regardless, the ability to merge these files is too essential to use anything else.

Does Postman support this with Git? Last I saw with my team no one knew how. Only thing Postman seemed to have was a Cloud Sync and Merge junk, no one knew how to make it work with the git repo.


Note that Paw has this type of cloud sync too, though I'm not sure how it handles merges.

It's been a while since I've had to do it, but I'm pretty sure that all you need to do is build a collection of your endpoints, and right-click -> export. This will save it as a JSON file, and while it's not pretty, it's importable and allows you to merge.

Link to Paw: https://paw.cloud/

I use it too and save often folks, it crashes frequently.

Still a much, much, much better interface than postman/insomnia.

I use it frequently and have never had a crash. Wonder what that’s about

I use it pretty heavily myself so I might be mischaracterizing the actual rate.

I'll add an answer of my own, to move things along a bit:


If you have an offline collection of Music and Movies, Meta is a wonderful way to edit the metadata on your collection. You can edit cover art, change the artist/composer/genre/etc information, and use all that metadata to generate new file names. They also make it really easy to batch process a ton of files, with a text pattern-matching system that's more normal-person-friendly than regex (although regex is also available).

Because I'm very picky about these things, I prefer a slightly older release, 1.8.3, which you can download by playing around with URLs. The newest version isn't bad, but they've succumbed a bit to feature creep.



Fission is a fairly simple program for editing audio files: split them, join them, etc. Critically, it performs these operations losslessly, even for lossy formats like MP3's. (As an aside, I wish I had something like this video; I currently rely on ffmpeg with -codec copy.)

My one nitpicky complaint with this one is it kind of takes over your default media file associations. I had to edit the app's info.plist to fix it. I suspect a lot of this is due to Apple bugs.


I came across Dash last week - a very cool offline API documentation browser. Super useful and very well done.


I really like this one. I'm going to put it in my wish list.

One great bit of UI on that web site: When you hover over the "Buy" button, it shows you the price. Too many web sites hide the price of software.

Very often I want to know how much something costs before I look at its features, so as I'm learning what it does I can better understand if it's a good value.

See also the web based https://devdocs.io

Zeal on Linux (https://zealdocs.org) provides the same functionality and is really polished as well.

free alternative for Windows: https://www.documentalist.io/

It used to work great on iOS until Apple crippled it.

What doesn’t work on iOS? I use it all the time.

Monodraw - ascii/text drawing app.

It’s useful and delightful


I would list all of Panic’s apps if the question did not specifically exclude well-known apps. They are hands down the best at delivering just beautiful software.


I use Reeder a lot (both on macOS and iOS), and love its beautiful simplicity!



I recently started using Paw and am in love with it with its design and features! There are so many well-thought features, I wasn't even aware I nedeed.



As a long time user of Folx GO, I recently discovered CloudMounter from the same developer that allows you to mount cloud services as a local drive. I enjoy using both of them, and would definitely recommend!

- Folx GO: https://mac.eltima.com/download-manager.html

- CloudMounter: https://mac.eltima.com/mount-cloud-drive.html

Is CloudMounter actually reliable? Decent speeds, connection doesn't randomly drop, etc?

I've tried both Transmit Disk and Mountain Duck, and I've been disappointed. Transmit Disk works but is very slow compared to using the client directly. Mountain Duck causes all sorts of odd things to happen—files disappearing, files that appear to have been moved aren't moved on the server, etc.

From my experience so far, yes it's reliable.

I'm using CloudMounter to mount an OwnCloud instance in our company network using WebDAV. It was able to properly pause and resume syncing multiple large files, several times.

Timing is one. Tracks all time on your mac and visualizes it for you. (https://timingapp.com)

2Do is another. Can't live without this app (https://www.2doapp.com)

Timing 2 is what I have been waiting on macOS after using https://www.manictime.com on Windows. Thanks!

The whole Omni suite is a classic answer to this. I use OmniFocus daily, and in my opinion OmniGraffle is still by far the best choice for flowcharts and similar.

Omniplan is by far the best MS project clone I’ve used.

