Open Source Applications on OSX for Graphic Design and More

This is for people using OSX, but a lot of these are ported to Windows. Actually, in Windows you can get true, native apps, while in OSX you have to use the X11 emulator most of the time. Regardless, here’s a few tidbits that might make open source more attractive and easier to acquire.

X11 or simply ‘X’ predates all of the operating systems us laymen are familiar with. It is the original graphical user interface. When young Steve Jobs went over to Xerox Labs this was what caught his eye (yes, Xerox invented the mouse, if you didn’t know). It started on Unix machines, was adapted slightly for Linux and now you are running an emulator within OSX. OSX install disks come with this since 10.3. If you are doing a fresh install, it’s under the ‘Customize’ button that appears shortly before the ‘Install’ window. Just check a box. Otherwise, you can install it after the fact, but I’m not going to describe that here. If you are using 10.3 there is a download on Apple’s site. Apparently for 10.4 they recommend installing from your original disks. You MUST have this to run the following unless otherwise stated.

The only thing the GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program) lacks is CMYK support and Layer Sets. Okay, that’s not the only thing, but it’s pretty close to Photoshop 6, and that’s not bad. There is a variant of the GIMP out there that targets Photoshop users. This brilliant individual changed the menues, tool shortcuts and some of the graphics to make the GIMP look and feal more like Photoshop. Google ‘gimpshop’ and download. If you already have X11 installed, installing and using GIMPshop is like using a native application.

This is cool, but difficult to understand if you are not familiar with Debian or Ubuntu Linux. It’s an application that downloads and installs applications for you. Specifically *NIX applications. It allows you to avoid ‘Dependency Hell’. If you don’t know what that is, revel in that fact. To get Fink, go here: It installs like a standard application. After that’s installed you’ll want to drop the application ‘Fink Commander’, which comes with Fink, into your applications folder. Follow their instructions. Once that’s all done you can use Fink Commander to review the list of available applications. The GIMP is available this way, but it’s a much older version, so use the above suggestion instead. The next few apps can be installed through Fink. You will have to add any X11 applications installed through Fink to your X11 Applications menu manually, but if you want to know more about that, just ask. To install apps, open Fink Commander and browse the list or use the search feature to look for what you need. When you find the right file, highlight it and click the button on the far top-left. Fink will take it from there.

This is a layout application. It’s a little rough around the edges, but worth checking out. I can’t find a kerning function, but it can be a powerful app. The best feature about Scribus is that its document files are actually written using xml. This means that the file can be opened by a text editor and edited. Maybe that doesn’t sound sexy, but it allows you to manage the content more like a web page. Granted, the markup can get complex and messy, but it’s much more future-proof than the closed binary proprietary file formats tha the commercial apps use.

Like the name indicates, this application allows you to create or customize your own fonts. Sounds like fun, but in reality is fairly complex. Great tool though. Can also be used to convert PC fonts to Mac fonts and vice versa (so I’m told). A handy tool to keep around. Installs through Fink easily. I’ve successfully created a font with only the first 6 letters finished. It’s cool if you have a little patience.

KDE Games
Okay, not a design tool, but who doesn’t need a little old-school gaming action every now and then? Here’s a few of the games included: Battleship, Poker, Solitaire, Tetris, Connect-4, Putt-Putt Golf (and you can make your own courses! Killer!), Black Jack, Mahjongg, Minesweeper, Tron and Asteroids. Just use Fink Commander to search for ‘KDE Games 3’ and click the little (less than intuitive) button in the top-left to install. The files don’t have little sexy icons though. You will find the files (after you install them) here: /sw/bin/. I’ve found that OSX doesn’t recognize these as applications, so you can’t make a shortcut for your doc by right clicking. However, if you make a shortcut for a native OSX app and then Get Info, you can change where it points to. So, take that shortcut and name it after one of your new KDE games, and then point it at the appropriate binary file in /sw/bin.

Inkscape is a pretty solid vector drawing application. It’s documents are an svg file type and that means written in xml. Sound familiar? SVG is the W3C standard for vector graphics. Which is why SVG stands for Standard Vector Graphics. Unfortunately, you can’t install Inkscape via Fink. However, it’s easy enough to download and install by going here: from there you can download the OSX version. It will work pretty much like the GIMP, which is pretty much like a standard OSX native app.

Well, there you have it: A complete graphic design suite. If only Adobe CS came with Asteroids! There are endless amounts of apps out there, but I need to get some sleep. Let me know if any of this interests you or if you have something to add to the list of information.

One thought on “Open Source Applications on OSX for Graphic Design and More”

  1. Okay, so Xerox didn’t invent the mouse, but they did put three buttons on it. Sorry for the incorrect info there. Doug Engelbart invented the mouse actually.

    Also, just read that Krita of the KOffice suite supports CMYK mode. So, if you can get that through FINK give that a try. I’ll have to get to it later this week. I had no idea. Maybe the GIMP isn’t as dominant as I had thought.

Comments are closed.