In 2020, Apple took the computer world by surprise, launching a new RISC-based technology, dubbed “Apple Silicon,” which set a new standard for microchip performance and compatibility. In November 2020, the company launched a 13-inch MacBook Pro, a MacBook Air and a Mini, all using an “M1” chip that runs cool and boasts long (laptop) battery life. The M1 is based on the microprocessor developed for the iPhone, the “A” series.

What is most remarkable about this radical architectural change is Apple’s smooth application transition. A software conversion utility, called Rosetta 2, lets a Mac with Apple Silicon use apps designed for a Mac with an Intel processor.

When you start an Intel application, Rosetta 2 will convert the app in realtime and seamlessly make it M1 compatible, resulting in just a slight delay the first time the app is launched. Apple’s emphasis on a seamless experience shines here.

But it’s the apps that have been optimized for M1 that truly stand out. They’re much faster and more responsive than ever before and rock-solid, most of the time. Photoshop, in particular, opens in blistering fashion, noticeable because the Intel version was so pig-in-a-poke slow.

The press unanimously raves about the M1 experience. Whether reviewing a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, or Mac Mini, the consensus is that Apple lived up to the June Worldwide Developers Conference’s claims when it unveiled Apple Silicon. Underpromising and overdelivering is rare in the technology industry.

Recommended Apps

The M1 has reset our expectations. For our loaded M1 MacBook, equipped with 16GB RAM and a 2TB SSD, we decided that good enough was no longer acceptable and initially only sought out apps that were M1 compatible. In Apple lingo, that means the app is either “Universal” — it runs on both M1 and Intel-based Macs, or “Apple Silicon” only. There is one other compatible category of M1 software, “iOS” apps, which includes Notion and VLC in the list below.

The immediate result is that our list of recommended apps has shrunk by 23%. Getting rid of unnecessary clutter and bloat fits with our strategy of simplification. When we first published the “100 Mac Applications We Can’t Live Without” list in 2014, it was 111 apps long. 😂 The list below contains just 86 applications.

To give you an idea of how much things have changed, 75 applications from 2014 are no longer part of the list. And in just seven years, the list grew by 50 apps. Only 36 programs are on both lists.

It’s fascinating to compare how software applications have changed over time. The new list pays tribute to our new work-from-home (WFH) trend, with such apps as HandMirror — to check your appearance before video conferencing and, of course, Zoom.

It’s also notable that Zoom, which has been accused of sharing user data with the Chinese government and sends some of its traffic through servers located in China, is the only “Apple Silicon” app. “Why do you have such an optimized tool, Big Bad Wolf?” asked Little Red Riding Hood. “To better spy on you with,” said the Big Bad Wolf.

Another application trend, which may just reflect what we do, is the growing share of authoring applications. The Mac is already known as the platform of choice for creators. This has only increased since 2014 when we published the original list. New are apps that either didn’t exist then or were not on my radar, including Day One — a journaling/note-taking app; Grammarly; Ludwig — a handy writing utility that checks your choice of words against a database of written snippets; Vellum for Amazon Kindle publishers; and Whisk — a cool realtime HTML editing tool.

Social media apps are a growing presence on the Mac, including Discord, Signal, Tweetdeck, and WhatsApp. Notes apps are another major category of applications. As researchers, we’re on an endless quest to find the best note-taking apps and the list now includes Bear, Day One, Evernote Legacy, Milanote, Notes, and Notion.

Of the 32 applications Apple provides for free with each Mac, we consider Contacts, Keynote, Numbers, Notes, Pages, Photos, Reminders, and TextEdit essential. Notes is ideally suited for personal note-taking. Reminders has gained so many features that it has become a capable to-do list manager or, dare we say it, project manager. Since most calendaring and to-do apps, like Things, end up integrating Reminders, it’s an excellent tool for keeping things simple, so to speak, without spending $50 on Things even though it’s a universal app.

Here’s the list of 86 applications our M1 MacBook can’t live without:

1Password
1Password is unquestionably the most flexible Mac password manager. Their browser extensions work better than anyone else’s solutions, although the free Bitwarden is lurking in the background.

Publisher: AgileBits Inc.
Website: https://1password.com
Version: 7.8
Kind: Universal
Category: Utility
Price: $36/yr.

Adobe Illustrator
Adobe’s Creative Cloud includes four truly useful applications: Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Photoshop, and Acrobat X Pro. If you’re a designer, you can’t get by without these popular tools.