Omnigraffle is basically nice to use, the presentation mode is a great way lead a discussion and use of force touch for feedback is a nice touch. However it is a bit quirky and I wish they’d make the core functions act like a normal program. For example, making a table is totally unintuitive.

Is it easy to share flowcharts with non-Omni users? How does it compare to Visio?

The charts can be rendered to PDF. I believe you can export to other formats, but those are always lossy.

Visio feels like it hasn’t been updated since the 90s compared to OmniGraffle. Also, Visio has had an enterprise focus for a very long time while omnigraffle has very much focused on diagramming.

I love the Hex Fiend hex editor [0]!

Among the rest, it shows how scrolling should work in all macOS apps (fast, smooth, and precise).

[0] https://ridiculousfish.com/hexfiend/

Grapher is very well done. I used it a lot when studying calculus. https://support.apple.com/en-gb/guide/grapher/welcome/mac

Edit: I'm no longer a Mac user, I remember Coda (by Panic) being ahead of time as a text editor for coding.

Sequel Pro is the best desktop app I have used to manage MySQL databases by far. I haven't had a Mac in years and haven't found anything near as good on Windows or Linux.

Same here. I still use it even though it crashes when closing a tab on latest MacOS. I’ve tried TablePlus and always end up back at Sequel Pro.

What do you like about it that makes you prefer it to TablePlus?

A couple things:

- the bling in TP is too much for me. I don’t want or need an overly shiny DBA tool.

- I’ve memorized the keyboard shortcuts in Sequel Pro.

- Sequel Pro seems to handle large imports/exports of .sql files better. I think it’s because Sequel chunks dumps into multiple insert statements while TP does not.

Overall, I’m just lazy and don’t want to learn a new tool that offers the same features.

Fair. I switched from MySQL Workbench to Sequel Pro because Workbench didn't support Percona TokuDB, but I missed safe mode (warn before sending queries other than SELECT/EXPLAIN, by having edit/commit be separate steps). So when TablePlus had it, I switched immediately.

Sequel Pro crashes every time you close it (supposedly 1.2 fixes this, but it's still not released yet), and doesn't support asking for confirmation before committing changes (so a typo can accidentally make an unintended change).

I've switched to TablePlus, which is also Mac native and seems better in every way: https://tableplus.com/

(It even has a dark mode!)

(But on the other hand, Sequel Pro is open-source and TablePlus isn't, which might also affect your decision.)

I've been using it for the last few weeks and while I do have some nitpicks, I like it! It crashes every now and then when I close a tab and I wish that when manually adding a new row I could select the value of a foreign key from a dropdown instead of entering it manually. But both get in my way rarely enough that I still like it

When I use a GUI-based database tool I've found DataGrip to be solid on both Mac and Linux. I'm curious if you've tried it and how it stacks up?

Link to Sequel Pro: https://sequelpro.com/

Ok folks, if there is a first prize I think I’m going to win with this entry:


Scrivener is fantastic - used it throughout my doctoral studies

One should take a look at Ulysses too.

Link to Ulysses: https://ulysses.app/

What would you say it does that Scrivener doesn’t? Or does better?

I don’t think that Transmit is particularly unknown but i love it dearly anyway. It is the single nicest UI for file transfer that i’ve ever used.

Transmit is a little too "full featured" for me. We use it at work, but at home I prefer Fetch, which is much more minimalistic.

I'm sure this largely depends on what you're doing, though. I really just need a pleasant UI for uploading and downloading files.

I regularly need onedrive, s3, gdrive, etc. support. If i didn’t i’d probably just stick to cli tools.

Postico (PostgreSQL client)


I love this app and use it daily. Very robust and well designed.

Same person is responsible for Postgres.app, the Mac OS X database binary


Contexts allows me to cmd+tab into specific windows, rather than an entire application. Literally did a little dance when I found this, as it was the only thing I missed from windows. https://contexts.co/

Intaglio: A vector drawing program, designed in the tradition of classics like MacDraw. It even supports importing old MacDraw, AppleWorks, and ClarisWorks drawing files. But that doesn't mean it's not an up-to-date application, with support for modern Mac features like CoreImage, Automator, native tabbed windows, 64-bit, retina displays, etc.


