Must Have MacOS Apps for Power Users, According To My Readers
I tried all the apps recommended by my readers in responses. Here are my top picks.
I got great comments from readers on my MacOS apps articles to date, for which I am very humbled and grateful. It is always a pleasure to see what other power users recommend in terms of tools.
What better way to celebrate these wonderful, helpful comments than to highlight some of the apps favoured by my readers? For weeks, I tried every single app recommended to me in my story responses. Here are all the contestants, rated out of ten for my workflow and preferences. The rating, while entirely subjective, should give an indication for which tools I would recommend for the curious.
The star symbol (★) denotes the top picks and personal favourites. Let’s get started!
1. Grab Text From Anywhere — TextSniper ★
TextSniper is an efficient, lightweight menu bar app for grabbing text from anywhere on your Mac’s screen. Much like the screenshot tool built into MacOS (accessible via ⇧ + ⌥ + 5), TextSniper allows you to capture text on your screen and copy it to clipboard. All you need to do is hit ⇧ + ⌥ + 2. It can grab text from anywhere, including PDFs, Zoom conferences and QR codes. No more wasting time in meetings taking notes: TextSniper can bring text from the presenter’s slides straight to your clipboard.
TextSniper can recognise only English on MacOS Catalina. However, on Big Sur, it can also recognise German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, Traditional and Simplified Chinese. Furthermore, it has a feature that can read the text to you out loud, which I have been using a lot while multitasking. For example, I would select an entire paragraph from a news article for TextSniper to read to me out loud while I am sorting my inbox.
I absolutely recommend this app because it has made my life much easier since I have gotten it. It is available to download for $6.99, a standard price for a tool in this category. Moreover, it is being actively maintained and works like a charm. 10/10
2. Clipboard Managers
This app flies. All you need to do is hit ⌘ + ⇧+ V and Flycut will pull up your clipboard. Hitting the V key multiple times or using the up/down arrow keys helps you navigate all your snippets. Release the keys to paste. The key limitation of this tool is that it only works for plain text. I have recommended this before and I believe it is the best lightweight, ready-to-use clipboard manager out of them all. 9/10
To pull up the clipboard, you need to hit ⌘ + ⇧+ C, perhaps a little counterintuitively. This will show your snippets in a menu bar- like interface, which you can navigate with the arrow keys. Once you find the snippet you are looking for, use ⌥ + Enter to paste. Both of these hot keys can be change to suit your needs. Pictures and formatted text are supported. 9/10
I configured mine like so:
⌘ + ⇧ + V to pull up the clipboard as a list
Enter to paste the desired snippet
I really wanted to like this app, since it supports both images and formatting. You can download it from the App Store for free, but it does have a paid “Premium” option that you can purchase. I tried the free version, as it was not clear to me what the benefits of the Premium version were. I’ll be honest, I struggled with it, in part because there are no clear instructions on the developer’s website. To activate Pasta, hit the following hot keys: ⌘ + ⌥ + V. Navigate with the arrow keys to the desired snippet and copy it using the regular ⌘ + C and then hit Enter to make the Pasta window disappear. Then, use the regular ⌘ + V to paste. It’s a little involved for me, especially when there are other tools that do the same thing. 6/10
This tool has two incarnations, the CopyClip 1 (free) and CopyClip 2 (available on the app store for £8). I tried the free one and I found it underwhelming. It does not support images nor formatted text. Furthermore, it does not seem to have any hot keys, so what you need to do is click the icon in the menu bar with the mouse. Once you’ve found your clipping, you have to click it, then hit ⌘ + V to paste. Not so sexy! 4/10
Fairly good, though needs some tinkering before use. The default hot keys are ⇧ + V, which can be very problematic when you want to simply want to type capital V. Furthermore, much like Pasta and CopyClip, it needs a few extra steps to paste the desired clipping. Once in the menu, use the arrow keys to navigate to the desired clipping (which will appear in a folder). Clipy is nice because it supports PDF copy/pasting, but structuring clippings into folders by default might not agree well with users looking for something straightforward and fast. 5/10
Installation from .dmg failed on my machine, a 2020 Intel MacBook Pro. Not a fan. 0/10
The only app that is slightly different in this category. Not strictly speaking a clipboard manager, Snippety is an app that helps you organise and find snippets of text (such as email templates). To make a snippet, select your desired text and hit ⇧ + ⌥ + M, which will prompt you to give a name to your snippet and save. To retrieve, simply hit ⇧ + ⌥ + Spacebar, which will open a spotlight-esque search bar. Once identified, hit Enter to paste. I am really enjoying this app and will continue to use in addition to a regular clipboard manager. 9/10
3. Code Editors
This is a wonderful app to edit code on the fly. It supports various programming languages and has customisable themes. What makes Sublime special is the “Command Palette” functionality, which works like a ‘Spotlight search’ box that holds all the features and helps you search for what you want to do. It is triggered with a simple keyboard shortcut that helps you save time. Other features of Sublime include automatic indexing of all the methods, classes and functions in a document, as well as fast search for files. 9/10
The perfect place to cut, paste and re-arrange code quicky. TextMate is a great code-aware alternative to the built-in TextEdit app, which makes it great for writing out terminal commands, scripting and reshaping code. I have recommended this before because it is snappy, lightweight and simple. 8/10
