macOS: essential tools for a developer in 2024

Are you considering macOS as your next operating system? Are switching from Windows to macOS? Do you want to develop in Java on macOS? Or maybe you are looking for tools to help you to be more productive?

Read about tools that are essential to me (after switching from Windows to macOS).

2023-02 - Powerlevel10k, bat, fzf and zsh syntax highlighting and autosuggestions added. Removed standard tools, tools I don't use anymore or tools that are specific to my workplace. I also reorganized the post a bit.

Table of contents



For managing the tools on macOS you should use the package manager. The package manager eliminates the need of manual software management and lets you install, configure, update and uninstall the tools you will need for your work. All is done using Command Line Interface and it works for both command line and GUI tools.

The most common package manager for macOS is Homebrew. Once installed, Homebrew provides the brew command.

Homebrew packages (Formulae) can be searched with brew search, installed with brew install, upgraded with brew upgrade, removed with brew uninstall.

Homebrew comes with a Cask extension, available with brew cask command, that provides the same workflow but for the management of macOS applications with graphical user interface. With Cask you can install tools like IntelliJ, Atom, Postman etc. Casks can be searched with brew search command, installed with brew cask install, upgraded with brew upgrade and upgraded with brew uninstall.


Note: The Homebrew package manager may be used on Linux and Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). See the documentation for more details.


A terminal emulator, that lets you run commands using the command line interface (CLI), is an indispensable element of the environment on Unix systems. The macOS built-in terminal has too little to offer, so in order to improve your work I recommend replacing it with the open-source iTerm2.

iTerm2 supports features like split panes, window transparency, hotkey window, full-screen mode, and Growl notifications.

It can perform "smart selection" to highlight URLs, email addresses, filenames, and more. It provides advanced ways of working with the text including copy & paste and search.

And what is most important iTerm2 is fully configurable so it can be adjusted to the needs of more demanding proffessionals.

iTerm2 can be installed with Homebrew:

brew cask install iterm2


Usefull settings:

  • Unmark the following option: Settings > Profile > Terminal > Shell Integration > Show mark indicators
  • Change key mappings to natural: Settings > Profile > Keys > Key Mappings and choose Natural Text Editing preset.


Oh My Zsh is an open source framework for managing your zsh configuration. You can install oh-my-zsh with the following command:

sh -c "$(curl -fsSL"

Note: oh-my-zsh works fine with iTerm2 as well as default macOS Terminal app (as of macOS 10.15 Catalina zsh is a default shell for Terminal app).



Powerlevel10k is a theme for Zsh. It emphasizes speed, flexibility and out-of-the-box experience. If you want your terminal expierience to be as smooth as possible, you should try this theme. It works well with iterm2, but also Visual Studio Code and IntelliJas well as built-in macOS Terminal app.

Tips for consistent look and feel across different terminals:

  • Install Meslo Nerd Font font in macOS so it can be used with any app
  • Configure IntelliJ terminal font to use Meslo Nerd Font (Preferences > Editor > Color Scheme > Console Font)
  • Configure Visual Studio Code terminal font to use Meslo Nerd Font (Preferences > Settings > Terminal > Integrated: Font Family)
  • Configure Terminal font to use Meslo Nerd Font (Preferences > Profiles > Text > Font)

More information:

To reconfigure the theme, run p10k configure in the terminal.

Zsh syntax highlighting and autosuggestions

There are two additional plugins I find useful that I use with oh-my-zsh:

  • zsh-syntax-highlighting is a plugin for zsh that provides syntax highlighting for your shell.
  • zsh-autosuggestions provides autocompletion for commands and their options.

Both can be installed with brew:

brew install zsh-syntax-highlighting    
brew install zsh-autosuggestions

Once installed, don't forget to active them in your ~/.zshrc file:

source /usr/local/share/zsh-autosuggestions/zsh-autosuggestions.zsh
source /usr/local/share/zsh-syntax-highlighting/zsh-syntax-highlighting.zsh

Note: Although both tools can be installed as oh-my-zsh plugins, I have found out that they work better when installed with brew (the issue was with colors not being displayed correctly).


