Browsers Mac

10 Essential Software Apps For Web Development on a Mac

Ellie Harrison 31-07-2009

MacbookWhether Macs are the best computers for web development is up for debate, but one thing can be agreed upon – there are some great software apps for web development on a Mac.


Here’s a list of 10 essential software apps for web development on a Mac.

10. TextWrangler is a multipurpose text editor that works for editing code and plain text documents. It can even open files from (and save them to) remote FTP and SFTP servers.

9. Inkscape is an open source vector graphics editor similar to Adobe Illustrator The Beginner's Guide To Adobe Illustrator Want to get started learning Adobe Illustrator, but feel overwhelmed? With easy-to-follow instructions and plenty of annotated screenshots, this manual makes learning Illustrator simple. Read More . It is the first open source program to adopt Spiro curves. You can also go through their clip art collection and find dozens of images made with Inkscape that are free to use or modify.


8. Cyberduck is the all-in-one FTP, SFTP, Amazon S3, WebDav and Mosso Cloud Files browser application. Web developers often need to switch between different file systems, and Cyberduck does this without a hiccup. It works with Textmate (which has a free 30 day trial), so you can open files from Cyberduck in Textmate, edit, save and upload. Read more about FTP clients for Mac here. 8 Free FTP Clients For Mac Read More


7. Gimp is the second-most popular photo editing software program on the market, second only to Adobe Photoshop. The difference? Gimp is absolutely free! You can do just about everything in Gimp How To Use Scripts & Plugins in GIMP Read More that you can do in Adobe Photoshop, so web developers will find this a welcome and wallet friendly addition to their software arsenal.

Gimp on OS X

6. Aptana takes up where Textmate leaves off in some aspects. It is a full featured code editor, but adds the FTP support of Cyberduck, as well as important web technologies like Ajax, Adobe AIR and PHP.

5. Firefox is a must have for web development because of three great add-ons – Firebug, the Web Developer toolbar and ColorZilla. Firebug lets you edit, debug, and monitor CSS, HTML, and JavaScript live in any web page; while the Web Developer toolbar adds additional tools like clearing cookies, disable CSS, display ruler and display source. ColorZilla lets you pick colors from websites or images online, so you can match them to your web designs, plus measure the distance between two points on a website.



4. JAlbum helps you make attractive photo galleries for websites. JAlbum comes with various templates built-in, but you can also customize your own template to better match a web project you’re working on. Read about 5 more Excellent Mac Apps for Graphic & Web Design 6 Excellent Mac Apps for Graphic & Web Design Read More

3. Colloquy is a basic IRC client that every web developer will use at one point or another. Many web platforms use IRC for support, including WordPress.

2. MAMP is what you need to manage websites locally when you are without an internet connection or want to test changes without making them live on a website. It is easy to install MAMP and have access to Apache, PHP and MySQL for Mac OS X. It is also a stand-alone program, so if you need to install it, it won’t interfere with your OSX installation. Plus, you can use it to install WordPress on your Mac How To Install Wordpress Blog Locally On Your PC Read More .


1. iTerm is a feature-filled Terminal emulator for OSX. You can bookmark your frequently used sessions, have tabbed windows with multiple sessions and more.



Do you have any suggestions for better similar apps? Let’s hear them in the comments!


Related topics: FTP, Image Editor, IRC, Mozilla Firefox, Online Chat, Photo Album, Web Design, Web Development, Webmaster Tools.

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  8. yoyoma
    August 1, 2009 at 7:56 pm

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  9. Nick
    August 1, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Anyone who says GIMP in the same sentence at Photoshop, has a nominal knowledge of how to use Photoshop. It's totally unintuitive UI (for designers, not coders) aside, it doesn't even come close to do what Photoshop does, and never will. Get over it.

    Also, iTerm performs so poorly, you are better to use inputmanagers and hack around Apple Terminal to do whatever you want... This is coming from a Mac Pro user with CPU cycles to spare.

  10. enrique
    August 1, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Well, since we're talking free, Dropbox should be mentioned.

    Also have to second Sequel Pro. So much better than mysql gui tools.

    For paid apps, TextMate above all else. Speed, speed, speed. I couldn't imagine trying to do a project without it. And if you keep your bundles in Dropbox and just create symbolic links to them, you can share them across all your macs.

