My OS X Toolkit

Posted on Apr 16 2008 in Computing

After the first day of having the new Mac and playing with iChat, it was time to hunker down and start accomplishing things with the Mac. In the last few years one of the biggest reasons I've been reluctant to get a Mac has been a sense (whether justified or not) that the software selection wouldn't be sufficient for my wants, needs, and tastes. Part of my recent decision to get the Mac was the general feeling that this was no longer the case. I've found this to be true.

I spend a lot of time on my computers. Most of that time is spent using or writing web pages and web applications (and the occasional video game). Web development isn't what it used to be, and tackling everything requires a lot of tools. I'll summarize my needs and the tools that I've settled on using to meet them.

SSH Terminal

OS X:iTerm

Most of the stuff I found on the web about doing SSH in OS X said "just use the terminal!" While I like the OS X terminal, I was hoping to find something to help me manage sessions and generally make all the SSH connections I juggle in a day a little easier to use. Enter iTerm -- it does just enough using its 'bookmarks' and connection and keyboard profiles to make managing multiple console or SSH sessions graceful, and its tabbed interface is another step in keeping my workspace navigable. Oh, and it's free.

Text Editor

OS X:TextWrangler

OS X comes with a nice little text editor aptly named "TextEdit" that is pretty good, but I like text editors that go the extra mile. I like to search and replace with advanced regular expressions. I like a text editor that implements a good system to manage a bunch of open text files. I like a text editor to do basic syntax highlighting in the event I don't open a file in my IDE. TextWrangler does all of this and so much more. And its free!

Web Browser

OS X:Safari and Firefox

I love Firefox, and it was the very first thing I downloaded on the new Mac. However, I felt I owed it to myself to give Safari a fair shake, especially since I've been impressed with the betas (and recent release) of Safari 3 on windows. Safari on OS X is fast, clean, and nice to use. If Safari had the plugin base of Firefox, rendered a few more sites better, and had some minor usability tweaks... okay and a bunch of other things, I'd use it as my primary browser all the time. For now, I enjoy using both of the browsers side by side.

Development Environment (IDE)

OS X:Eclipse

I have been very happy with Eclipse on Windows (and Linux) for a few years now, and it just keeps getting better. When I started working on the Mac, I wanted to use whatever was widely used by the Mac development community. A lot of web developers I know who use Mac as their primary OS use TextMate. While I liked TextMate (a lot), between the TextMate price tag ($64), the effort of learning a totally different interface, and the fact that Eclipse works great on OS X... I stuck with what I knew in this department. Expect more on this later.

Local Web Application Stack


When I develop a web application I almost always work locally and migrate the changes to the live server. This development pattern has so many advantages that I can't believe there are web developers that still don't use it. A few years ago the way to do this was downloading and installing (sometimes compiling) the various components of the stack (usually Apache, MySQL, and PHP). More recently groups like apachefriends have put in great effort to package the components in easy-to-use, point-and-click packages. XAMPP is a great packages for Windows and is also available for OS X. I tried XAMPP for OS X, but when I tried to configure it with things like vhost aliasing and such, it kept resulting in errors and odd behavior. I then tried the free version of MAMP, which I found to be much easier to configure.