Let’s assume you unwrapped a brand new Mac this year (awesome!) or scored a ton of iTunes/iBooks/App Store credit (still awesome!) and you need ideas for awesome apps to buy and check out for your new MacBook or iMac. Tons of new apps have launched on the Mac this year and even more have added new features and remain essential. Below are some of my favorite Mac apps that I’ve used needed from time to time or even use daily and should give you a solid place to start whether your a brand new Mac user or Mac veteran looking to do more with your machine.
If you’re looking to step up your music creation or video editing, though, Apple also offers pro-oriented apps in the Mac App Store: Logic Pro X (review) and MainStage 3, Final Cut Pro, Motion, and Compressor.
Finally, if you’re curious about ebook creation for Apple’s iBookstore, check out iBooks Author. (iPhoto and the pro upgrade Aperture are also available, but both are being replaced by a new Photos app in 2015 with pros likely looking at Adobe’s Lightroom as an alternative solution.)
Now for some third-party essentials:
Airmail 2.0 $9.99 — For many people, Apple’s built-in Mail app on OS X just doesn’t get the job done. While I’m pretty satisfied with Mail on Yosemite, many people, especially Gmail users, prefer third party alternative mail apps. If you’re looking for something with a very customizable user interface, Gmail shortcuts, attachment support for Google Drive, Dropbox, Droplr, and more, then give Airmail 2.0 a spin. Works with iCloud, Gmail, Exchange, IMAP, and POP3 accounts.
Byword $9.99 — Byword is specifically a lightweight text editor for Mac that handles Markdown, and while I don’t really dabble with that aspect so much, it’s where most of my text starts and sync with both Dropbox and iCloud. It’s not a full blown word processor like Pages, and when I just need to edit text (most of the time), Byword is where I am.
Calcbot $4.99 — Tapbots, the makers of the popular Tweetbot Twitter client, brought their intelligent calculator and conversion utility from iOS to OS X this year with Calcbot for Mac. You can save and sync expressions, convert numbers between dozens of units in plenty of categories, and see your history on a scratch pad so you don’t lose your work.
Deliveries $3.99 — Junecloud brought its popular shipment tracker from the iPhone and iPad to the Mac this year with iCloud syncing, a Notification Center widget in the Today view, and more. Just past a tracking number for a shipment in Deliveries and get notified along the way until it reaches its destination.
djay Pro $49.99 — djay has been a popular Mac app for using your iTunes library to mix music at the turntables, and the professional-oriented djay Pro with Spotify integration and four deck support debuted earlier this month just in time for your new Mac or flood of iTunes credit. The Mac app can be very simple or extend further to be very powerful, and it all looks great on your Mac.
Pixelmator $29.99 — Pixelmator is a really great tool for anyone interested in dabbling in creative design without breaking the bank. It’s affordable and rather powerful, a great combination, and if something like Photoshop is too overkill or too expensive, check it out. One of the first apps that I install on a new Mac, and they also launched an iPad app earlier this fall which includes iCloud sync to and from the Mac.
1Password $49.99 — 1Password is a fantastic Mac app for keeping up with your various passwords for websites and apps. You can also secure information like credit and debit card numbers. While iCloud Keychain can do this with Safari, 1Password offers much better search functionality and you don’t need to rely on Safari. I also use it to keep software licenses accessible for apps not purchased through the Mac App Store. There’s also iCloud and Dropbox syncing, extensions, and a lot more.
Reeder 2 $9.99 — Reeder is a popular RSS reading app for keeping up with your favorite blogs, news sources, and more. It supports local syncing and a number of popular RSS services like Feedly, Feed Wrangler (which I use), Feedbin, Readability, and many more. It also connects to services like Facebook, Twitter, Pocket, Instapaper, Evernote, Pinboard and others for sharing and archiving stories. Overall, it’s a very fluid app and its theme choice offers great customization for creating the best reading environment for you.
Shazam Free — Shazam’s ability to recognize music (and TV shows and movies!) has long been essential on the iPhone. It’s music recognition is even baked into iOS through Siri now (just say something like “What’s this song?” or “Shazam this!”). But you don’t always have your iPhone in your hand (just most of the time) so Shazam’s Mac app launched this year is a great addition to your Mac… and it’s free! You can leave Shazam running in the background and always listening for tracks in the background, although I just launch it when I need it. Handy either way.
Tweetbot $19.99 — If you’re a casual Twitter user, then the website or free Twitter app is probably fine for you, but if you want more out of your Twitter app, Tweetbot is extensive and powerful and has support for many of Twitter’s latest features including multi-photo tweet viewing and sharing and smooth timeline streaming. Great features like iCloud timeline sync and multiple columns too.
More apps and utilities to check out:
Caffeine Free — Tiny menu bar app for controlling when your display can fall asleep or ignore those settings to keep it on. Alternatively, check out Keeping You Awake if a) you’re more tech savvy as it’s on GitHub and b) you’d like a Yosemite-optimized icon.
Chrome Free — Prefer Google’s browser over Apple’s Safari?
Evernote Free — Excellent for students, sync your notebooks and projects across your phone, tablet, the web, and Mac
Dropbox Free — iCloud Drive on Yosemite is great, but the lack of a real iOS app makes leaving Dropbox behind nearly impossible (among other reasons)
Fantastical $14.99 — Put your calendar in the menu bar with natural language input (example: “Lunch with Steeber from noon to 1:30 at Whole Foods” rather than clicking a bunch of buttons and toggles), handles Reminders too
HandBrake Free — Utility for converting video formats, especially for making content iTunes/Apple TV friendly
Instacast 2 $19.99 — iTunes is where most podcasts live, but if you follow a lot of shows and want reliable syncing between devices, check out Instacast for Mac. I probably wouldn’t bother listening to many podcasts without it.
Kindle Free — If you buy and read ebooks from Amazon’s Kindle store, check out the Kindle for reading ebooks on your Mac
MacX YouTube Downloader Free — My YouTube video downloading app of choice for Mac (mostly to archive Apple ads/videos)
Meme Generator Free — Create memes then save and share them, even syncs with other Macs and iOS devices over iCloud
PicFrame $0.99 — Simple photo app for creating collages with lots of customization options
Piezo $14.99 — Need to record audio from an application or mic input? Skype, Chrome, you name it, Piezo can grab it and crank out an audio file… great for podcast recording.
Skitch Free — Need to markup an image or blur out some information? Apple’s built-in Preview will get you started, but the free Skitch app (owned by Evernote) will take you quite a few steps further.
Skype Free — For those times when you can’t use FaceTime…
Spotify Free — Apple gives you iTunes Radio through iTunes for free, but Beats Music is web-only for now on the Mac… even if you’re not a Spotify Premium subscriber, the Mac app is a jukebox worth having around.
Twitter Free — Twitter’s official Mac app doesn’t often get updated and it doesn’t support all of the features that Twitter’s iPhone and iPad apps support, but it’s free and better than the website for casually following your timeline and tweeting