The Mac platform was always considered a premium platform, hence much of its software is shareware or commercial. In the recent days more freeware applications have emerged, but the majority are small utilities and not full scale applications. Enter the world of GNU which can not only provide “free” applications as in beer, but most importantly, “Free”, as in Freedom.I am writing this article after my personal adventures trying to find a functional, yet free, spreadsheet for OSX. There is none. BC is too basic and OOo/NeoOffice are big, slow and ugly (I absolutely refuse to install them again).
What sprang into my mind immediately was the very convenient package of the Free GPL gimp.app. These guys have done a great job making Gimp “look” like a native Mac OS X application: the theme used, the icon and launcher used, the automation of it. While most OSX users don’t like X11, they dig gimp.app just fine, because of the convenience involved and its appearance as a native app.
So, why not do the same for Gnumeric then? Gnumeric is a great application, one of the best GTK+ apps ever written. I can tell you right away, a native-looking Gnumeric (via a freely available GTK+ theme that looks like Aqua) would make waves in the Mac OS X userbase even if it had to run under X11 (which now gets installed by default on Tiger btw). Gnumeric is much smaller and much faster than OOo/NeoOffice so people who just need a spreadsheet they could find heaven with it.
But then again, why not move one step further and look at the rest of the GTK+ application base? The consensus of picking an app for porting should be:
1. No freeware exists with similar functionality on OSX (so Gaim, Liferea are out).
2. No native port was done for that app (so Abiword, X-Chat are out).
3. Should not depend on Gnome or has lots of dependencies (e.g. mono, pygtk, perl-gtk apps), or the binary will be huge and makes things more complicated and more bug prone (so Evolution, Nautilus, Muine, Epiphany etc. are out).
So, here is a small list of OSS GTK+ apps that would be interesting to port as they bring functionality that current OSX freeware don’t really provide (yes, we know that these are Free GPL apps and not “freeware”, but the point of the article is bolstering ‘free as in beer’ apps, not JUST as in Freedom): Planner (project planning), Drivel 2.0 (multi-blog enabled), gLabels (labels and business cards), Kipinä (athlete’s log), Inkscape (vector graphics) and Dia (diagrams). And then, there are Bluefish (HTML and other languages), Screem (HTML and design), Anjuta (non-XCode IDE) and Pan (newsgroup client), but these probably have some free equivalents already, just not as advanced.
So, if you have some development experience and you also have a Mac, please use this tutorial to use the tricks mentioned there to build other GTK+ applications and provide the easy-to-use binaries to the Mac userbase. Yes, Fink and DarwinPorts can provide these apps, but most Mac users are not known for having a great relationship with a terminal or package managers. A simple .dmg that they double click and load an app is what most people want: convenience to the max!