Finding mac apps that don’t end up as random bloat on my laptop is an adventure. With the huge macOS ecosystem, it’s difficult to identify the ones that are worthwhile to install. In this post I’ll talk about some of my favorite apps that I use on macOS.
I like to write – it helps me iron out my thoughts and walk through what I’m mentally digesting. It’s a way for me to process and lay out my ideas and put it in a format where I can elicit response and feedback from other eyes. As such, I like a nice, non-intrusive interface to write in.
I used to default to the Notes app, but found that it lacks the inviting user interface that Craft offers. With an incredible design, it also packs a lot of features such as markdown support, file export, and different document themes. It also offers a robust organization system to put away notes and organize different topics.
There are a bunch of cloud storage providers. As a student, the one I have chosen is Dropbox – it is now my go-to for everything file related, from backup to file sharing.
I appreciate the cross-device sync, which has become a standard feature for competitors. Another one of my favorite features is the quick share feature. It generates a link that you can share with anyone, so they have view access to the file, and you don’t have to deal with permission settings. All I do is right click the file in Finder, and the link is 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 makes it easy to view changes. 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.
Maccy is a clipboard manager, keeping track of the last 200 items that you copied. It’s a simple and intuitive interface. By triggering a single key shortcut of your choosing, a UI will pop up, allowing you to search the past items. You copy it back into the clipboard by selecting one. It also previews images that you have copied, which is super helpful.
Maccy is convenient and lightweight. It’s a lifesaver whenever I am forgetting something that I copied before, or am toggling between different pieces of text.
I set the keyboard shortcut to
c by running the command
defaults write org.p0deje.Maccy hotKey shift+command+c.
Notion has become the central hub of my life. It serves as a tool to store all of my personal notes, as well as a shared space for some of the organizations I am a part of. I also use it for a place to keep bookmarks or things to read. Basically my life is in Notion.
I love that it syncs across all devices so that I can work from my Mac, iPad, and iPhone. It’s super convenient and also provides amazing organization for storing my different ideas and pending progress.
The default calculator app that comes with macOS is so restrictive, I needed to replace it. I need a more robust calculator that shows me history and offers more complex functionality. There are a million different calculator apps available, but Numi is my favorite calculator app for macOS.
It offers different themes for the mode of macOS and has great natural language functionality for converting units. The document-like interaction, where each line has a calculation, has become my preferred UI for the calculator. It shows more information, and it is easy to dissect the formula and browse history.
Previously, I replaced the macOS Spotlight with Alfred, but I felt like I was underutilizing the app as I used the free version without any workflows. I recently discovered Raycast, and have loved it. It doesn’t have the same minimal interface, but I don’t feel like it’s bloated either. It has some built in features such as clipboard history and window management, but more importantly it integrates well with my life. It directly connects to my calendar, GitHub, and Zoom. In addition, its file search displays file metadata in the search interface so I can quickly find out more information about the file without having to open it in Finder.
As a previous long-time Wunderlist user, I made the switch to Microsoft To Do after its deprecation. It was an easy transition, and To Do even allows you to import your task history from Wunderlist. But, I found To Do to have a completely different, subpar workflow to Wunderlist in many ways.
I then found Things, which I first tried with the trial. I really enjoyed it – it has really powerful organization settings. You can make projects and subheaders in each project, so I’m able to organize all my tasks easily. I also really love the “Upcoming” view which shows events in your calendar as well as due items on those days.
However, one thing that it desperately needs is natural language processing, so that it can automatically parse “due on Wednesday” when creating the task. Going to the calendar dropdown with the mouse is a hassle.
macOS generates a lot of clutter that takes up storage on the hard drive. It’s also difficult to identify and remove this clutter. CleanMyMac is an amazing utility that keeps your mac healthy and in order. The first time I ran it, I got back 40GB of space!
Another feature of this app is its maintenance, which offers services such as Spotlight reindexing and an app uninstaller. I run this regularly, as it helps keep my computer healthy and cuts down on the used storage that can be freed.
I use the default calendar app, but sometimes I want quicker access to my upcoming meetings than having to open the app. Dato has decreased my dependence on the app to deal with my meetings. It’s a great utility app that sits in the menu bar and offers an agenda of the upcoming events that you have. It carries over the coloring for your meetings and makes it easy to see which day it is in the month. It blends beautifully with the native macOS UI, and replaces my menu bar clock.
Previously I have used Vanilla to hide non-essential icons in my menu bar. However, with the new macOS Big Sur, Vanilla is no longer supported. In search of an alternative, I found Dozer, an app which does essentially the same thing as Vanilla. It auto-collapses after 10 seconds. This is an amazing app that clears a lot of the visual clutter that I see on my digital workspace.
Google Backup and Sync
As a photographer, I have terabytes of photos and files that I keep across a few hard drives. As additional peace of mind, I back up these hard drives to the cloud. I use Google Drive as a backup solution, which keeps all the files safe and accessible online. This is super convenient as I can grab a file from any device, even if I don’t have the hard drive with me.
Backup and Sync by Google is an easy way for me to back up entire drives to Google Drive. All I do is plug in the hard drive and select the directory to sync it to on Google Drive, and let it sit until it’s done syncing. The next time I plug it in and make any changes, Backup and Sync will take care of it. This was the easiest solution I found to back up many terabytes to the cloud.
When connected to my LG external displays, the native macOS controls for brightness no longer work. In order to change the brightness, I have to navigate through the display menu for each one and change it to a specific value with an annoying nob. Finally with MonitorControl, I’m able to control it with software. It even maps the controls to the native buttons such that I can use the keyboard as I would normally, which has been a lifesaver.
In the recent MacBook Pros, there is a secondary screen that replaces the function keys called the touchbar. Unfortunately, Apple’s software integration of this extra screen is poor, and it feels like an afterthought. Pock is a Mac app that allows the touch bar to be much more powerful than the default implementation.
They have a plethora of features and choices to customize your workflow. For example, you can mirror the apps on your dock to the touchbar and show information like battery and time. It also has some neat features like displaying the current song playing, play/pause any sound source, and brightness for the screen. It’s super configurable and easy to install.
One of the features that macOS lacks out of the box is window management. I’ve searched high and low for the best solution – of all the window management solutions I’ve tried, Rectangle is the best by far. Along with great shortcuts and window organization, it also allows window snapping via drag. For example, dragging your window to the right side of the screen will show an overlay on your screen. If you let go, it will resize and fill the overlay. This has been the best window management solution that seamlessly fits into my workflow.
One of the most frustrating features of macOS is the automatic opening of the iTunes app when hitting the play/pause button. I use Spotify, and so this was a headache when Spotify doesn’t open and instead iTunes pops up. Reflex 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. It’s super convenient, and also supports play/pause functionality for Chrome and other apps.
After opening a compressed file, I rarely like to keep it around on my computer. Unfortunately Archive Utility, the default application that ships with macOS, doesn’t allow for much customization. It’s also quite limited in the types of compressed files that it can open. The Unarchiver is an app that allows you to set different preferences, such as automatically deleting the compressed file after unarchiving it. There are many other handy features that I appreciate, which can be set in the preferences.
The default screenshot system on the mac is good but not great. The shortcut is unnecessarily complicated, and there isn’t enough customization for what to capture. 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 part of the screen scroll down to add to the screenshot. This makes it super easy to save long emails, webpages, or anything else that doesn’t 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.
I tried out CleanShotX. However, I don’t enjoy the shortcut system or screenshot selector as much as Xnip – it requires separate shortcuts for a normal screenshot, windows, or scrolling capture. Xnip rolls all these options into a single shortcut and selector, making it a lot more convenient.