If you've just picked up a new iMac Pro, chances are you already have a suite of software you rely on for your work. But if you're curious as to what else is out there for pro users, I've put together some of the best apps for pro work in various disciplines.
This isn't every pro app on the market, nor is this list filled with apps from every discipline*. But after surveying many of my pro friends, fellow Mobile Nations coworkers, and Twitter, I'd like to think it's a good primer on some of the many excellent pro apps out there.
*Notably absent at present are science, astronomy, and math-related apps — scientists and mathemeticians, hit me up in the comments! What should we be checking out?
- Final Cut Pro X: I've used Apple's pro video editor since high school, and I can't imagine cutting clips together any other way. Final Cut has its rivals, but Apple continually rethinks what it means to be a non-linear video editor and makes some of the smartest NLE software out there.
- After Effects CC: Adobe's motion graphics software has been the king of all-purpose animations for decades, and hooks effortlessly into the rest of Adobe's CC suite if you happen to be an InDesign/Photoshop user. There are also a ton of Lynda tutorials for swapping between AE and Final Cut, if you like working in both ecosystems.
- Cinema 4D: If your specialties lie in 3D animating, Cinema 4D is an incredible app for building assets for films, games, architecture, and more.
- iZotope RX 6: If you work with audio in any way — podcasting, video, on-location interviews, or music — iZotope's tools are must-haves for your kit. Pretty much every podcaster I know relies on this software to remove hisses, sirens, background noise, and generally make audio sound great.
- Logic Pro X: What Final Cut is to video editing, Logic Pro is to editing and mixing audio.
- Forecast: If you build podcasts, Forecast will save hours of your life. Built by podcaster and developer Marco Arment, the app lets you autofill common metadata and artwork, add MP3 chapters, checks for weird silence, and encodes your files as fast as possible.
- Ableton Live: A powerhouse of an app for music creation and live performance.
Photo & Design apps
- Pixelmator Pro: Adobe Photoshop may be the Goliath of the photo editing world, but Pixelmator Pro is proving to be an effective challenger. By focusing solely on image editing rather than trying to match Photoshop's full feature-set, Pixelmator has built a smart app that can edit any image and PSD document with aplomb.
- Lightroom CC: If you need to organize your photo library, you need Lightroom. Adobe's cloud-based image management software has an excellent array of tools for organizing your images — including machine learning keywords — along with basic editing tools.
- Affinity Designer: Like Pixelmator Pro, Affinity Designer is decidedly in the shadow of Adobe's powerhouse Illustrator. But for those who don't want to pay for subscription-based apps or who don't love Illustrator's design language, Affinity is a fantastic alternative.
- Sketch: If you design app layouts, UI, or UX, Sketch is one of the best tools out there for your work.
- xScope: While technically more of a utility than an outright pro app, xScope offers unparalleled precision to inspect and measure app interfaces.
- Ulysses: As all-purpose editors go, Ulysses is an excellent option. It provides a distraction-free interface for writing, and lets you take that writing on the go with excellent iPhone and iPad companion apps.
- Scrivener: The go-to for novelists and storycrafters.
- Highland: If you write screenplays, teleplays, or anything involving dialogue, Highland blows Final Draft out of the water with great looks and fantastic functionality.
- BBEdit: BBEdit is one of the oldest pieces of software on the Mac still thriving, and for good reason: The all-purpose text editor provides a clean, smart workspace for editing HTML, system files, SFTP documents, and more.
- Atom: Another fantastic text editing option for programmers, Atom is built to work across platforms (for projects that might require the use of Windows or Linux) and customize the app to your liking.
- Coda: Panic's Coda is technically Yet Another Text Editor, but the app is smartly and beautifully built for web-based development. It's long been one of my favorite apps to build websites, and it has an equally powerful iOS companion, too.
- Xcode: You can't build great Mac apps without Xcode.
- Homebrew: If you live in Terminal, Homebrew is essential: It's a package manager for your Mac, letting you install all manner of open-source and UNIX software.
What are your favorite pro Mac apps?
Hopefully this provides a great list to get you started! Let us know in the comments what pro apps you use — or if I've left off a must-use app.
Serenity Caldwell contributed to an earlier version of this guide.
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