Thursday, May 07, 2009

Ultimate Mac Setup for Web Designers

The Ultimate Mac Setup for Web Designers (60 Apps)

There's little doubt that OS X is a popular platform for web designers - it offers an enormous range of software for designing, managing, developing and publishing websites. Whether you prefer to use an all-in-one environment for designing websites or a range of different applications, there's a tool to suit you perfectly.

This article will round up 60 different web design apps for every different conceivable need. And don't worry if design isn't your area of expertise; much of the software covered is fairly multi-purpose, suited to a variety of tasks.

Client & Project Management

  • Billings - An excellent tool for managing the details of clients, billing, and tracking payments and receipts.
  • iCal - Bundled with OS X, iCal can offer a simple and inexpensive method to track projects and deadlines. Email reminders are handy too!
  • OmniPlan - More advanced planning software with Gantt charting, robust task management, and a great interface
  • iTaskX - Seamlessly integrates with Microsoft Project to be another fairly advanced planning and project management tool.
  • Daylite - From the makers of Billings, Daylite is a more professional app capable of organizing an entire design team!
  • Merlin - Yet another advanced project management tool, with a great looking interface.

Creating an Asset Library

  • LittleSnapper - An awesome tool for capturing and organizing screenshots, ensuring you're never stuck for inspiration.
  • TextExpander - Allows you to build up a library of code or text snippets, and quickly drop them into a document.
  • Yojimbo - An "information organizer", which can be used for building up a library of code snippets, images, icons, or client material.
  • DevonThink - Similar to Yojimbo, but with a few advanced features such as OCR and scanner integration.
  • FontExplorer - The de facto font management tool for OS X, with automatic activation.
  • Fontcase - A great looking interface and robust comparison tools makes Fontcase a worthy competitor to FontExplorer.

Designing: All-in-one

    Coda and Espresso
  • Coda - The original (and, some would say, best) integrated web design environment for OS X with robust CSS tools, live previewing, and one-click publishing.
  • Espresso - Bringing several features across from CSSEdit, Espresso is a worthy Coda competitor with a built-in code snippet manager.
  • iWeb - Bundled with iLife, iWeb is Apple's take on a WYSIWYG editor. Simple, easy-to-use, and capable of creating wonderfully designed sites. More of a consumer tool, with fewer advanced features than Coda/Espresso.
  • RapidWeaver - The undisputed king of visual web design apps on OS X, RapidWeaver has an extensive community creating hundreds of excellent themes.

Designing: Images

  • Adobe CS4 - The daddy of design suites, CS4 includes Photoshop and Illustrator - two essential apps for designing graphics for the web.
  • Pixelmator - Billed as a Photoshop competitor for "the rest of us", Pixelmator is inexpensive and remarkably fast for editing photos and graphics.
  • GIMP - A completely free image editing tool. It lacks the same polish as Photoshop or Pixelmator, but packs a decent punch.
  • Keynote - Often overlooked, Keynote can create stunning diagrams and charts which are only a screenshot away from looking brilliant on your website.
  • Photoshop Elements - Photoshop's little brother, Elements offers an inexpensive way to organize and edit a photo library for the web.
  • Acorn - The "image editor for humans", Acorn has a bunch of excellent export-for-web options.
  • Picturesque - It's easy to add reflections, borders, shadows, curves and change the perspective of photographs with Picturesque. Great for adding life to a dull image.

Designing: CSS & HTML

  • BBEdit - Undoubtedly the leading OS X text editor, BBEdit is incredibly powerful whilst retaining a simple interface. Particularly useful is the auto-complete feature.
  • TextWrangler - The free alternative to BBEdit, retaining much of the functionality at a price that's too good to resist.
  • SubEthaEdit - Another great text editing tool, with powerful features for allowing multiple designers to collaborate on a document at the same time.
  • TextMate - A simple, unobtrusive text editor for editing HTML, CSS, or another programming language you throw at it.
  • CSSEdit - A game-changing app for editing and previewing CSS, packed with useful features such as a visual editing tool and "selector builder".
  • Slammer - Capable of placing a grid over your screen to assist with laying out webpage elements and keeping a good structure.
  • xScope - A fantastic all-rounder for measuring and analyzing any element on your screen. xScope is worth every penny!
  • Caliper - Focusing on one small subset of xScope, Caliper is a free alternative for accurately measuring elements on your screen.