  11. Mike
    August 1, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    I'm sorry, but Gimp for the Mac is terrible. If your busy at all, and value your time, don't use Gimp. Use something like Pixelmator/Acorn, which are affordable, but also extremely powerful.

    • WebKarnage
      August 4, 2009 at 3:50 am

      With you there Mike. Gimp becomes very expensive on time if your time has value.

  12. Josh
    August 1, 2009 at 11:52 am

    This list is predominately applications that are better maintained on Linux. Stop wasting your money on Apple and go Linux, far better for web design/development.

    • Rob Shepard
      August 1, 2009 at 12:20 pm

      Switching operating systems at the drop of a hat is not something many people are willing to do, for a number of reasons. I have been using Apple and Microsoft products for well over 25 years. I have a large amount of experience in both platforms. I cannot "afford" the lose of productivity, lose of time, and lose of potential profits from my development to switch over to Linux.

      That being said, I have used many distros of linux, dating back to my earliest use of Linux being the PowerPC linux distro which I ordered on disc and had shipped to me via US mail (56K modem wasn't up for the task of downloading the distro). I have tried many linux based alternatives as well, but nothing has proven to me that using them would be more productive. The lose of time to have to "relearn" a platform is the killer for me, and is what is keeping me from using any Linux/Free alternatives.

      Plus, if I already own Photoshop, why on earth would I use GIMP. If I already own Coda and TextMate, why would I switch to a free alternative? If I already own a Mac with full AppleCare support that has ALWAYS came thru for me in the end, why would I want to deal with the headaches of building my own linux PC? I have already been thru the whole build my own PC thing in my early 20s. Too high maintenance for my tastes.

      But that is simply my opinion. You can do what works for you, and I will do what works for me. No need to go fanboy on people.

  13. Shy
    August 1, 2009 at 11:42 am

    As much as I like open-source software - I don't think you can compare GIMP to Photoshop.

    I've tried gimp several times over the years, and although it improved greatly it still lacks many basic features that Photoshop users find so intuitive.

  14. stonyhill
    August 1, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Smultron is my preference over TextWrangler with one exception: TextWrangler has better search/replace. Cyberduck will allow live editing with either TextWrangler or Smultron, so no need to use Textmate.

    How about Virtualization? Any serious Web Developer should be checking their work in multiple browsers and operating systems. I use VirtualBox on my Mac, so that I can check my work in Ubuntu and Windows7. Windows7 Release Candidate is free for now, and works until next March.

  15. Paul
    August 1, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Umm.. Textmate anybody?

    Coda is great but I wouldn't use anything other than Textmate.

    • Robert
      August 23, 2009 at 1:48 am

      I am in complete agreeance with Paul. Coda was great, and then I found TextMate. It's worth every penny and I love that I can make it semi-transparent allowing me to see what I'm working on while I'm editing.

  16. Phaoloo
    August 1, 2009 at 9:58 am

    InkScape and Gimp are two great alternatives to Illustrator and Photoshop. Thanks for the list.

  17. Ammon
    August 1, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Great list, but I don't consider this list complete without Skitch. Absolutely essential for grabbing screenshots, light editing, and posting online quickly.

    • Ellie Harrison
      August 1, 2009 at 6:01 pm

      Skitch is a great program for grabbing screenshots. You can also press Command-Shift-4 to make quick screenshots on a Mac.

  18. Levi Truelove
    August 1, 2009 at 9:23 am

    Ummm eclipse?

  19. Noah
    August 1, 2009 at 6:02 am

    Ehm....... Notepad ++ ?????? Where is it.

    • WebKarnage
      August 4, 2009 at 3:45 am

      Notepad on the MAC?? Someone else isn't reading much...

      • Noah
        August 4, 2009 at 3:49 am

        Notepad works on mac.

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  21. John Cruz
    August 1, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Jeff hit the nail on the head with a lot of good stuff. As a professional web developer (php), here are my essential tools:

    1) Virtual Box. Throw XP on it and you can test anything.

