Until iCloud Photo Library makes its official debut on the Mac with the all-new Photos app next spring, the only way to access those images on OS X is via the iCloud.com Web app. Of course, if it's just the most recent images you want to see on your Mac, you can always view your Photo Stream on iPhoto; it downloads the last 1000 images you've taken or uploaded on any iCloud-connected device.

But if you'd prefer not to open iPhoto every time you want to view, download, or share the latest picture from your iOS device, there's an easier way: Myphotostream.

This little $7 OS X app (on sale for $5 over the holidays) lets you view your last 1000 or 30 days' worth of images in a simple window; you can then preview any of them by double-clicking or tapping the space bar with a photo selected, share them, or send them to another app for editing. You can also drag an image directly to the desktop or any folder to save it, and there's even a Notification Center widget available.

How to use Myphotostream to view and download Photo Stream images on your Mac

Here's how to set up Myphotostream and get access to your Photo Stream images in no time.

  1. Open iPhoto.
  2. Go to Preferences
  3. Click on the *iiCloud** tab.
  4. Enable My Photo Stream. (If you also want images from Photo Stream to automatically save to your computer, check Automatic Import and Automatic Upload.)
  5. Download Myphotostream from the company's website. You can either pick up a 30-day free trial or buy on-site for $5.
  6. Open Myphotostream. After a minute or two, your Photo Stream should begin populating.
  7. If you want to enable the Notification Center widget:
    1. Open Notification Center
    2. Click the Edit button
    3. Click the green plus button next to Recent Photos.

Myphotostream will now show up in Notification Center when you have it open.

The free way to view and download Photo Stream images on your Mac without iPhoto

If you'd rather avoid paying for a Photo Stream application, there are a few alternatives you can look at.

Option one: Manually copy images using Automator

Just like your iPhoto images, your Photo Stream repository has a physical location on your Mac's hard drive. If you go to the Finder and select Go > Go to Folder or Command-Shift-G, then paste in ~/Library/Application Support/iLifeAssetManagement/assets/sub, you'll arrive at the folder containing all Photo Stream images. The problem? Each image is in its own folder, which makes things a wee bit tricky when it comes to finding and copying pictures.

Chris Breen of Macworld came up with a pretty nifty Automator workflow that copies images to a folder of your choice, but it does require a little bit of time to build the workflow.

Option two: Don't use Photo Stream

Yes, I know — for an article about Photo Stream, this is a weird one. But it is a valid point: There are several other alternatives that provide automatic upload of your iOS and Mac images to the cloud, including Dropbox. If you want to make sure your images get properly backed up and wind up easily accessible on any device you choose, Dropbox might be just the ticket.