Publisher: Adobe Inc.
Website: https://www.adobe.com/products/illustrator.html
Version: 25.2.1
Kind: Intel
Category: Design
Price: $53/mo. for 20+ apps

Adobe InDesign
Bug-ridden and deserving of more attention, InDesign is the poorest sister of the Adobe Creative Cloud bunch. Don’t expect to see an M1 version of this application any day soon, even though everyone and his brother and sister are generating millions of PDF white papers every day.

Publisher: Adobe Inc.
Website: https://www.adobe.com/products/indesign.html
Version: 16.1.0.20
Kind: Intel
Category: Design
Price: $53/mo. for 20+ apps

Adobe Photoshop
Adobe says Photoshop runs 50% faster on M1 compared to 2019 Intel-based MacBooks. Enough said. The program that mainstreamed the concept of “photoshopping” is wildly popular among photographers and graphic designers. If you’re neither of these, we recommend you stick with Pixelmator Pro.

Publisher: Adobe Inc.
Website: https://www.adobe.com/products/photoshop.html
Version: 22.3.0
Kind: Universal
Category: Design
Price: $10/mo. with Lightroom bundle; $53/mo. for 20+ apps

Affinity Designer
Serif boasts that Affinity Designer is “the fastest, smoothest, most precise vector graphic design software available.” It really is the most viable alternative to Adobe Illustrator. Whether you’re working on graphics for marketing materials, sites, icons, UI design, or just like creating incredible art, Affinity Designer will help you work without Adobe’s monthly software subscription fees.

Publisher: Serif (Europe) Ltd. (U.K.)
Website: https://affinity.serif.com/en-us/designer/
Version: 1.9.0
Kind: Universal
Category: Design
Price: $50

Affinity Photo
Affinity Photo is a compelling alternative to Photoshop, especially at its current promotional pricing of $24.99. It handles all everyday photo editing chores, including corrections, retouching, or creating fine art with hundreds of layers. For that, you have to put up with an interface that is sufficiently different from Photoshop that it takes some time to learn how it works, not to mention Britishisms like “colour” sprinkled throughout.

Publisher: Serif (Europe) Ltd. (U.K.)
Website: https://affinity.serif.com/en-us/photo/
Version: 1.9.0
Kind: Universal
Category: Design
Price: $50

Affinity Publisher
Affinity Publisher is a great publishing tool and, as with all Affinity products, laden with features, so much so that it has a steep learning curve. We used it to produce a book until we discovered that Publisher couldn’t export highlighted text in a document as RTF, a deal breaker for authors who have multi-platform projects. If you can overlook this, Publisher is perfectly capable of banging out magazines and newsletters. It can read InDesign IDML files so users can get up and running with minor modifications.

Publisher: Serif (Europe) Ltd. (U.K.)
Website: https://affinity.serif.com/en-us/publisher/
Version: 1.9.0
Kind: Universal
Category: Design
Price: $50

Airtable

Airtable
Airtable works like a spreadsheet but gives you the power of a database to organize anything. It features rich fields that can hold checkboxes, dropdown menus, and a traditional grid, calendar, or “kanban” (like Trello) views. Realtime collaboration with commenting and change audit trails is another huge plus. But its most powerful feature may well be the ability to add look-up fields that link to other sheets for data consistency, making Airtable a true relational database. The company just raised $270 million at a valuation of $6 billion. We can’t all be wrong, now can we? But perhaps the best testimonial is that we manage this list in Airtable. 😉

Publisher: Formagrid Inc.
Website: https://airtable.com
Version: 1.4.4
Kind: Intel
Category: Databases
Price: Free (Unlimited bases, 1,200 records/base/2GB attachments/base); Pro (supports Blocks) $20/mo.

AppCleaner
Now that AppDelete no longer works with Big Sur, and worked too slow with Catalina, AppCleaner is the heir apparent uninstaller utility that removes applications and any other associated files that reside anywhere on your Mac.

Publisher: FreeMacSoft
Website: https://freemacsoft.net/appcleaner/
Version: 3.6.0
Kind: Universal
Category: Utility
Price: Free

Avast Security
Yes, viruses can infect the Mac too. Avast actually did find viruses on our MacBook Pros! 😱 Download it; it’s free but be prepared to be nagged “to protect your Mac.” Avast is universal now too.

Publisher: Avast Software s.r.o. (Czech Republic)
Website: https://www.avast.com/index#mac
Version: 1.1.0
Kind: Universal
Category: Entertainment
Price: Free

Bartender
This little utility lives in your menubar and controls other menubar items, which tend to proliferate like rabbits. You can even move menubar items around by holding down the Command key. Very nice.

