I've owned a lot of Macs in my day, and I've gotten into a pretty comfortable rhythm when it comes to setting up new ones. When I got my new 21-inch Retina iMac, however, I decided to step outside my familiar box and ask my iMore and Mobile Nations colleagues what they consider must-have software on their computers.
Unsurprisingly, our lists overlapped quite a bit, but I also came away with a few exciting new apps to try. Here are our 10 favorite apps that every Mac user should own.
If you want to back up your files, share them with friends, collaborate with them, and access files across all your devices, Dropbox is an absolute no-brainer. Setting up a Dropbox account is simple: Once you install the app and sign up for the service, it creates a private Dropbox folder for you and your files. Anything you put in that folder gets automatically uploaded to Dropbox's encrypted servers when there's an internet connection; work on a file inside your Dropbox, and it will save changes automatically. You'll get 2GB of online storage space free, and can upgrade your space to a whopping 1TB for $10/month. Best of all, your Dropbox folder also saves locally to your Mac, so when you're offline, you can still access and change those files and it will re-sync with the server when you return online.
Your Twitter client of choice
Twitter may be weathering some rough seas at present, but it's still a must-have app for myself and my co-workers at Mobile Nations. It's the fastest way to keep in touch with our friends and colleagues, track news stories, respond to readers, and share the latest adorable BB-8 option.
For me, there's only one option for Twitter on the desktop: Tweetbot, Tapbots's fanastically quirky Twitter app. Tapbots also offers an iOS version of Tweetbot, and both versions sync with each other, so you can browse on your iPhone or iPad and switch to your Mac without losing a beat. Twitterrific's Mac client is also pretty great, and offers a slightly different style for your tweet viewing experience. If you don't have the cash to spend on a Twitter app, there's also always Twitter's official Mac client, but it's not nearly as full-featured as Tweetbot or Twitterrific.
3. Google Chrome
I have a very fond spot in my heart for Apple's web browser, Safari, but it never hurts to have alternative options on your plate. And when it comes to alternatives, Google Chrome tops the list. The Alphabet company's browser syncs with your Google account and offers access to a number of different plugins, and it's traditionally run Google Hangouts far better for me than Safari.
And, as an added bonus: It comes with a local Flash install, so you never have to sully Safari with Flash if you don't want to.
4. Fantastical 2
The default Calendar app isn't bad, but if you need to take charge of your calendaring on your Mac you want the best in the business. Fantastical has pretty much everything you'd want in a high-powered calendar client: A shortcut to your calendar in your toolbar, a beautiful, easy-to-read layout, support for reminders, natural language support, time and geofenced-based alerts, time zone support, and customized calendar views. Of all Fantastical's great features, it's the last one that I use the most — this lets me group all my work calendars and my personal calendars on separate views, so I don't have to see 10 events per day.
Best of all, Fantastical offers a 21-day free trial, so you can give it a test-drive to see if it fits for your workflow.
You need a password manager on your Mac. You do. The days of remembering all your passwords or using one password for everything are gone: It's simply not smart or safe to do these things, and you put your financial and personal security at risk. Luckily, encrypted programs like 1Password exist to store all your hard-to-remember passwords in one place. You need only remember one master password to unlock your vault; inside your vault, you can keep passwords for sites, credit card information, passport numbers, and more. Add a simple extension to Safari or Chrome, and you can auto-fill those passwords right into your web browser when you come across the appropriate site.
I resisted 1Password for a long time, and last year, I finally took the plunge. I'm so glad I did: It got me off my stubborn "I can remember 40 different 8-character passwords" high horse, and it saved my bacon when I had my passport card stolen and had to find the ID number to report it missing.
When you're setting up a new Mac, you almost never worry about disk space: A brand new hard drive feels like an opportunity for neverending file storage. But as time goes on, preference files and backups can fill your drive before you know it. DaisyDisk helps track down disk eating offenders and purge them from your Mac without a second thought. I've been using the app for four years since I stumbled upon it back in my Macworld days, and it's the easiest app I've ever used for eliminating unnecessary files. I love the way DaisyDisk color-codes your files for easier viewing, and you can easily view the offending files directly with a single mouse click.
As you start to add apps and utilities to your Mac, you may notice an ever-increasing amount of tiny icons popping up in your right-side menu bar. While these can be super-useful shortcuts (as with Fantastical), too many of them can make your toolbar cluttered and hard to read. Enter Bartender: The utility lets you rearrange menu bar icons in the order that most suits you, and lets you hide any unnecessary icons within Bartender's More button. The app is a life-saver on my 11-inch MacBook Air: Without it, I'd have enough icons to run into my left-side menu bar.
8. Photo-editing software
When it comes to photo editing, everyone has their preferences and their favorites. Adobe Photoshop was king of my Mac's image mountain for a very long time before I switched to Pixelmator; others at Mobile Nations have a fond spot for Acorn.
Which app appeals to you will largely depend on what you require of your image editing software. Photoshop is one of the largest, most full-featured, and best image-editors out there — but it can be overkill if you're just trying to repair some dark spots or edit your brightness; Acorn is great if you need something like Photoshop without the full power of Photoshop. I like Pixelmator for its easy-to-use Repair brush, color correction tools, and Handoff support between iOS and Mac.
- Adobe Photoshop - $9.99/month on Adobe's Photography plan
- Pixelmator Pro - $59.99
- Acorn 6 - $29.99
- Affinity Photo - $39.99
Your Mac offers two great text editors for rich text: TextEdit, and iWork's Pages. But if you ever want to write in plain text (no bold or italics) or code, Bare Bones Software's TextWrangler will keep you comfy. TextWrangler is, in some ways, BBEdit Lite: It lets you edit plain text easily, but doesn't offer many of the advanced features BBEdit boasts. If you're a pro, BBEdit's what you want; for everyone else, TextWrangler is a great free accessory to have in your app arsenal.
10. Augment with your honorable mentions
I can't do any top ten list without mentioning some apps that almost made my list.
- If you need an excellent calculator app beyond what the standard Calculator app can offer you, you should check out PCalc ($9.99).
- If you need to record audio, you can't go wrong with Rogue Amoeba's Piezo ($19).
- Like to do a lot of cooking? Paprika ($19.99) is the recipe manager of your dreams.
- If you want to make copies of DVDs you own — or burn something on your computer to a disk — Handbrake (free) is the best app in the business.
- Own a Sonos speaker or two? Make sure you pick up the Sonos Controller (free) app for your Mac to upload your iTunes library and control your queue.
What are your must-install Mac apps, iMore readers? Let me know below — I'd love to discover a great new app or two.
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