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11 best essential apps for Mac

Dmitry Yedin

Dmitry Yedin is an analyst and author, a part of the “multimedia” crew of ThinkMobiles. Don’t even start with him on games, graphics, video content or messengers.

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Beside smartphones, laptops and accessories, Apple produces high-quality software,  concise, functional and reliable. Those working on Macs or MacBooks have all-time favorite applications: optimizers, VPN clients, ad blockers, multimedia players, etc. Unlike our typical route (thematic selections), this time we’d like to make a broad stroke by presenting the best apps for Mac. 

These are essential apps for any macOs user, without a specific category. For productivity and creativity, generally speaking: to monitor CPU or RAM state, battery, to edit photos, to work with ZIP archives, to surf the web anonymously, to share files, etc. The choice is based on our personal experience and user demand. 

This is, of course, subjective and not exhaustive in any way, so don’t hurry to throw stones. None of these 11 applications will be redundant on a Mac and all are light on resources. Brief reviews will consist of basic information and how an app can be useful.

01 of 11

iStat Menus

macOS: 10.11 or later | Size: 44 Mb | License: $9.99

When you buy an expensive product, of course, you cherish it. iStat Menus is a professional app aimed at monitoring all device indicators and overall condition. It is not only a set of widgets, but a powerful tool for interacting and diagnosing. It would be hard to single out its main features, so it is better to go through all the tools one by one.

best apps for Mac

Notifications. Manually configure notifications for different device indicators. For example, CPU is above 50% for 10 minutes straight, less than X amount of RAM remaining, battery status, network change alerts, temperature, etc. All variables are customizable – a user chooses what, when, and why triggers a notification.

Weather. This widget displays current weather information at the top of the screen. Users can choose icon style: temperature, air humidity, cloud/sun. However, there’s a grain of salt, it costs $2.99 / $4.99 / $6.99 extra, depending on update frequency – 15, 30 or 60 minutes.

CPU and GPU display the status as graph or percentage. Similarly, Memory (RAM) shows the load. Disks menu displays data about storage devices with speed, disk load, activity. In Network one can configure the display of VPN connection status, active IP address, bandwidth, wi-fi, etc.

Sensors. In our opinion, this is the most useful part. Hard drive temperature, CPU core voltage, exhaust, ambient light, and much more in real-time. In addition, there’s an ability to control cooling fans speed, even for different hardware parts.

iStat Menus

Battery/Power. Informs about battery current charge status, condition, remaining time of a charge, charge cycles, etc. Time menu contains settings for time, date, upcoming events, and calendar. Overall iStat is definitely one of the best apps for Mac owners – for a $10 price you get quite a bit of indicators and individual settings.

macOS: 10.10.3 or later | Size: 42 Mb | License: $19.99

I have to confess – this is a relief for me personally, I’ve been searching for such an app for a long time. Boom 3D increases the output volume of a device. For DJs, radio hosts, podcasters, bloggers, streamers it can be of great benefit. The interface offers a choice: a program window or a drop-down menu. In addition to playback volume raise, the application has equalizer presets and a manual setting mode. Also, it can play audio files of various formats.

Boom 3D for mac

macOS: 10.7 or later | Size: 6 Mb | License: Free / $2.99

Naturally, macOS supports archiving. To create a ZIP format archive, right-click a file or a  folder and select Compress. Unfortunately, the system does not support RAR and 7ZIP formats. iZip tackles this issue and after many years on the market still holds its place. In a  free version without ads one can only unpack archives, to create it and other features get a licensed version for $2.99.

free applications for macOS

04 of 11

Touch VPN

macOS: 10.12 or later | Size: 26 Mb | License: Free

We’ve already mentioned this application in a past article, but it has to re-appear here among the best apps for Mac. This VPN client is an indispensable assistant in matters of privacy and data protection. Being free and providing 27 countries to connect from, it continues to conquer the hearts of macOS users.

Touch VPN for macos

In terms of security level, it successfully passes tests like data leak check via IPv4/IPv6/DNS protocols, Internet connection quality, IP address and location display. Connection to the virtual network channel occurs instantly, without any delays or interruptions.

More at: Best VPN clients for Mac.

macOS: 10.12 or later | Size: 23 Mb | License: Free

A tiny application to update desktop background. Unsplash is a photo service where amateur and professional photographers exhibit their works and users can download any photo in high resolution. In addition to the desktop version, there is also a mobile app. Controls include a Refresh button, set as wallpaper, and download.

wallpaper app for mac

Unsplash has 8 categories of images available, although users can manually add new ones from the website. There are two configurable options in the settings. The first is autostart at system startup, and the second is automatic desktop image update every day/week, or manually. Simple and pleasing.

