OSX Essential Apps – 2018 Edition

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For the last few years I've been a Mac user and I've had a variety of MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs. Years ago the MacBook Pro was a wonderful device, but it was bloody heavy. Lugging a MacBook Pro around meant that you got a bit of a workout, so I switched to the Air. Now, however, the latest batch of MacBook Pros are almost as light as the Air, but a lot more computer.

So when my MacBook Air started causing me headaches I decided to switch to the new style MacBook Pro with the touch bar. It's a lovely device, though I'll freely admit I still haven't really got a handle on the touch bar as yet.

Every time I get a new laptop I start with a clean slate. I don't migrate the apps and content from one machine to another, mainly because:

  • I don't store much data on my laptop anyway. A lot of documents / files that I work with on an ongoing basis are probably in Dropbox, Office 365 or Google docs
  • most of the software I end up installing on my laptop can easily be downloaded and installed again
  • I like starting with a "clean slate"

Of course over time as you use a laptop, or any other computer, you end up installing software that you're trying out or need for a particular project. While some of it might "stick" a lot just ends up cluttering up your hard drive..

So starting fresh suits me.

I've posted about the apps I considered "essential" a couple of times in the past, most recently here.

My current list is slightly different, but not dramatically - maybe I'm becoming more boring and predictable?

  • Microsoft Office - over the last couple of years Microsoft has done a really good job of making the OSX version of their office software more usable and the feature gap between the Windows and Apple versions these days are very small and getting smaller with every release. If you want to get the "bleeding edge" updates and features you can enable the "Office Insider Fast" track in the updates app.
  • Chrome - I switched over to Chrome a few years ago and haven't really looked back. I'll use Safari or Firefox at times as well. Chrome works, so I don't switch around much.
  • Adobe Acrobat Reader - my life involves reading a lot of PDFs. Apple's "preview" app is usable, but the Adobe Acrobat reader is a lot better. It's free.
  • Skype - handy for both VOIP calls as well as the chat and group chat function. While a lot of people have switched to using Slack there's still a lot of people who are more comfortable with Skype.
  • Slack - pretty much an essential communication tool (and more) these days. We use it internally and several organisations and companies I work with are also using it.
  • Pixelmator - still my "go to" simple graphics editor.
  • Wunderlist - for "to do" lists and my shopping lists I've come to love this app. One thing, however, is that it can be a little too "clever" - if you put a date into an item it'll assume that you want a reminder on that day / date which can be rather annoying
  • Spotify - I like having music no matter where I am. While I really like the Deezer service Spotify managed to win me back with a healthy discount.
  • Evernote - I still use this extensively for longer form notes and lists etc., The free version is functional, but if you want to be able to search properly when you're offline then you'll need a premium account.
  • Dropbox - I assume most people are using this or one of the alternatives at this stage. For sharing files and collaboration it's very very handy and one of the reasons I don't keep files "locally". Their business plans come with some pretty good security features as well
  • Cyberduck - I still run several websites so having an FTP / SCP client on my machines makes sense
  • Viscosity - when I'm not in the office or need to appear as if I'm in Ireland or generally need a secure connection I'll use the VPN. While there are plenty of VPN clients out there this one is very nice and easy to use.
  • Rescue Time - I like being able to track my habits. And this app does a pretty good job of tracking how much time you're spending on silly stuff and how much time you're "working" (it's not perfect)
  • Last Pass - a password safe. Pretty much essential if you're logging into and using as many services as most of us do these days. Either you use something like this or you end up writing passwords down or using really bad ones..
  • Clean My Mac - handy for removing crud that eats up disk space, as well as giving you easy access to a few maintenance scripts that Apple hide under too hood
  • MoneyWiz - Keeping track of my personal finances from a single place. It integrates with most online bank accounts and credit cards.
  • WhatsApp - the desktop app version of the popular messenger app. It gives you the full keyboard experience and all the normal features.

Are there any apps that you can't live without that I've left out? Let me know via the comments!


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15 Responses to OSX Essential Apps – 2018 Edition

  1. Padraig Fahy June 15, 2018 at 2:32 pm #

    Couple specific to me, but

    * Discord – Basically a “Slack for Gamers”

    * Telegram – Messaging application which I am in a large group (I think you can have 10000 members in a group)

    * Puush – Screenshot application which automatically uploads the image to your account and generates a link for you to post. While older, it still works.

  2. Michele Neylon June 15, 2018 at 2:36 pm #

    Well I’m not a gamer πŸ™‚
    For “Puush” is that available via the app store? Paid or free?

    Thanks for your comment


  3. Padraig Fahy June 15, 2018 at 2:43 pm #

    It’s not through the app store, it can be got here http://puush.me/ and it’s free. πŸ™‚

  4. Fredrik Rovik June 15, 2018 at 2:53 pm #

    You are missing Alfred app imo, it turns spotlight into something useful. It also has clever things such as search of copy/paste history (if you want).

  5. Michele Neylon June 15, 2018 at 2:55 pm #

    I’ve found that spotlight with Siri is pretty powerful these days. What kind of features does Alfred offer that the OSX stuff lacks?

  6. Fredrik Rovik June 15, 2018 at 3:00 pm #


    Well, my favorite of all is copy/paste history as I tend to forget to save my auto generated passwords at times.
    Built in calculator, so you can do things like searching for =4+2. Also extensible so you can do things that may not be standard.

  7. James Gannon June 15, 2018 at 9:11 pm #

    Dude!! Moneywiz was exactly what I needed thank you!!!!

  8. Michele Neylon June 15, 2018 at 9:32 pm #

    Glad you found something useful in there πŸ™‚
    Their customer service is excellent as well. I’ve had to contact them a couple of times and they’ve been very responsive and helpful when I needed it.

  9. Michele Neylon June 15, 2018 at 9:32 pm #

    I can see how that would be handy alright πŸ™‚
    I might have to look into it.

  10. James Gannon June 15, 2018 at 9:33 pm #

    Its awesome, 10mins and had it setup with both the Irish and Swiss accounts.
    Doing the budgets now!

  11. Michele Neylon June 15, 2018 at 9:35 pm #

    It’ll also work nicely with Amex and handles multiple currencies pretty well.
    So far I haven’t been able to get it to integrate with Irish Life, but that’s more a problem on their end than on the app’s.

  12. Sophie June 16, 2018 at 2:52 pm #

    Alfred +1000, with snippets and copy/paste history, and Postbox, supporting encryption and tags + handy features such as templates and more !

  13. Michele Neylon June 16, 2018 at 4:44 pm #

    The copy / paste history is probably something I could use. Is that available in the free version?


  14. Robert Guerra June 18, 2018 at 12:49 pm #

    – For a mail client, MailMate https://freron.com/ is far superior the Mail client. It can handle large mailboxes an encryption far, far better than Apple’s default client
    – For a password manager, my preference is 1passwd https://1password.com/ as there’s an option – to just buy an upfront license and not have to pay for a monthly fee. The company’s support and blog about security issues is wonderful.
    – Chat / messaging applications: I recommend Signal https://www.signal.org/ & Wire (https://wire.com) as an alternative to WhatsApp that’s owned by Facebook
    – If you care about security, I highly recommend installing LittleSnitch https://www.obdev.at/products/littlesnitch that not only improves on the built-in firewall, but also eliminates the need to cover one’s built-in camera. Also suggest F-Secure’s XFence https://beta.f-secure.com/key/XFence which is the latest version of Little Flocker

  15. Michele Neylon June 18, 2018 at 12:53 pm #

    Thanks – some interesting additions
    How are you finding uptake of Signal and Wire? One of the main reasons I use WhatsApp is because so many of my friends, family etc are using it.
    I’d forgotten to mention that all my machines have Eset installed, which includes a firewall.
    Thanks for your comment

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