Fuzzy Finder

Fuzzy Finder (fzf) is a command-line fuzzy finder. It can be used with any list: files, command history, processes, hostnames, bookmarks, git commits, etc. It is a general-purpose command-line tool that helps you find things in files and commands.

fzf can be installed with brew:

brew install fzf

My main use cases with fzf:

  • Search history - Ctrl + R - it is just awesome!
  • Search files - Ctrl + T or fzf
  • Search in files - bat <FILE> | fzf

Follow the documentation to configure fzf.



tldr is a small utility that is providing useful examples for particular commands. Instead of using man or googling for examples tldr can be used:

➜ tldr find


Find files or directories under the given directory tree, recursively.
More information: <>.

- Find files by extension:
    find root_path -name '*.ext'

- Find files matching multiple path/name patterns:
    find root_path -path '**/path/**/*.ext' -or -name '*pattern*'



asdf is a tool for managing parallel versions of language runtimes like Java, Python, Node.js and tools inclduing, Gradle, yarn and much more. Once installed, it provides a convienient asdf command for installing, swiching, removing and listing versions of installed languages and tools.

My must-have runtimes managed with asdf:

  • Java
  • Python
  • Node.js
  • Bun
  • yarn
  • Gradle
  • Maven

One of the useful features is to have seperate .tool-versions file for different projects` directories.


On this blog: Manage multiple Java SDKs with asdf with ease


Before I discovered asdf, I used SDKMAN! a lot. SDKMAN! is a tool for managing parallel versions of multiple Software Development Kits called Candidates. Once installed, it provides a convenient sdk command for installing, switching, removing and listing SDKs.

The tool is especially useful for Java developers as it supports SDKs for the JVM such as Java, Groovy, Scala, Kotlin and Ceylon. Gradle, Maven, Spring Boot and many others are also supported.

Install SDKMAN! with the following command:

curl -s "" | bash

On this blog: Manage multiple Java SDKs with SDKMAN! with ease


bat is a cat clone with syntax highlighting and Git integration. It is a drop-in replacement for cat and supports the same flags.

brew install bat


Git is a distributed version control system, loved because to its high performance, simple structure and strong branching support. In the recent years Git was popularized mainly by services such as GitHub, BitBucket or GitLab, where most open source projects can be found today. Git is a must-have tool.

Git can be installed with Homebrew:

brew install git



Docker is an OS-level virtualization that is build around the idea of containers. Containers allow a developer to package up an application with all the software it needs and ship it as a single package.

Docker is natively supported by macOS and can be installed with Homebrew:

brew cask install docker

Note: In order to use docker command you must start Docker app.



Colima is a container runtimes on macOS supporing Docker hence it can be used as a replacement for Docker Desktop:

➜ docker ps
Cannot connect to the Docker daemon at unix:///var/run/docker.sock. Is the docker daemon running?
➜ colima start
INFO[0000] starting colima
INFO[0000] runtime: docker
INFO[0000] preparing network ...                         context=vm
INFO[0000] creating and starting ...                     context=vm
INFO[0065] provisioning ...                              context=docker
INFO[0066] starting ...                                  context=docker
INFO[0071] done
➜ docker ps
brew install colima


HTTPie is a client-side implementation of the HTTP protocol that is an alternative to cURL. Once installed, it provides http command that can be used to execute HTTP requests. If cURL is to heavy to you you should consider checking httpie.

Why I like it?

  • Easy to use and rememberable options, expressed more naturally
  • Syntax highlighting
  • Easy working with JSON inputs

Examples (via tldr):

➜ tldr http


HTTPie: HTTP client, aims to be easier to use than cURL.
More information: <>.

- Download a URL to a file:
    http --download

- Send form-encoded data:
    http --form name='bob' profile_picture@'bob.png'

- Send JSON object:
    http name='bob'

- Specify an HTTP method:
    http HEAD

- Include an extra header:
    http X-MyHeader:123

- Pass a username and password for server authentication:
    http --auth username:password

- Specify raw request body via stdin:
    cat data.txt | http PUT

HTTPie can be installed with Homebrew:

brew install httpie



Postman gained a lot of popularity in the past years, starting as an Chrome extension, today it is a powerful app used by many developers. A must have tool in my toolbox.

