Apps chrome

Install these six apps as soon as you get a new laptop

This article is republished with permission from Wonder Tools, a newsletter that helps you discover the most useful sites and apps. Subscribe here.

A new laptop provides a fresh start. I recently received a new MacBook Pro. In this article, I’m going to share the basic apps I installed right away and what I use them for. Although I use a Mac, many of these apps are cross-platform. Where applicable, I have noted Windows and Android alternatives.

The six apps I installed first

Day one

This is my private writing space. This is where I write freely, keep memories for my future self, and keep a reading journal. Here are other ways to get the most out of it. Works on iOS, Mac and Android. Basic usage is free; bonus features are $3 per month.


This is the email program I use to limit the time I spend on emails by making the writing and replying process more efficient. Superhuman fetches mail from multiple Gmail addresses and lets me browse messages with keyboard shortcuts. This makes it easy for me to schedule anything I email to resurface later to follow up, or schedule messages to send later. It also stores message templates that I need to send repeatedly with minor edits. Apple only. A good cross-platform alternative tool to beautify Gmail is MixMax.


I use it daily to communicate with colleagues and participate in various online communities. It is a messaging platform that makes it easy to keep track of ongoing conversations, thereby reducing messaging traffic. But it’s also another inbound place where I have to check for messages, so it’s not a pure win. Available for free for Mac, iOS, Windows and Android.

iA writer

It’s where I go when I want to write without distractions. Available for Mac, iOS, Windows and Android; $30 one-time purchase.

Around (plus Zoom)

These are my go-to online meeting tools. I prefer Around for individual meetings and Zoom for teaching. Both platforms have recently added useful new features. Around now lets you record meetings and set timers. Zoom has improved its polling features, so you can ask multiple types of polling questions. It has also improved its built-in whiteboard. Around is free for Mac, iOS, Windows, Linux and Android.

turbo bonding

I love being able to create quick collages. I use them for marketing messages about program participants I run, as well as showcasing a group of images, like the apps noted at the top of this post. Available for Mac or Windows; $15 per year.

Six more things I need on my new laptop

Much of what I use lives on the web. I opt for Chrome because many plugins I rely on require it.

Backups are essential. I put all my important folders in my Dropbox folder. This way, everything stays saved. Most of the files I use are cloud-based, like Google Docs, Notion, and Coda files, and notes stored in Roam. But I rely on Dropbox to back up what I store on my laptop, like Keynote presentation files, videos, and PDFs. A Dropbox feature that I love: I can right-click on any file or folder stored in Dropbox to share a direct link to it. I use it several times a week instead of sending attachments.

The default clipboard built into Windows, macOS, and ChromeOS (for Chromebooks) only stores one thing you’ve copied. It’s crazy. Imagine if you could only remember the last thing someone said to you and nothing before.

To remedy this, I’m using Alfred as a clipboard manager so I can paste everything I’ve copied over the past few months. It also functions as a text expander, allowing me to enter common items, such as addresses, signatures, or responses to common questions or requests. Mac only. Here are some Windows alternatives.

Eagle comes in handy for organizing screenshots and other assorted files that I collect on my laptop. Here’s why it’s so useful. I also rely on Google Photos to save images and CloudApp to save screenshots and GIFs. Eagle works for Mac and Windows. Trial is free, then $30 for one-time purchase (30% off for students and teachers).

It is a micro-application, an essential single-use tool for a narrow but important purpose. TextSniper grabs text from images and puts it on your clipboard for pasting into notes. I use it when I’m learning something online and want to type text into a video or slide I’m watching. Mac only; free trial, then $8 one-time purchase.

It helps to periodically clean my laptop to keep it running efficiently. I once paid $35 for a one-year subscription, but now I get it as part of my subscription to Setapp, a collection of over 230 small apps that are bundled together for $10 a month. It’s a great service for trying out software without having to buy a ton of little apps.

This article is republished with permission from Wonder Tools, a newsletter that helps you discover the most useful sites and apps. Subscribe here.