26 Essential Mac Apps: The Best Mac Apps for Everyone

We’ve put together a list of some of the best Mac apps anywhere: if you’re looking for a new utility, web browser, or photo app, you’ll probably find what you need on this list.

Whether you’ve been using a Mac for a very long time, or you’re unboxing your very first MacBook, it’s always nice to see the sort of software and tools that other people use.

While we don’t include them in our official best Mac apps list, since they’re free and from Apple, new users should always check out Apple’s apps that come with every Mac purchase.

Best Mac Apps: Utilities

 

1Password - Best Mac Apps1Password

Price: $49.99 | Link

1Password is the gold standard of password managers. With people cracking online accounts left and right these days, it’s more important than ever to use secure, complicated passwords – and never the same one twice. 1Password can keep track of all your passwords for you, and automatically enter them into your browser. The latest versions also keep track of sensitive data like insurance numbers, bank accounts, and credit card numbers, making it an important resource if your wallet or purse gets stolen. Apps are available for iPhone, iPad, and Android, making your data available wherever you are.

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Caffeine - Best Mac AppsCaffeine

Price: free | Link

Have you ever started uploading a video to YouTube, walked away, and returned only to find your computer had gone to sleep (and thus corrupted the upload)?

While OS X is supposed to be smart enough to not do that, it doesn’t always work – and now, Caffeine will guarantee it.


Duet Display - Best Mac AppsDuet Display

Price: Free (on OS X, but requires a $16 iOS app) | Link

Built by a cadre of ex-Apple engineers, Duet Display lets you increase your screen space by taking advantage of your iPhone or iPad. With support for touch tracking and the full Retina display of your mobile device, Duet Display can be a godsend if you’re stuck editing on a cramped coffeeshop table.

There are a number of wireless iPad display options, but Duet Display is our top pick.


Dropbox - Best Mac AppsDropbox

Price: Free (various premium service levels) | Link

By now, you’re probably familiar with Dropbox, but if you aren’t, this is the company that made cloud storage famous. These guys make sharing and storing files easier than ever, and helps make all your data accessible on each of your devices.

 


Viscosity - Best Mac AppsViscosity

Price: Free 30-day trial, then $9 | Link

Viscosity is a great replacement for the built-in VPN tool in OS X. Designed to let you log on with just a couple of clicks, Viscosity will work with a number of VPN clients, whether you need to log into work, protect yourself at coffeeshops, or simply evade regional lockouts on media.


Chrome Remote Desktop - Best Mac AppsChrome Remote Desktop

Price: Free | Link

There have been a number of tools over the years that let you log into your computer when you’re not at home, and one-by-one, they’ve all turned to a non-free model. Not so with the Chrome Remote Desktop.  As long as both your home and away PCs are on, you’ll be able to log in and control the remote PC without paying a dime.

Note: both PCs will also need to have the Chrome web browser installed and allowed to run in the background.


Crashplan - Best Mac AppsCrashplan

Price: Free to external drives, 30-day cloud storage; $60 per year for backing up one computer; $150 per year for backing up between 2 – 10 computers  | Link

Crashplan is backup made simple. If you don’t want to pay, the company will offer you free use of their backup software (if Time Machine is not to your liking) as well as 30 days worth of online backups.

Their paid plans are really compelling, however: $60 a year gets you unlimited online backups of your entire computer and network attached storage. You can retrieve individual files or, should emergency strike, pay to have a new hard drive with your backup overnighted to your house.


TextExpander - Best Mac AppsTextExpander

Price: Free trial, then $45 | Link

TextExpander is kind of like autocorrect, but for your Mac. You can program snippets of text into the TE interface, and when you type them into nearly any program, TextExpander replaces them with your pre-chosen macro.

For example, you could type ‘soon5’ in a meeting email, and TextExpander would replace it with “I’m running late, but I should be there in five minutes.” The new version is easier than ever, and TE includes a fun chart that will show you how many hours you save, based on a specific typing speed.


Airfoil - Best Mac AppsAirfoil

Price: Free trial, then $29 | Link

Airfoil lets you send any audio from your Mac to any Airplay source – speakers, Airports, AppleTVs, you name it. It offers granular, per-app control that the system option sorely lacks, and lets you send audio out to multiple sets of speakers.

