The Mac App Store is full of all manner of apps, from simple utilities to complex programs. New apps are published every day, making it hard to find the best of the best — which is where we come in. We've gathered the best free apps for the Mac, all in one place so you don't have to go digging.
My criteria for apps on this list
You can always trust iMore. Our team of Apple experts have years of experience testing all kinds of tech and gadgets, so you can be sure our recommendations and criticisms are accurate and helpful. Find out more about how we test.
In researching the best free apps for the Mac, I started by using Apple's category list. This makes it easier to cover the wide variety of content available. If an app is on the Mac App Store, it is in one of the 21 categories that Apple has listed.
Because this is a "free" app list, I tried to only include apps that are truly free or whose functionality is not diminished without an in-app purchase. You will see some apps that have premium content that can be unlocked with an in-app purchase, but I've included them on the list because I feel that the free content is noteworthy.
Since this is a list of apps, I'm not including services that only have websites without a dedicated app (there are two exceptions to this rule on the list, but they are totally worthy of rule-bending).
I've included some apps that are not available in the Mac App Store. That's because some of the best apps in a given category are so much better than any Mac App Store counterpart that I couldn't exclude them.
Though this list is long, it is by no means complete. There are just too many free Mac apps available to include everything. If you don't see your favorite free Mac app on this list, please add it in the comments section with your reason for why it stands out. (Remember: It has to be truly free or the free version of an otherwise premium app that is noteworthy.)
- Developer tools
- Graphics & Design
- Health & Fitness
- Social networking
Slack is a must-have app for anyone working remotely with others. It is the best business chat app around. The Mac app is a chat window, so you can keep your conversations going without having to log into a web browser every time. You can have multiple accounts running at the same time and there are dozens of helpful bots that you can add to any chat room.
Wave is one of those exceptions to the rule of no services without a dedicated app. It is a free software tool for small businesses. You can use it for invoicing, receipts, accounting, and more. You can also add credit card processing and payroll for a small additional fee. It is set up to work with what your business needs are. If you don't need a feature, you aren't paying for it. If you only need a feature sometimes, you only pay when you use it. Because Wave is dedicated to making small business tools work the way small business owners need them to, I've included it on this list.
Xcode is the macOS, iOS, tvOS, and watchOS developer's handiest tool. It supports coding for Swift, Objective-C, Python, and a whole lot more. It can build universal binary files to run on PowerPC and Intel-based computers, and developers can create apps for 32-bit and 64-bit architectures. It's got everything an Apple coder needs.
When it comes to coding, nothing keeps your characters more organized than TextWrangler. The text editor works with a wide variety of coding syntax and even has color coding for different programming languages. You can easily access files on FTP and SFTP servers. It is also a fantastic app for non-programmers for its many smaller details, like line wrapping, email templates, and quote styles. It is one of the best free code editors around.
Khan Academy is another exception to my rule that a service must have a dedicated app, but it is such a fantastic learning website, rich with online study courses of all levels — for free — that I had to include it. You can learn the colors of the rainbow or the Pythagorean Theorem. It covers basic subjects and works you into deeper involvement, just like you would start off taking basic classes in school and move into more advanced curricula. You can also prepare for the SAT, MCAT, GMAT, IIT JEE, and NCLEX-RN with excellent study guides. It is a great resource for getting started or back into your education.
Right inside the iTunes app on your Mac is a universe of knowledge. There are thousands of specialized courses, which you can download for free, that are lead by professors at some of the most popular colleges in the world. You can learn statistics from Harvard, business from Stanford, psychology from Yale, and much more. Subjects cover architecture to women's studies, with practically everything you can think of in between. To access iTunes U, open iTunes on your Mac and select it from the menu.
HandBrake is a free, open-source software program that lets you convert practically any media file to MP4, M4V, or MKV. You can convert your entire DVD or Blu-ray collection into digital form to watch on your Apple TV without having to pay someone to do it for you. You can quickly choose which type of device you want your file to be transcoded to support (like iOS or tvOS) and then get to converting within just a few seconds. For more advanced file conversion fans, there are a number of great features to help you perfect your digital movie catalog.
