Free / FOSS / Libre software for the Mac

So if you’re not writing Lua scripts, or pumping out code, you’re not automating? When I was at a different point in my career I would have had the time to use something like this. Now? I just need stuff done; if there’s an app that makes it easier I’m going to use it. Wish sometimes that I had more time with hands on keyboard…

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Zerotier uses a custom(roll-your-own) protocol where Tailscale uses Wireguard (open source)
So if you’re not comfortable with software that cannot be verified independently then I’m not sure Zerotier is the right choice.

I’ve used Zerotier as well in the past, and liked it a lot. For me it was a bit too fiddly to setup and manage, and Tailscale got around some NAT issues better. But in the end we have very good choice as overlay networks go, so pick your poison :slight_smile:

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I didn’t read it that way at all. I agree that Hammerspoon is potentially a very useful tool for automators, and should be mentioned. Not that it’s the be-all and end-all of automation, or right for every automator or every task (like any tool).

I also think Hammerspoon can be useful for people who don’t want to code, given the existence of premade “spoons”. It definitely has a tougher learning curve than some tools, but it’s quite powerful

I use it alongside KM and other apps. I actually find Hammerspoon more straightforward sometimes than KM, at least for some kinds of tasks.

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Not really. For example, in the video that @JohnAtl recommends What makes you (still) excited about a new OS version? - Software - MPU Talk, Simon Sinek tells an anecdote about Microsoft not knowing what game it is that they are playing. (At about the 4 minute mark.)

Well, he was also talking about his Zune.

So, back to free stuff…

I read @vco1’s comment differently. Not that this was the only way to automate, but rather this is an effective automation tool that is overlooked by many “Automators”.

Which I see as another instance of, for lack of a better term, the “rut” MPU (and Automators, and as this comment suggests, Focused as well ) has fallen into.


Here’s what I imagine will be an unpopular opinion on open source Mac apps. I don’t think the existence of open source produces the best applications. It’s nice that there’s so many alternatives, and it’s great that people volunteer their time to maintain the code, but the very best software comes from a dedicated small team or individual who makes it their life’s work to develop the very best application they can. There’s no way to do that with open source and be able to run a comfortable business, not with niche Mac/iOS applications.

In my Dock right now is DEVONthink, MindNode, the Omni suite, Transmit, and BBEdit (and some Apple apps). Who would pay for OmniFocus if you could just download it for free? Or DEVONthink? It’s not that I think open source apps are “bad” or wrong is some way, I just think that overall software quality benefits from a business model thats a.) fair, and b.) sustainable over the long term. Relying on someone donating their expertise only goes so far.

I think this is the core of why the Linux desktop never took off. There needs to be incentive for people to dedicate their working lives to passionately building something they can be proud of and that can support them and their families into the foreseeable future. Open source has completely taken over the server and backend because it behoves large and powerful companies to dedicated resources into sustaining it. It’s just an entirely different world than personal consumer applications.

As for the FOSS, GNU/Linux, etc philosophy… meh. I care about quality. Honesty, transparency, trust, yes. But also quality.


I agree, but I also think open source apps that exist and are thriving are worth talking about… things like Rectangle, espanso, etc. It’s similar to discussions around Electron - I’ve seen people dismiss apps out of hand just because they’re Electron. But being built with Electron doesn’t make an app bad - bad design is easier with Electron, but it’s possible for an app to be both built with Electron and well-designed IMO. In the same way, I think it’s possible for apps to be both open-source and well-designed - and apps that are such should be more heavily considered and/or talked about.

Dogmatism for either side is never a good thing IMO - not all apps should be FOSS, but not all apps should be closed either.


For consumer apps? Sure. I think the argument falls apart in the enterprise. But I definitely get it do for consumer apps, but there is no shortage of enterprise apps that are very successful.

This is a great observation. I don’t have the source for this available, but someone wrote a really great article on when open source licensing should be used vs closed-source. These were some of the take aways. The foundational issue to examine is “enabling technology.” Most companies are not in the business of software, but are enabled by it. So, software is a cost center and not a profit center. In regard to enabling technology, there are two broad varieties: differentiating and non-differentiating. Differentiating refers to whether the technology creates a competitive advantage for the developer.

It makes sense that all non-differentiating technology should be open source. That is why open source has taken over the server and backend. The software in the backend is infrastructure that enables every company that uses the web to be able to deliver the proprietary services they want to deliver. No one company gets an advantage from re-writing those services from the ground up, and everyone benefits from changes that contributors make to the software. (Theoretically.)

