Free / FOSS / Libre software for the Mac



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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Here’s a behind the scenes of Dynamo Dream, created with Blender.

and the full episode

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What does polish have to do with function?

Polish is worthless when you are in the mud and manure and need to GSD. I want it to work, work properly and with minimal fuss and angst. Oh and I can’t afford the cost of 3 rams to get it either.


That’s fair. What comes to mind after briefly reviewing @JohnAtl’s recommendations above is that it’s more of a question of personal values than objective software quality. Unfortunately I don’t have much use for Gimp, Blender, or Shotcut, or the required domain expertise to be able to use the applications effectively. Brave I think is a fine browser, I don’t have much to say other than it’s another browser built off the Chromium project, which is great but I still prefer Safari. Probably more inertia than anything else there. Again, personal preferences and values.

I also don’t have a lot of use for an office suite. My documents are almost entirely Markdown and PDF, and the few spreadsheets I have I look at once a month or so. Which leaves Thunderbird, the one app on the list that I could see myself spending a lot of time with. And yes, it seems like a perfectly functional application. If you like how it looks and how it works I can certainly see using it day to day.

For me though, and what I think about when deciding what applications I want to use is both function (like does it work at all, and does it work reliably), and how nice is it to use? Does the app take advantage of current OS features? Does the overall user interface look current? Does it behave as expected in the Mac environment? Does the app integrate with the other standard Apple apps, and other 3rd party apps through the Mac’s sharing system? Is the app scriptable through Applescript? Does it integrate with Shortcuts? How about iCloud sync?

This is where most open source software starts to fall down. If they are available on the Mac they are normally cross-platform, and if they are cross-platform what you get with a user interface is usually the lowest common denominator. I prefer apps that are built for the Mac. The one exception to the rule I can think of is NetNewsWire, which used to be commercial but is now a passion project of Brent Simmons. NetNewsWire is both open source and excellent.

But these are my values, and, I’m not a farmer. I’m a programmer. I spend all day in front of the Mac, and sometimes half the night too. The Mac is my tool of choice like a carpenter chooses his saw. Lots of saws will work, but I like the way this one cuts.

I think this should be my final post on this thread. I wanted to share a different point of view. I respect everyone on this forum, and I’m not interested in being part of a flame war about open source (I’ve been there). Live and let live… :v:



Can’t believe I forgot to mention Zotero.
Zotero is a reference manager.
After bailing on EndNote early on, then becoming frustrated with Bookends, I finally went all-in on Zotero. It works well, is well supported, and does what I need it to do.
You can set it up to automatically update an exported .bib file when you add a reference to your collection (or a sub-collection). Very handy.
Lots of support from other open- and closed-source projects, from Alfred search, to Obsidian citation plug-ins.


I’ve been a professional user of open source for decades and prefer it always, but sometimes the lack of polish pushes me to other solutions (eg. why I no longer run a Linux desktop).

Open source tools I use regularly on my Mac:

  • Audacity
  • Bitwarden (and Vaultwarden on server)
  • Brave (prefer Firefox but need Brave at work)
  • Calibre (the UI is awful, but after iBooks screwed me in the iTunes migration, I’ll never trust it again)
  • Cyberduck
  • Docker (and on server)
  • Firefox
  • Handbrake
  • Homebrew
  • iTerm2 / Kitty / Tabby / WezTerm
  • Jellyfin (and on server)
  • MonitorControl (sync brightness between multiple screens)
  • NetNewsWire
  • NextCloud (and on server, don’t love it but haven’t found anything better)
  • Rectangle
  • Sweet Home 3D
  • VLC / IINA
  • Zotero

And on my iPhone:

  • Amperfy / Substreamer / FinAmp (music player)
  • Firefox
  • NextCloud
  • Swiftfin
  • Zotero

I’d really like to add a messenger but haven’t found one I like enough yet. SImpleX, Matrix Element, and Snikket are the ones I’m watching.


And for different problem domains: Often what determines excellence for desktop/interactive work is detrimental for automation, especially at scale. I find that FOSS does much better for the latter.

I think we do need to keep in mind that Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) to me should be read as “free as in Freedom”, even though some might be “free as in beer”

I’m happily paying for my FOSS applications (where they allow me to), because I agree that having a developer working on it that can make a good living from it helps quality of the software.


Totally get that. Personal preferences are still permitted….

I’m using Signal and haven’t had any problems. It has clients for the usual OSes and devices, including Debian-based Linux distros.

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That could very well be true.

I personally use Gimp on occasion.