VLC media player
VLC is the best free, open-source media player for the Mac. With it, you can play nearly any media file, including MPEG-2, MPEG-4, MKV, WebM, WMV, and much more. It has a number of customizable features so you can create your ideal viewing situation or set up your music listening experience the way you want. It does support DVD and Blu-ray decryption through the libdvdcss library if you are so inclined to use it.
If you're not using Apple Music (actually, even if you are), Spotify is the next best music streaming service for the Mac. With the Mac app, you can listen to thousands of songs across all genres. It includes a useful playlist section so you can keep track of your favorite music. It also has a great music discovery section where you can see what's trending or music you might like based on what you've been listening to. The social aspect makes it one of my favorite free social media apps for the iPhone, too.
Debit & Credit - Personal Finance
If you prefer to keep track of your finances manually, Debit & Credit is a great checkbook balancing app (I know, no one balances a checkbook anymore). You manually enter every transaction and income, and you can keep track of what you're spending with the budget list. The report feature is the best. You can view your spending habits by category, where you spend, your income and expenses differences, whether you are able to save, and more. There is an in-app purchase to unlock more than two accounts, but if you only have two bank accounts, you don't need the premium service.
Money Wiz 2 ~ Personal Finance
Money Wiz is a great personal finance tracker for balancing your bank account. The free version lets you manually add account information like income, expenses, and account transfers. If you sign up for the monthly subscription, you can connect your online bank accounts and have the work done for you. You can also create a budget (though you can only track one budget before being asked to upgrade). You can also set up a schedule reminder to keep you on track for paying bills that are due at the same time each month. It features a few more customizable features, like creating a new category for income and expenses, as well as creating financial reports based on your net worth, cash flow, and balance over time. Money Wiz works better with the subscription upgrade, but is very useful for keeping your checking accounts balanced.
Graphics & Design
GIMP is pretty much the open-source version of Photoshop. You can fix minor photo errors, like light balance and contrast, or manipulate your image using the masking and removing features, similar to that of Photoshop's. You can also add filters, resize, create layers, mix up background objects, and a whole lot more. It's the best free version of Photoshop you can use on the Mac.
Autodesk is famous for its artists' apps, which feature a rich selection of brushes that seem hyper-realistic. You can use it to create vector graphic images, illustrations, and photorealistic works of art. There are dozens of customizable pens, pencils, and paintbrushes, and the color palette is so robust that you can perfectly match practically any color in the world. The free download comes with dozens of amazing tools, but you can upgrade to the pro version to unlock even more options. It is a graphic artist's best tool on the Mac.
Health & Fitness
Time Out - Break Reminders
Taking a moment for oneself is one of the most difficult health and fitness steps to take. We get so caught up with our busy schedules that we forget to stop for a moment. Time Out forces you to take those little breaks by dimming your screen so you can't use it for a specified amount of time. You can set up small breaks every hour, micro-breaks every 15 minutes, and lunch breaks to get your eyes off the screen for a half-hour or so. You can configure how long the breaks are and how often you take them. It'll make your eyes, your muscles, and your heart a little bit healthier every day you use it.
Relax Lite - Stress and Anxiety Relief
When the stress of the day starts to overwhelm you, use Relax to help you take things down a notch. It is a simple window with relaxing visual images and calming music that includes special tones to help cue your breathing exercises. There are guided meditation sessions you can take part in and deep-breathing exercises that will help you focus and reduce stress. Sometimes, you just need to check out for 10 minutes in order to be a more productive person.
If you fancy yourself a writer, Apple's iBooks Author is the perfect app to get your work published without having to sign a publishing contract. You can use Apple's pre-made templates to help facilitate the perfect design. Add images, a video introduction, book cover, and more for a more immersive experience. With the multitouch widgets, you can make your pages interactive. Add photos, audio, Keynote presentations, and 3D objects. When you've finished you can upload it to the iBooks Store with the in-app export tools. You'll be a famous author before you know it!
How many chat and messaging programs are you signed up with? If it's more than one, you need Trillian. It combines all of your chat and messaging accounts into one simple interface so you don't have to switch between apps to talk to your friends and family. You can chat through Facebook, Twitter, Google Chat, Yahoo, Bonjour, and more, all in one window. Chat services are delineated by color coding, so you know where a message is coming from. If you have too many chat channels and want to keep them all in one place, use Trillian to keep them organized.