Rogue Amoeba, developers of Airfoil, include a free copy of Airfoil Speakers with each purchase, which lets you receive Airplay audio on your Mac (or iPhone / Android device).

One fun way to use both of these is to set up Airfoil and Airfoil Speakers on your Mac, then Airplay your iPhone audio to your Mac – this way you can send one phone’s audio out over multiple sets of Airplay speakers, something that is otherwise impossible to do.


f.lux - Best Mac AppsF.Lux

Price: Free | Link

F.lux is based on the idea that seeing blue light late at night is bad for your eyes, and impairs your quality of sleep. The app works by changing the color temperature of your display (computer displays are typically pretty “blue”) as the sun sets; by the time you’re ready to call it a night, things can be looking pretty orange.

It definitely reduces stress on your eyes; if you don’t believe us, try quitting F.lux after you’ve used it for an hour – you’ll be scrambling to re-enable it.


GrandPerspective - Best Mac AppsGrandPerspective

Price: Free | Link

One of the most frustrating things about the Mac to this day (not that the PC is all that much better, frankly) is the inability to see your disk space. How much free space do you have, what folders and files are using it all, etc.

GrandPerspective is a free utility that gets rid of all that storage uncertainty by displaying information in an easy-to-read, blocky interface.


Little Snitch 3 - Best Mac AppsLittle Snitch

Price: $35 | Link

This is the best firewall you didn’t know you needed. Little Snitch not only monitors for inbound connections, but also outbound connections.  It’s a great program for finding out what apps on your computer are calling home and transmitting information; you can block any of them at any time, just by tapping a button.

The devs recently released a companion product known as Micro Snitch; Micro Snitch has a similar philosophy to Little Snitch, except it explicitly monitors your webcam and microphone, so you can be sure nobody is using them to record you.


Malwarebytes - Best Mac AppsMalwarebytes

Price: Free | Link

Worried about whether your Mac can catch a virus or worm? With the platform’s growing popularity, you probably should be.

Marlwarebytes is a trusted name in PC security, and with a recent acquisition, they’re bringing expertise over to the Mac.

The software itself is free, but you can sign up for premium service and support at a rate of just $25/year.


Capture Gif - Best Mac AppsCapture Gif

Price: Free, or $6 | Link

It may seem like a strange addition, but the ability to quickly record your screen and make GIFs can come in handy. You can keep it simple with basic text GIFs, or record yourself doing full-screen actions (take a look at our El Capitan Split View overview for an idea).

Capture Gif offers a free version with limited settings, but the $6 full copy is cheap and offers you the ability to change the framerate of the GIF as well as innovative mouse tracking features.

Best Mac Apps: Internet

Chrome - Best Mac AppsGoogle Chrome

Price: Free | Link

Google’s internet browser has become the world’s most browser, and for good reason. Unfortunately, those reasons don’t really exist on the Mac – not only is Chrome slower than Safari, but it’s also a power hog and can drop your battery life by up to an hour!

Still, it has its uses. Chrome comes bundled with an always-updated version of Adobe Flash, so you’ll never need to worry about updating a version for the Mac. Need to check out a Flash-enabled site? Just spin up Chrome, check it out, and shut it down. Given how many vulnerabilities Flash tends to introduce, it’s worth keeping exposure as limited as possible.


Skype - Best Mac AppsSkype

Price: Free | Link

You’re probably aware of Microsoft’s VoIP product by this point, but it’s worth pointing out. Despite competing alternatives, Skype’s sheer cross-platform connectivity and pervasiveness means that it’s always handy to have around if someone wants to call you.


Transmission - Best Mac AppsTransmission

Price: Free | Link

When it comes to BitTorrent, the cat is out of the bag, and it isn’t going back in. We like Transmission for an OS X torrent client, because it’s cross platform and open source, and also because it isn’t constantly trying to get you to download things you don’t want (ahem, μTorrent).

Best Mac Apps: Music and Video

 

Spotify - Best Mac AppsSpotify

Price: Free, or $10/month Premium tier | Link

Spotify is one of the world’s largest music streaming services, with over 75 million users accessing either its free or pay tiers. The software itself is completely free, supporting your listening with advertising inserted into the streams.

