Best tools, tips, and tricks for Mac users

Setapp
Setapp
Sep 17, 2018 · 8 min read

Some of use our Mac to play games, others to watch movies and listen to music. For many, it’s a machine used to create wonderful art. But for most, the Mac is a workhorse, a tool used to do daily work whether that’s writing emails. Poring over spreadsheets or keeping track of projects. And for those of us in that group, the sheer number of apps designed to help us work harder, work smarter, and generally get more done. There are so many options, choosing which to use can be overwhelming. If that sounds like you, you’re in luck! We’ve whittled down the hundreds of productivity apps available on the Mac to just a handful of the very best and listed them below.

Fantastical, the powerful calendar app

Fantastical

Fantastical is a hugely popular calendar app that allows you to use natural language to create appointments and reminders. So, type ‘lunch with Kenny on Tuesday at 1 pm’ and Fantastical will create an entry in for next Tuesday at 1 pm. Likewise, say ‘Remind me to phone Fred on Monday’ and it will create a reminder with a due date. It’s smart enough to recognize different time zones and you can toggle multiple calendars on or off when you arrive in or leave a location.

As well as having companion iOS and Watch apps, Fantastical has a Today view widget and full support for share sheets and Handoff.

Pagico’s interactive timelines

Pagico

Pagico aims to take the pain out of organizing by allowing you to manage tasks and data in one app. So, you can keep your boarding pass and itinerary in the same app that you used to schedule your flight.

You can organize tasks, notes, files, and contacts through a project to make it easy to find everything you need, just when you need it. Pagico builds interactive timelines automatically, based on the data you supply about projects, tasks, contacts, and it allows you to view and update tasks due today or that are coming up soon.

2Do tasks

2Do

Lists, lists, and more lists! Making and organizing lists is key to improving productivity. 2Do allows you to create lists, add tasks to them, categorize them, and add notes, tags, and sub-tasks.

Even better, you can view lists in lots of different ways — by category or project, or use 2Do lists to view upcoming and scheduled tasks. Best of all is Smart Lists, which allow you to create searches using filters, as you would in a Finder window, and save them.

TextSoap, the text cleanup app

TextSoap

Being productive is about more than just scheduling tasks, writing lists, and organizing contacts. It’s also about doing work as efficiently as possible, and that means automating as many tasks as you can.

TextSoap allows you to do just that by eliminating the time you spend manually cleaning up text documents.

With over 100 built-in ‘cleaners’ TextSoap can eliminate improper capitalization, do away with double spaces, and tidy up quotation marks. It also allows you to create custom cleaners, based on regular expressions, and export them so you can share them with colleagues. Best of all, TextSoap integrates with lots of word processing apps so you can access its features, no matter which app you’re working in.

Multiple items on Paste’s clipboard

Paste

One boon to productivity is the ability to cut and paste text, rather than have to rewrite it from scratch. But macOS’ built-in clipboard is limited to one item at a time. That’s where Paste comes in. Paste allows you to store multiple items on its clipboard and categorize them as, for example, text, links, and images. Keyboard shortcuts make it easy to access items quickly and the search tool makes finding them easy. Paste also syncs using iCloud, allowing you to use it on multiple devices.

Rocket Typist’s snippet

Rocket Typist

Rocket Typist is another app that makes it easy to automate repetitive tasks — in this case typing the same strings of text over and over again. You just type the text once and save it as a snippet in Rocket Typist. You can organize snippets in folders, to make it easy to find them again or use the search feature. When you’ve found the one you want, just click to paste it into your document. Or, create an abbreviation so that whenever you type a few letters, Rocket Typist pastes the full snippet.

Rocket Typist also supports macros for data like time and date and allows to export and share snippets.

Wunderlist app

Wunderlist

Designed originally as an easy way to create lists and schedule tasks, Wunderlist has evolved into a very powerful task management tool. You can create projects and add lists to them, schedule tasks and create reminders. However, you can also share lists and tasks with colleagues, and assign tasks to teammates, so everyone knows what they should be doing and when.

Wunderlist for Mac syncs with the iOS version as soon as you add or update a task. It’s easy to use and looks beautiful, thanks to a stunning choice of background images.

Manage the windows with Mosaic

Mosaic

We all know the frustration of having lots of windows open at once and having to constantly move them around and minimize them to find the one we need. Mission Control and full-screen apps help, but it’s not a perfect solution. Mosaic allows you to easily manage windows so they occupy a set area on-screen, allowing you to view two or more simultaneously at the tap of a keyboard shortcut or a quick drag and drop.

You can create custom layouts, or use one from the app’s library. Just drag a window to see the layout options, and drop the window where you want it to be. Then add another. Layouts allow for a gutter around each window so they look neat and drop shadows don’t overlap a neighboring window.

Boxe, the Gmail client

Boxy

Why would you use a third party email client when Apple’s Mail does just fine? Well, in Boxy’s case, the reason is that it’s built for Inbox by Gmail and supports all the neat features of Google’s email management system like Trips, Highlights, Snooze, and Quick Replies. That means you can take advantage of neat tools like suggested replies, the ability to add reminders, and shortcuts for Google Calendar invitations.

And on top of all that, Boxy looks great thanks to its minimalist interface and choice of themes.

Evernote notes

Evernote

As a tool for collecting, organizing, and sharing notes, Evernote is hard to beat. Whether you use it to scan receipts with your phone and allocate them to projects, to grab snippets from web pages, or to discuss projects with colleagues right within the apps, it’s excellent.

Notes can be tagged, contain checklists of tasks and have reminders set for them. And everything is synced with Evernote’s servers, meaning you can view and work with your notes on iOS or on the web, as well as on your Mac.

Lacona Mac assistant

Lacona

Whether you want to create reminders, manage files and folders in the Finder, or launch apps, Lacona can help. Think of it as a keyboard-controlled version of Siri, for those of us who still feel awkward talking out loud to a computer in public. You simply type a natural language instruction like ‘Remind me to turn on the oven at 6 pm’ and Lacona will create the reminder for you.

When it comes to working with files and documents, Lacona is smart enough to know which folder you’re working in at the moment, or which website you’re browsing. And integration with IFTTT means you can automate working on your Mac.

Things time manager

Things 3

Things is a brilliant, and beautiful, task manager and list creation tool. You can create and schedule tasks, add reminders, and attach them to projects. You can manage multiple tasks simultaneously and use Siri to create them. Things app also supports natural language typed commands.

There are versions for iPhone and iPad too, so you can sync tasks and keep them with you at all times.

Tips

To get the most from productivity apps, think about how you want to use them before you start. Create a workflow that automates as much of the mundane repetitive tasks as possible. And when you start working, block out distractions, work in bursts of 30 minutes and set yourself targets for what you want to achieve in that time. When the 30 minutes is up rewarded yourself by taking a five-minute break before you start again.

Once you’ve used the apps for a while, review your workflow and assess how it’s working for you. Are there ways you could refine it to make it more productive? Are there other apps that could be added to the workflow to make it better? Time spent improving the system is never wasted.

There is a multitude of apps for the Mac that aim to boost your productivity. The ones you choose will ultimately be a matter of personal preference. But those we’ve listed here are all excellent and none of them will let you down.

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