What are you top Mac Apps and how did they change your "life"

Hi guys,

I would like to ask you what your top Mac Apps are? Since my work and “life” is based on the Mac I thought back and found out that some Apps helped me a lot and also changed my life. In the following I want to name some Mac Apps, which have been crucial to me and how they changed my life. How about you?

  1. Better touch tool - Gives me the option to open links in tabs via trackpad as middle click, and genereally changed my trackpad experience. Since I was coming from windows I missed the middle click and this app gave me this option.

  2. omnifocus. Never used todo-Apps before. The whole App introduced me to this “productivity” world and all these topics. Without Omnifpcus I would never had heard about all those prouducitvity principles and blogs etc. (gtd, blogs, macsparky etc.) Omnifocus really changed my mac-experience and life in a positive manner.

  3. Evernote. Was the first “productive-creative” app is used. changed my life in a sense, that I realised I could capture my thougts and interesting thing sin the ingernet. This App helped me to catch random thougts, “oneday-maybe stuff”, and generally was a bucket for all in order to be organized later.

3.5.) evernote webclipper and evernote menuentry: using it many times to write down my inspiration FAST into the menu bar. using the menu-note bar also as a holder for texts to insert somewhere. just need it.

  1. Scapple - the ability for unlimited space for my entries gives me unlimited creativitity and freedom.

  2. Busycal - Great calendar app with a lot of options (especially calendar sets are impotant to me which is not included in the native app.

  3. scrievner - gives me the option to unleash my power as a writer and I feel like a high-ranked scientist with 5 phds while using this app.

  4. Microsoft word and and microsoft excel (helped me to crate spreadsheets for different purposes and also helped me to create “inofrmation noteboooks” to sum up information which was relevant to me (fitness, legal things, etc.)

7.5) In addition to this Omnioutliner: it is great for structuring.

  1. Apple-Mail: This is one App, where I dont have any improvement suggestions since many years. still i will so cozy using this app.

  2. apple dictionaries and addons for different languages: using it daily many many times in order to use better languga and to broaden my language skills or to translate. its fast and simple (I also downloaded my third party dictionaries)

  3. recently: apple notes

  4. Carbon Copy cloner (CCC): So happy that I came acrross it ! feeling safe always when it runs. using an ssd drive-clone when I need to give my main mac away for rapirs at the apple-store. a cloned actual ssd gives so much happiness.

  5. time machine: Using it for the history of tasks. I hope apple would develop time machine more and giove the option to “export/clone” the file history to other eternal hard-drives as well.

  6. dropbox. using it to synch up things. In combination with readdle from documents on my ios I can have all the dropbox files offline on my iphone.

  7. pdf expert readdle: better highlighting and smotth pdf experience

  8. menubar apps: istats (feeling like an engineer at nasa monitoring my macs specs); menubarclock (can see different time zoes in the menubar); night owl; dark-mode for safari; bartender; tripmode (helps me save mobile data while hotspotting)

  9. safari: Safari Favicons in tabs and bookmarks (created ifferent folders for different reserch projects)

  10. TypeItForme (snippet save me tons of time - snippest have been a game-changer for me as well rearding emails)

  11. witch (better task switcher for mac)

  12. Finder-Smartsearch (search criteria) in the sidebar and Houdahspot

I think I forgot a lot of apps and will add more a they come to my mind. Also I will write down how the other apps changed my life as well.


Terminal. I switched to Mac in a tough time, personally, when I really needed to master web development with Ruby, and Windows was too much of an impediment. I bet that buying a used MBP would pay for itself in faster progress to good freelance work and I was right.


Drafts: all my notes live here and I use the text processing and actions all day. I love the reliability, search and the automations. Using it to capture via the watch has transformed how I use technology. If I need to record anything, I do it this way and never have the distraction of opening a device. This is wonderful for me as I can so easily be sucked into distraction if I open my phone.

OmniFocus: it’s allowed me to apply GTD and to achieve a lot of my best work that would have been impossible without it.

Ulysses: one of the most important parts of my job is writing research and since starting to use it I have written more than ever before. It made me start to love writing on my iPad.

Bookends: simple and easy to use reference manager that is an essential part of my writing workflow. I like that it is not too complex yet works amazingly well and recognizes almost any paper I throw its way.

DEVONthink: GTD reference store and research storage. I always have it open when working. I love that it is my only place for searching for anything important, so I know where to look, and could not live without its advanced search and suggestions. I appreciate being able to index so I can keep all my files in iCloud, while adding offline storage and a search that works on iOS (I find spotlight useless for search on iOS, it fails to find files most of the time and doesn’t search well inside PDFs).

