My Essential Mac & Web Apps — 2017 Edition
March 28, 2017
Over the years I have tried literally hundreds of apps for time management, project management, writing, presenting, email, communicating, sharing — you name it I’ve probably installed it.
Only a handful of apps have stood the test of time and are used on a daily basis. I’ve always enjoyed reading about what other people use so thought I would document my own setup here.
This isn’t an exhaustive list, I’ve excluded everyday workhorses like Google Docs and Sketch, but here are 20+ Mac and web-based apps that I would be hard pushed to live without.
- Airmail — Over the last few years, I have tried almost every Mac desktop email client. Sparrow was a mainstay for a long time but irrationally I switched after the company was acquired by Google. After all, it still worked but the thought of it never being developed further made me think twice. Reluctantly, I switched back to Apple Mail, then Gmail in the browser. Recently I moved back (having tried it on release) to Airmail. It’s come a long way since the first beta’s and is regularly updated. It handles attachments in a much nicer way than mail.app and has some nice integrations with services such as Dropbox.
- Alfred — A great utility for launching apps and much more besides. I barely touch the surface of it’s potential but I find myself using it on a daily basis for basic tasks — especially quick calculations.
- Audacity — My mainstay app for editing audio including the Back to Front Show. This is another app that has many features that I don’t exploit but once you get the basics sorted you’ll be on your way to higher audio fidelity!
- Audio Hijack Pro — The latest version of this app makes recording a “double header” Skype call ridiculously easy. Again there are a million features that you can add into the mix — especially equalisation!
- aText — A cheaper but almost identical in features version of TextExpander. I use this for email signatures, Jekyll snippets, canned responses, boilerplate templates and more.
- Atom — For not other reason than I fancied a change (and it got rid of the nag screen) I switched from Sublime Text to Atom last year. It has a really nice interface, extensive package list, and seamless integration with Git — which you would expect given it’s created and maintained by GitHub.
- Bear App — A very recent addition to the list. Email clients and Markdown editors are my own personal catnip. Bear works across Mac and iOS and has some nice features including the ability to copy a markdown file as HTML. It also allows you to export your files to HTML and PDF. There are a bunch of themes that you can unlock once you subscribe to the service too. It’s also very easy to categorise your files with tags. Highly recommended.
- BufferApp — I am not the biggest user of social media but Buffer offers a simple way to schedule and monitor engagement with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
- Caffeine — This simple but indispensable app is a must for anyone who presents on a regular basis. Simply put it prevents your Mac from going to sleep or the screen saver kicking in.
- Camtasia for Mac — I have tried quite a few screencasting tools over the years and found this one works for me. Enough functionality to do what you need without being overly complex. You can, of course, use it for video editing too.
- Clean My Mac — A fantastic app that allows you to keep your Mac running efficiently. You’ll be surprised how much space you can claw back after installing it. One of my favourite features is the ability to remove software completely.
- CloudApp — I use this app literally every day. It’s the simplest way to take screen grabs (and annotate them) and upload them to “the cloud”. Their recent Mac app also allows more advanced annotation and Emojis — if that’s your thing! The pro plan enables you to connect with your own domains.
- Codekit — Of course you can install Grunt/Gulp/NPM to compile your Sass, hint your JS, and enable LiveReload but sometimes a GUI based app is just simpler. There are a few of these around and since the sad demise of Mixture, I have reverted back to Codekit. It’s nice and straightforward and is kept current by the developer.
- Dashlane — A password and credentials manager. I’ve been using this for about over three years and am very impressed.
- Duet Display — A very recent addition that allows you to connect an iPad to your Mac and use it as an extra monitor. I have experienced a few lag issues on the higher resolutions but it works very well if you are camping out at a desk for a few days while travelling for work.
- Grammarly — I currently run all my posts through Grammarly. It’s a great way of picking up basic grammar issues, misspelt words, and more. There’s a paid plan which gives more detailed feedback too. The Chrome extension is also very helpful. Sadly it doesn’t work with Google Docs (yet).
- Image Capture — A simple utility that ships with every Mac. I backup my iPhone photos to Dropbox using this (I know you can upload automatically to Dropbox but this way allows me to exclude all the photos of receipts).
- Jekyll — Not really an app or service but my current site builder of choice. I’ve really enjoyed porting the couple of sites I manage over to Jekyll — especially given it’s use of Liquid. I wrote about my experience of learning Jekyll earlier this year.
- Kraken Image Optimizer — A fantastic online tool for reducing the size of images. There are limits to the free plan but for occasional image compression, it’s good to go.
- Magnet Window Manager — A nice, simple, and easy to use window manager. An ideal tool if you work on a big monitor and need a quick way to line up your multiple windows. I use this mostly when on Skype/Hangout calls — video top right quarter, chat bottom right quarter, document all of the left half of the screen.
- AAMPS — I’ll admit I know how to set up local versions of Apache and MySQL but this open source tool makes it too easy. Better to spend time on the code than setting up servers — at least for me. This isn’t getting as much use as in previous years but still good to have on hand when debugging older sites.
- Mousepose — A nifty little toolbar app great for screencasting or presenting that allows you to focus in on a certain part of your screen. Another app for your presenting toolbox.
- Pochade — A simple but effective toolbar app for picking colours from your screen and grabbing the HEX.
- Pocket — It’s hard to keep up but thanks to Pocket and it’s Chrome extension I quickly add items to my “read later” feed. There are other apps out there but this one works for me. As well as being able to access online there are nice iPhone and iPad apps.
- SaneBox — Not strictly speaking an app but an indispensable aid to email management. Simply put SaneBox takes charge of your inbox and with your help works out which messages are important and should remain in your inbox. Others are syphoned off into a series of Sane folders (@SaneLater, @SaneNews, @SaneBulk and if activated @SaneBlackHole). This has massively reduced the overhead of email management. If things slip through the net and end up in the wrong place you can train SaneBox simply by dragging it back into the correct spot.
- Wunderlist — It’s back in my dock after a hiatus. I have got back into the habit of putting tasks in here and archiving the associated email as opposed to leaving it sitting in my inbox. GTD fans would probably scream at my organisational methods but it does the job for me.
- Zoom — Zoom just seems to work. Its video quality is great and the “celebrity squares” approach to each member of the call works really well. Also very easy to record calls and presentations for those who might not be able to make the meeting.
This article was published by Keir Whitaker on March 28, 2017 in the
category. You can view the blog archives and see a full list of my contributions to other publications. Discuss this article with me by email.