• Apps
Vitaly Friedman August 26th, 2010

45 Free Applications For Designers And Developers

By Callum Chapman Whether you're just starting out in the graphic or web design industry, or you've been in it for years, the chances are there will occasionally be a time where you want to get a feel for a particular type of application (maybe something similar to Cinema 4D or Adobe Illustrator) before spending big bucks on it. Maybe sometimes you just need it for a very small job, in which case spending the big bucks on it just simply isn't worth it. Or maybe you're a student with not much money (which is usually the case) and just want an application that will do the job but not cost you an arm and a leg! [fblike] If you're one of these people, this list is for you - and there is probably an application or two in here that those of you who are not looking for freebies will love too. The post is full of open source applications for Mac OS X, Windows, Linux, iPhone/Pad and Android phones, from development apps, painting and image editing apps and nifty little tools that come in handy from time to time.

Development Apps

Notepad++ | Windows Notepad++ is a free source code editor that replaces Windows' standard Notepad editor, and is available in several different languages across the globe.

TextWrangler | Mac OS X TextWrangler is a powerful general purpose text editor, HTML editor and Unix and server administrator's tool. It is a very basic text editor with powerful but very simple functions.

Titanium | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux Titanium is a free and open source application development platform, and lets you create native mobile, tablet and desktop application experiences using existing web skills you may already have such as Javascript, HTML, CSS, Python, Ruby and PHP.

Smultron | Mac OS X Smultron is a text editor which is both easy to use and powerful. It is designed to neither confuse newcomers nor disappoint advanced users. It works for a whole variety of needs such as web programming, script editing or making a simple to-do list.

SilverEdit | Android SilverEdit is a text editor for your Android mobile with support for creating, opening and saving HTML, CSS, PHP, XML and TXT documents.

SimpleCSS | Windows, Mac OS X SimpleCSS allows you to easily create CSS files from scratch and/or modify existing ones with ease using a familiar "point and click" interface. You can also manage multiple CSS projects at any one time.

Komodo Edit | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux Komodo Edit is a cross-platform text editor that works on all three major operating systems. It supports PHP, Python, Ruby, Perl and Tcl, plus support for other web development languages such as CSS, HTML, Javascript and template languages such as RHTML and Django.

FTP Apps

FileZilla | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux FileZilla is a free, fast and reliable cross-platform FTP, FTPS and SFTP client with lots of useful features and an intuitive graphical user interface.

Cyberduck | Mac OS X Cyberduck is a libre, open source FTP, SFTP, WebDAV, Cloud Files, Google Docs and Amazon S3 browser for Mac OS X. It features an easy to use and attractive user interface.

AndFTP | Android AndFTP is an Android application for mobile devices. It is a full FTP client with FTP, SFTP and FTPS support - now you can upload and download files on your Android!

net2ftp | Web Application Net2ftp is a browser based FTP client with similar features to desktop solutions. You can navigate your FTP servers, upload/download files, zip/unzip files, install software, and edit text and html files.

Flickr Uploadr | Windows, Mac OS X Flickr Uploadr is a super easy way to upload your images to Flickr directly from your desktop without the need to actually visit Flickr's website. You can add edit your images titles, tags and descriptions as well as add your images to groups, too.

Image Editing Apps

GIMP | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux GIMP is a powerful open-source image editing app with similar features to Adobe Photoshop, such as a customizable interface, photo enhancement features and digital retouching.

GIMPshop | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux GIMPshop is a modification to the above application, "GIMP", sharing all of GIMP's features. The biggest modification is that GIMP has been customized to look and feel just like Adobe Photoshop, so it's a great application to use if you're already familiar with or use Photoshop on a regular basis.

Paint.net | Windows Paint.net is a Windows based image editor with an interface that Windows users will already be familiar with. The application supports layers and has a wide variety of tools.

Active Pixels 2 | Windows Active Pixels 2 is another Windows based image editor. Version two includes support of over 100 graphic formats with web-safe options, as well as layers, effects, gradients and brushes.

Aviary Falcon | Web Application Aviary Falcon is a superb little image editor that allows you to create images from scratch and edit existing images and photographs. The application is very simple, but is speedy and great for minor edits on the go, and ideal for painting.

Aviary Phoenix | Web Application Aviary Phoenix is basically a much more complex version of Falcon (shown above). This web application is much more advanced with the ability to work with layers and a bunch of effects, and takes the same kind of approach to image editing that Photoshop does.

Adobe Photoshop Express (Mobile Photoshop) | iPhone, iPad, Android Adobe Photoshop Express (previously Mobile Photoshop) is a simple and super easy to use application for your iPhone, iPad and Android based mobile. With the application you can crop, rotate and change the colors of your photos, as well showing off with art effects such as glows, sketches and vintage layer styles.

iPaint | Mac OS X iPaint is a painting application for Mac OS X, based off a former painting application called Paintbrush that hadn't been updated for a while. The application is a simple one, and is designed for painting and nothing more.

