The Best Mac-Only Open Source Software

Justin Pot 16-09-2015

When most people think open source, they think Linux. That’s fair: Linux is the operating system built from the ground-up with open source software.


But Mac OS X, as a UNIX-like brother to Linux, has its share of quality open source programs as well – and a bunch of them aren’t available for Linux or Windows.

Let’s look at the best open source Mac exclusives, so you know which programs to install and show off in front of your Linux friends. They’ll be jealous, I promise (though they’ll have a few great apps to show you right back Linux Treasures: 11 Sublime Native Linux Apps That Will Make You Want To Switch Why should you use Linux? To use some of the best applications made for any platform. If you don't believe me, here's a list of great Linux apps. Read More , so don’t get too smug).

Adium: IM Done Right

I’ve been all around this wide old Internet, and I’ve yet to find an IM app better than Adium for any platform. It’s the ultimate instant messaging app Adium - The Ultimate Instant Messaging App [Mac] Start using the best instant messaging client out there for Mac. It's called Adium, it connects to everything and there's no reason for not using it. Okay, there's one reason - Adium does not support... Read More .


Some people argue that you don’t need desktop chat clients anymore Why You Don't Need Desktop Chat Clients Anymore Remember the days of MSN Messenger and AIM? Those two were the first chat clients I ever used. Once I started using them more and more, it became cumbersome to switch between clients and contact... Read More ; those people don’t realize how messed up Google Hangouts is Someone Finally Made Google Hangouts Better On Desktop It took someone outside Google hacking away at CSS to finally offer a decent Hangouts experience on desktops and laptops – and you can give it a shot right now if you're a Chrome user. Read More . Adium integrates nicely with OS X, offers an extensive plugin library, and generally works exactly the way I want it to. If you’re a dedicated Mac user, I bet the same is true for you.


Quicksilver: More Than a Launcher

I hate my mouse. It’s nothing personal, I just think that for almost anything (besides image editing) the keyboard is so much faster. Naturally, I like to launch programs using the keyboard as well, and Quicksilver is my tool of choice for this.


Sure, Spotlight can be pretty awesome Add Superpowers To Spotlight With This Unofficial Plugin System Bring Google, Wolfram Alpha, the weather and just about anything else to Spotlight. Read More and Alfred can be downright amazing 9 Awesome Alfred Workflows I'm Loving [Mac OSX] Alfred is a task launcher for Mac OSX - hit a shortcut, start typing the name of a file, folder, contact, application or search term, and bam - there it is. Since version 2, the... Read More , but for my money the best Mac app launcher out there is the humbled, aged Quicksilver.



A big part of that is the ability to construct sentences, as seen above. I’m sending an entire folder of music to be played in the excellent Vox media player Stop iTunes From Taking Your Media Keys Hostage: Use Vox Instead Stop iTunes from launching, and use your media keys with a program you don’t hate. Here’s how. Read More . A lot of the plugins for this system have stopped working, but I’ve learned to make it do all sorts of things. It’s a little tricky at first, but the same can be said for many indispensable open source tools.

Sonora: Remember When iTunes Was Lightweight?

Apple’s iTunes is a music player. And a syncing tool for your phone. And an app store. And an online radio service. And a…

The list keeps growing, and it’s harder and harder to use the freaking thing as a media player. If this bothers you, check out Sonora. This open source music player syncs with iTunes’ library and gives you a beautiful way to browse and play your music.



It’s a music player, and nothing else, which is how it should be. Oh, and it won’t work with Apple Music synced to your iTunes library.

MacDown: Lightweight Markdown Editor

Markdown is the best way to write for the web Learning Markdown: Write For The Web, Faster Markdown is the best way to write in plain text but still create complex documents. Unlike HTML or LaTex, for example, Markdown is simple to learn. Read More , because you know the formatting is going to work exactly how you expect. OS X has long been the home to some of the best Markdown editors, but MacDown is the first really great open source addition to the list.


Put simply it’s a really great Markdown editor. You can configure it to work just as you like, then get to work writing.


Epichrome: Use Chrome To Make Site-Specific Browsers

There are some web apps that just deserve their own windows and icons on the dock. Sometimes something like Kiwi, which is basically Gmail for Mac Kiwi is Basically Gmail for Mac Gmail offers native apps on Android and iOS, both of which blend with their operating systems. Why shouldn't the far more powerful desktop operating systems get the same treatment? Read More fills this role nicely. In every other case, Epichrome lets you make a site-specific browser in just a few seconds.


It works well, so if you’re a Chrome user who wants a few of your favourite websites to behave more like apps, I recommend you check it out.