06 of 11

Dropzone 4

macOS: 10.13 or later | Size: 122 Mb | License: $1.99/month

To overcome difficulties in copying and moving files to macOS directories (it is not always convenient to use the trackpad), Dropzone 4 could be an alternative. When constantly working with files, opening n different applications, uploading to sharing services, sending by email, and so on, this app will help manage multiple files effortlessly.

best apps for macOS

Essentially, Dropzone is like a virtual site for apps, files and shortcuts. As soon as one drags a file there, a translucent icon appears under the menu bar. It reduces the number of actions to take. The application also works as a file clipboard and a storage (for files that may come in handy later).

07 of 11

AppCleaner

macOS: 10.6 or later | Size: 6 Mb | License: Free

Taking care of your Mac is a no-brainer. Leftovers after removed programs, temp files, hidden malware aren’t a good thing, especially when heaping up. To find and get rid of it quickly, AppCleaner, a free little app, is of great help. One can delete a program by dropping it into the workspace, yet this is not the only option. By manual selection (a button in the upper right corner) we can switch between applications, widgets, plugins – AppCleaner automatically finds all the necessary files.

appcleaner

08 of 11

WeTransfer

macOS: 10.11 or later | Size: 27 Mb | License: Free / $12.99/month

A very useful, and therefore popular, file sharing service. Just a single function – upload files and send to another person. When installed on a Mac, an icon appears where you drop files to, and get the copy link in a few moments time. In the free version, files are stored for 7 days, and maximum upload size is 2 GB. Also, developers added a little flair to the website – the layout changes per each page refresh, and on rare occasions it becomes a canvas and a brush (the mouse).

wetransfer mac version

macOS: 10.9.0 or later | Size: 17 Mb | License: Free

A small utility that could be of use by technical support employees, or a team frequently sharing screenshots. What does it do? When holding the combination of CMD+ALT keys, the mouse cursor turns into a brush. It makes it possible to draw, or rather mark areas on top of any program or desktop. Press CMD+CTRL combination to delete a marker. Nothing more, just highlighting.

apps for every Mac user

More at: Free screen capture apps.

macOS: 10.13 or later | Size: 56 Mb | License: Free / $3.99/month

To make the list of best apps for Mac complete, we have to have a photo editor. At the moment, Polarr is one of the leading semi-professional media apps. At the very first launch it will display a tutorial to get in touch with basic functions. The interface looks like a mobile app, although do not underestimate the potential, as it contains a large number of photo editing tools.

polarr photo editor free

Free version has enough tools too, yet there are certain limitations. For example, spot color change, selective blur, lightening of individual parts are not available. Polarr works with .jpeg, .png, .cr2, .raf, .nef formats, and soon .raw is promised (to the joy of photographers). When saving an edited image, one can also apply a watermark. 

More at: 6 photo editing apps for macOS.

macOS: 10.10 or later | Size: 103 Mb | License: $39.99/year

With AppCleaner you can properly wipe out programs and traces, but what about a “full-house” cleaning? macOS can also benefit from it and perform better afterwards. From a wide choice of so called optimization software, CleanMyMac X stands out due to versatility and efficiency. On the other hand, it only allows taking care of 500 Mb of files in the trial version.

cleanmymac review

It can deal with system junk files, iTunes junk, mail attachments, files in a trash bin, malware, extensions, obsolete files, large-size files, as well as can uninstall apps. After scanning the system, users are in shock by how much space unnecessary files take – typically from 1 to 2 GB. CleanMyMac has a modern design with animated elements.

P.S. As we’ve mentioned in the introduction, all the selected programs are entirely different. Each app will complement the default macOS capabilities by monitoring and executing certain actions faster. Share your favorite macOS apps in the comment section.

Read more: Antivirus software for Mac.

About author

Dmitry Yedin
Dmitry Yedin

Dmitry Yedin is an analyst and author, a part of the “multimedia” crew of ThinkMobiles. Don’t even start with him on games, graphics, video content or messengers.

Dmitry Yedin is a self-motivated and goal-oriented guy, a technology geek throughout his life, interested in computers, music, photography, and tech trends. Through diligence, analysis and care for detail he assists people in picking the best available options.