You've never seen the human body the way it is presented in this medical book. It shows you the entire make up of the body's systems. For free, you can examine, in interactive 3D, the entire skeletal and connective tissue layers, including names of bones, surfaces, insertion points, and more. You can zoom in on specific areas of the body for detailed interactions and animate muscle movements. You'll learn more about human anatomy than you ever thought possible.
Audacity is one of the best free audio editors. You can record live audio for podcasts, turn tapes and records into digital music, and edit tracks. If the original recording is a little too bright, you can add a filter to bring down the highs. Trim the excess off of the front or back of a recording, and even blend one track into another. It is very easy to use, so you don't have to be a professional recording artist to get into it.
Cross DJ Free
DJ programs can be a pain in the pocketbook. If you're just learning the ropes or want to have a homegrown dance party, don't spend the heavy cash. Cross DJ makes it possible for you to spin the beats without the expensive software. It features waveforms, beat sync, track cueing, loops, digital scratching, and more. It accesses your iTunes library directly, so you don't even have to load up new music. You may eventually upgrade to a more robust DJ app, but this is definitely a great starter program.
The popular song identification program that was folded into Siri on the iPhone is also available on the Mac. Shazam listens to your music and tells you what you want to know about it. While it's running, it will tell you the name of a song and artist. While you're listening to tunes, it will automatically create a playlist of tracks you can listen to with Apple Music (when available), even if you are currently listening to music with a different service. Click a track to see lyrics and watch music videos on Shazam's website, too.
RSS Bot - News Notifier
RSS Bot is like having a news feed right in your Menu bar. When you log in, you can add any RSS feed to it and then quickly view new content with a single click. You can set up the service to notify you when new posts are published, or just check on things yourself when you have the time. If you read a blog that covers more subjects than you are interested in, you can set up a filter that will only show you articles that match keywords you designate.
Pocket is sort of like the folder your mom used to keep with newspaper and magazine clippings in it. You can save articles, videos, recipes, and more, right in Pocket for reading later. It's the perfect app for people who like to browse the entirety of the internet with no real focus, but don't have the time to read everything they come across. Save articles for offline viewing so you can read new content while you are on the bus or at the park. The app has a nifty tool that highlights the most important articles of the day, so you can read content organized by priority.
Fotor is a super easy photo editing app for the Mac that lets you create fun and unique projects from your collection. You can adjust the lighting, tweak the white balance, add a fun border, lay on a filter, and even add text boxes. It supports batch editing, so you can stylize all of your vacation photos at the same time. The collage tool lets you create pages with multiple photos that you can customize to your liking. It is a fun, simple way to edit your photos without the complex tools that you need to know about with Photoshop.
Polarr Photo Editor Lite
Polarr is a basic photo editing app with excellent tools for image adjusting. You can adjust color, light, clarity, highlights, shadows, and more. Add effects like color shadows, lens distortions, vignettes, and filters. This app works best when you are trying to enhance your pictures, not when you are trying to get artsy with them. If you can't seem to get your picture just right, trigger one of the helpful tutorials to learn how to brighten dark images or properly add white balance. There are dozens of pro-level tools, but they are designed to be used by anyone.
Wunderlist is the best task manager app you can get without paying for it. You can create different lists and add time-sensitive projects to them, create tasks with recurring due dates, and share your lists with others. It syncs across Mac and iOS, so you can take your lists with you everywhere you go. You'll always be ready to take care of business. You can set due dates for tasks and reminders to help keep you on task. You can also include subtasks for specific projects and leave yourself a note if you need more details. Tag a task as important and it will move to the top of your list.
Evernote is like that basket you have next to the couch or that drawer in your kitchen that has everything in it. You can clip web pages, link status updates, add music, store pictures, create new notes, and share anything you want with others. Not only is it the perfect junk drawer for every digital thing you could possibly want to save, but it is also totally organizable so your junk looks more like a perfectionist's desk. You can make checklists, set reminders, drop notes into existing documents, annotate pictures, and all manner of stuff. It does practically everything except fix the kitchen sink.
