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Tool-chest of web development apps

Sunday, May 26th, 2013 by Servage

This article targets Mac users who are relatively new to web development (there will be a similar post for Windows users very soon). The applications listed here are mostly for basic to intermediate web development and design. Seasoned developers tend to use tools that build and manage code, plus aid with server implementation. I’ll make a brief mention of those, at the end.

Applications are listed within categories alphabetically to overcome any bias toward favored apps. The categories start with what is perhaps easiest software to grasp for development to ones that rely on more skills and knowledge. Some categories include free tools and are noted.

Website Creation Tools – Simple

These apps are comprehensive in overall structure, handling much of the coding work via their proprietary system. These are platform tools offering full scale site development, similar to Apple’s discontinued iWeb software as a template-based WYSIWYG website creation tool. The default installation for these are often basic with limited site options. However with add-ons, or extensions, the software can manipulate and enhance overall site functions and layout. Some of these platforms have so many add-ons, and most with an additional cost, that separate articles (or even a series of articles) can be, and already are, dedicated to them.

  • Freeway Pro (made by Softpress) – Well established company, offering two WYSIWYG web design applications, Pro and Express, for Mac OS X. Freeway is an HTML generator, without having to deal with any coding.
  • RapidWeaver (Realmac Software) – The flagship product for Realmac and perhaps the most popular WYSIWYG web application on Mac OS. RapidWeaver is a template-based tool, with 11 built-in page types and the ability to expand with much more.
  • Sandvox (Karelia Software) – Similar to Rapidweaver, Sandvox is a WYSIWYG template-based tool, with a Regular or Pro license option.

Web Browsers 

However you choose to build a site, an internet browser is the place to check the results. This is not a comprehensive list of what all your visitors may be using; just those popular for Mac development. These are all free tools.

  • Chrome (Google) – arrived in 2008, and rose to top consideration
  • Firefox (Mozilla) – First version in 2004, and at top 3 contender
  • Opera (Opera Software) – Oldest on this list with smallest market share, but fairly popular.
  • Safari (Apple, ships with OS X) – Started in 2003, and top contender among Mac users.

Task Management / Project Planning

Use of these applications help conceive websites, and/or contributes to management of the umpteen dozen tasks a web developer is likely to come up with. A bit of variety in this list, as planning and management styles are not the same for all developers.

  • Firetask – task manager, project oriented GTD
  • MacJournal – journaling and blogging software, great for taking notes of all sorts
  • OmniFocus – personal task manager, also based on GTD
  • OmniGraffle – a diagramming application, helps with site conception
  • Pagico – cross platform task planner, organizer and collaboration tool
  • TheHitList – Easy-to-use task manager
  • Things – One of the most popular personal task managers for Mac OS
  • Todoist – Free app, personal productivity manager
  • yEd – Free app, cross platform diagramming tool

Graphic Design Tools 

These apps are for managing graphic images and/or enhancing images to be used on a website. A comprehensive list here would be dozens if not hundreds of apps, but here are the popular ones that tend to provide the most functionality.

  • Acorn – graphic design editor, handles vector images, uses layer filters
  • Aperture – a photo editing and management tool
  • BannerZest Pro – authoring tool for creating animated site banners
  • GIMP – free design editor, popular alternative to Photoshop
  • iPhoto – comes with Mac OS (part of iLife), supports most popular image file formats, not just for photos
  • Keynote – part of Apple’s iWork suite of apps, presentation tool that can creates designs used on a website
  • Lightroom –  an image management application, helps in viewing and editing digital photos.
  • Photoline – cross platform, full featured raster graphics editor, handles vector images, alternative to Photoshop
  • Photoshop – Most popular of all graphic design editors
  • Pixelmator – Very popular graphic design editor for Mac OS X
FTP Apps

For sharing web files from one computer to another (server). Generally speaking, the Web Creation Tools on this list include built-in FTP applications, but many developers prefer stand-alone FTP clients like the apps below.

  • CuteFTP Pro – cross platform, first released in 1994
  • Cyberduck (free) – cross platform, started in 2001
  • Fetch – Mac only, oldest on the list, started up in 1989
  • Filezilla (free) – cross platform, 2001
  • Flow – Mac only, first release 2008
  • Forklift – Mac only, started in 2007
  • Interarchy – Mac only, began in 1993
  • Transmit – Mac only, started in 1998
  • YummyFTP – Mac only, first released in 2004

Website Creation Tools – Advanced

Similar to the simple tools mentioned at the top, these tools provide a proprietary development platform to build full scale sites. Yet these include code editors and rely on that knowledge to achieve full implementation of the software. These also do not rely as much on extensions, though in some cases those are available with these.

  • Dreamweaver (Adobe) – An established and very popular cross platform application, providing a visual WYSIWYG editor (Design view) and a code editor
  • Flux (The Escapers) – Comparable to Dreamweaver, though not as popular and is Mac only. Includes WYSIWYG rendering engine and a code editor

Code Editors (aka Text Editors)

For seasoned developers, these are the basics, but for those who see a tool like RapidWeaver as cream of the crop, these are ‘advanced.’

  • BBEdit (made by Barebones) – One of the (3) most popular, feature rich editors around.
  • Chocolat (An alextgordon and jeannicolas production) – New kid on the street
  • Coda (Panic) – Favorite among many Mac developers, top 3 contender.
  • Espresso (MacRabbit) – Includes CSSEdit, feature rich, well supported
  • Smultron (Peter Borg Apps) – Inexpensive, well rounded editor
  • SubEthaEdit (Coding Monkeys) – Simple editor utilizing collaborative coding environment
  • Sublime Text (Jon Skinner) – Cross platform, minimalistic UI, loyal following
  • TextEdit (free with Mac OS) – ultralight HTML code editor
  • TextMate (MacroMates) – One of the (3) most popular, feature rich editors around. Very loyal base.
  • TextWrangler (free from Barebones) – Top of the free choices, light version of BBEdit.

Beyond the Fundamentals

Just a handful of items in this list and apps that seasoned developers may call basic. Essentially these are coding related apps or ones that couldn’t quite fit into previous category.


Tool-chest of web development apps, 3.3 out of 5 based on 4 ratings
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