My Mac Apps

My friend just became a new MacBook Pro owner (huzzah!), so I took some time out to write him a list of applications that I use often, and make the Mac such a versatile machine. He’s more into the development stuff so there are a lot of power-user applications in here, but I think this list is nice for anyone that wants to check out some software for OS X that you might not have heard of.

Disclaimer: These are all based on my heavily biased opinions. Follow at your own risk.



  1. BetterTouchTool

Basically, if you want to make a shortcut in pretty much ANY application, BetterTouchTool has you covered. It also can handle window-snapping (like on Windows), gesture-based shortcuts, and a lot of other cool shit. DEFINITELY check this out.

2. Bartender

If you’re going to have a boatload of apps, you’re going to find out sooner or later that you’d REALLY love to clean up the menubar (that thing at the top that you probably will find weird for the first few weeks). Bartender is a lifesaver for my sanity — helps you clean up all the menubar apps! Neat!

3. Tweetbot

No need to explain.

4. Transmission

Transmission is to OS X like BitTorrent is to Windows. But it’s simpler and nicer. Just get it.

5. The Unarchiver (Mac App Store)

Unarchives anything and everything. If you don’t have it installed, you’re dumb.

6. PopClip

I really really like PopClip, but it depends on your tastes whether or not you’ll come to like it. Basically, it is a tool that pops up whenever you highlight something. It gives you the option to copy/paste/cut or whatever straight from there instead of doing it from the keyboard. Boring, I know, but keep reading — you can extend its functionality. You can run scripts right from the popup (ever looked up a command and copy/pasted it into a terminal window? No more, heathen). Ever want to look up a method name in Dash? Highlight it and look it up, you slob. Ever wanted to tweet some text or an image, but you’re too lazy to screenshot and open Tweetbot up and do all that? PopClip has you covered. Trust me, it’s way more convenient the more that you use it.

7. 1Password 5

Because password management is a drag, but I like being secure. If you don’t have it on your iPhone already, you’re missing out. Better to get it on your Mac too.

8. Dropbox

Because duh?

9. iStat Menus 5

I personally love this thing. It gives you a bunch of at-a-glance information about anything that is going on on your computer — memory pressure, read/write disk speed, network speed, etc. Makes the menubar nicer to look at.

10. Cheatsheet

Hold ⌘ for a set amount of time, and be greeted with a pop-over that tells you every known keyboard shortcut in the application you have open. Essential.

11. Automator

It’s installed by default, but a lot of newcomers don’t even know that it exists. Perfect for generating automated tasks. Kinda like Task Scheduler for Windows, but neater and not out to kill you.

12. XtraFinder

Makes the Finder much more usable. Look through all the settings! If you don’t use the column-view, you’re a goddamn pleb!

This is what I would have said a year ago, when XtraFinder worked the way it used to. Now you have to make some weird adjustments to the security settings on your system, and I can’t recommend it for general work. Default Finder until I can find something different, for now.

Development Work

1. iTerm 2

By far the best terminal editor for the Mac. Customization is endless, neat tabbed features, overall good and lightweight product. You can set it to be the default terminal in settings.

2. Atom (Code Editor)

I’ve slowly but surely come to love Atom, the free code editor from GitHub. Sublime is nice, but Atom is free (and won’t nag you about it) and it’s extensions and other support is top notch. Themes are pretty, active community, good stuff.

3. Dash (Documentation)

They just released v3 of this, and it’s dope. You can have annotations on any aspect of a docsets you can find, and it has the ability to push docs to your iPhone if you’re on the same network, eliminating the need to download the docsets onto your iPhone (freed up like 5GB of space on my phone). Highly recommended.

4. Coda

Really nice application for web development. Code-completion for basically any language that works on the web, nice previewing tools, SSH-ing capabilities, the whole shebang. You can preview to tablets, phones, web browsers, pretty much anything. Very very solid for web development, and you get a lot for your money.

5. JetBrains Software (PyCharm (Free community edition!), RubyMine, etc.)

Anything made by JetBrains is a solid product. CLion is good for C and C++, RubyMine is great for Ruby, PyCharm is great for Python, AppCode is great for Swift/Objective-C, etc. Just go on their website and poke around.

6. CodeKit

Okay so, this one is harder to explain, but you have to get into the nuts and bolts of CodeKit before you’re able to understand why it’s great. Really cleans up a lot of web dev work that Coda can’t necessarily handle as fluidly. I recommend going to their website and watching some vids to explain to you why it’s dope. More for hardcore web-dev though — makes website/project management much cleaner and stuff.

