Mac Apps 2015

A recent post from Gordon on his current Mac App’s spurred me to look back at my last post on this in 2012. Has much changed?

Well Safari is now my browser of choice, iTunes still where my music is but podcasts are now in Instacast. A couple of smaller app’s have been eaten by Mavericks and Yosemite but I still look to third party app’s for most of my day to day needs. When Yosemite came out I nuked the iMac and dropped a few app’s so there are a few changes in the list. Hopefully there are one or two gems in the list that are new to you.

Free, PowerPack for £15

For a longtime I used Quicksilver and then Launchbar as a keyboard launcher but around three years ago I moved to Alfred and I just can’t let it go despite Spotlight catching up in Yosemite. Alfred allows you to drive your Mac fully from the keyboard – launch app’s, search the web etc. Buy the PowerPack and you can extend via scripts from the Alfred community or ones you write yourself, control iTunes and access a full clipboard history and also snippet library. A lovely app that will become your most used app if you let it. With Alfred Remote now out for iOS you can launch apps, scripts, URL’s etc from your iPad or iPhone. Already I have a podcast tab setup in remote so I can quickly setup or jump to app’s I need while podcasting. Despite having two screens, launching app’s quickly via touch is very useful.

Free with paid options

I think everyone has a Dropbox account so there’s not too much to say with this one. I store all my documents in Dropbox so I can get them anywhere – Mac, iOS or on the web. Its great for sharing podcasts and files with the folk I work remotely with. Although there is only 2GB free, you can earn up to 18GB free and with so many app’s plugged into Dropbox via it’s API’s it’s a great way of sharing between desktop and mobile. It’s also reliable unlike iCloud.


Still my goto app for backups. What do you mean you don’t backup? Criminal. SuperDuper! creates a fully bootable backup on a drive of your choosing that should your drive or computer fail allows you to fully restore from that point in time. As it’s a bootable backup you can also boot from it should you find yourself in trouble. I’ve certainly needed it a couple of times and it’s never let me down. Backups can be scheduled and once the first backup is complete daily/weekly incrementals take no time at all.

$5 a month

I use Backblaze for online backup of my computers. Unlike the other online services I tried, Backblaze is quick and reliable to upload data and supports unlimited amount of data. You can easily retrieve individual files and if the worst happens and you need everything you can download it all slowly or send of a disk to get your data more quickly.

Free, Premium account £35 per year

Evernote is my digital filing cabinet. Notes, images, pdf’s, web pages, receipts, bills, contacts, recipes, lists etc etc etc all go into Evernote. The client allows for rich enough text editing, images are OCR’d to allow for some great searching and there are good options for notebooks and folders. The web clipper works really well too. I upgraded to Premium which allows for 1GB of uploads per month, secure notes, collaborative notes and also a history of changes. One niggle – exporting from Evernote still not great so I’m tied into the service more than I’d like. The iOS apps are excellent too so my digital stuff is available everywhere.


One of the companies bought by Evernote is Skitch. The app allows you to take screenshots and snapshots, annotate them quickly and then save locally, to Evernote or share out on the web. Really handy app that I gladly paid for and was pleased to see being acquired by Evernote to take it forward. The same annotations in Skitch can be found within Evernote.


Calendar on Lion is a pretty crappy app. It looks poor and it’s features haven’t really changed in years. Fantastical sits in your menubar and with a single click you can enter in events using english rather than a fiddly dialogue. The app does a great job understanding start and finish times, addresses etc and allows you to fully edit and delete entries at a later date. It stores events within Calendar or other apps like BusyCal. It can also sync to cloud calendars and displays your upcoming events from the menubar with one click.


Window management hasn’t seen many changes in years. Windows 7 added a number of ways to easily size windows and that lead to a few new Mac app’s that copied and improved on the features seen in Windows. The best for me is Moom. It allows you to easily move and zoom windows to the size you want and also supports layouts so that you can quickly restore a desktop to a set size which I find handy when podcasting for example. I’d recommend trying and buying direct from Manytricks instead of the App Store as Moom like many app’s can’t be sandboxed.


An acquired taste but I love it. F.lux alters the warmth of your screen – bright during the day and warmer at night when you sit in the dark. The app will alter the screen automagically and incrementally so there is no jarring shift and it is easy to disable if you are doing colour work on screen.


Caffeine is a free app that sits in your menu bar. Click on it to stop your Mac going to sleep or dimming. Click again to move back to your energy saving defaults. Sounds trivial but I use it all the time, especially on a laptop or when podcasting.