Keyboard maestro: the only tool I need for automations on the Mac. From window management to advanced text expansion, it is something I use all the time and which saves me a lot of time.

Basecamp: when coordinating teams at work I find this is great. Particularly shared todo and calendars and the group chats. I love that a lot of the problems my teams have are solved by other team members, and it has made managing people much easier than my previous choice (Slack). Plus, it’s completely free for education while other similar applications are expensive.

Adobe Creative Cloud: in particular Photoshop, Illustrator, Acrobat and Xd are essential in my daily workflow. Xd is a phenomenal tool for making great user experiences and I use Acrobat many times a day to process PDFs.

Xcode: for iOS development - just a great tool that allows me to make ideas reality.

JetBrains IDEs: I use PyCharm for data science and big data (PySpark), WebStorm and PHPStorm for web development and Android Studio for apps. The AI has made coding a pleasure.

Tableau: for data analysis and visualisation, I’ve found some amazing data insights with this.

Nvivo: mind blowing, accurate automatic interview transcription that saves hours of work and the best interface for qualitative data analysis. This is the most important tool for me when writing peer reviewed articles.

Final Cut Pro and Motion: allows me to produce great videos for work and home, and to take the extra materials I provide students to the next level.

Screenflow: has allowed me to make superb learning materials, particularly during the pandemic.

Logic Pro and Mainstage: have allowed my daughter to learn the piano and music recording/production, and I love playing with the sounds and loops (just as a hobby).

Preview: a Swiss army knife of a tool! I use it to view and search PDFs, create images, annotate and for many other things. I have most file types set to open with it as it’s so fast and versatile.


Some good answers already. Without duplicating anything I’d add the following which make macOS run better, or make my work easier:

  • Alfred (replaces Spotlight for most file searching)
  • HoudahSpot (supercharged Spotlight for complex searches)
  • Default Folder X (improves Open/Save dialog boxes)
  • Brave browser (fast, private, access to hundreds of Chrome extensions)
  • Due (better, persistent alarms)
  • Todoist
  • Copy’em Paste - or PasteBot (best multiple clipboard apps around)
  • Bartender (manage my too-many menubar utilities)
  • OmniOutliner (I outline and write in it. I think in outline form)
  • BackBlaze

I’d not be able to run my work as efficiently as I currently am without:

  • Hazel: file and folder management everywhere, connects my iPad work to the mac
  • Keyboard Maestro: advanced scripting and macros to help me work faster and with less effort
  • Textexpander: less important now, since I’m almost 100% iPad first, but still saves me time in Drafts
  • Drafts: all my text starts here, always open, and always at the front
  • OmniFocus: where my life lives
  • Bartender 3: de-clutters my menu bar
  • Apple Mail app: best mail app for me, simple and scriptable
  • Apple calendar app: since I work from OF, this is private life only with the occasional meeting put in as “hard landscape” item
  • Apple reminders app: shared lists with my wife and children
  • Apple notes app: my replacement for DevonThink, where I keep the articels I want to read, notes on anything, warranty information, cooking receipes etc etc.
  • Apple files/finder app: also a good way to replace DevonThink; I store all my pdf’s and files in iCloud now, from there to my Synology, and backed up in C2.

I’ve moved away from a lot of third party apps over the past year or so, and switched back to the stock apps. Sure, a lot of 3rd party apps look great and have a lot of bells and whistles, but I actually just don’t need any of that. I just need the simplicity and reliability that currently Apple’s own apps.

My most used, Mac-only apps are as follows:

  • Curio – An absolutely must-have app to brainstorm, manage top-level views of projects, and develop lecture content. Since I started using it some years ago, Curio has dramatically changed how I coordinate my work. I would be seriously lost without it.

  • OmniFocus – My go-to task manager across my macOS, iOS, and iPadOS devices. This app keeps my head from exploding with the abundance of tasks that I have across multiple types of projects.

  • TeXShop – My number one app to create LaTeX. I’ve tried others but keep returning to TeXShop if for no other reason than that it remains robust and follows the macOS standards well (unlike other cross-platform options).

  • LaTeXIt – An essential app to typeset equations as images (e.g. to embed in Curio). The support for LinkBack between Curio and LaTeXiT is a godsend.

My less-frequently used but much appreciated Mac-only apps are as follows:

  • DevonThink – Someday, I will actually figure out why I keep coming back to this app to establish it as a resource to try to write my textbook.

  • Graphic Converter – I use this for the cases where I have to adjust images to meet certain critical needs.

  • Numbers – It is less powerful than Excel for real “number crunching” work, yet more appealing than Excel for visual layout of data and results.