VS Code ★
I will not bore you with VS Code praise. It is the most popular code development software in the world for a reason. VS Code is actively being developed by a large community of users, and supports over 8,000 extensions. I use VS Code sparingly because I work in a fully-fledged IDE for the R programming language called RStudio. However, I develop my projects in Groovy, Bash and Python using VS Code. 10/10
Another reader favourite with millions of users, Atom compares well with fellow Electron-built app VS Code. The performance of Atom seems to be a little more sluggish on my machine than VS Code, but it is still decent and a pleasure to use. A feature of Atom that I enjoy is Teletype, which lets you collaborate with team members in real time on coding projects. That being said, Atom is big on plug-ins: the core functionality is simple but the plug-ins can change your experience altogether. 8/10
Another paid tool coming in at $50, BBEdit is in my opinion comparable to Sublime. It has a slightly less modern-looking interface, which is reminescent of its earlier versions. BBEdit has been around since 1992! It has pretty much every functionality you can think of build-in, which eliminates the need for manual curation of a plug-in library. It is a native MacOS app, which should yield improved performance. A big bonus for me is that it supports remote file editing protocols, and can operate on very large files. 8/10
Leaning more towards a fully-fledged IDE for C/C++ we have CLion, a subscription-based code editor by JetBrains. It comes in at a pricey £149 for the first year of use, however there is a free version available for open-source devs. I am not a C dev by any means, but I liked the look of this IDE thus far, even though it is not as snappy as a regular code editor. 8/10
4. Note Taking Apps
Bear is an iconic example of lightweight and minimalistic note-taking app based on the Markdown language. It has two defining features: syncing between devices and tagging notes for easy search. I thoroughly enjoy Bear for distraction-free writing. The downside is that only the paid “Pro” version has much-demanded features such as printing to PDF and password protection. Bear Pro is a subscription service coming in at $1.5 a month. It is not worth paying for, in my case, but if Bear is your main writing software, it might be worth considering. 7/10
Obsidian is a very powerful text editor based on the Markdown language. It is best suited for larger projects with numerous files that you can link to one another. The eye-catching feature of Obsidian is the ‘Graph View’, which lets you visualise your individual documents in a network. It is a great app for writers who collect lots of documents and want to keep track of them with a little visual help. 10/10
Another Markdown editor, Drafts is one of the more quirky ones on the list. The interface best resembles an email inbox: once you create a new note, it sits in your inbox until filed away, archived or deleted. It is great for on the fly note taking without worrying about formatting, tagging or saving. Furthermore, it supports iOS widgets and synchronisation between devices, which makes it great for collecting snippets and ideas for a later date while on the go. I have completed a larger project with Drafts (about 30,000 words), however it is not particularly suited for long, multi-chapter works. 8/10
I use Joplin all the time to record work notes, meeting minutes, and to-do lists. It prints to PDF in a matter of minutes and synchronises automatically to Dropbox (my cloud storage service of choice). My admin time has decreased dramatically since I started using Joplin at work. Coupled with TextMate, it is my ideal tool for making the most out of online meetings and presentations. I simply snap the text on screen, paste into Joplin, and export to PDF to share with my team. 10/10
To me, Craft is very reminiscent of Notion. It goes above and beyond the limited options of the Markdown language, unlike apps already covered. It supports checkboxes, toggle lists, Emojis, as well as four different fonts. It allows opening multiple documents at once in different tabs, and works very smoothly. Sadly, the free version does not allow exporting to PDF or other formats. 6/10
A Markdown editor with personality, that is how I would describe Typora. It’s special features include the Typewriter Mode, where you type one line at a time separated by new lines, mimicking the typewriter experience. It also features a distraction-free mode, a great addition for writers like myself. Another bonus of this app is that is prints to PDF and other formats effortlessly, and it is free. 7/10
Honourable Mentions and Final Thoughts
Another app that came up was Rectangle, a window snapping app that helps you resize and move windows on the screen with rapid keyboard shortcuts. It comes as a replacement for Spectacle, which is no longer maintained. These apps are identical and both work on my machine just fine.
Now that I have presented you with lots of menu bar apps, the top of your screen is probably looking like a hot mess. In comes an utility called Dozer, which hides any icons temporarily, and places them one click/hot key away from being visible. I for one have Maccy, TextSniper, Fanny (a widget that shows me the CPU temperature), DropBox, Joplin, McAfee and others cluttering my menu bar. Thus, I mostly keep them hidden with Dozer until I need them.
I hope you enjoyed this list of apps for power users. I would like to thank all my readers for engaging with my stories and for inspiring this article. Thank you for reading!
DISCLOSURE: The link to TexSniper is an affiliate link. This means that if you wish to purchase through my link, I get a tiny amount of the fee you pay for TextSniper. I do not have any other financial relationship with TextSniper to disclose, nor with any other services listed here.