If you're looking to enter the world of Unix software but are unsure about flexing your fingers at Terminal's command line, FinkCommander is a lifesaver. It's a native Aqua front-end to Fink, a command-line Unix software management system for OS X.
Before installing FinkCommander you need a working Fink installation. Unfortunately, there's no combination of the two projects that would eliminate the need to set-up each individually, so see the Fink project's Web site for more information. Also, if you have an earlier version of FinkCommander installed and want to upgrade to version 0.5.0, you need to delete the previous version first, as this isn't done automatically.
FinkCommander's interface is simple, and makes the idea of a Unix software (known as 'packages') archive much more intuitive than Fink alone.
FinkCommander's view option gives you the choice of ten columns of package information to display in the main window. Fields include package name, latest version, the package maintainer, and a brief description. You can also customize the order in which these columns appear across the window by clicking-&-dragging the column head to the left or right of the window.
More-detailed information about a package - including the URL and maintainer's email address - can be obtained by pressing 1-I.
By default, the rows of packages are displayed alphabetically, in descending order. Sorting the rows by the available information fields is also a viewing option.
A search utility in the main toolbar immediately begins to filter packages alphabetically as soon as you start typing. If you type “gnuc” into the search field, all the packages beginning with those letters (gnucash and gnuchess) will be displayed. Searching through seven package properties other than the name is also possible.
Actually installing something involves selecting the package and clicking on the install button at the left of the main toolbar. The option of installing a package from binary or source is available, depending on how your underlying Fink installation is configured.
From there, FinkCommander will use Fink to calculate package dependencies, download the required packages (often more than one package at a time will be installed to satisfy dependencies), and install them on your system. To view the installation processes as they happen, FinkCommander has an interaction dialog window beneath the package browser. This window displays what you would see if using Fink from the command line. The only issue I encountered when installing something for the first time was the need to re-enter my password so FinkCommander could 'self-repair' the necessary permissions to run commands as root. That aside, it's stable, and fulfils its intended purpose well.
With FinkCommander, Mac users have an easy path to experiencing the myriad Unix applications available for OS X at a price that can't be beaten. As an added benefit, the ability to rapidly explore and screen Fink's archive makes FinkCommander great for those already familiar with the Terminal-based commands.