Finding mac apps that are actually useful is difficult. There are so many options out there, that it become difficult to identify the good ones. In this post I’ll talk about some of my favorite apps that I use on macOS.
Brave + Chrome
I am a big fan of browser compartmentalization, which is the idea that every browser has a specific role and purpose. For example, I use Chrome for any accounts and media, such as Netflix and Youtube. My browser of choice for literally any other task is Brave. It’s a privacy focused browser that automatically blocks trackers and ads. This is perfect for any casual browsing, and reading blogs or media which typically come with a lot of trackers and ads.
One neat trick for these browsers that I have found is setting websites that you frequently visit as a search engine. Even though the autocomplete is quick and accurate, sometimes there are many websites with the same starting characters, forcing you to take a look to select which website you want. To go around this, you can create a new search engine and shortcut, and everytime you enter the shortcut you will go straight to the website. For example, if you set
www.github.com, you can just type in
git into the search bar to go to Github.
There is another “browser” that I have recently come across, which I have integrated into my workflow happily. Station is a browser wrapper for many different productivity applications, such as Gmail and Slack, all put into a single app. It uses a familiar toolbar on the side, with quick navigation between different applications and accounts. Given that I always have Gmail, Google Drive, Slack, Github, and Notion open, its easy to put all of them as applications and switch between them. This way, I never lose track of where the tabs are, and all the notifications go into a single place.
One of my favorite features of the app is the integrated search. By connecting all of these different applications, the search is so comprehensive that it can even look for documents in your Drive while you are browsing Github. This makes it so that I never feel like I have to switch my workplace to access a file outside of the current scope, and brings everything to reach through just a few keystrokes.
A majority of my communication is on Facebook Messenger. With no official macOS app, I have been searching high and low for a client that will allow me to always have Messenger open, not in the browser. Caprine is the perfect desktop application for Facebook Messenger. An amazing feature is its privacy settings, which allow you to block read reciepts and typing indicators. This means that you can read messages without letting know the other person know that you have read them. In addition, its UI fits in perfectly with macOS.
As a student, there are a million different alternatives to what cloud storage provider I can use, like Google Docs, Box, or even Microsoft OneDrive. However, the one that I have settled on is Dropbox, which is my go to for everything from backup to file sharing.
I appreciate the “syncing across all devices” thing, which at this point has become a somewhat standard feature in today’s online storage services. However, one of my favorite features is the ability to quickly create a link and share it with anyone so they have view access to the file this is easier because you know that anyone can read it, and you don’t have to change permission settings like in other cloud services. All I have to do is right click the file in Finder, and its already copied to the clipboard.
The second and most important feature that I love is its version history for each file. Because Dropbox continues to sync as you work, it saves all intermediate versions of your work and keeps them all available for you to look through whenever you need to online. This way, if you ever wish to go back to a version of a file you had before, Dropbox has it already taken care of.
Microsoft To Do
As a previous long-time Wunderlist user, I recently made the switch to Microsoft To Do mainly for the more modern UI. It was an easy transition, and To Do even allows you to import your task history from Wunderlist.
Personally, I have found the successor to have a completely different workflow, and subpar to Wunderlist in many ways. For example, there is no support for automatic due-date setting from task creation. In addition, there’s no list where you can see all pending tasks across different lists. Despite this, I continue to use it because of the clean UI.
The default calculator app that comes with macOS is an old relic, identifying more with applications of the past than the ones used now. I needed a better, more robust calculator that showed me history, and offered easier use of more complex functions. Again, calculator is one of the types of apps which had a variety of different options. However, Numi is my favorite calculator app for macOS.
It offers different themes for the mode of macOS, and will match it. In addition, it has great natural language functionality when converting units. However, my favorite feature is the document-like interaction, where you can set different lines to different calculations and view them all.
If you’ve used a Mac, then you’ve probably heard of the Spotlight alternative Alfred. This is a simple but powerful app that makes it quicker to access the files I want, despite an ever growing number of files on my computer.
There are certain prefixes that you include with each search that will help narrow down the results drastically, so that you can quickly select what you want. For example,
o [file_name] will open the file name, whereas
maps [place] will search Google Maps for a place. The best part is that everything is configurable, so you can customize Alfred based on how you use it.
Despite what it seems, macOS actually creates a lot of clutter on your harddrive that takes up a lot of storage, just from daily use. Its difficult to identify and remove this clutter. However, CleanMyMac is an amazing mac utility that will help keep your mac healthy and in ordeer.
