Mac OS

macOS: essential tools for (Java) developer

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

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



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 pacakages (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



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



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.



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 cask 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 or Markdown writing 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). The other extension I use is Markdown All in One. I love it. Writing in Markdown is a pleassure.

Visual Studio Code can be installed with Homebrew:

brew cask install visual-studio-code


Tip: To preview source code files in Finder I use Quick Look plugins. Checkout out this blog post to learn how to install them in your system: macOS: Preview source code files in Finder with Quick Look plugins

Other tools


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 Spectacle app, although it is not actively maintained anymore and I did not check if it works properly on macOS Catalina.


Annotate a simple and light-weight screenshot taking app with simple image annotation tools (shape, blur, arrows etc.) and plenty of keyboard shortcuts simplifying its use. Properly configured, Annotate can replace the built-in screenshot tool.

Annotate cannot be installed with Homebrew. You can install it via AppStore: Annotate – Text, Emoji, Stickers and Shapes on Photos and Screenshots

You can read more about Annote on my blog: macOS: Annotate – simple yet productive screenshots tool


AppCleaner is a small GUI tool which allows uninstall unwanted apps 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 cask install appcleaner



Httpie is a client-side implementation of the HTTP/1.1 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.

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. For me, a must have tool in my toolbox.

Postman can be installed with Homebrew:

brew cask install postman



Cyberduck is an 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 cask 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 cask install keepassxc


Brave Browser

Brave is a free web browser based on the Chromium engine, focusing primarily on the security and protection of privacy. I use Brave mainly because it supports browsing in Private Window with Tor. Brave is not my default browser though. I used it ocassionally.

Brave can be installed with Homebrew:

brew cask install brave-browser


Note: On a daily basis I work with Safari (most of the time). I ocassionally use Chrome and Brave. I use Firefox mainly while testing or workinb on automation projects.


Do you expirience problems with butterfly MacBooks keyboards? I do. The main issue is the double key presses. So annoying. But there is one app that solves this problem – Unshaky. Unshaky might save your keyboard by dismissing “second key hits”. And it works perfectly fine for me.

Unshaky can be installed with Homebrew:

brew cask install unshaky

Note: After the installation and configuration you can remove it from the menu bar so you will never notice it. Hold ⌘, drag the tool off menu bar and release. Should be gone.


What tools are essential to you? Do you miss a tool or app that is essential to you? Please share in comments.

Published on System Code Geeks with permission by Rafal Borowiec, partner at our SCG program. See the original article here: macOS: essential tools for (Java) developer

Opinions expressed by System Code Geeks contributors are their own.

Rafal Borowiec

Software developer, Team Leader, Agile practitioner, occasional blogger, lecturer. Open Source enthusiast, quality oriented and open-minded.
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