Postman can be installed with Homebrew:

brew install postman



Editors and IDEs


IntelliJ is my default Java IDE. It gives me an extensive editor with syntax highlighting, code analysis and error detection. I like its ergonomic user interface, with advanced search functions and keyboard shortcuts support.

IntelliJ is available in two versions: Ultimate (commercial) and Community (open-source). The Community version is completely sufficient for projects that do not use frameworks and technologies for enterprise-class applications.

You can install IntelliJ Ultimate with Homebrew:

brew install intellij-idea


Tip: While switching from Windows I started using IntelliJ with suggested macOS keymap. I recommend doing the same. The shortcuts are optimized for macOS and once you get more productive on macOS itself you will also notice an improvement in IntelliJ.

Visual Studio Code

For basic source code editing and viewing I use Visual Studio Code. VSC comes with built-in support for web technologies like HTML, XML, JavaScript and can be easily extended to support many other languages such as Markdown, Python, PHP, Go or even Java.

One of the first extensions I installed was IntelliJ IDEA Keybindings. With this extension VSC feels a bit like IntelliJ and I don't need to learn all the new shortcuts (I use VSC much less than IntelliJ).

Visual Studio Code can be installed with Homebrew:

brew install visual-studio-code




For developers looking to optimize their workflow on macOS, Raycast is an indispensable tool. Acting as a powerful, extendable launcher, Raycast provides quick access to a plethora of productivity tools directly from your keyboard.

You can manage tasks, run scripts, and integrate seamlessly with popular services like Jira, GitHub, and OpenAI. Raycast’s customizable extensions and commands help automate repetitive tasks, ensuring you never waste a moment.

This makes it an excellent addition to any developer’s toolkit.



Cheatsheet is a little utility app to support you in learning essential shortcuts on macOS. When I switched to macOS I needed to quickly learn so many new shortcuts ...:

"Just hold the ⌘-Key a bit longer to get a list of all active short cuts of the current application. It's as simple as that."

Cheatsheet can be installed with Homebrew:

brew install cheatsheet


Magnet is a commercial window manager for macOS. Activated by dragging or with customizable keyboard shortcuts helps organizing windows. For me personally, this is a must have tool.


Note: Alternatively you may consider using a free Rectangle app, actively maintained and open source window management app. Install with brew: brew cask install rectangle. Documentation of the project can be found on Github.

Raycast: If you decided to install Raycast (highly recommended), it provides built-in window management features via Window Management extension.


CleanShotX (commercial) is a powerfull screen capturing app (screenshots and screen recording) packed with many useful features like quick access to the screenshots, annotate tool, scrolling capture or screen recording. Many features can be accessed quickly with configurable keyboard shortcuts.

Macs Fan Control

Especially useful for those with Intel-based MacBooks.


SoundSource is a commercial utility that serves as great sound control for my Mac. The features I use and love are advanced audio effects and per-application sound control like sound redirection.


AppCleaner is a small GUI tool which allows uninstall unwanted apps (i.e. apps installed without Homebrew) by removing all the files spread around the system. It is also useful when you want to see what files and directories are created by a selected application.

AppCleaner can be installed with Homebrew:

brew install appcleaner


Google Drive

Install Google Drive to sync with your computer.

brew install google-drive



Cyberduck is open-source GUI client for FTP and SFTP, WebDAV. It also supports cloud storage like Amazon S3 or Google Drive. I investigated several tools but I did not find any supporting so many protocols and cloud storages and still being free.

Cyberduck can be installed with Homebrew:

brew install cyberduck



I use KeePass for years and the best client for macOS for me is KeePassXC. The tool provides pretty convienient UI and supports keyboard shortcuts I need. If you are looking for KeePass client for macOS, you should consider KeePassXC.

KeePassXC can be installed with Homebrew:

brew install keepassxc



Choosy can prompt you to select from the browsers for a particular link. For me this is an essential tool, as I use several browsers on a daily basis (Safari - for private browsing, Chrome - at my workplace, Edge - more and more often and occasionally Brave). Choosy support all I need in my daily workflow. It works fast and reliably also when using multiple screens. The application is not free, but you can try it with trial version.

brew install choosy


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