10 Mac apps everyone should be using

The MacOS app ecosystem is chock-full of hidden gems. Here are 10 essentials to get you started.

Taylor Martin CNET Contributor
Taylor Martin has covered technology online for over six years. He has reviewed smartphones for Pocketnow and Android Authority and loves building stuff on his YouTube channel, MOD. He has a dangerous obsession with coffee and is afraid of free time.
Taylor Martin
6 min read
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One of the finer features of the Mac experience is the seemingly endless list of applications that all come together to make your Mac easier or more efficient to use. There are apps that will keep your screen on forever with just a click, and apps that will automatically hide unused apps to keep your desktop clean.

The downside to so many apps available is that finding where to start can be daunting. We've done the hard work for you. Here you'll find the 10 Mac apps you should install and try first.

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Window managers

Window management on MacOS isn't particularly great. Sure, you can make optimized apps completely full-screen or have two apps side by side in a split-screen view.

What if you don't want the full-screen experience and want to organize a handful of floating windows on your desktop? Well, without a third-party app, you'll be dragging floating windows around freely and manually resizing everything to fit. If you want a similar window snap experience like you get in Windows, consider one of these four apps:


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If you're tired of having a different application or browser window open for all the different chat services in your life, Franz is the answer. Franz is an aggregator of all sorts of services, but primarily chat. Inside the one Franz app window, you can have a tab each for services such as Slack, Discord, Google Hangouts , Google Inbox, Google Calendar , Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Trello and many more.

When you install and run it for the first time, you'll need to create a Franz account and add (and log in to) all the services you want to use. Then when you open Franz in the future, all those services will open automatically.

Franz is free to use, but there is an option to upgrade to premium for 35 euros (about $40, £30 or AU$55) per year. This upgrade adds support for services such as HipChat and removes ads, as well as giving access to future premium services.

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Dropbox or Google Drive

Apple 's iCloud Drive is a great cloud storage system if you're totally invested in Apple's ecosystem. But if you're more cross-platform, a service such as Dropbox or Google Drive is probably a better fit. Their applications for Mac are just as seamless.

Install either Google Drive or Dropbox and your files and folders will be two-way synced. To upload a file to a specific folder in your Dropbox, just drag and drop the file into the corresponding folder in the Dropbox directory that's created when the app is installed.

Also, like iCloud Drive, you can setup selective sync so not all your Dropbox or Google Drive accounts are synced with your computer. And unlike iCloud Drive, you can disable Google Drive or Dropbox when you don't want them to sync by pausing or closing the apps.

The Unarchiver

The Unarchiver is a power file extractor tool for Mac. It can unzip ZIP files, extract RAR files and much more.

Best of all, it's completely free and super simple to use. When you come across a compressed file that needs to be extracted, right-click on it, hover over Open With and select The Unarchiver.app. If the file type is a bit more obscure, make sure you've enabled all the necessary file types within the app settings.

Bartender 3

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Useful menu bar apps are plentiful on the Mac ecosystem, which is problematic for, well, your menu bar. It can get crowded and cluttered in a hurry, so Bartender 3 is an absolute must-have app.

What Bartender 3 does is simple: It hides seldom-used menu bar apps and icons under its own icon. When you click on the Bartender icon, all of the hidden icons will be revealed. In preferences, you can choose which icons are shown in the main menu bar and which are hidden in the Bartender menu. You can also customize the appearance of Bartender and setup hotkeys for displaying the hidden icons.

You can try Bartender 3 for free for four weeks, but after the trial expires, you'll have to cough up $15 to continue using it.

Hocus Focus

If you're prone to having a bunch of windows open at once but would rather your desktop stay neat and tidy, Hocus Focus does just that -- automatically.

When you click to change focus into another app, Hocus Focus will automatically hide the other app after a short timeout period. You can whitelist apps that you don't want hidden, or you can have apps hidden as soon as the focus is changed away from them.

It's a powerful organization tool and it's dead simple to use. The best part is it's completely free, though you can opt to support the developer via a PayPal donation on its website.


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Apple has taken strides to make the Spotlight function on MacOS better, but Alfred is still the more powerful tool.

Alfred looks and operates much like Spotlight, letting you search for files, launch apps, perform quick calculations and much more without ever lifting your fingers off the keyboard. It's also free to use. However, if you buy the Powerpack, for a one-time £19 ($25 or AU$33) fee, you will have access to so much more, such as a built-in text expander, extensive clipboard history, 1Password support and custom themes.

Arguably the best part of Alfred is workflows, third-party plug-ins that blow the doors wide open for what is possible with the program. Read our breakdown of some of the best Alfred workflows to learn more about what they are capable of.


Tired of constantly having to adjust your Mac's Energy Saver settings to keep it from powering off in the middle of something important? All you need is Amphetamine. Once it's installed, just right-click the menu bar icon and your computer will stay on indefinitely (or for a set amount of time).

That's simple enough, but Amphetamine can get much more complex if you wish. You can make it so your Mac doesn't ever power off if it's connected to a specific wireless network or so that connected storage drives won't go to sleep.

Best of all, Amphetamine is completely free.

Reeder 3

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To stay on top of your RSS feeds directly from your Mac's desktop, you need Reeder 3. It works with services such as Feedly, Feedbin, NewsBlur, Inoreader and more, and will let you view all of those different feeds and services side by side. The interface is highly customizable and can be altered to suit your needs for easier reading, whether that means a serif typeface or a low-contrast interface for night reading.

Reeder 3 used to be a premium application but recently went entirely free.


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MacOS has a built-in text editor (two, actually, if you count the iWork suite). But if you're not a fan of TextEdit or prefer a more simple interface for distraction-free writing, there are a number of options available in the App Store.

One of the better options out there is Bear. It has a completely distraction-free interface, supports Markdown right out of the gate and has a no-nonsense way of organizing your notes with hashtags.

Bear is free to use, but if you want premium features such as seamless sync with iOS , premium themes and more exporting options, you'll need to subscribe to Bear Pro for $1.49 monthly or $14.99 annually.

Similar options to Bear include iA Writer, Byword and Ulysses.

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