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!


60 Responses to “The Gems of Apple’s Development Tools”

  1. Miles Evans on April 16th, 2007 8:35 am

    Damn Josh as a recent switcher I found this incredibly educational. Thanks a lot.

  2. Alec Feld on April 16th, 2007 9:06 am

    FileMerge is sweet. Thanks Josh.

  3. tide on April 16th, 2007 10:14 am

    Great list, though curious why links are not available. Besides,
    ‘~\Developer\Applications\Performance Tools\’ does not exist. Where in the directory is ‘Spin Control’ located?

  4. tide on April 16th, 2007 10:16 am

    ^ is st00pid and should read the first paragraph before posting. Sorry!

  5. Michael on April 16th, 2007 10:59 am

    Great post. I’ll have to mess with these when I get home today.

  6. Jordan Golson on April 16th, 2007 11:14 am

    Your slashes are going the wrong way.

  7. Mike on April 16th, 2007 1:00 pm

    Can anyone gimme more info on AU Lab?

  8. Chris Wolf on April 16th, 2007 2:16 pm

    Also, your paths should not have a ~ at the beginning… ~ indicates a path relative to the current user’s home directory whereas the paths you mention are absolute.

  9. alej744 on April 16th, 2007 4:32 pm

    I’ve known about Core Image fun house for-eeeever, and I use it to put effects on all my avatars. I’m definitely going to check out Spin Doctor and FileMerge.

  10. Andreas on April 16th, 2007 6:48 pm

    An awesome article Josh, a few of these that I haven’t played around with too much yet. Will have to check’em out :)

  11. shadownight on April 16th, 2007 7:21 pm

    Josh, sorry, but the ~ does indicate the user folder. Root-level directories simply start with a slash.

  12. John Baker on April 16th, 2007 7:56 pm

    Well… I have officially been schooled. :(

    Thanks for the corrections, guys.

  13. EmptySet on April 17th, 2007 4:18 am

    First off, Repeat After Me is text-to-speech, not speech-to-text. Secondly, accuracy is NOT improved with reptetive use of the application (honestly, that statement doesn’t make sense – accuracy of what?). 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”. Finally, RAM will automatically generate the speech information needed to make the speech synth speak this way. You can then copy that “script” to any speech-able app.

  14. Marcus on April 17th, 2007 4:35 am

    I don’t think you gave sufficient credit to Quartz Composer. It is an absolutely stunning and comprehensive app, not some little developer utility. It was not originally created by Apple, but by Pierre-Olivier Latour as PixelShox Studio. For examples of the kind of thing you can create with it, check out the RSS screensaver in Tiger. It also has good MIDI and audio support. QuickTime can play back the resulting ‘qtz’ files (which are tiny).
    There is an audio synthesiser for Windows called Synth Maker by Outsim that is very similarly constructed. Unfortunately it’s not available for OS X.

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  18. John Baker on April 17th, 2007 8:21 am

    Thanks for the clarification, EmptySet. As I said in the post, I didn’t have a whole lot of time to play around with Repeat After Me, but what I read either indicated what I posted, or I interpreted what I read incorrectly. I’ll be sure to do a bit more research next time. Thanks again!

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  21. Epimenide on April 19th, 2007 6:17 am

    I’m working with a team that’s using Quartz Composer in real-time video production environment: nothing else around gives that power and is as customizable (plus, it comes for free). Really, a gem: not without shortcomings, but it’s just the beginning!

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  24. Motorcycle Guy on April 27th, 2007 3:52 pm

    I don’t see how pixie is a development tool. Its more of a graphics tool, or an accessibility tool.

  25. Sss on May 7th, 2007 11:12 am

    @Motorcycle Guy

    When you are creating a user interface there is a constant need to zoom in to look at how graphic elements are alined. Pixie makes that very easy and I use it every day.

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  27. Small K on September 11th, 2007 6:51 am

    Can anyone tell me where does “Repeat After ME” save the recorded speech? Coz I just can’t find it.

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