If you don’t mind ponying up, however, you can snag unlimited ad-free music streaming for just $10/ month, with the ability to skip around to whatever music you like, and cache songs to your device for offline listening.

iOS and Android apps round out the experience.


VLC - Best Mac AppsVLC

Price: Free | Link

If you keep any quantity of your own media, VLC will be well known. For everyone else, this app is the gold standard for watching videos from the internet. No nonsense codec downloads, nothing else to install, just download it, open, and play.

 

Best Mac Apps: Productivity

 

AirMail - Best Mac AppsAirMail

Price: $10 | Link

Running just $10 in the Mac App Store, AirMail builds upon the basic functionality in the Mail app and adds some pretty nice integration and power user features (superior keyboard shortcuts, snoozing an email like Gmail’s Inbox does). You can import files directly from services like Dropbox or Google Drive, or send attachments that are too large to email by using Droplr. One of the best features over Mail, however, is how AirMail has worked to integrate itself into the best known third-party productivity apps – so if you use software like Wunderlist, Fantastical, and Evernote, you should take a look at AirMail.


Clear - Best Mac AppsClear

Price: $10 | Link

Clear, like Mailbox, made waves for introducing powerful features paired with an extremely simple and intuitive user interface. Mailbox was for, well, email, but Clear is for keeping you focused at the tasks on hand. It works best when you pair it with the iPhone and iPad apps (which together cost a $5 one-time fee); there’s also an app for the Apple Watch


Fantastical 2 - Best Mac AppsFantastical

Price: $40 | Link

OS X’s Calendar isn’t bad, but it’s also not very useful if you need to track more than the very occasional event. Fantastical (now actually Fantastical 2) is extremely powerful, with a natural language engine that lets you remember events just by typing them out. It comes with a free trial if you don’t feel the need to shell out $40 quite just yet.


Microsoft Office 2016 for Mac - Best Mac AppsMicrosoft Office

Price: $70 / year for 1 PC or Mac, $100/yr for 5 PCs or Macs, $150 one-time purchase for 1 computer | Link

There may be the free Google Docs and Apple iWork suites, but nothing can beat the powerhouse that is Microsoft Office. Aside from the fact that its omnipresence nearly requires you to use it (so that your files can all be shared between jobs), new versions for iOS and Android make it very easy to work on your projects on the go. While Microsoft’s attempts to send Office into the cloud with a monthly or yearly subscription, they do still offer standalone installations.

Best Mac Apps: Graphics and Photo Editing

Pixelmator - Best Mac AppsPixelmator

Price: Free 30-day trial, then $30 | Link

Adobe’s Photoshop CC might reign supreme at the top of the image editing heap, but if you’re not a professional, or very serious amateur designer or photographer, it probably doesn’t make much sense to shell out for it.  For the price of less than one month of Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription, you can get a permanent standalone copy of Pixelmator. There are definitely Mac photo editing apps out there that can do more than Pixelmator, but few can match it on a features-per-dollar basis.

 

Best Mac Apps: Programming

Textmate - Best Mac AppsTextmate 2.0 (beta)

Price: Free | Link

If you’re a programmer, you know that your choice of environment not only says a lot about you but can impact your workflow in drastic and unforeseen ways. Should Vim be getting you down, take a look at Textmate’s most recent version, a product of Macromates.

Textmate offers an easy way to work on a project’s many files at once without getting lost, and features powerful plug-in architecture should you need a tool that it lacks.

Best Mac Apps: Emulators

Andy Android Emulator - Best Mac AppsAndy Android Emulator

Price: Free | Link

If you’re on a Mac, chances are you probably prefer to use iOS over Android. Thinking about seeing how things work on the other side? The Andy Android emulator works extremely well to give you a virtual Android tablet. For the most part, this virtual model works exactly like you’d expect.

The only downside is that the most recent release – which came out in November – only goes up to Android 4.2.2, so some apps and features might not work. Hopefully, we’ll see an update to Android M or N before too long. If you just want to try things out, however, it’s more than good enough.

 

Disagree with the titles we’ve put on the best Mac apps list? Sound out in the comments with some of your favorite apps or tools that you think are the must-haves for any Mac user.

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