The Gems of Apple’s Development Tools

One of the greatest things about OS X is how fun and easy it is to build applications that can do some amazing things. Apple makes this very accessible with Xcode and their other development tools freely available to anyone who wants them. But even if you’re not a developer, there are some really cool things buried within the Apple Development Tools. Here are a few of those little gems that I found while poking around the in the Developer directory:

Core Image Fun HouseCore Image Fun House
Found in /Developer/Applications/Graphics Tools/
If you’ve used Photo Booth, you’ve seen all the cool effects that can be done to the pictures you take there. Believe it or not, effects like these are actually available to any application using the Core Image and Core Video frameworks in OS X. Core Image Fun House is a little app that allows you to play around with all the different effects available with the Core Image component. Not only can you have some real fun with all the different effects at your disposal, but playing around with the Fun House will make you realize just how powerful OS X is.

Found in /Developer/Applications/Graphics Tools/
Another neat little image tool, Pixie magnifies the area surrounding your cursor on the screen anywhere from 200% to 1200%. It doesn’t do a whole lot, but it’s a nice tool for designers or pixel artists to have at their disposal.

Quartz ComposerQuartz Composer
Found in /Developer/Applications/Graphics Tools/
The great thing about many of the Developer Tools is that they give you a better idea of the inner workings of OS X, if that’s what your interested in. Quartz is the underlying image layer that allows for all the visual effects such as transparency and shadows that are prevalent in the operating system, and it is the foundation for the cool screen savers in OS X. Quartz Composer gives you the entirety of this powerful imaging layer to work with to create your own compositions.

AU LabAU Lab
Found in /Developer/Applications/Audio/
Core Image and Core Video are often touted as awesome features of OS X, but many people often forget about the very sophisticated sound subsystem that Core Audio allows for. To go along with that sophistication, Apple included AU Lab with the Development Tools. AU Lab is a very full-featured audio mixer that can do some amazing things, though it does have a steep learning curve. You’re in luck, thoughApple includes extensive documentation for all of the Development Tools.
Spin ControlSpin Control
Found in /Developer/Applications/Performance Tools/
Though it was designed for developers to debug their own apps, Spin Control is a useful tool for determining exactly what’s taking a program so long to do its thing. We all hate that spinning beach ball of death; Spin Control won’t stop it, but it will do its best to tell you why it’s there in the first place.

Thread ViewerThread Viewer
Found in /Developer/Applications/Performance Tools/
Thread Viewer is another great back-end debugging tool. “Attaching” it to a running app can tell you how many cycles the app’s processing threads are taking up, and what kind of activity those threads are doing. This can be especially useful in determining where an app stalled out.

Found in /Developer/Applications/Utilities/
As a writer and editor, I was very pleased when I found FileMerge. This app allows you to compare two text files side by side and find their similarities and differences. Each alteration is highlighted, and you can choose which “side” you want to accept. It’s a really great way to compare two similar but not exact blocks of text and make changes and corrections.
Repeat After MeRepeat After Me
Found in /Developer/Applications/Utilities/Speech/
I haven’t had a whole lot of time to play around with Repeat After Me, but the concept is great: you input a word or phrase in text form, then you repeat the same word or phrase into a microphone. Over time, doing this will increase the accuracy of the speech-to-text in OS X. There’s a lot of science going on in there that I know nothing about, but it’s very fun to play around with and see what you can get working.

SetFile (Terminal icon)SetFile
Found in /Developer/Tools/
Lastly, SetFile is a very useful shell script for setting the attributes of files, folders, and volumes, even ones you don’t normally have access to. There are many uses for this script, including hiding a Boot Camp volume from OS X, but be warned: playing around with file attributes can be mighty tricky. You can find the documentation for the uses of SetFile within the Developer directory and also on Apple’s website, but I wouldn’t recommend using it unless you know what you’re doing.

These are just a few of the many tools you’ll find in the Apple Development Tools package. I’d say even if you’re not an application developer, it’s worth the download just for the useful and fun tools you can find there. The Apple Development Tools are available for free. Download the latest version here.

UPDATE: I goofed. Reader EmptySet says this about Repeat After Me: “R.A.M. is simply an app that lets you contour the prosody (pitch and duration) of speech spoken by Apple’s speech engine. You can also record your own voice to see what it’s prosodic contour is, so you can try to copy the same curve for the artificial speech, thus making it sound ‘better’.” Thanks for the clarification, EmptySet!