    2) Xenocode (in Windows / VirtualBox). Go to in Windows and you'll get an option to launch, on the fly, versions of internet explorer. This is great for old browser testing, and also has options for ffox2, safari, chrome, etc. This is a MUST for anyone who needs to do browser testing.

    3) Coda. No, it's not free. But after years of development on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms this one is hands down my favorite the code is simple, elegant, easy to write, and Coda has a bunch of features built in (Subversion, FTP, SSH, etc) without bloating the hell out of the program. Any "free" text editor and you might as well keep programming in VIM for all I'm concerned. It's worth the $100

    4) Dreamweaver. Why? Because sometimes you need to scan an entire site for strings, email addresses that have been changed, certain function calls, etc. Let's be honest: Nobody really flowcharts their programs as well as they need to so we have no clue what parts of the site do what sometimes. Get an old version of dreamweaver cheap on ebay and use it just to do string searches or find / replaces on an entire website.

    Just never, ever, program in it. but it works great for imagemap links too

    4) Picasa. Jalbum is all well and good, but you get more control over things with Picasa. My blog is set up so that wordpress pulls in pics from Picasa and displays them with a lightbox to the full size. All I have to do is hit the upload arrow. It couldn't be easier, and you can edit the html to make it look however you want, or integrate it into whatever you want. Example at [Broken Link Removed]
    5) Firefox. For 2 plugins: Web Developer and Firebug for JS debugging. You can never have too much JS debugging

    6) FreeBSD via Local testing server. MAMP is cute, but whatever happened to building your own web server and keeping it on your local network? It'll be a lot easier with things separate in case something happens to your main rig. FreeBSD is awesome for this, and you can quickly and easily have ruby on rails, php, frameworks, mysql, etc all set up and ready to go.

    • Ellie Harrison
      August 1, 2009 at 6:03 pm

      Picasa is also good for making albums but I like how JAlbum lets you customize the output to better fit site designs.

  22. Jackson Chung
    August 1, 2009 at 1:45 am

    Coda is great but it isn't free, guys. Here at MakeUseOf, we only cover apps that comes free or have a free option.

    • Rob Shepard
      August 1, 2009 at 11:08 am

      I figured the article had it's main focus on "free" programs, however, no where on this page does it make mention of the article or website's focus being on free alternatives. Due to this, it is only natural to expect people asking "Why no coda", which is the main text editing program I use for all my web development.

  23. hans2103
    July 31, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    "Here’s a list of 10 essential software apps for web development on a Mac." -> which is the title... but Coda is by far the most essential software app for web development on a Mac. You can edit code, view images and use the terminal to work on commandline.

  24. Ellie Harrison
    July 31, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Stefan, I will check out Coda. Is it free?

    • Stefan Drakulich
      July 31, 2009 at 3:28 pm

      Nope, it's not, but it is the leader in my opinion. Everything you need basically. I coded something in 10 minutes, which would have taken me 1 hour in regular text.

  25. Stefan Drakulich
    July 31, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Is it me, or did you completely miss out on what the number 1 should be???

    Coda. Look it up. Try it out. Learn.

    • Giles Van Gruisen
      August 1, 2009 at 10:31 am

      I agree. I use Coda every day and it's by far the best.


  26. Jeff
    July 31, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    1. If you're willing to shell out (small amount of) money, BBEdit is superior to TextWrangler.

    2. If you like version control (I certainly do), try Eclipse with the Subclipse plugin. Or if you're looking for a light Finder plugin for Subversion, try SCPlugin.

    3. If you have to deal with MySQL on a local server, I find [Broken Link Removed] and SequelPro are much faster and easier to use than PHPMyAdmin.

    4. For cross-browser compatibility checking (at least until IE6 finally dies), I recommend VirtualBox. It's far less bloated than Parallels with almost all of the same features and it's FREE!

    5. I develop primarily Flash applications for a WordPress environment, and I find MAMP and XAMP to be a little lackluster when it comes to running a customizable server environment. I much prefer a cleaned up native Apache 2 build with MacPorts installed. I'll be the first to admit this isn't for everyone. But If you're comfortable with the command line, I think you'll find it offers you a much more powerful and customizable dev environment.

    I wrote a decent tutorial on how to get a Mac development environment up and running using a lot of these tools. You can find it here if you're interested.