X11 apps and Mac OS X

Many of the applications that Benjamin used on Meme, his Windows XP machine, were ports for the Linux realm: Gimp (raster image editor), Inkscape (vector image editor), and Nvu (WYSIWYG web editor). Luckily all of these are available on Mac OS X although not without some pain.

  • Inkscape was the easiest as they had a downloadable DMG – easy as pie. Open source developers — this is the way to go!
  • Gimp was more challenging. I initially thought about just installing it via port but didn’t like the idea. There are a couple of DMG-based ports (sounds like typical infighting from open-source developers) which sounded much easier. After I got one installed it wasn’t playing nice with the font size — the ‘F’ for the File menu on the toolbar was bigger than this 13″ MacBook Pro screen! After much googling around a bit I found the Gimp resource file which somehow had gotten a font size of 934! Changing this down to 10 made the Gimp work.
  • The no-longer-developed Nvu wasn’t available on Mac. Instead a fork called KompoZer is, provided in a nice DMG for installing. It appears to work identically to Nvu and was an easy transition.

Inkscape and Gimp are pure X11 apps meaning that X11 has to be running in order to provide the infrastructure for these two apps to run. Coming from a Linux background this makes perfect sense. It took a bit of explaining for B to understand why the X11 app appeared running on his Dock when he started one of these apps — and why he shouldn’t just kill it until he was done with them!

One of his most important apps was certainly not a port from Linux: MS Office. Being the cheap person that I am I encouraged B to try OpenOffice and if that really just didn’t meet his need then we would evaluate Pages or bite the bullet and purchase MS Office for Mac. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that OpenOffice isn’t just running on top of X11 but is a full-fledged Aqua app! This dramatically helped B towards my goal of giving OOo a shot and so far I think it’s been an easy transition. I know he’s been using it extensively during the past few weeks he was out of town. I’m uncertain if I haven’t heard complaints because it has Just Worked or because he’s been too busy with other things to make his case for an alternative office suite.