7. Xcode (Mac App Store)

I think it’d be stupid for me to tell you about all these other dev tools and not mention Xcode. It’s the IDE made by Apple for any OS X/iOS/Watch development. You can actually handle a lot of other stuff in there too, if that’s your thing. I’d avoid it if I weren’t into anything aside from Apple dev work. If you use it for an extended period of time, you’ll develop a steady love/hate relationship.

8. Sequel Pro

Mostly used it for learning MySql, but it’s a free SQL management tool that I found pretty easy to use.

9. Github

Well, if you’re gunna use GitHub, might as well use the app.

10. BitBucket

See GitHub reasoning.

11. Framer Studio

Great app for testing animations and other stuff for web/application development. Might be a bit of a learning curve though. Uses JS, but a special flavor of it.

12. Brackets

At the bottom because I’m sure you already know what it is.


1. Fantastical

If you’re using anything other than Fantastical to look at/schedule things on your calendar, you’re doing it wrong. Fantastical is dope. Menubar app is fantastic. ‘Nuff said.

2. Alternote

If you use Evernote, use this. If you don’t, then…don’t. It’s perfect for note taking, and makes Evernote’s interface all pretty. I don’t use Evernote for my entire life, so Alternote is nice for my use-case — it’s a pretty lightweight app, and not suitable for heavy heavy Evernote use.

3. Airmail

It’s the best email client on OS X. That’s not saying much, since I dislike all of them pretty evenly, but this one tends to get things less-wrong than the others.

4. Pages/Numbers/Keynote (Mac App Store)

People can say what they want about these apps, but if you’re not too worried about collaborating with many people, these three apps are dope, especially Keynote (if you ever find yourself making presentations). But, yaknow, maybe you’re not into that, which is, like, totally cool, man.

5. 2Do

Reeeeeeeally powerful task management software. I used it to control my life up until recently. I’ll probably switch back once I work my way into app-dev at Avanade and get a Mac for full-time work.

6. OmniFocus

I’d use this EXCLUSIVELY if it had a Windows app. It’s a tie between this and 2Do. 2Do has the better iPhone interface, OmniFocus has the better Mac interface. Ugh. Two different approaches, although some would argue that OmniFocus has a much more simplistic-yet-comprehensive set-up. To each his own.

7. Todoist

Todoist is really nice, but requires a subscription to get the most out of it. I got a subscription because it’s the only fully-featured to-do application that is available for basically all platforms. $28.99/year.

8. Keyboard Maestro

If there is something that you want a keyboard shortcut for, and Automator+BetterTouchTool doesn’t have you covered, I’d deffffffinitely check out Keyboard Maestro. It’s a hilariously comprehensive macro development machine, and you can make workflows that do literally everything you could possibly want.

9. Clear

Simple list management. Sometimes too simple, but it’s good if you just need to write down items you need and check them off one by one.

Design Work

1. Pixelmator

Because I’m not huge into Photoshop, I only have this installed on my computer. Really solid photo editing app, and it’s incredibly cheap for what it does. I’d check it out.

2. Affinity Designer

Really nice alternative to Illustrator. Not sure if it’s worth switching, but it’s cheaper, and gets the job done if you’re willing to learn it. They also created a replacement for Photoshop, which might be worth checking out (I have no experience with that though).

3. Sketch

Dooooooooooope application, you can use it to replace a lot of functionality that Photoshop/Illustrator provides as far as design work goes for application and web development. Honestly, I haven’t found one use-case that Sketch can’t handle for app/webdev work that Photoshop can, and oftentimes Sketch handles it more intuitively. It’s really really good.

4. PaintCode

Really only handy with OS X/iOS/Watch development, but you can draw stuff on here and it’ll give you the code to paste into your IDE of choice to render it, instead of having an image on the app (helps save a lot of resource space). Very neat.

5. Monodraw

If you ever wanted to format stuff in your shell scripts or provide documentation that has cool little graphics, give Monodraw a try. It’s basically a drawing app for mono-spaced fonts. You’ll understand what I mean when you look it up.

6. Blender

Basically if you want to get any 3D work done, use Blender. Not very intuitive, but it’s free, and there’s a LOT you can accomplish with it.


1. Ulysses

Best writing app, by far. Options to customize exporting, WYSIWYG interface, and is overall the best Markdown editor for the Mac. Markdown is my secret love, because I like seeing the skeleton of the document and customizing it as I go along.