The main feature of this app is its Smart Cleanup feature, which intelligently goes through each and every corner of the computer to clean out huge amounts of storage. I remember the first time I ran this, I cleaned 30GB on the first run. It has some other cool features, such as Spotlight re-indexing when it seems off, and an app uninstaller.
I prefer to hide my dock because it takes up a lot of space on my screen, and I mostly use Alfred to open my apps. Dockey is an app that changes how you interact with your dock. It allows me to change the animation at which my dock shows, so it seems much snappier than the default animation speed, and makes it faster to disappear too.
Google Backup and Sync
As a photographer, I have terabytes of photos and files that I keep across a couple of different external harddrives. However, I also use Google Drive as a backup solution for all my harddrives, which keep all the files safe and accessible online. This is super convenient as I can quickly grab a file, even if I don’t have the harddrive with me.
Backup and Sync by Google is a really easy way for me to backup the entire harddrive to Google Drive. All I have to do is plug in the harddrive, and select the directory to sync it to on Google Drive. From there, I can literally leave it plugged in until its done syncing, then unplug it. The next time I plug it in and make any changes, Backup and Sync will automatically take care of it. For me, this was the easiest way to back up multiple terabytes to the cloud.
Mac Media Key Forwarder
One of the must frustrating features of macOS is opening the iTunes app when hitting the play/pause button. I use Spotify, and so this was a headache when Spotify wasn’t open and instead iTunes popped up. Mac Media Key Forwarder allows you to set a priority app to respond to your media keys. With this utility, I can set priority to Spotify, so that Spotify opens instead of iTunes. Its super convinient, and also supports play/pause functionality for Chrome or other apps.
Maccy is a clipboard manager, keeping track of the last 200 items that you copied. Its an extremely simple and intuitive interface. By triggering a single key shortcut of your choosing, a simple UI will popup, allowing you to search the past 200 items that you’ve copied, and can copy back to the clipboard. Its an extremely convenient and lightweight application that is a life-saver whenever I am forgetting something that I copied before, or am toggling between many different pieces of text.
I set the keyboard shortcut to
c by running the command
defaults write org.p0deje.Maccy hotKey shift+control+c.
In the recent MacBook Pros, the top function keys are replaced with a secondary screen called the touchbar. Unfortunately, Apple’s configurability and software integration of the screen is poor. Pock is a Mac app that allows the touch bar to be a lot more useful than what comes default with macOS.
They have a multitude of features, and choices for how you can use it. Specifically, you can mirror the apps on your dock on the touchbar, and also can show important information like battery and time. It also has some neat features like being able to view the current song playing, play/pause any sound source, and also brightness for the screen. Its super configurable, and easily installed.
After opening a compressed file, I rarely like to keep it around on my computer. Unfortunately, the default Archive Utility application that ships with macOS doesn’t allow for much customizability. The Unarchiver is an app that allows you to set different preferences, such as to delete the compressed file after opening it. There are also a number of other handy features that I appreciate, which can be set in the preferences.
If you read about my mac setup, you’ll remember how I use Vanilla to hide the non-essential icons in my menu bar.
It works extremely well. If you have the premium version, you can unlock certain useful features, such as auto-hiding after 5 seconds. You don’t even have to pay for it - all you have to do is have a few of your friends download it through an affiliate link and then you can get the premium version. This is an amazing app that clears a lot of the visual clutter that I see on my digital workspace.
One of the features that macOS lacks out of the box is window management. Thankfully, there are many apps that offer different solutions. Out of all the window management solutions I’ve tried, Veeer is the best by far. You can customize the shortcuts and arrangmenets for your windows, making it fit easily into my workflow.
The default screenshot system on the mac is good, but its not great. The shortcut itself is complicated, and there just isn’t enough customizability in terms of what can be captured. Xnip is a screenshot utility application for the mac, and makes it super easy to screenshot anything. My favorite feature of it is that it supports ‘scrolling capture,’ where you select a portion of the screen to capture and you can scroll down to add to the screenshot. This makes it super easy to screenshot long emails, webpages, or anything else that doesn’t automatically fit in your window size.
I set the shortcut to be
x, which is much simpler than the default mac screenshot shortcut. in addition, I like the sound effect that it makes a lot more than the default.