The demise of Google Reader caused a number of changes in my workflow. First of all I moved to NewsBlur which is an excellent RSS management tool that allows for a rich level of RSS management on it’s web and iOS clients. However i loved Reeder and initially it didn’t support NewsBlur. ReadKit filled that hole and even though Reeder now does support NewsBlur I’ve stuck with ReadKit. It has great sharing support, good sorting abilities and a variety of viewing options. It’s also fast – a really nice app.


While Pixelmator replaces Photoshop for me, Sketch replaces the much loved Fireworks. I probably scratch the surface of whats required but for doing simple app layouts or graphics for the websites I manage it’s invaluable.

day oneDay One

Day One is an easy to use journalling app. From the menu bar you can easily add an entry or launch the app to view older entries or view your favourite entries. Day One syncs across Dropbox or iCloud and with iOS app’s it means the journal is updatable from any device. It supports photo’s and tags and is a lovely app to use. I’m now journaling most days and it’s great to look back on some posts, both good and bad.

£18 per year for premium

I’ve tried a few todo clients over the years. Omnifocus was the one that I committed to most and had the clients for Mac, iPhone and iPad but it was overpowering and quite slow for capturing todo’s in my opinion so I swapped to Apple’s Reminders. However the sync was unreliable so I looked around again and found Todoist. For me it’s the perfect mix of simplicity with enough customisation to allow for projects, labels and filters with clients on every platform and a super fast and reliable sync service. I love it and highly recommend the service.

path finderPath Finder

If there’s one thing I don’t like about Mac’s it’s the Finder. Always felt limited but keeps with the easy and clean feel of a Mac. Path Finder is a Finder replacement that allows for tabbed views, dual panes, file stacks, great searching of folders, batch renaming and a built in terminal with a few extra features best described on their website. One of the first app’s I install when setting up a Mac. Despite Yosemite finally adding tabs to the Finder I still find Path Finder far most usable than Finder.


IPassword is a password manager that syncs across Mac’s, PC’s and iOS devices. It supports all the main browsers and really helps secure passwords. You can use 1Password to generate secure unique passwords for each online service that you use. You can also use 1Password to store identities, credit cards and software licences. It also suports secure notes. It’s fast and reliable and has really helped secure my many online accounts.

istat menusiStat Menus

This is far from essential but appeals to the stat whore in me. iStat Menus is a menu bar app that will display CPU speeds, temperatures, fan speeds, disk space and more detailed network, battery and clock information. With various skins and good support from the developer it’s all I need to keep my eye on the system.


Safari is now my main browser but I keep Chrome around for this pesky sites that insist on Flash.


Lightroom is the photo editor I use for even the smallest edits. It’s great for sifting through 100’s of photo’s and then editing and publishing to Flickr, Facebook etc. It supports hundreds of plugins and develop settings which can really transform your images. Apple have dropped it’s nearest rival, Aperture, but it will be interesting to see if it’s new app Photo’s will offer anything close.


I neither need nor can afford all the features that come with Photoshop. Pixelmator is an affordable image editor that has all the tools I need (and more), is fast and can open and save Photoshop files without destroying layers. What helps me is there are quite a few tutorials for Pixelmator online unlike many other Photoshop clones.


Unison is a client for usenet. Panic describe it as a usenet browser and for good reason as it presents the various newsgroups via a directory that you can browse. Good file handling options with support for NZB files and built-in UnPAR/UnRAR/Join so no need for any extra programs.

Microsoft Office

I guess I won’t get much agreement with this one but I prefer Word and Excel to Pages and Numbers. While I don’t think there’s much difference between Pages and Word, Numbers is missing so many features that I use often in Excel it makes it a bit of a no brainer.


While Numbers doesn’t float my boat I do love Keynote. If you ever have do produce presentation, Keynote is a far better tool than PowerPoint. You can now buy Keynote separately in the Mac App store, the only downside is that it’s a couple of years since the last major update so hopefully we’ll see a brand new version soon.


Tweetbot for Mac came out with a high price for a Twitter client for one reason only – to ensure tokens weren’t used up by time wasters as Twitter are now limiting how many people can access the Twitter service with third party clients. Tweetbot is great as it supports timeline syncing across platforms and also mute filters. You also don’t see the promoted tweets that Twitter are so keen to promote. As much as I love Tweetbot I fear it’s days are numbered as Twitter I’m sure will eventually lock out third party app’s. Shame.