ChocoFlop | Mac OS X Although ChocoFlop has now been discontinued and there is no (new) support, the application can still be downloaded. ChocoFlop allows your to edit your photos and design pretty things using Apple's CoreImage technology, and takes advantage of your Mac's graphics card.

Adobe Ideas 1.0 | iPad Adobe Ideas is a digital sketchbook, somewhere you can capture your ideas anywhere you go (so long as you have your iPad!). It is a professional companion to Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

Krita | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux Krita is a KDE program for sketching and painting, offering an end-to-end solution for creating digital painting files from scratch.

Pixia | Windows Pixia is the English version of a popular Japanese painting and retouching software for full color graphics. It supports mask and layer functions in a similar way to Photoshop all packed into a user friendly interface.

Picnik | Web Application Picnik was a simple web-based application that allowed you to auto-correct your photographs, as well crop and resize them. Other features included being able to adjust your photos exposure levels, colors, sharpen your photo and remove red-eyes. Picnik has since been shut down so you should take a look at some Picnik alternatives to use instead.

Splashup | Web Application Splashup is yet another web application, offering multiple image editing, pixel-level control and layers. There is also a "light" version for those who are looking for a more fun and casual image editing experience.

CinePaint | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux CinePaint offers support for 8-bit, 16-bit and 32-bit color channels of deep paint, something that a lot of other free painting applications cannot open. The app is easy to use and similar to Photoshop, and is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

Vector Editing Apps

Inkscape | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux InkScape is the most well known open source vector graphics editor and has very similar capabilities to professional pieces of software such as Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw and Xara X.

Aviary Raven | Web Application Aviary Raven is a very powerful web application that works with vector files. If you are familiar with Illustrator, Raven is a great choice.

Alchemy | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux Alchemy is a very interesting vector-based editing application that makes use of a handful of interesting features that other apps don't. For example it has an intentionally reduced level of functionality; no undo, no selecting and no editing. You can also produce shapes with your voice, different noises create different widths and forms of lines.

Color Scheme & Management Apps

Color Stream | iPhone Color Stream is a lovely color tool for the iPhone which lets you create and store color palettes either from scratch or generated from a photograph or piece of artwork.

Adobe Kuler | Web Application Adobe Kuler is an official Adobe web-based application that allows you to browse existing and create/save your own color schemes.

Palettes | iPhone Palettes is a powerful productivity tool for creating and maintaining color palettes. Great for creating color schemes when you're on the go.

Aviary Toucan | Web Application Aviary Toucan is very similar to Adobe Kuler, a web-based app where you can create your own color schemes and save or export them as files ready to use in your documents.

COLOURlovers | Web Application COLOURlovers is more of a community website than it is an actual application, however certain elements of it (such as the color and pattern generator) perform in very similar ways in which Adobe Kuler and Aviary Toucan do, with the added extra of having a community to rate your schemes and patterns.

3D Rendering Apps

3D Canvas | Windows 3D Canvas is a real-time 3D modelling and animation tool that incorporates an intuitive drag-and-drop approach to 3D modelling.

Blender | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux Blender is a free open source 3D content creation suite available for all major operating systems under the GNU General Public License. The application is top quality and is up there with the best of the rendering applications that cost thousands of dollars.

Typography Related Apps

Adobe Type Manager Light | Windows, Mac OS X Adobe Type Manager Light is a system software component that automatically generates high-quality screen font bitmaps.

FontExampler | Mac OS X FontExampler is a simple but useful application that takes sample text entered by the user and generates a list of that text in all available fonts on your system.

FontList | Windows FontList is very similar to FontExample (above) only for Windows. Instead of producing a list right in front of you, it will produce a HTML file which you can then open to see your dummy text in all the different fonts on your system.

WhatTheFont | iPhone WhatTheFont is a great little iPhone application by MyFonts.com. It allows you to take photographs of a particular typeface using your iPhone's camera and then determine similar typefaces which you can then download for your next project.

Handy Miscellaneous Apps

Paparazzi! | Mac OS X Paparazzi! is a small utility application for Mac OS X that allows you to take full page screenshots of web pages, ideal for putting in your portfolio.

Aviary Talon | Web Application Aviary Talon does the exact same thing as Paparazzi! (above) but is available as an online application as well as a Firefox plugin.

ResizeMe | Mac OS X ResizeMe is a lovely little batch image editor for Mac. It allows you to rename, resize, scale, crop and flip images all in batch, as well as apply basic effects such as drop shadows and text watermarks. This nifty little application speeds up your workflow a great deal.

Ruler Plus | iPhone As it says on the tin, Ruler Plus is a simple ruler application for your iPhone, measuring both inch and centimeters.

Thinking Space | Android Thinking Space is a mind mapping application for Android phones which allows you to map your mind on the go, where ever you are.

