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How Does Open Source Software Stack Up on the Mac?
Pages: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Source Code IDEs

If you're developing Cocoa applications, Apple's Xcode is almost impossible to live without (doesn't seem like vendor lock-in is quite so bad for this category, does it?). For other types of application development, however, there are adequate alternatives. Eclipse aims to "provide a universal toolset for development" and given the multitude of different plugins, it really seems to be living up to that mantra. NetBeans, a well-known Java IDE, has a famed GUI creator, and of course, there's the usual Vim (with exuberant ctags) and Emacs crowd who pull out their Swiss army knives to get the job done.

All in all, Xcode and Eclipse (with all of its plugins) can take you a long way, but if you're looking for more specialized support, you may have to shell out a few bucks. Affrus is a Perl IDE and Komodo hails itself as "the killer IDE for dynamic languages." Of course, some would say that you don't need a fancy IDE for anything at all--especially dynamic languages such as Perl and Python. You be the judge.

This category is somewhat special because you can only get so far away from the hand that feeds you. If you're a Cocoa developer, that hand is, more likely than not, Apple's development software. Sure, Xcode has its own problems, but what would it really be like developing native Cocoa apps without it? (If you've done so, please share your experiences with a comment below.) Of course, the very nature of Java gives its developers high-quality, cross-platform apps that they can take with them. The availability of Java-based IDEs and old-school tools such as Vim and Emacs keep the health looking strong in this category.

Overall health grade: B+
OSS health grade: B

Other OSS Odds and Ends

  • iTerm delivers tabs and a few other features that Terminal is still missing.
  • Audacity is a great sound editor.
  • S5 is a neat little system for making slides.
  • Nvu is worth looking at if you don't want to pay for DreamWeaver or RapidWeaver.
  • Blender is a great 3D-modeling toolkit.
  • The pygame toolkit has made a lot of open source games possible.
  • Cyberduck is a great FTP and SFTP client.
  • Jumpcut is an amazing clipboard buffering app that lives in your menu bar.
  • Desktop Manager brings multiple desktops to OS X and delivers awesome transitions that leverage OpenGL.
  • MySQL and PostgreSQL are OSS industrial-strength databases.

Thumbnail, click for full-size image.
Figure 8. iTerm adds tabs and bookmarks to your terminal sessions (Click for full-size image).

There weren't any open source sticky-notes applications to be found, but there's a sample project of Stickies as a CoreData example that comes with the developer tools. There isn't much in the way of OSS Finder alternatives out there either, but some folks swear by (and pay for) Path Finder. Xfolders is a free file manager that supplements the Finder.

Would you grade categories differently? If so, how? What about assigning an overall health grade measuring how well the OSS competition stacks up against an out-of-the-box machine? Should Apple be doing more to push out higher-quality stock apps? What about bundling more OSS with their machines? What did I leave out that you would have included? Please, talk back below and tell us all about it.

Matthew Russell is a computer scientist from middle Tennessee; and serves Digital Reasoning Systems as the Director of Advanced Technology. Hacking and writing are two activities essential to his renaissance man regimen.


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