Publisher: Surtees Studios
Website: https://www.macbartender.com
Version: 4.0.41
Kind: Universal
Category: Utility
Price: $15

BBEdit
We haven’t learned all the features yet of BBEdit, and the company’s YouTube videos are 8-9 years old, showing a casual disregard for our modern world, but BBEdit is highly regarded among those in the know. You can download it from the App Store, and once your trial ends, it reverts to free mode, which is good enough unless you’re a real web developer. 😉

Publisher: Bare Bones Software Inc.
Website: https://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/
Version: 13.5.4
Kind: Universal
Category: Text Editor/Development
Price: Free mode; $50

Bear
Bear is a great notes keeper with a slick design. It uses hashtags to organize topics, but you’ll quickly realize that #organization/by hashtag/is cumbersome# once you need content organization. So, the best practice is to use single-word hashtags only. Authors should also keep in mind that Bear does not allow a non-contiguous selection of chapters in the tag list, which means that any book project must be either exported by chapter or with all the other junk. This issue is made worse because Bear does not allow you to organize notes or sections in random order, only by date or alphabetically. But since it’s free and has a Safari web clipper, you should check it out. We like it enough to pay the annual $15 subscription fee to gain multi-platform syncing and custom themes. 😍

Publisher: Shiny Frog (Italy)
Website: https://bear.app
Version: 1.8.2
Kind: Universal
Category: Notes
Price: Free; Pro: $15/yr. (includes cross-platform syncing, cool themes, and more export options)

BetterSnapTool
Nicely complements Moom with just one useful feature; it lets you create pre-configured “snap areas” that you can drag windows to resize them in a set way. So, for example, we use BetterSnapTool to organize browser windows on our external monitors. BetterSnapTool has overwhelming, non-intuitive settings that need radical improvement, but we recommend it because it’s optimized for Apple Silicon and the M1.

Publisher: folivora.AI GmbH (Germany)
Website: https://folivora.ai/bettersnaptool
Version: 1.9.5
Kind: Universal
Category: Utilities
Price: $3

Bitwarden
Widely recommended replacement for the no longer free Last Pass and subscription-fee-only 1Password crowd. The company offers apps for iOS and macOS, plus browser extensions. Bitwarden has just introduced a fantastic new Send feature that lets you send links to encrypted files.

Publisher: Bitwarden Inc.
Website: https://bitwarden.com
Version: 1.24.6
Kind: Intel
Category: Utility
Price: Free; Premium: $10/yr.

Blackmagic Disk Speed Test
Test your SSD or hard drive to see how fast it is. In this day and age of instant gratification, storage speed is mission-critical.

Publisher: Blackmagic Design Pty. Ltd. (Australia)
Website: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/blackmagic-disk-speed-test/id425264550
Version: 3.3
Kind: Universal
Category: Utility
Price: Free

Boxcryptor
Encrypts cloud files. Since you never know who might gain access to your cloud storage, this is a good strategy. We use it to encrypt OneDrive, but it also works with DropBox and Google Drive.

Publisher: Secomba GmbH (Germany)
Website: https://www.boxcryptor.com/en/
Version: 2.39.1119
Kind: Universal
Category: Security/Privacy, Cloud Storage
Price: Free; $48/yr.

BrowseShot
BrowseShot is a stripped-down web browser that takes full-length website screenshots, including sites that require a log-in. Dating from 2013, this is the oldest app on the list, but it still works. 😳

Publisher: txtlabs
Website: http://txtlabs.com/browseshot.html
Version: 1.0
Kind: Intel
Category: Utility
Price: Free

Carbon Copy Cloner
Need to make a clone of your hard drive to be able to boot from your rescue disk? Look no further. Superb customer service too from Mike Bombich. One day, we had to take one of our MacBook Pros to the Genius Bar to have the keyboard repaired. It came back with a new motherboard and a new blank SSD. Carbon Copy Cloner beautifully restored the system and all apps. A lifesaver.

Publisher: Bombich Software Inc.
Website: https://bombich.com
Version: 5.1.25
Kind: Universal
Category: Backup
Price: $40

Cardhop
Need menubar contact access? This $20 utility does just that. Cardhop shows contact birthdays and recent contact searches too. Offers English-language new contact entry.

Publisher: Flexibits Inc.
Website: https://flexibits.com/cardhop
Version: 1.3.7
Kind: Universal
Category: Contact Management
Price: $20

ChronoSync
How many of you backup regularly? Be honest! If you use ChronoSync, you can quickly backup your entire hard disk because it actually compares your original and backup folder and just copies over differences, which is much faster than wholesale copying. Econ Technologies also gets our gratitude for offering perpetually free upgrades.