TickTick is a great choice if you want an easy to use task manager that is still powerful enough to help you feel productive. TickTick is completely cross-platform across 10 different platforms, and you can even access all of your tasks on the web. Adding tasks can be done with a keyboard shortcut, you get instant reminders, flexibility with recurring tasks and priority levels, checklists, and sync. There are no restrictions, but you can go with TickTick Premium for more features like grid views of timeline and calendars, smart lists, sub-task reminders, and more. They're nice bonuses, but you can get the basic functionality (which is more than enough for most) for free.
If Evernote isn't really your thing (you do need a subscription to get the most use out of it), then consider Microsoft OneNote. Think of OneNote as your digital notebook for capturing everything: thoughts, discoveries, ideas, notes, etc. You can create multiple notebooks for different topics or subjects, and each notebook can hold an unlimited number of notes. Your notes can include just plain text, drawings, PDF documents, files, web snippets, and pretty much anything else you would possibly need to reference later.
If you love reading eBooks, then the Kindle app is a must-have for your Mac. With the Kindle app, you'll get access to your collection of Amazon Kindle books, and Amazon Whispersync means they'll also be accessible on your other devices too, including iPhone and iPad. Whispersync will keep track of the last page you read, bookmarks, notes, and highlights, so you simply pick up where you left off on your Mac, Kindle, iPhone, or iPad. The Kindle app also lets you sample books for free, and you can purchase directly from the Kindle bookstore, or import your own eBooks.
Apple geeks, pay attention. This little reference tool is going to impress you. It features detailed information on every single Apple product ever made, including things like processor speeds, original price, and current selling price. Did you know that the first Macintosh only had 1 MB of memory? With Mactracker, you will know all about all the Macs. And, you can input your own Apple devices, too. So you can keep track of what you own and whether it is still under warranty. It covers more than just Mac's too. You can look up servers, PowerBooks, and every software update for every device.
Sometimes, you're just trying to find that perfect word, the one that rhymes perfectly for your song or the one that is similar to the word you are thinking of, but works better in a sentence. Megawords is a simple little app that gives you a wealth of information in just a few seconds. You can look up anagrams, find rhymes, and even get a little help with crossword puzzles. Type in a word to get the dictionary definition, synonyms, and even geographical information if the word happens to also be the name of a place.
Friendly for Twitter
Friendly for Twitter is a lightweight app that lets you log in to all of your Twitter accounts, and then some. Friendly acts as a lightweight chrome around the Twitter web app, so it's fast and light. You can also add your Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, WhatsApp, Pinterest, Linkedin profiles, and more. Friendly also gives you two options to view Twitter: Twitter Mobile or Tweetdeck styles, so you can pick the one that suits your needs.
If you're using Twitter primarily for publishing, marketing, or just a power-user, then you may want to look into Tweetdeck. It's a flexible Twitter app that lets you have multiple columns side-by-side, so you can see more tweets in a single glance. The app also recently gained nice features like Dark Mode and custom themes.
PhotoFeed - for Instagram
Can't get enough Instagram? Then you should download PhotoFeed - for Instagram on your Mac. This simple app allows you to log in to your Instagram account, so you can browse your feed, like photos, and leave comments. You know, without having to go on your phone! It's basic, but it gets the job done. You do need to have an Instagram account to use it though, as it won't work without a login.
Apple's built-in mapping service is really convenient to have on the Mac. You may not realize how often you look up the location of something while on your computer, but it is a fairly common occurrence, at least for me. Having Maps integrated with every aspect of your Mac makes it easy to look up directions from anywhere, like an email, a website, or a contact card. Siri can use Apple Maps to help you find all manner of locations in just a few seconds. It's already on your Mac and works great with all of the other built-in apps, too.