BeardedSpice: Control Web Media Players With Your Keyboard

The dedicated keys on your keyboard are designed to work with iTunes, but that’s not the only place you listen to music. Control Pandora and other web services with your media keys, thank to Bearded Spice.

The Best Mac-Only Open Source Software beardedspice main

There’s a lot of great music out there on the web, and it seems like BeardedSpice can control just about all of it.

Vienna: A Great Desktop RSS Reader

If Google’s sudden but inevitable betrayal of Reader is any indication, there are some things too precious to entrust to a web app. RSS reading is one of those things, so you should look into this open source app for Mac users.

The Best Mac-Only Open Source Software vienna article

It integrates well with OS X, offers sharing functionality and a lot more. If you want a desktop-only solution that won’t shut down on you later, open source software is the way to go.

Homebrew: Install Software From The Command Line

There is a lot more great open source software out there for Mac users, and Homebrew might be the best way to install it. This is the Mac answer to all those great command line package managers Linux users are always going on about. With it, you can install thousands of free Mac apps just by typing a command How to Install Mac Apps in Terminal Using Homebrew Did you know you can install Mac software in the Terminal? Here's how to use Homebrew to install Mac apps easily. Read More .

The Best Mac-Only Open Source Software cask install gimp

The sheer volume of open source software you can install with Homebrew actually makes this a good stopping point. Now I want to know: what are your favorite open source Mac apps?

Try to stick to Mac exclusives, because we (obviously) want to make people from other platforms jealous. Let’s compile more in the comments below!

Image Credits:emperor penguin by Leksele via Shutterstock

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  1. Anonymous
    September 18, 2015 at 5:05 pm

    There are very very good one, but not Mac only, for example, DNScrypt to protect you from 'spies'

  2. Anonymous
    September 17, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    HandBrake - The open source video transcoder

    KnockKnock displays persistent items (scripts, commands, binaries, etc.), that are set to execute automatically on OS X. Find potential malware.

    Several other security tools thanks to this security specialist:

    The Unarchiver

    • Justin Pot
      September 18, 2015 at 3:49 pm

      The Unarchiver is one of those apps you install and then forget about, because it does its job and doesn't demand your attention. I should have included it.

      • Anonymous
        September 18, 2015 at 5:29 pm

        Yep, perfect one, a must have for everyone... and it's free! incredible!

        So many apps are so badly conceived, they are great but the UX/UI/GUI... well easy to criticizes.

        When you some devs asking $$$$ for small craps you can make in few seconds in Terminal...

        Would be nice to make a Best Free App(s) you are using, of course should make categories... a bit long :-) A good source to find nice 'less-known' apps is

        Few of my 'old timers'

        - Audacity
        - Avast
        - EasyFind
        - ClipGrab
        - CrashPlan, clumsy but another install and forget
        - Dashlane
        - Find Any File
        - FormulaCalc
        - Handbrake
        - Integrity
        - Jing
        - Monotony
        - Pingendo
        - SSLEnforcer
        - Swift Calc
        - TheUnarchiver
        - Vienna
        - VLC
        - Vox
        - WeChat

        Safari Extensions:
        - All canibos extensions are great, take a look!
        - ublock
        - ghostery
        - backtrack
        - HD quality for youtube

        Some are so old but so well coded that they are still working on Yosemite!

  3. Anonymous
    September 17, 2015 at 11:46 am
  4. Anonymous
    September 16, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    JustinStalled a few to check 'em out. Thanx!

    • Justin Pot
      September 16, 2015 at 8:22 pm

      Let us know if you find anything else, okay?

  5. Anonymous
    September 16, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    Glad to see that there are open source projects available. If any of them were to catch on, it could be forked or ported to the other platforms, I guess.

    • Justin Pot
      September 16, 2015 at 4:37 pm

      They could be, but a lot of these projects are nice because of their integration with Mac OS X specifically. So the question would be whether or not that's a good idea.

      Anyway, thanks for dropping by!

      • MJ
        February 6, 2019 at 11:56 am

        As both MacOS X and Linux are essentially UNIX-based systems, I think we shouldn't exclude apps that are for both MacOS & Linux, as it's not unreasonable that they would easily be developed for both. After all, Macs are really expensive (I had to buy my MacBook Pro second-hand), and they're not perfect - they made the stupid decision to stop making 17" screen laptops, for example, but you can still ditch the godawful Windows 10 and put a decent OS in existing PC hardware. That's what I'm doing with my old HP Pavilion dv7. Great hardware, and the Windows 7 it came with was fine, but I made the mistake of "upgrading" to Windows 10. There's no way I'm ditching the great HP hardware though, so Linux it is! Maybe I might get back into programming :-)