Publisher: Econ Technologies Inc.
Website: https://www.econtechnologies.com/
Version: 4.5.4
Kind: Universal
Category: Utility
Price: $40

Clean Text
Emails, Windows, and sloppy software programs often produce files that are filled with funny Mac characters, dubbed “non-ASCII characters” in geek parlance. Use Clean Text to remove these, plus unwanted paragraph breaks, tabs, or foreign accents from files. Particularly useful in database work, as detailed in our “CRM on the Mac” reference guide.

Publisher: Apimac
Website: https://www.apimac.com/mac/cleantext/
Version: 8.4
Kind: Intel
Category: Utility
Price: $20 (formerly $15)

Convert It
Need a handy tool to convert millimeters to inches or Mexican pesos to dollars? Convert It does the job. It’s currently the only multi-functional conversion tool we can recommend, although it’s not optimized for M1. Has a 4.6 rating in the App Store.

Publisher: Chimp Studios LLC
Website: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/convert-it-the-unit-and-currency-converter/id885534364
Version: 1.6.1
Kind: Intel
Category: Utility
Price: Free

Day One
Day One is the best journaling app for the MacBook. It resides in your menubar and can immediately be summoned to enter your excellent prose or notes about your first journey outside the home after lockdown. 😂

Publisher: Bloom Built Inc.
Website: https://dayoneapp.com
Version: 5.9.1
Kind: Intel
Category: Notes
Price: Basic: Free; Premium $35/yr.

Discord PTB
Discord, which bills itself as “a place to talk with friends,” is among a new generation of social media tools that let interest groups set up their own water coolers, like Facebook but without the insufferable Mark Zuckerberg looking over your shoulder. As its name suggests, Discord is a gaming-derived tool. The quarantine helped the company raise $100 million.

Publisher: Discord
Website: https://discord.com/
Version: 0.0.53
Kind: Intel
Category: Social Media
Price: Free

Dropbox
A must-have, Dropbox lets you save 2GB of documents and pictures to the cloud, so you can instantly access them on other computers, your iPhone, or your iPad, for free. The Dropbox Pro plan lets you store 1TB for $10 per month. Dropbox is one of those “synchronicity” programs we mentioned at the beginning of this article. It’s beautifully simple and works like a charm.

Publisher: Dropbox Inc.
Website: https://www.dropbox.com/
Version: 118.3.448
Kind: Intel
Category: Cloud
Price: Plus (2TB): $12/mo. (formerly 1TB for $8.25/mo.); or $120/yr.

Evernote Legacy
Evernote saves notes, images, PDFs, or web clippings and lets you access them from any platform. Indispensable for people who do a lot of research, as we do. It’s another example of “synchronicity.” We now use an older Evernote Legacy program because the latest versions of Evernote have removed some handy features that no longer merited paying an annual subscription fee.

Publisher: Evernote Corp.
Website: https://www.evernote.com/
Version: 5.7.2
Kind: Intel
Category: Cloud
Price: Basic: Free; Premium: $8/mo. (formerly $35/yr.)

Exporter for Contacts
Apple’s Address Book does not let you export contacts in CSV format. Export Address Book does that plus a lot more, including exporting in a Google Contacts CSV format. Totally worth $9, don’t you agree? Consult our “CRM on the Mac” reference guide to see how we use Exporter for Contacts for email marketing.

Publisher: Stefan Keller
Website: https://www.subclassed.com/apps/exporter-for-contacts/export-mac-os-x-mail-address-book-contacts-to-csv-or-excel
Version: 1.13.1
Kind: Universal
Category: Contact Management
Price: $9 (formerly $4)

Fantastical

Fantastical
Fantastical is our go-to calendar program. A small calendar icon with today’s date can be readily accessed from the menu bar when you need it, and its scheduling intelligence is excellent. Just click a day and enter “lunch with Al Roker,” and it knows when to schedule your lunch meeting. Click Command-0, and a full-size calendar window is displayed. Looks beautiful too, plus there’s a handy iPhone version with widgets. 😍

Publisher: Flexibits Inc.
Website: https://flexibits.com/fantastical/
Version: 3.3.4
Kind: Universal
Category: Calendar
Price: $8/mo. for 5 users or $65/yr. (formerly $20)

Final Cut Pro
Many YouTubers swear by Final Cut Pro, FCP for short, and it’s easy to see why. FCP is a powerful video editing application platform on which you can add a host of special effects plugins that make the program even more versatile. If you’re looking for a powerful video editing solution for your YouTube channel, you simply can’t go wrong with FCP. Take my word for it: https://youtu.be/5DoPtBHWk8g.