You may think of Google Maps as a means to get from point A to point B, but there is so much more to discover on this big blue marble than just driving directions. You can virtually travel the globe, visiting cities you'll never get to in real life. Walk around Manhattan with Street View, visit the swelling seas, and even look up to see the stars above you. With the time travel feature, you can go back decades to see what your house looked like, long before you lived there. Google Earth is less of a mapping service and more like a wealth of global information at your fingertips
f.lux is the original maker of soft, yellow-hued lighting for digital screens. You can set it to your local time and your screen will automatically start to dim and turn a slight yellow color. You can customize the effect by increasing or decreasing the intensity and there are additional color effects, like "Movie mode" and "Darkroom" which drastically alter your screen's lighting, but under specific circumstances that you choose. f.lux is designed to help relieve eye strain due to late-night computer use. It is a great utility to have on your Mac.
Parcel - Delivery Tracking
Thanks to the mega-boom in online retail services, we are getting packages delivered more often than ever before, and not just during the holidays. Parcel is easy to use. All you have to do is copy a tracking number and then click on the plus (+) button in the Parcel app and the carrier information will be added automatically. You can add a title description and then keep an eye on how much longer before your package will be at your doorstep. You can add a widget to Notification Center and use Spotlight to look up tracking information. You can only track three packages at a time without an in-app purchase, but the premium price is only $2.99 per year.
If you regularly get large files sent to you, you'll love what the Unarchiver can do for you. It quickly unzips compressed and archived files from a number of different sources, including Zip RAR, 7-zip, and more, and it will open older archives from Stuffit, ARC and ISO disc images. As easy as it is to use Apple's Archive utility to simply unzip large files, the Unarchiver takes care of older content that can be a real pain to get open, since it uses smart detection to encode files correctly so that you won't end up with a bunch of garbled text. It is a fantastic secondary utility for opening files on your Mac.
GIPHY Capture - The GIF Maker
Giphy, which supplies the single largest collection of GIFs across the internet, has a GIF maker so you can join in the fun. It features a recording window that you place over anything you want to record. You can capture still shots or videos (iTunes movies will go black under the GIPHY Capture app due to copyright protection). After recording the section you want to use as a GIF, you can edit it by trimming, resizing, and looping it. You can also add a caption to turn it into a meme. When you're done, you can upload it to Giphy.com to share with the rest of the world. Who knows, maybe your GIF will go viral.
Consumption of entertainment is going digital and it is much easier to simply watch one of your DVD or Blu-ray discs as a digital file right in iTunes instead of having to walk over to your shelf, find the title, walk over to your player, insert the disc, and hit play. With Smart Converter, you can turn all of your movies, TV shows, and homemade videos into files that you can watch from whichever device you prefer. It is specially designed to make it easy to resize and convert files into content fit for your Apple TV, Mac, iPad, or iPhone, but you can also select and convert for dozens of devices, including non-Apple products. When the conversion is finished, simply add it to whatever streaming service you use with your device and your content is ready to watch. It is super easy to use for conversion beginners, too.
Blender is an open-source video creation app that lets you make animations, 3D models, games, and more. It supports modeling rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, composition, and motion tracking. Because it is open-source, developers are constantly creating and sharing tools that others can use, such as textures, 3D character builds, and cartoons. If you are ready to take your animation to the next level, Blender is the best option for free on the Mac.
If you just want a quick glance at the current temperature, WeatherBug Lite is just what you need. It is a Menu bar app that always shows the current temperature and weather condition. All you have to do is look up. If you want more information, you can click on the Menu bar widget to get an hourly forecast and a current weather radar. If you really want to get into the nitty-gritty, click on a stat to open WeatherBug on the web, where you can find out about windshield, sunrise, rainfall, and more. WeatherBug Lite is the perfect little at-a-glance weather app because it's always on.
Though this list is long, it is by no means complete. There are just too many free apps available for the Mac to include everything. If you don't see your favorite free Mac app on this list, please add it in the comments section with your reason for why it stands out (Remember: It has to be truly free, or the free version of an otherwise premium app that is noteworthy.)
August 2019: Removed apps that are no longer free or available. Added Kindle, Microsoft OneNote, TickTick, Friendly for Twitter, Tweetdeck, and PhotoFeed - for Instagram. These are the best free apps for your Mac!
Master your iPhone in minutes
iMore offers spot-on advice and guidance from our team of experts, with decades of Apple device experience to lean on. Learn more with iMore!
Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books. If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).