The app Things, macOS and iOS, is one of the best I’ve ever used in terms of well thought-out design, meaningful aesthetics, and reliability. I’ve tried every popular task management app and it’s the only one that feels like the completion of my half-baked ideas about how task management should work. The physics of how the data behaves just feels right, to the point that Apple is copying them not the other way around. And it syncs instantly and without ever corrupting data, both unlike Reminders.

Link to Things: https://culturedcode.com/things/

I'm not familiar with this software so if that URL is incorrect please advise.

That's correct, thanks for adding it.

Aesthetically, I liked Things a lot better before they decided to go the flat design route.

Acorn is my go to graphic editor, it is lesser known than other editors.


HomeBrew (https://brew.sh)

Kind of meta for this question:

Setapp https://setapp.com/

It's a (yet another) subscription service ($10/mo) to some 100 apps, many mentioned here. It's how I learned about:

- Better Touch Tool - Paw - iStatMenus - Marked (I already owned this, but using it in setapp gives Brett a bit of cash per launch) - and a handful of others that I needed to use just once or twice

[Excentro](http://www.excourse.com/excentro/) is fun specialized software for creating guilloche or "Spirograph" vector designs like you might see on bank notes and contracts and such. You can bring the results over to your vector program of choice to integrate into a composition.

VueScan by Hamrick Software. Scanner software -- Mac drivers for about a billion current and older (otherwise unsupported) scanners. Great support, regularly updated. I use VueScan with an old Nikon Coolscan color slide scanner, and VueScan provides better functionality than Nikon. I can now use my no longer supported Fujitsu ScanSnap S510M sheet fed duplex scanner.

Vuescan is very useful and incredibly feature rich but it’s interface is ugly, and that’s also because it’s not a native Mac app, it’s written in some rather obscure cross platform application framework.

Agreed. It’s good software in that it produces good scans from a huge array of obscure scanners, but the UI is embarrassingly slow; it lags and redraws during interaction a lot.

Link to VueScan: https://www.hamrick.com/

PopClip https://pilotmoon.com/popclip/

Spectacle https://github.com/eczarny/spectacle

Alfred 4

Bartender 3




Mindful Mynah

Audio Hijack

SSH Proxy





Hopper Disassembler


Suspicious Package






Hocus Focus http://hocusfoc.us/

Entropy http://www.eigenlogik.com/entropy/

Clipy https://github.com/ian4hu/Clipy


http://tracesof.net/uebersicht/ sorry but Node included in this one :)

Thank you for linking software mentions here and throughout this thread.

Thank you, sir! You are truly doing god's work.

Also Fork and GitX are both git UI apps and they look and feel native. Simple and to the point.

GitX does not pass the native sniff test (were native means Cocoa)

MacPass (KeePass alternative): https://macpassapp.org/

Spectacle (Window moving): https://www.spectacleapp.com/

TextMate (Text Editor): https://macromates.com/

OpenEmu (Emulator Platform): https://openemu.org/

A sample of bad UX design but still a useful app in my opinion is:

Keka (Archiver): http://www.kekaosx.com/

MacPaw apps, at least CleanMyMac and Gemini 2 are very nicely done, and useful to boot.

Softorinos app WALTR 2 is in the same vein, looks nice and very useful.

DaisyDisk is amazing as well.


From what I've noticed, they seems to have some overlap and they often do cross promotions. I actually think their advertisement verge on spam sometimes, but I still love their apps.

Something else I noticed is that all of these seem to be run by eastern European people. I am curious if there is some niche/stereotype to be found in making high quality apps from those countries.

You don't have to install this. I was not aware until fairly recently. The pre-installed Dictionary app is awesome and very handy for all types of research (not just word lookup).

Amazing tool for language learners, too. Just enable for your languages and force-click or right click to translate individual words. For me, for Japanese words it brings up definitions in Japanese plus an English translation.

Meta - A music tag editor for mac

For me without a doubt the best audio meta data editor on macOS and an essential part of managing my music collection.