There are many options when it comes to FTP but I’ve always trusted Transmit. Fast and reliable the new version now supports Amazon S3. I especially like the sync options.

Coda 2

Coda is a one stop shop for web designers/editors. From the one tool you can edit files locally with a really strong text editor, upload and sync to the web, connect to mysql databases. For my limited web editing needs this more than meets my needs. A lovely app.


Handbrake is the best tool on the Mac for converting video. It can use a video file or a CD/DVD as a source and supports a number of different output options. The icon might look strange but don’t let that put you off if you need to convert video.


Plex is a fork of Xbox Media Center and my media player of choice. The front end client is excellent and has great skin support as well as a raft of plugins for pulling in lots of internet video but the strong point of Plex is the Media Manager which catalogues your local library, grabbing extra content like album art, reviews, synopsis and theme music. Alex has now matured and has clients on every platform including the Xbox One and PS4. It’s a great solution for storing and accessing your home media.


VLC is an open-source media player. It will play virtually any media file without the need to install extra codec’s. Also supports a variety of streaming formats as well. A must.

The Unarchiver

The Unarchiver is a great add-on to your Mac. It supports lots of compression formats, far more than the default on Mac and does it without adding a ton of crap to your machine.

audio hijackAudio Hijack

Audio Hijack lets you record audio. Any audio. From your system, any app, your browser and important for me, any hardware as well. I use this for recording my microphone audio for the podcast and it’s worked flawlessly. There are also options for timers to set up recordings for radio programs and also support for adding audio effects too. The newest version has a great new look and also allows me to route audio from multiple sources and send on to Sound Siphon during the podcast.


A pretty specialised app, Feeder let you create and publish RSS feeds. I use it for the podcast as it has great templates for authoring and publishing RSS feeds for iTunes and podcasts in general.


Bartender cleans up the Macs menu bar. You can easily hide menu bar apps and claim back some much needed space. I need on more on the Macbook Air but it helps to remove clutter on the iMac too.


Instant access to loads of documentation sets. You can download the sets locally and Dash has a great search engine to allow you to find what you are looking for with ease. Really handy for the occasional hacks that I do from time to time – WordPress, PHP, R for example. There’s also a good snippet manager for storing away those code gems.

ibank5iBank 5

iBank 5 is a money management tool. I import various online accounts into it and do some simple budgeting. It’s a good way of keeping track on a variety of payments over time especially as online banking doesn’t keep a full history. Pricey but reliable.


Instacast is my podcasting suite of choice, purely as it has a Mac client and I still listen and watch to a lot of podcasts on the Mac rather than solely on iOS. It syncs across devices, plays audio and video well and shows full podcast show notes. Importantly the sync is reliable and is a far better podcast player than iTunes or iOS’s podcast app.

mindnode proMindnode Pro

An elegant mindmapping tool that syncs maps across Mac and iOS. Easy to use and with iCloud sync that….actually works!


A great emulation tool for the Mac. Through one front end you can emulate lots of classic consoles. Easy to setup joypads and your favourite ROM’s. It looks fantastic too.

$1.99 per year

I make a lot of online purchases and Parcel for Mac and iOS allows me to track deliveries from around the world. It comes with widget support so you can easily add deliveries from the notification bar.


Soundboard is a handy tool for the podcast. It gives me quick access to a number of audio files. They can be triggered via a keypress and each one can be edited within Soundboard itself. I’ve got multiple boards which means lots of potential files are easily launched, from music to audio interviews. It hasn’t seen much love over the last couple of years but there isn’t much out there that does a similar job.


I’ve never taken to any of the mice that Apple have released, instead using a variety of Logitech mice. However the Logitech driver isn’t great so I use SteerMouse. It gives me full control over the acceleration of the cursor, window scrolling and also allows the mouse settings to alter per app allowing for full customisation across the Mac.


I’m always shuffling between text editors and for the moment I’m back using TextMate. Lots of customisation options and great shortcut support. There;s also loads of plugins and themes to make it truly your own.


A full featured and reliable BitTorrent client for the Mac.


I’ve used both Parallels and VMWare but for the moment Virtualbox, which is free, has being doing just fine. I’ve a Windows 10 VM running in Virtualbox and use a couple of the prebuilt VM’s downloaded from Oracle. It’s certainly not a pretty tool compared to the other two but it does the important stuff well.

Phew – quite the list and clear I can still do with slimming down the number of app’s I use. Thankfully I didn’t do an iOS list as that is an embarrassment of riches.

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