Here is where there is a huge difference. I am in Libre Office daily, I use spreadsheets to create the .CSV files for initial data inputs for my AnimalTrakker system and I also have a bunch that get updated regularly, several times a week at least, for the farm and sheep flock. I create forms in LO that I save as fillable PDFs with field names for automatic filling from my AnimalTrakker system.

Another major Open Source package I use is Zotero as a reference manager. It plays well with others and is becoming critical in my workflow.

Your comments on the Macness of open source SW are generally accurate. OTOH that is a huge reason for me to stick with Open Source. I run on a Mac, but my husband uses Linux exclusively. We have to target Windows machiens with our AnimalTrakker and LambTracker systems. The mobile versions are only on Android right now and likely to stay there for a myriad of reasons. So I need apps that ar the same across all the major platforms.

Actually so am I. I spend between 2-4 hours farming and between 4-6 hours programming every day right now. I think the difference is my programs have to be cross platform and are themselves open source which puts me in different mindset than someone with the luxury of sticking to a single operating system.

I also use Audacity, Calibre, Firefox , Homebrew and am looking at setting up a NextCloud server.

Calibre is critical it’s how I save all my ebooks and reformat and de DRM them so I can use them on a variety of readers.

I use an old rev of Firefox with a great simple SQLIte plugin that is no longer supported or maintained but works just fine and has for over 10 years. It’s my go to when I need to quickly verify data during in the field debugging.


I also pay money for my FOSS when I can if they are ones I use reguarly.

And FWIW while both LambTracker and AnimalTrakker are FOSS I fully expect to make $ off of them by doing the data conversions from other systems and also making custom bespoke versions like I am doing right now.


There is always an awesome list for anything.


FileZilla (Pro)

Needed to copy 130GiB+ of files over my network (and it turns out several times).
Tried copying with Finder and it was glacial.
Tried cp, glacial.
Tried rsync, also glacial.

Remembered FileZilla, turned on ssh on my iMac Pro, and used FileZilla and sftp to copy files using 10 simultaneous connections. Much better, about 50MiB/s and my laptop is on Wi-Fi.

It’s free, but I sprang the whole $20 for the Pro version, which supports many cloud services.



Not only glacial but also not very reliable in my experience.

Rsync should be able to manage that speed as well. What command were you using?

[quote=“ibuys, post:40, topic:30516, full:true”]… I don’t have much to say other than it’s another browser built off the Chromium project, which is great but I still prefer Safari… Does the app take advantage of current OS features? … I prefer apps that are built for the Mac. …

Safari: the engine is WebIt, an open-source project
macOS: based on NEXTStep, based on BSD. Open Source. Here is Darwin: GitHub - apple/darwin-xnu: The Darwin Kernel (mirror). This repository is a pure mirror and contributions are currently not accepted via pull-requests, please submit your contributions via
“Apps for the Mac”: most of them coded in Swift today. An open-sorce language.
Printing on a Mac: CUPS, open-source.
…and a lot of open-source stuff onder the hood.

And this post was written on the Internet, which hugely relies on FOSS (Apache, mySQL/MariaDB, OpenSSL, …).

I had an email exchange with David on exactly that topic. I think it was an episode about word-processors that triggered me. Several products were mentioned, but not LibreOffice.

The contributions of the FOSS community are huge. The internet as we know it (“WWW”) was built and still runs on FOSS. Just think of web servers, 2/3 of them run Nginx or Apache.

I use:

  • LibreOffice (especially with HUGE tables, it’s the fastest)
  • R (don’t even think about data science without R)
  • QGIS
  • many, many tools in the shell (through MacPorts)
  • Calibre
  • LaTeX (and tools)

I have many more installed, but those would be the ones I regularly use.


I don’t know, I have to say I have found that ‘free’ software is not what it was: to my great sorrow. The great exceptions of course being LaTeX, Tor and Libre. Often supported and maintained by academics, to their credit.
‘Free’ is quite hard to define too. I note the recent US legislation that research funded by the public should not be paywalled. It is almost incredible that it is or ever was!!? The British Library, University Libraries were at one time like Secret Societies, ‘more than me job’s worth’ to get a ticket to the former. Still makes me mad, when it was ALL funded by the public, when education was all free at point of use and anyway, get off my lawn!

Anyway free software. Well I would like to see a lot more about LaTeX here for a start off and Tor and Libre.

I use Signal as well but don’t love it. I don’t like that they are integrating crypto, it’s requires a central server, and i find the desktop app infuriating (constantly being disconnected and having to reconnect it to phone and losing message history).