I want to bang my head against a wall every time I see a “Best Mac Apps” list, because app recommendations are almost always obvious. Thanks, but I don’t need an “expert” to tell me to download Google Chrome or Slack or VLC Player.
What Mac users (new and old) need is someone who is serious about finding good and, sometimes, obscure Mac apps. I’ve been using Macs for almost 15 years and curated some damn good apps that I rarely see on so many “Best Mac Apps” lists. I’m not writing this article because my boss gave it to me; I’m writing this because I’m so sick of the absolutely useless suggestions I keep seeing.
These are all apps I have installed on my Macs – most of them I use on a daily basis. I would credit the people I first heard about the apps, but can’t remember who and when. So I’m just going to thank all the Twitter and Reddit users, web commentators, and true friends and colleagues past and present, who suggested these apps to me.
In fact, I like regularly installing new apps and trying them out. Not all pass my sniff test for usefulness; I uninstall a lot. The ones that remain in my Applications/Launchpad folder are the ones that I share with you.
All the apps I recommend are free. There is a disclaimer below for affiliate links because Submissions parent company BDG could make money on all referrals; I have to include it even if I don’t (again, because these apps are free). Maybe I’ll write a separate list for the highest paid apps I use, but the truth is I’m a tightwad when it comes to Mac software, so this list won’t be long and will almost certainly have obvious choices like Adobe Creative Cloud Suite.
Entry may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article. We only include products that have been independently selected by Input’s editorial team.
It’s silly that the first app every Mac user should get is an app to remove other apps. Because it turns out that dragging an app from the Applications folder to the Trash doesn’t delete all the files it scattered across macOS when it was installed. I used to use AppZapper ($20), but discovered AppCleaner, which is free. I also lost my AppZapper license so yes.
macOS has built-in window management tools to run two split-screen apps side-by-side. But the functionality is limited (and most people don’t even know how to activate it by long-clicking the green maximize button at the top left of a window). I was a fan of BetterSnapTool. The $3 app is versatile, but Rectangle costs nothing and has almost the same amount of basic functionality. Namely, you can align windows to any section of your screen. With Rectangle, window management on macOS works more like Windows. You can thank me later when your productivity soars.
The web is a great place. But it’s increasingly infested with annoying cookies and trackers that no ordinary person understands. Hush blocks all those annoying pop-ups asking you to “accept cookies”…but only in Safari. For Chrome or Firefox, you can use extensions like uBlockOrigin or the aptly named I don’t care about cookies to do the same thing.
Everyone has a clipboard app which is the best clipboard app ever. Mine is Jumpcut. I have been using it for over 10 years. If, like me, you copy and paste a lot of stuff, Jumpcut is for you. It lives in your menu bar and lets you recall a surprisingly long list of copied text.
Listen, I’m sick of Zoom and Teams and WebEx or whatever video calling app you use as much as everyone else. But virtual meetings, where you sometimes have to show your face, are here to stay. You can swipe to a mirror to make sure you look presentable, or use Hand Mirror, accessible from the menu bar. It gives you an overview with your webcam. I literally use it seconds before every call to check I don’t have crumbs around my mouth.
Want to download a YouTube video without using a sketchy website? 4K Video Downloader is what you want. Paste a YouTube link and – boom – you can download it at any available resolution you want. You’re limited to 28 video downloads per day before you get paid, but are you a freak who needs to download more than a handful?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to simply reduce the size of an image file to meet a requirement. Good examples: our content management system (CMS) or YouTube can only accept PNG files of 2MB or less. Instead of opening Photoshop and resizing, I use ImageOptim to reduce the file size. I can’t remember where I first learned this, but it was really, really strong.
The iPhone takes amazing photos. The problem is that, by default, Apple saves images in HEIC (High Efficiency Image File Format) and many other applications such as Photoshop cannot open the file type. iMaziing HEIC Converter does one thing: it converts your HEIC photos to JPEG. You need this app ASAP when someone inevitably sends you a HEIC and you just want to cry.
A recent install, MonitorControlLite lets you control the brightness of all external displays connected to your Mac, including iPads wirelessly via Sidecar, and your built-in display (if you’re on a MacBook). After installation you get an icon in the menu bar and then you just use the sliders. It works.
Opening compressed .zip files on a Mac is hands down a better experience than on Windows. It’s not a contest. However, macOS cannot open all kinds of compressed files. This is where The Unarchiver beat it. It can unzip a boatload of file types. So whatever obscure file (I’m not judging you) you download from anywhere on the internet, you can be sure you can see the content.
Quit by Marco Arment does exactly what you think it does: it automatically quits applications after a certain amount of time. For example, you can quit Slack after 30 minutes of inactivity. Quitting is my go-to for eliminating distractions. As I was typing this story, Quitting closed Messages for me – saved me from texting my friends so I could focus on finishing this guide. It worked!