FreeMind | Windows, Mac OS X, Linux FreeMind is a premier free mind-mapping application written in Java that allows you to create mind-maps easily without wasting all that paper!



  1. I have always been a fan of Filezilla FTP. But while it comes to design, i like Adobe Photoshop. IMHO it’s the ultimate graphic design tool. A good list of useful apps though. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I found a ton of these apps very useful and even better than the paid versions. Notepad++ for example loads really fast and its simple interface makes it easy for me to code right away.
    Good list!

  3. Great article! I like Ginipic too for searching images and drag&drop to my photoshop, and also spiderpic to search stock photos.

  4. To say this was a useful post would be an understatement. I think sometimes people overlook how great a difference a good application makes to a developer. Thanks for the list.

  5. Smultron is no longer under active development, instead use Fraise. It’s the fork and is basically the same with ongoing support.

    Also, cyberduck is great because it’s free but YummyFTP is better (though paid).

  6. love notepad++ – been using it for a while now – nice to see it getting a little love.

    Some awesome apps in here – can’t wait to try them all out.

  7. What a great collection for designers and developers!
    It will helpful for all professional in this field.
    Thanks for your 45 free application collection.
    Nice job!

  8. Hi there. It’s not promotion. I’m working on windows and linux, but i can’t find more perfect software for designer.

    FastStone Capture

    it’s easy, small and really perfect. good luck.

  9. Nice list…

    I would suggest to add XMind (www.xmind.net) for mindmapping: by far the most powerful cross-platform of its kind, top quality and free.

    Thanks for sharing!

  10. For a mind mapping app, you should take a look on MindNode.

    It’s the best one for Mac OS X platform, very useful and with a great visual.

    And has a Free version too (not trial) who is totally ok for small business.


    (No, i’m not from the company, I just use it a lot on my work and love it lol)

  11. Notepad++

    Got to love it! Plus it comes with a built in FTP service! I used to use Aptana, but it’s such a large IED. Notepad++ is so light weight, I love it! Thanks for all the tips!

  12. Sorry, but: GIMPshop is a) totally out-of-date (using the out-of-date GIMP 2.2) and b) superfluous, because it’s main reason was creating a better GIMP UI experience, as the GIMP 2.0 and 2.2 UI was a horrible usability mess.

    Even GIMP 2.4 was not so nice, but with GIMP 2.6, most of this problems habe been solved. I’m using GIMP as a native platform image editor, and Photoshop, if required or for doing intensive work.

    cu, w0lf.

    ps: Right, “native” as in Linux ;) PS is running in a virtual machine, cause WINE still doesnt properly support the stamping and cloning tools.

  13. I’m not sure how relevant iPhone apps would be given that full development of websites with an iPhone or iPad seem unrealistic (just my 2 cents.)

    Anyway- Here’s what I use (all Linux all the time):

    1. Quanta Plus
    2. GIMP
    3. Inkscape
    4. Gcolor2
    5. Kruler
    6. FileZilla
    7. SiteXpert (under wine)
    8. Firebug
    9. Web Developer
    10. ColorZilla

  14. Nice article, very useful!

    I’ll try out some of the 3D apps in future.
    Looks very nice. Maybe its a cheap alternative for tools like 3dsmax? Even cause we don’t utilize 3d Tools very often. We’ll see. ;-)

    best wishes from Germany,

    Despire Medienagentur

  15. I miss there NetBeans, which I started to use not only for programming in PHP but also for HTML coding and creating CSS. They plan to add HTML5 syntax support in a next version (6.10) and it’s comfortable to have an app that can handle all file types so comfortably as (HTML/CSS) specialized apps.

    For creating screenshots, I discovered super-useful Chrome extension “Awesome Screenshot: Capture & Annotate” (http://bit.ly/d9wGAN) which makes making screens, annotating/editing them and immediate uploading with getting a short link very quick and easy. Recommended!

  16. This may be a little off topic but I use Talend for all of my database conversion projects. I had a project that involved combining several disparate databases into a WordPress database and Talend did the trick. Open source with paid support. (talend.com)

  17. Always good to see Inkscape getting a mention. Two others i would suggest(even though there not the best looking) are HTMLKit and FTPSurfer, both reliable and do the job very well. Cheers for the heads up about Aviary Screen Capture as well!

  18. I was BLOWN AWAY by the Alchemy one. I fantasized as a youngster of this kind of thing when I was 10 years 25 years, yes YEARS, ago. When I was little, I didn’t feel that I was “at home” in time. Well, when I got my first computer at 21, 10 or so years ago, THEN is when I felt that I had “come home” in time.

  19. I use Notepad + + has always had a great time and I always was too good. :)
    Titanium did not know him, and now I’ll try;)
    The other resources and programs I know (not all) but now I’m trying them one by one;) and I like the ones I put them in the archive;): D

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *