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Host file management for OS X

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The hosts file maps host names with their IPs in order to quickly locate the hosts on the network. You use host files to block web pages, test out new websites, map domain names, or resolve a domain name to an IP. If you change host files often, you should use a host file management solution. For OS X, we have looked at three options you could try: Gas Mask, Hosts Preference and Hostbuddy.

Gas Mask

OS X Host file Gas Mask

Gas Mask is a standalone piece of software, which is straightforward and easy to use. It offers basic changes to the host file, and options to create further host files locally, remotely (which are updated automatically) or combined. The software installs itself into the top task bar so it can be accessed very quickly. There is a syntax highlighter to track down errors in hosts files, and global hotkeys so hosts files can be switched easily. It is ad-free and has an average rating of 4.5/5 on the download page (from 12 users).

Hosts Preference

OS X Host file Hosts Preference

Hosts Preference installs itself into the system preferences of OS X, which lets you toggle your host file entries on and off, as well as add, edit or remove them. If an item is checked, it is stored in the hosts file. If it is unchecked, it is removed but stored in the preference panel for further use. Some may prefer to have a standalone piece of software running, but the interface is very simple and it is very easy to enable and disable sites in the host files via the tick boxes. The package also saves everything automatically after you’ve made an edit, which is a nice feature. It has an average rating of 4/5 from the download page.


OS X Host file Hostbuddy

Hostbuddy only offers a free trial for 30 days, and it is $14 thereafter. The interface is straightforward and similar to Gas Mask, with the additional option of being able to flush the DNS cache, which is the only tested package that offers such a feature.

It was slightly more complicated to get working; our developer didn’t get it working as efficiently as Gas Mask or Hosts Preference and didn’t find the price to be worth it.

To sum up

Our developer is a big fan of Gas Mask, due to it’s instantaneous changes and ease of use. It is always available in the task bar which makes for quick changes to a host file.

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