Retrobatch - Flexible, super charged, batch image processing for your Mac


Little Snitch https://www.obdev.at/products/littlesnitch/index.html

Lulu https://objective-see.com/products/lulu.html

Haven't used a block-first, prompt to allow firewall on windows or linux. Similar to noscript in the browser

Moom - the best and most configurable window manager: https://manytricks.com/moom/

Stay - restore your windows positions based on your current displays: https://cordlessdog.com/stay/

I feel like Stay is part of OS now. Not 100% sure, but I get window restore functionality without any third party apps. Doesn’t work after restarts of course.


Link to Spectacle: https://www.spectacleapp.com/

first app i install.

wonder if osx has added these features natively since i started using this app.

Espresso — rarely updated but beautifully designed HTML/CSS IDE

TablePlus — elegant database app

Antetype — my all-time favorite app. The only UI design app I’ve ever encountered that is built from the ground up for UI design rather than being a torturously adapted drawing app.

Link to Espresso: https://espressoapp.com/

Link to TablePlus: https://tableplus.com/

Link to Antetype: https://www.antetype.com/ (can't confirm this software is _not_ built using Electron, et el. as their website states "Antetype is built on web technology")

It’s definitely a Cocoa app. The latest version uses a web view for the actual canvas, though.

I don't know how I ever got by without iStat Menus. Very customizable system metrics in the menu bar.


I love Eagle and use it regularly to collect images, videos, and many other things as my sources of inspiration. IMO, it's a better alternative to Inboard.


my girl left me because i listened to music all of the time, but player is amazing :))

I hate the built in Finder app (who doesn’t?). XtraFinder is a great replacement.


I've been looking for a good finder replacement. Thanks! I thought about adding PathFinder to my list, but PathFinder 6 has a crazy memory leak that renders it unusable.

As did PatherFinder 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.

I used PathFinder 5 extensively on Snow Leopard. I never had any leaks or issues. But, I did get the version wrong in my previous comment. I'm currently (sort of) using v8. I wasn't on macs with 6 or 7.

GitUp is a fast, lean Git GUI that is suited to those who are already familiar with Git but want a visual layer.


I used to work for pagestrip.com and I feel we did a good job!

Rocket Propulsion Analysis (RPA).


Really lovely password manager https://www.remembear.com/

Big fan of Postico and Table Tool by Egger Apps. https://eggerapps.at

Paw is a good api debugger.

Link to Paw: https://paw.cloud/

Pixelmator! Wouldn't say it's not well known though.

Link to Pixelmator: https://www.pixelmator.com/mac/

I like Agenda.

Link to Agenda: https://agenda.com/

nvAlt is a great note app, super speedy and some lovely keyboard shortcuts.


commenting to bookmark, thanks everybody for the great ideas


Scapple, inshort

These both look neat, and they're apps I'd legitimately never heard of before!

To save others the bit of Googling I did:

Scapple: Mind mapping software, looks almost like a modern version of Inspiration. Drag notes together to connect them. https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scapple/overview

Inshort: Flowcharts, and Gantt charts. Says it integrates with Calendar, which could be very useful. Wonder how it compares with Omnigraffle, though. http://www.shortki.com/inShort.html

I haven’t used the desktop app, just the iPad app, but InShort is more of a project management app than it is a charting app. It’s pretty comprehensive and can have somewhat of a learning curve if you’re not familiar with project management software. Their website describes it best, but I should also add that I have never found an app that solves what inShort solves. It’s almost like a combination of business process design and nested mind maps.

“inShort allows breaking a complex task into simpler ones and displaying their relationship on a diagram. From the resulting map of tasks, you can compose a detailed plan and start its execution, marking the progress in the application. Thus, the application provides everything you need for working with projects.”

Edit: I guess they came out with a diagramming tool to accompany the app earlier this year. https://apps.apple.com/us/app-bundle/inset-handy-diagramming...

Scrapple is $18. Hooray for sanely-priced indie Mac software!

It even has an .edu license for $14.40.

Yeah, that's definitely a downside to this market.

I've come to accept it. I would have missed out on a lot of really great software otherwise, that ultimately proved worth their price.

(I don't think $18 is bad either, I was a little more miffed that e.g. Fission cost $30 for a pretty basic audio editor. But, again, it paid off.)

Also worth considering: these prices are one-time, unless a new version includes massive changes, and even then you can keep using your old release. I greatly prefer this to subscription models!

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