Free Alternatives to 10 Popular Commercial Mac Applications

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free apps for macs We all love free apps. MakeUseOf is all about free apps! Why pay for certain applications when you can get another which works almost (or just) as well for free? While there are a few applications which have no free counterparts, you can most definitely find a majority of others which carry one or several alternatives that performs about the same tasks; and it won’t burn a hole in your pocket!

For your convenience, I’ve managed to gather a short list of the most frequently used Mac applications and provided a free counterpart for each of them. Hopefully, they’ll serve you as well as the paid versions.

This is MakeUseOf’s edition of Software for Starving Students.

Commercial app #1: AppZapper $12.95

AppZapper is an uninstaller. Mac applications are very simple to install: it’s a straightforward click-and-drag over to the ‘Applications’ folder. Uninstallation is supposedly just the same, dragging the application to Trash. But there are always remnants of the application in System and Preferences folders. An uninstaller finds these remnants and removes them as well. AppZapper is the best in the game.

Free counterpart: AppCleaner
There are hardly any noticable differences between these two applications, even if you put them side by side. AppCleaner works just as well as AppZapper.

appzapper mac

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Commercial app #2: Parallels Desktop for Mac $79.99

Parallels Desktop for Mac is a virtualization program which enables installation of multiple operating systems in a virtual environment. Use this to install Windows, Linux or any other OS while running Mac OS X at the same time.

Free counterpart: VirtualBox
Jason has covered this program in great detail. Check out his post to learn more about using VirtualBox and what it has to offer.

Commercial app #3: Xslimmer $12.95

Xslimmer is a program which removes unnecessary architecture from Universal Binaries. Because of Apple’s transition to Intel, developers had to make their programs cater for both PPC and Intel processors. It will also remove unwanted localization (language) files to drastically reduce the amount of space used by the application.

Free counterparts: TrimTheFat, Monolingual
TrimTheFat will only remove the PPC architecture from applications leaving the Intel side of it. Then use Monolingual to remove unwanted languages. Monolingual can also remove unneeded architecture but this feature is very unpolished and there are some reports that Monolingual causes severe damage to Intel Macs. Do not use Monolingual for that purpose, although removing languages works without a glitch. So, two free apps to replace Xslimmer’s functions. Using these two applications, you can very well free up several gigabytes.

xslimmer mac

Commercial app #4: CoverSutra 14.95€

CoverSutra is an iTunes controller and scrobbler which provides a beautiful album art jewel case on the desktop. But 14.95€ is too much money to pay for something which will only help me control my music.

Free counterpart: GimmeSomeTunecoversutra mac
Although GimmeSomeTune is free, in many ways it could possibly be better than CoverSutra. GimmeSomeTune can automatically fetch album artwork and lyrics, scrobble to and has global hotkeys to control almost every aspect of iTunes.

Commercial app #5: TextExpander $29.95

TextExpander allows you to use customized abbreviations to “expand” frequently used phrases and text-strings. This application is valuable when you are always finding yourself typing the same line of text repeatedly such as in HTML editing.rapidowrite

Free counterpart: RapidoWrite
I honestly can’t tell the difference between TextExpander and RapidoWrite. To pay or not to pay?

Commercial app #6: Awaken $12.95

Awaken is an iTunes alarm, when it goes off, it will play a preset playlist. It can also be set to sleep your Mac after a certain time period is over, allowing you to listen to music while drifting off into slumber.

Free counterparts: iTunes Alarm, iTaf
I’ve covered this topic of alarms for iTunes before. iTunes Alarm and iTaf are very capable to perform the same tasks as Awaken, perhaps even more! Check out my older post to learn more about these little gems.

itunes alarm clock

Commercial app #7: iWork $79, Office 2008 for Mac (Home and Student Edition) $149.95

I’m sure we all know what Office 2008 is. iWork is the Mac productivity suite which comprises of Pages (word processor), Numbers (spreadsheet) and Keynote (presentation).

Free counterpart: NeoOfficeneooffice for mac
NeoOffice is a full set of office applications and is a port of OpenOffice created specifically for Mac OS X. Some may argue that the interface is not as polished as it could be but we’re looking for productivity here. NeoOffice has just been recently updated and performs quicker among other enhancements. If what you’re looking for is a capable word processor (which is the most often used application within a productivity suite), why bother paying so much when NeoOffice is free?

Commercial app #8: Paragon NTFS for Mac OS X $39.95

If you are in a community where you’ll get exposed to a Windows NTFS formatted hard disk (like student life), you’ll definitely need to have NTFS support on your Mac. One method to do this is to buy Paragon NTFS. The other way is completely free!macfuse

Free counterpart: NTFS-3G with MacFUSE
I’ve explained how to use NTFS-3G in my first Macnifying OS X post. The NTFS-3G project has come a long way since it first started. The driver is pretty stable now and there is even a ublio version for better performance.

Commercial app #9: Photoshop CS3 $649

Photoshop is an image editing tool which is incredibly successful because it is simply so capable.

Free counterpart:
Right, this is a very touchy topic. So, let’s get this straight: No free application will ever be good enough to completely replace Photoshop. There are always alternatives if you’re not looking to spend $650 to touch up your photos. This is one of them. is specifically ported to Mac OS X so don’t mistake it with GIMP. Before this, running requires X11 to be installed but there is now an experimental native version which doesn’t need X11 to run. I’ve tried it, takes a little long to launch but it works. I don’t mind waiting a bit and saving $650.

Commercial app #10: Cha-Ching $40, MoneyWell $39.99

These two applications are personal finance managers, and pretty good ones at that. But they cost a bomb. I don’t know about you but I’m hardly willing to spend $40 to manage my finances.

Free counterparts: Cashbox, Mini$
Simple, easy-to-use, straightforward, free. That’s all I need. Granted, Mini$ and Cashbox are not as fully-featured as Cha-Ching and MoneyWell, they don’t have the fancy frills of schedulers and buckets styles but they still manage to help me keep track of my finances.

So I hope that this list prevented the major hole in your pocket which could have been if you paid for these applications. Are there any other applications you use which I didn’t list? Maybe you would like to find out if the application you were thinking of buying has a free alternative? Shoot away in the comments!

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Comments (31)
  • megapixel

    So happy to have found this page. It is always great to know that there are free alternatives instead of having to pay for apps.

  • Pete

    Superb post – greatly appreciated, thanks

  • güney servis

    thanks very good.

  • Simon Elliott

    Nice list and I will be sure to give VirtualBox a go.

    I have a few hundred more apps on the homepage of my site – and thought you might like to check it out.


  • Goobi

    Good list. But Gimp and NeoOffice, a serious no no. I’m too comfortable with Photoshop and iWork to even think of those.

    And you forgot another free application to uninstall applications. The OS X trashbin!

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.
Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.