Free Software Alternatives for Mac Users

The year 2011 I can call out as a year of change. I switched jobs, left eBay started at Geeknet, moved back to San Francisco from San Jose, and I went all Mac! With that last change came the need to find new software for the Mac. And since SourceForge distributes open source software, I spent some time in the last 5 months to try out a large number of free software alternatives for the software I used to work with on my PC. Here are my top free Software alternatives I started using in the last 5 months


Gimp LogoOn my home Mac I have the full Adobe Creative Suite 4 installed. I have the Windows version of Photoshop creative suite, so I'm running Parallels Desktop especially for all my windows software. On my work Macbook Pro, I only have the Apple OS, so I was in search of good image/photo editing software. Multiple people told me I should try out Gimp, which is a great alternative for Photoshop. If you miss the normal Photoshop layout and tools set up, I recommend you download GimpShopwith it, so you can customize your pallets and tools according to how you would work in Photoshop.

This project provides pre-build GIMP application bundles for Intel and PPC Macs.


On my former work laptop I always used SnagIt for making screenshots. I simply loved the special features to give your screenshots a special treatment. Since SnagIt is a paid piece of software, I was looking for a free screenshot software solution. A months before Evernote bought the company, I started using Skitch. I just became a paid user of Evernote, which is one of my other pieces of software, but is not free. I can't wait until a deeper integration between Skitch and Evernote is being announced.


For my SEO work, I used Xenu Link Sleuth to find broken links on websites. Unfortunately, Xenu is only for Windows, so I couldn't add it on my brand new Macbook Pro. After asking a couple of people, and searching The Google, I found Integrity, a great alternative for Mac users to find those broken links on any website, yours or a potential link partner.


Handbrake logoWant to rip a DVD for on your iPad? Download Handbrake to convert any DVD video into Mac format. This only works for DVD's without copyright protection. Handbrake is not able to remove the DRM protection for you! More info on the official website

HandBrake is an open-source, GPL-licensed, multiplatform, multithreaded video transcoder, available for MacOS X, Linux and Windows

VLC Media Player

VLC Media Player logoEver had the problem that you could not play a certain media file on your computer? So frustrating if you really would like to watch that video, but cannot find the player online. Just download VLC. The VLC Media Player is the most popular video player at this moment, is free, and plays practically all media files out there.

VLC media player is a free and open source media player and multimedia framework written by the VideoLAN project. VLC is a portable multimedia player, encoder, and streamer supporting many audio and video codecs and file formats as well as DVDs, VCDs, and various streaming protocols. It is able to stream over networks and to transcode multimedia files and save them into various formats.

If you have a Canon video camera, like I do, you might have some trouble with the MTS format of your video's on your Mac. VLC will be able to play these video's for you, but in the highest quality you would expect. For that reason I would recommend to buy MTS converter software.


Freemind Mind Mapping Software logoNot necessarily new on my list of software, but still made it on my new computer. I use Freemind, the Free mind mapping software primarily to sketch out the hierarchy of a new site. As stated in the project description:

A mind mapper, and at the same time an easy-to-operate hierarchical editor with strong emphasis on folding. These two are not really two different things, just two different descriptions of a single application. Often used for knowledge and content mgmt.


Wireshark Network Protocol analyzer logoNext time you sit next to me on a conference, better watch out using the open wifi, as I have WireShark on my Mac. Formally known as Ethereal, I use WireShark now to check what packages go up- and downstream on the network I'm on.

Wireshark is a powerful network protocol analyzer developed by an international team of networking experts. It runs on UNIX, OS X and Windows. (Looking for Ethereal? You're in the right place. We switched names in May 2006 due to trademark issues.)


Frustrated about the search functionality on a Mac? Enhance your search experience with Quicksilver app for Mac. Almost every week since I started to use Quicksilver I find new features and plugins you can add to the app. The learning curve for using Quicksilver is steep, and I have the feeling "I'm not there yet".


XAMPP LogoFor local installation of WordPress I used to download MySQL and Appache server software directly to my PC. Installing it was a piece of cake there. With the start on a new fresh Mac, I started to use XAMPP.

XAMPP is a very easy to install Apache Distribution for Linux, Solaris, Windows and Mac OS X. The package includes the Apache web server, MySQL, PHP, Perl, a FTP server and phpMyAdmin.


Having a good CSS editor on my Mac is essential to build beautiful websites, or change any great CSS. I just downloaded the free version of Stylizer last week, and so far so good. I might be turning into a paying customer here, as this will give me extra added features and auto updates!


Filezilla free ftp program logoOn my list of free software, I cannot leave off FileZilla, a free ftp program. Up- and download effortless all your files to your server using Filezilla.

FileZilla is a cross-platform graphical FTP, FTPS and SFTP client a lot of features, supporting Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and more. FileZilla Server is a reliable FTP server for Windows. Nuff said...


phpMyAdmin logophpMyAdmin is the old-school way of backing up my database of WordPress blogs. There are plugins available which do it automatically for you, but there is nothing like it as downloading the tables of your MySQL database straigh through the phpMyAdmin panel. Let alone resetting your admin password if you might have lost it straight in the table :)

phpMyAdmin is a tool written in PHP intended to handle the administration of MySQL over the Web. Currently it can create and drop databases, create/drop/alter tables, delete/edit/add fields, execute any SQL statement, manage keys on fields.


Which Software am I missing? Can you recommend more free software I can test and expand the tools I have on my computer?




  1. Anonymous says:

    As far as I know, Skitch isn’t open source.

    1. Dennis says:

      That is correct,Skitch is not open source software. My intention was to write a post about free software for the Mac, not necessarily open source free software.

  2. Nakul Goyal says:

    Nice list Dennis. Some of these would be useful since I am trying to go completely Mac as well. I toggle between my windows laptop and MBP all the time. I also love using Ultraedit for a lot of macros and other / misc text editing, csv’s etc kind of stuff. Thanksfully its available for both Mac and Windows.

    1. Kaj Kandler says:

      In my arsenal the best are iTerm and MacVim (for good code formatting extensions and the ability to handle really large file (logs, etc.) efficiently). But then I also know UNIX/Linux/GNU

      1. Dennis says:

        Thanks Kaj,
        Will try these out!

  3. love says:

    […] relationships with other bloggers. Check out this extremely well-written trackback tutorial Permalink […]

  4. AmyVernon says:

    TextWrangler is a great tool to use to write blog posts outside of the blog, with full HTML and no messy invisible coding like Word has. :)