A system integrator also wants to use open source solutions where possible because it helps the mission of acquiring software and hardware as cheaply as possible; it also avoids vendor lock-in. This enables the system integrator to increase both its profits and its customer base.

Software vendors have an interest in using open source components for these kinds of non-differentiating technologies because those components reduce the cost of shipping the first copy of the software.

For an end-user, using open source is good for a non-differentiating technology (e.g., the infrastructure example), but that user is economically better off to continue using closed source for differentiating technologies.

As you can see, most of these kinds of issues are of interest to the enterprise.

On my Mac, I have a collection of open source tools and closed-source tools. I use VIM for all my plain text work. I use Scrivener or Word for my hardcore writing. Why? Because the closed source tool is more refined and capable (and pretty or approachable or whatever we measure UI with) for the reasons that @ibuys identified.

If you develop Scrivener or Paprika or Drafts or PDF Expert or Excel, you benefit economically if your solution is popular and people buy it. If you develop those apps, the technology is differentiating you from the competition and you should not develop it open source (unless you are just a true open source purist). If you develop it open source, you lose the opportunity to monetize it. UNLESS, your app would benefit from selling service or integration (e.g., Red Hat’s model).

I’m barely scratching the surface, but I hope it illustrates the point.

If I can find the article, I’ll link it back here because I think anybody reading this thread would probably also find the article an enjoyable read.


I get it. I re-read my comment and I guess it could be taken as snippy. Meant no offense. But, when I read so called and “Automators” I interpret that as slant, and then I get super sensitive about the countless hours I spend in Moom and Keyboard Maestro getting my windows aligned perfectly for the my next Zoom meeting to discuss the “TPS Reports”.

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Found the article. It was, no surprise, a Bruce Perens piece called The emerging economic paradigm of Open Source, First Monday, Special Issue #2 - Open Source (October 3, 2005). Happy reading.

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I figured it was a dig at the podcast by that name, not the automation community as a whole.

I think dogmatism is also a big part of why the Linux desktop never really took hold.

I had a period where I tried probably a dozen different Linux distros (and windowing systems) to try to find one to use as a “daily driver” (with a Windows VM, since I do web dev), and most of the problems I had were either support-related as you noted (“we updated XYZ package, which is required for these five apps to work, but which completely breaks dependencies for these other five apps - no ETA on a fix”), or dogma-related (“why would you ever want to play MP3s? It’s a closed format, so you shouldn’t use it. You need to convert everything to (insert format of the day).”)

Every distro I tried ran into at least one of those two issues.

It reminded me of a convo I saw on the WordPress forums where some people were talking about how users shouldn’t be allowed to not upgrade WordPress. The software should do it, should force it, and if their site breaks that’s because something isn’t coded properly.

Dogma typically manifests in a user-hostile manner. :slight_smile:

The FOSS I use on Mac typically comes in via HomeBrew or something relatively safe. I’m a huge fan of ffmpeg. :smiley:


LibreOffice has been my Office replacement suite for over 20 years.


Plus 1 for this! It’s wonderful and we have built in support with a neighbor who was one of the originators of Kodi before it became Kodi so any technical glitches are easily dealt with by offering a free mutton dinner.

Yep +1 for this as well. Ugly but functional, my software mantra

Im my case it’s personal against Microsoft. 'nuff said As for Adobe. I chafe at the ridiculously high cost for Acobat. Totally overblown and I’ll go to great lengths to get aroudn it just to avoid Acrobat.

OTOH I love LightRoom, Classic. The web version is a POS as far as I am concerned.

I disaggree, strongly. FOSS is generally better. and the way to monetize FOSS is to provide the services and data conversions that some folks require. And as a developer making a very niche FOSS product that has already take 10 years of my life and will consume many more hours until I shuffle off this mortal coil I see making it the best it can be as an important part of my legacy.


Let’s agree to disagree. I can’t think of a single open source desktop application with the level of polish as an app like Things or Fantastical.

“Muttonware”? :smiley:

This sounds to me mostly like a fundamental disagreement about what “better” entails. :slight_smile: It’s entirely possible that “better” is different for different people.


That is an excellent point.




Fair enough, I’ll admit that I actually haven’t looked for quite a while. I’ll download a few of these and see how they fare.

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