Audio & Video

  • Handbrake - A powerful video conversion application, which is ideally suited for converting videos into a web format. It can happily handle almost any video format available, and is completely free.
  • ScreenFlow - If you're considering using a screencast on your website, ScreenFlow is worth every penny. It can record your screen/webcam/audio simultaneously, and packs a range of editing tools.
  • Audacity - An open source app for editing and encoding audio across a variety of different formats.
  • GarageBand - For podcasting website designers, GarageBand is a simple (and free) way to edit a recording and export it in a suitable podcast format.


  • MAMP - Whilst OS X ships with an in-built web server, MAMP also ensures that PHP and MySQL are installed. A quick way to set up a local website testing server.
  • Alkaline - A great app for generating screenshots of how a website will display in various Windows browsers.
  • ies4osx - Providing a way to test your website locally in various versions of Internet Explorer. A headache, but necessary!
  • Parallels Desktop - If you're prefer to test websites in an actual Windows environment, Parallels is the virtualization industry leader.
  • VirtualBox - For the budget-conscious, VirtualBox is a free alternative to Parallels which can provide an equally useful testing setup.


  • Transmit - Transmit is probably the best known FTP client for the Mac, with good reason - it packs a great deal of functionality and is notoriously well designed.
  • CyberDuck - The most full-featured open source client available, Cyberduck packs a decent punch and is a free rival to Transmit.
  • YummyFTP - Notable features include auto-recovery of failed transfers, filtering of upload synchronization, robust scheduling and FTP alias support
  • Interarchy - Supporting a range of SSH functionality, mirroring, Dashboard and Automator integration, and downloading of entire websites.
  • Forklift - Offering a great interface, but quite an expensive price tag for the features on offer.
  • Fetch -Support for a range of protocols with a few new Leopard-centric features in the latest release.

Version Control

  • Versions - A wonderfully designed subversion app, making it simple for a non-technical web designer to get started.
  • Cornerstone - A worthy Versions competitor with a stunning interface, and the latest version of Subversion built-in.
  • svnX - A free, open source, subversion client with a decent range of features.
  • GitX - Offering a history viewer and commit interface with OS X style.


  • Querious - A throughly full-featured SQL database manager, which unfortunately only works with MySQL5 at present. If you're rocking the latest MySQL version, however, this is an incredibly useful app.
  • Sequel Pro - A free alternative to Querious, with a recent update bringing the interface up to a much improved standard. Reliable, and easy-to-use.

Monitoring & Statistics

  • Dashalytics - A simple Dashboard widget for monitoring Google Analytics statistics. I'm a fan of the simple graphical interface.
  • WatchMouse - Allows you to monitor the uptime of your website or server through the OS X Dashboard.
  • Junior Mint - If you use Mint as a statistics system, this is a simple way to stay up-to-date through Dashboard.
  • Reinvigorate (Beta) - Currently an invite-only beta, Reinvigorate allows desktop monitoring of website visitors and statistics. Get signed up to be a tester!


  • Time Machine - The OS X Leopard backup solution. All that you require is an external hard drive, and to keep a copy of your website locally.
  • Dropbox - I use Dropbox as a means of keeping an off-site backup of important website documents and files (though it's also great at keeping multiple computers in sync!)
  • SuperDuper - If you'd like to keep a bootable backup of your Mac hard drive, SuperDuper is an excellent solution.
  • Syncplicity - Similar to Dropbox, Syncplicity can easily maintain a fully versioned remote backup of any folder(s) on your hard drive.


I hope to have covered most of the areas you'll come across as a web designer, with a variety of applications for each. Whether you have a huge budget to blow or are working on a shoestring, nothing can hold you back with a combination of the above software (apart from IE6…).

I'm sure there are several fantastic applications not mentioned, so please feel free to share in the comments. I look forward to learning about a few new gems!

No comments: