Essential Mac Apps for 2018

There are tons of great apps that you can install on your Mac – no questions asked. Separating awesome apps from must-have apps is tricky, and we don’t want you to spend hours poring over the Mac App Store (or searching the web) for the best and most useful apps. We have compiled a list of champions in four categories: productivity; Internet and communications; music, photo and video; and utilities.

Lifehacker Pack is an annual snapshot of our favorite and essential apps for each of our favorite platforms. For our constantly updated catalog of all the best apps, be sure to bookmark our Apps Catalog where we publish great Windows, Mac, Android and iOS apps and browser extensions every week.


Alfred (free)

You can do a lot with Spotlight on macOS, but Alfred is still our favorite app launcher for your Mac . This easy-to-use tool can do much more than just extract apps, files, and keyword-based automation. Spend £ 19 on Powerpack and you get clipboard history, access to workflows (which you can use to combine different actions, hotkeys and keywords to do even more), hotkeys, 1Password integration, and even text expansion. In other words, Alfred’s payment covers a number of activities for which you will have to download separate applications – some of them are presented in this very Lifehacker Pack. If you’re a new Alfred shopper and you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, be sure to check out our beginner’s guide to the app to get an idea of ​​all the amazing things you can do with it.

If you don’t want to pay anything for an app launcher that has similar (but fewer) features under the hood, check out LaunchBar 6 : Free if you don’t mind having a little fuss here and there. Or consider tricking Spotlight .

Bear (free)

This nicely named app is one of the best note-taking apps you can get , with one small caveat: to sync notes between your devices or use custom themes, you need to spend $ 15 per year on an app subscription. Otherwise, Bear is completely free (and looks great).

In the app, you organize your notes by hashtags rather than bulky folders. You can also link notes to each other, making it much easier to combine related thoughts instead of dumping everything into one giant super note or remembering that you had to say multiple things, split into different notes, about a particular topic. Install the Bear browser extension for Safari, Chrome or Firefox and you can create new notes from any part of the webpage you choose. Plus, Bear makes it easy to import notes from other services, including Apple Notes, so you really have no reason to skip it.

If you need to sync your notes and don’t want to pay for it, consider apps like OneNote , Google Keep, or Simplenote — all good choices, but none of them beat our Bear in usability and looks.

aText ($ 5)

Who would have thought that text expansion, otherwise known as typing keyboard shortcuts, would be so expensive? While it’s true that you can create such shortcuts yourself right in macOS , a full-fledged text expansion app will save you a lot of time and hassle. We like aText, if only for its $ 5 price tag – given that much loved alternatives like the Textexpander ($ 3.33 a month on an annual plan; $ 45 for the older standalone variant) and TypeIt4Me 6 ($ 20) cost from a little to a lot. more expensive.

As for aText, it’s easy to use. You set it up so that whenever you enter short words or phrases, the app inserts something else. So you can finally fix this annoying “diving” problem for good.

Text enhancement, also known as typing shortcuts, can save you hours of typing every day . You enter a small word or a combination of characters and they turn into complete complex sentences that you use frequently. We love aText because it offers a lot of great features and costs only $ 5. If you haven’t jumped on the text expansion train yet, it’s time.

Todoist (free)

You can’t go wrong with Todoist to take simple notes and organize them . The app is completely free – unless you want to pay $ 39 a year for more advanced features like automatic reminders, backups, themes and activity overview, to name just a few. Otherwise, the basics are good. Easily create and sync tasks (and subtasks) across all your devices using Todoist, and browser extensions (including the Gmail add-on) help you make Todoist and your ever-growing to-do list an integral part of your daily life. … You won’t have this experience with simple notes, especially if you’re trying to access your items across multiple platforms.

If you’re a big fan of Google, we’ll also love Google Tasks , which you’ll find directly integrated into the latest version of Gmail (and as a direct iOS and Android app ). You can also add to-do items to our Bear note-taking app. The Things 3 app is a super-comprehensive task manager, but it comes at a pricey $ 50 for the Mac, $ 10 for the iPhone, and $ 20 for the iPad. However, if the first item on your to-do list is robbing the bank, this is a great, full-featured application. And if you want to bother yourself with what you need to do on your Mac, consider giving a quick try Effortless – which displays a countdown timer for your tasks right in your Mac’s menu bar.

Google Drive and O FFICE Internet (free)

In fact, we don’t need to enter Google Drive because Google’s suggestions should be well known to everyone at this point. Docs and Sheets are great free tools for creating and collaborating on documents and spreadsheets (of course), so much so that many companies solely rely on Google’s offerings, rather than something prettier or more expensive.

If you’re new to Microsoft or really love Word and Excel, you can access basic online versions of both programs right from Microsoft – no Office 365 subscription required. If you prefer to work offline, Apple Pages and Numbers are the obvious and free choice, and LibreOffice is still the best open source office application.

Airmail ($ 5)

If you really don’t feel like messing around with mail, which is enough for most macOS users, consider giving Airmail a try. This has been our favorite third-party email app for a while, given its low cost and highly customizable options. It also connects to a host of other third-party apps and services , including Trello, Evernote, your favorite cloud storage service, and the powerful Apple Workflow app (i.e. on iOS).

If you don’t need power options and want a simple and straightforward email, the free Spark is definitely worth a try – especially since it can help you automatically sort your inbox so it doesn’t seem like an ever-growing pile of things you’ve never read. Boxy 2 is great if you’re a Gmail user who wants the power of its Inbox app on your desktop (and you don’t mind paying $ 5 for it), and Mailplane 4 ($ 30) is a solid app if you prefer an interface that looks like regular old Gmail. Power users might want to explore Wavebox ($ 20 per year), which lets you access Gmail, Inbox, Outlook, and all of the other awesome web apps right from one easy-to-use interface.

Internet and communications

Google Chrome and Firefox Quantum (free)

The browser you are using will most likely be dictated by the browser you were using. In other words, if you’re a Google Chrome supporter, it will probably take you a long time to get you to switch to Firefox Quantum (if you’re intrigued at all). And if you’ve been using Firefox since day one, you’re probably much less likely to migrate all your bookmarks, extensions, and other settings to Chrome.

So which browser is the best? It is not that one is superior to the other; more importantly, both are finally quite competitive. Depending on the tests you are looking at – for example, here are a few from ZDNet – browsers appear to be equally consistent in speed. I haven’t researched or evaluated the most recent version of each, but I’ve used both Firefox Quantum and Google Chrome and they both seem to be, well, fast . That said, Chrome still looks a bit like a pig when you’re trying to load a ton of tabs at the same time, but it uses less of your CPU and memory quite well than other browsers.

If you don’t like both, Opera is a viable alternative that’s actually pretty fast on its own, and we can’t complain about its built-in VPN or its awesome direct integration with WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Telegram. into a convenient side panel.

Goofy and Franz (free)

A few years ago, it seemed that everyone was using one chat client to serve a variety of services (ICQ, AIM, IRC, Jabber, etc.). Most people nowadays have probably blocked their favorite messages : messages for text messages, Facebook Messenger for everything else, WhatsApp for sending state secrets or expiring photos of your loot, Discord for any games, Slack for everything but games. etc. . Therefore, instead of going into details of all the most obvious applications, we will highlight two that are unique.

Facebook Messenger, as you know, requires you to be on Facebook in order to use it. If I’m right, you had the option to hook up the Facebook service to the messages themselves so that you can send and receive your Facebook chats without having to constantly open your browser. And if I’m right (again), you can’t do that anymore. Instead, you need an app like Goofy , which essentially turns the Facebook Messenger interface into a simple app that you can access from your desktop.

We’re also fans of Franz , who offers the same treatment for many other services (as well as Facebook Messenger). If you don’t want 20 programs open to chat with people, Franz gives you access to apps like Slack, WeChat, WhatsApp, Skype, Google Hangouts and Facebook Messenger through a single interface.

Skype (free)

Everyone probably has a video chat app that they love to use. And there are plenty to choose from: FaceTime , which is built into macOS by default; the aforementioned WhatsApp ; Google Hangouts ; Houseparty ; and even the good old Facebook Messenger itself .

If you’re looking for a standalone messaging app that can do all of this – including for personal and business use – we still recommend Skype , which was recently redesigned by Microsoft. Its interface looks cleaner (and comes with a dark mode), it is still easy to send text messages, video messages and files to contacts, and you can even @ text your friends to get their attention.

However, we live in a time when most messaging apps have some kind of video or calling component – or so it seems. So if you need that human contact beyond simple texting and emoji, chances are good that you can already do it in your favorite chat app.

Music, photos and videos

VLC (free)

VLC is the best media player you can put on your Mac, period. Once installed, it works great with minimal effort and can play just about any file you add to it. If you’re a power user, there are tons of options to guide you through the rest of this article.

We love all of the improvements VideoLAN is replacing VLC, including new support for 10-bit color depth and HDR, 360-degree video, and improved decoding that allows less powerful systems to play full 4K videos, even if that’s overkill for your Mac’s screen resolution. … You can add a range of plugins and extensions to VLC to expand its functionality, and you can even use the app to stream videos to your Chromecast if you’ve only allowed Google to gain a foothold in your home from Apple.

HandBrake (free)

HandBrake is a free video converting tool that, when combined with an application like MakeMKV , turns you into a powerful ripping and converting tool. HandBrake is quite easy to use, but there are many more settings that might give you a bit of anxiety the first time you load the app. We have a guide to help you with that. Once you’ve mastered the basics, queuing up multiple videos and converting them to all sorts of formats becomes second nature to you. Also, don’t forget to grab the VLC mentioned above so you can really watch all of your creations.

Adobe Bridge CC , digiKam, and Google Backup and Sync (free)

The stock Apple Photos app does a pretty decent job of organizing your sprawling photos with collections, tags, and the ability to view photos by when (and where) they were taken. You can even do some light editing.

If you need a little more organizational power, consider using Adobe Bridge CC – completely free, even if you might think it’s a paid app. You can’t edit a lot in Bridge (well, any retouching, actually), but what it lacks in the tools is compensated for by the data. You can easily see all sorts of compelling metadata about the images you take, and it is very easy to organize it with ratings, keywords and labels. Well, it’s very easy to set it up. It might actually take a little time to organize your vast photo library, but in the end, trust me, it’s worth it.

The open source digiKam app has an organization, editing, and user interface that is very similar to what you’ll find in Adobe Bridge CC. If you don’t use apps like Adobe Lightroom, digiKam may seem a little advanced – perhaps even over the top for your needs – but it’s a powerful app for professional users who would rather spend their money on camera hardware than additional software.

Google Backup and Sync isn’t the photo organizing app itself, but it’s something you’ll want to use to upload your photos to Google Photos – a great online tool and a compelling iCloud alternative thanks to the unlimited storage space you get for photos. It’s easy to create collections and share photos with others (Google will even tell you where and when you took your photos). And we also love that you can get pretty creative with your searches when sorting and organizing your vast photo library.

Spotify ($ 10) and Amazon Music Unlimited ($ 8)

Which music streaming service you choose depends a lot on your preferences: one might have your favorite band, the other might have the app interface you really prefer, one might have all your friends. If you don’t use Apple Music for these or other good reasons, Spotify is the next obvious choice (sorry Tidal). He has a huge library, he has great social features, and we love the thought he puts into his playlists – man-made and auto-generated.

If you are already an Amazon Prime subscriber, you should also consider using the company’s Amazon Music Unlimited service . You’ll have to pay $ 8 on top of your Prime subscription, but it’s still slightly cheaper than Apple Music ($ 10) or Spotify Premium ($ 10).

Pixelmator ($ 30) and Affinity Photo ($ 50)

Pixelmator is one of the best picture editors on Mac, but it’s not the only game in town anymore. While its $ 30 asking price may seem high, it’s a bargain considering all the incredible editing tools you can play with – competing with more complex apps like Adobe Photoshop CC for a fraction of the price. (And if you want features like Touch Bar support, automatic color adjustment and advanced compression, and HEIF export, you’ll need to buy the more expensive Pixelmator Pro for $ 60.)

Affinity Photo is an attractive, albeit more expensive, Pixelmator alternative that will set you back $ 50 for a pro-grade set of tools including full RAW editing and a user interface that looks a lot like Photoshop, which you might prefer (but don’t want to pay a subscription. To obtain). This includes Personas support, which mimics the Photoshop workspaces feature, allowing you to customize many of the options and buttons on the screen depending on what you’re working on – if you prefer one set of tools for basic editing and another set of tools. for something a little more complex like preprocessing images for printing.

If you’re looking for basic image editing and the Mac’s built-in Photos app isn’t enough, you can always try the open source GIMP app. The lack of gloss is compensated by the price.


Dropbox , Google Drive and Mega (free)

At this point, all of these cloud storage services should become household names. We have covered their costs and the pricing models of their counterparts quite thoroughly . Which one you choose depends on your budget, preferences and needs. Dropbox is a great all-inclusive cloud storage solution, but you need to get creative to get over 2GB of free space with the service. Google Drive is no big deal because you get 15GB of storage and you can easily sync files with your laptop or desktop to work with them offline.

With Mega, you get 50GB of free cloud storage to play with and a handy app ( MEGAsync ) that you can use on your Windows and Mac computers. Mega has an annoying transfer quota ofaround 1GB in 24 hours, but that’s a small price to pay for a free 50GB. Take this, markers

qBittorrent or Deluge (free)

Since then, as some time ago Transmission having all these problems with malware , and your installer uTorrent filled with garbage and miners, cryptocurrency , we began the hunt for a simple BitTorrent application and stopped at qBittorrent . This is an open source download tool and should seem pretty familiar to anyone who has used an application like uTorrent or Transmission before. No big surprises with the user interface or qBittorrent features. We love that the app is free of ads and junk, is completely open source, and can automatically shutdown or shutdown your computer after the download is complete. Deluge is a good alternative to the BitTorrent app, but the app hasn’t been updated since May 2017 (when we wrote this) and we prefer something with more active development.

Backblaze ($ 5 per month)

If you want to store important files in the cloud rather than in a Time Machine backup, that’s fine – after all, you might not have enough free storage space. Backblaze is our new top choice for backup services as it costs half the price of Crashplan ( formerly great ) and does exactly the same thing. Install the app, select the files and folders you want to back up (at least encrypted), and hope you never have to use the service’s restore features.

The Unarchiver (Free)

If you have file archives that your Mac cannot open, try The Unarchiver . It’s free, quick and good at opening things that your Mac can’t open on its own. It also works directly from the Finder, so you don’t have to (annoyingly) open a separate app before you hack into your archives.

A good alternative is Keka , which is also free, also opens a bunch of different archive formats, and may even be faster than Unarchiver depending on the archive format and size. If you have problems with one application, try another and you may find that it does a better job of extracting your files.


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