  • PDFExpert – It is robust than Preview (yet less robust than the Acrobat suite). I use this app more on my iPad as my gold standard to work with PDFs.

  • BBEdit – I have the infamous T-shirt! When I need to manipulate text files, this app is a must-have.

Finally, I rely critically on some cross-platform and well-developed apps as well:

  • Igor Pro – This is the only app I will recommend for anyone who needs to develop publication-ready graphics from data and to create control-panel driven, interactive demonstrations of scientific or engineering formulations. For the types of work that I need to do, I would be entirely frustrated when I would be forced to use equivalent apps such as Origin, MatLab, R, Mathematica, Maple, or python. Interestingly, Igor started three decades ago as a Mac-only app.

  • Camtasia – While I like the power behind it, I probably only touch its surface in features.



Text Expander!!!

I have snippets for procedures and assessments that allows me to write detailed medical reports in a timely manner, and the report is about 85% of my time and effort.


There are so many great apps, the ones I rely on a lot are

  • Adobe Lightroom, fantastic for photo organisation and 99% of the editing
  • Adobe Photoshop, for that last 1% of editing, using cool mock-ups and creative fun
  • Daisy Disk for finding where to focus deletion or archiving work
  • Affinity Designer, awesome vector app that is just as good on the iPad
  • MindNode, Ulysses and Drafts for ideation, organisation and writing
  • OmniFocus, of course

In order of most- to least-used

  • DEVONthink
  • Curio
  • Fantastical 3
  • Drafts
  • Ulysses
  • Tinderbox
  • MarginNote 3
  • Airmail
  • OmniFocus

Plus an embarrassingly large set of menu bar and utility apps, for which there are not enough electrons to post a list here without crashing the forum :zap::zap:


I would add 1password.

First app I download when setting up a new computer. Then Dropbox, then Microsoft Office, then Hazel – Textexpander – Default Folder X – Keyboard Maestro; then …

Looking for a timer app that syncs between desktop (home), laptop (work), iPad / iPhone.


I have used a number of apps and nothing solves my issues like Harvest. It works between Windows/Iphone/Mac transparently.


It is Web-based but has a menubar and apps for mac/IOS and Windows and is a subscription service.


As it happens, I have just download3d it and am trying it out. It does seem more polished and flexible than OfficeTime, which I also downloaded.

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ScanSnap Manager - made my paperless transition very easy.
Carbon Copy Cloner - saved my butt twice, once from an upgrade gone bad and once from hardware failure (MBP GPU). Lost zero data in each case.

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I’ll briefly add to the Alfred love. I bought a MacBook Air after years of being a hardcore Windows “power user”. I think I found Alfred within the first week or two, and then I was a Mac power user forever. The way it empowers the keyboard was (and still is) fantastic.


I find it interesting to see that most applications that get mentioned here are what I would call “utilities” (for lack of a better word). Hardly anything to get “real work” done, like e.g. Pages, Word, XCode, Photoshop, Logic (etc., etc.). Just sayin’.


Can you give an example of this, I’d be interested to know how you are utilizing things between iPad and Mac

Hazel monitors the iCloud folders for the Shortcuts… directories
Any time something changes there it will act accordingly.

Some other iCloud folder Hazel rules work a bit like automator folder actions.
f.e. I have a folder called “dropfolder” that receives most PDF’s that are either emailed to me, or that I download from the internet. Hazel processes those files looking at name and content. It then re-saves them to different iCloud subfolders.

Since the mac is not restricted to any iCloud folder like most iOS apps it can access everything. As a result my mac now manages everything across the limits of sandboxing.

This way I have all aspects covered for both iOS, iPadOS and MacOS devices. over the past few years iCloud has become more and more reliable for me, and I now use it for most of my administration needs, and just save a backup off-site.


Aperture changed my life … with its demise, I’ve had to cobble together from a number of apps functions that Aperture housed nicely in one application.

As a RAW converter and photo editor, Aperture wasn’t the top of the heap. But as a DAM it was terrific, and allowed me to see connections across my work and help me think about projects more holistically. It was fun – and that fun changed my life.


Sounds clever. I had a slightly more manual way of doing some of that, but the pitfall was always that the iOS based folders (on the iPad) did not seem to sync until opened, so I kept finding myself on an airplane (in non covid times, I am on an airplane almost every day) unable to actually access the files. With that, I had to remember to open the files app prior to getting on plane, and also to remember to offline the files I needed at that time. Does your workflow help you in that regard ?

On the iPad, when I get on a plane (or anywhere without wifi/cellular coverage, I have to do the same. That’s just the way sync works on iOS.

Would be great to have an “always sync this folder” option

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