2. Quiver

Really nice app if you’re into documenting your code or going along with exercises and stuff from tutorials online. Simple interface for taking notes, switching between code blocks and normal text editing. Good stuff.

3. MindNode

I personally like wireframing before I deep-dive into any writing (or even any dev) work, and MindNode is an efficient way to do that. Kind-of like a slick brainstorming app. I like it, but you can skip this if you don’t do that kind of thing.

4. Reeder

Easily the best RSS feed reader for Mac. Looks gorgeous. There’s a public beta for the next version out now, and I’d recommend giving it a shot.

5. Pocket (Mac App Store)

Because reasons.

6. Clearview

Really really REALLY nice PDF/eBook viewer. Took me way too many frustrations with Preview before I found this. Fantastic application.

Honorable Mentions (but still really nice)

1. Copy’em Paste

Clipboard management tool. Really handy. There are other ones out there, but I like this one the most because it’s simple, and there when you need it.

2. CleanMyMac 3

I was seriously skeptical of this tool, but if you run it every month it’ll clean out caches and alert you to unused files that are just sitting on your computer. It’ll also allow you to clean-uninstall apps, removing all preferences and caches and whatever else apps leave behind. I find it really handy.

3. DaisyDisk

Similar to CleanMyMac, except you get way more control over what you delete, and it let’s you figure out where huge files are taking up space on your hard drive. Honestly, you won’t need this (or CleanMyMac) until a few months into your Mac ownership, but it’s nice to know that they exist.

4. PCalc

If you need a calculator that can handle anything and everything and you don’t want to carry your TI-84 everywhere, then this app’s gotchu. I like it a lot, and it syncs with the iOS app (which is equally good), so give this a shot if you’re up for it. Dev has been around since the dawn of time too, and he’s a really nice guy.

5. CARROT Weather

Best-looking weather app, and has a really nifty menubar app. Can push notifications to your phone, provide an outlook for the next day’s weather, as well as say funny things about manipulating the weather to kill you.

6. LaunchBar

I don’t personally use this, but it’s a replacement for Spotlight that you might like if you wish Spotlight could do more things. I’m fine with Spotlight’s functionality, but if you’re looking for more, LaunchBar is where I would start.

7. Amphetamine (Mac App Store)

Keeps your computer awake (even if screen is off) for however long you want. Good for when you have something you want your computer to do but you don’t want to sit around and watch your computer do it. Simple menubar management for turning it on/off.

8. TextExpander

Expands texts. It’s really nice once you set up shortcuts/code snippets/canned emails. Worth checking out.

9. OpenEmu

Emulation software for video games! Yay!

Things I haven’t fully checked out, but seem nice

1. Cactus

Creates a blog/website template for you. Groovy!

2. Blocs

Claims to be an easy way to create websites. Right on!

3. Hype 3

Another one claiming to be an easy way to create websites. Fun!

4. Encrypto

Simple tool to encrypt files before sending them. Neat-o!

5. GIFs (Mac App Store)

A gif search engine. So cool!

6. Hider 2

A way to hide all of those porn folders from anyone that is on your computer. Nice!

7. Form

Another prototyping tool for applications/webdev. Righteous!

8. Xscope

A way to make pixel-perfect designs. Sweet!

9. Little Snitch

App that monitors every piece of network traffic and allows you to allow/deny at will. Bang-up job!

10. Transmit

Apparently the dopest FTP/SFTP/whatever-server client for Mac. Made by Panic, same guys that make Coda and other such things. Dope!

Julian’s Top Tips!

  • If you want to hide the dock, but don’t want to wait for it to load all fancy when you hover at the edge of the screen to bring it up, there is a script to get rid of the delay. I personally like the dock (I put it on the left-hand side of my screen), but everyone’s different. Here’s the script:
defaults write autohide-delay -float 0 && killall Dock
  • Assign shortcuts to open every app through BetterTouchTool. I usually go with ⌘⌥⌃+whatever is the first letter of the app, and it’s saved me a lot of typing time.
  • If you need to assign a shortcut to a specific menu item in an app, I’d use System Preferences to handle that — Go to Keyboard \> Shortcuts and assign it from there. They tend to not be ignored by the system, which can sometimes happen in BTT (or so I’ve heard).
  • Use multiple desktops! They’re dope!
  • I recommend the Input Sans font for writing in Ulysses, and Input Mono for writing code. But that’s just my preference — I think it’s a beautiful typeface.

Published in Startups, Wanderlust, and Life Hacking


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