Publisher: Apple Inc.
Website: https://www.apple.com/final-cut-pro/
Version: 10.5.2
Kind: Universal
Category: Video
Price: $300

Firefox
Why do we use Firefox? For one feature alone: Firefox immediately detects when you are in an airport, hotel, or another public venue and lets you log into a guest network. Tremendously convenient and amazing that neither Google Chrome nor Apple Safari offer this feature. Frequently, you have to restart your Mac to detect new networks. Not with Firefox installed. It’s also optimized for the M1.

Publisher: Mozilla Corp.
Website: https://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/new/
Version: 85.0.2
Kind: Universal
Category: Browser
Price: Free

GarageSale

GarageSale
Here’s a tool for today’s economy. GarageSale is basically an eBay management tool. Use pre-designed templates to make your stuff look good. GarageSale then manages the uploading of content and seller communication. Slick.

Publisher: iwascoding GmbH (Germany)
Website: https://www.iwascoding.com/GarageSale/
Version: 8.3.4
Kind: Universal
Category: E-commerce
Price: $40

Google Chrome
Google Chrome has become the most popular browser because it’s frequently updated in the background, lightning-fast, and easily extensible with a large number of extensions, way more than Safari (although that could change in the future, see Safari). Now you can right-click to choose what browser opens a link, rendering our formerly recommended utility, Choosy, unnecessary.

Publisher: Google LLC
Website: https://www.google.com/chrome/
Version: 89.0
Kind: Universal
Category: Browser
Price: Free

Grammarly
Grammarly improves your writing by finding and correcting more mistakes than most spelling checkers, plus it has a grammar checker. If you install its browser extensions, it will also spell-check your online writing, which is very useful.

Publisher: Grammarly Inc.
Website: https://www.grammarly.com/
Version: 1.5.72
Kind: Intel
Category: Writing
Price: Browser: Free; Premium: $11.66/mo.

GrandTotal
Create invoices and estimates using a customized design. Automatically attaches a PDF invoice to an email for quick sending. Great for consultants. When we first purchased Grand Total in 2008, it cost €79 ($98). Media Atelier has since jacked up GrandTotal’s price to 119 euros and now 159 euros, which is quite steep given its somewhat limited functionality. The cost of living must be very high in Switzerland.

Publisher: Media Atelier/Stefan Fürst (Switzerland)
Website: https://mediaatelier.com/GrandTotal/
Version: 3.2.5
Kind: Intel
Category: Finance
Price: €159 ($190)

Hand Mirror
Talk about an app made for our new videoconferencing lifestyle. Hand Mirror does what its name implies — it acts like a mirror to check your beautiful countenance before you expose it mercilessly to the Zoom world. 😁

Publisher: Rafa.Design
Website: https://handmirror.app
Version: 1.4
Kind: Universal
Category: Video
Price: Free

iA Writer (formerly Writer Pro)
iA Writer is the best iCloud-based writing tool. It features a “concentration mode” and supports the popular Markdown writing protocol. Besides statistics like character and word count, iA Writer features scans English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish text and highlights adjectives, nouns, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, or conjunctions. So compare and contrast to your heart’s content.

Publisher: Information Architects Inc.
Website: https://ia.net/writer
Version: 5.6.9
Kind: Universal
Category: Productivity
Price: macOS: $30, iOS: $30

ImageOptim
Need to optimize images for your website? ImageOptim compresses images to make them take up less disk space and load faster without sacrificing quality. It optimizes compression parameters, removes junk metadata and unnecessary color profiles.

Publisher: Kornel Lesiński (Poland)
Website: https://imageoptim.com/mac
Version: 1.8.9
Kind: Universal
Category: Development
Price: Free

Kaleidoscope
If you code or are a lawyer and need to compare two documents to detect differences, Kaleidoscope will make your life much easier. Unfortunately, its former publisher, Black Pixel, decided to nearly double its price to $70. There have been only three minor updates in the past seven years, which suggests the app is now in maintenance mode.

Publisher: Letter Opener GmbH (Germany)
Website: https://www.kaleidoscopeapp.com/
Version: 2.4.0
Kind: Intel
Category: Developer Tools
Price: $70

Keynote
Best presentation software, bar none. Keynote was the program that made us switch back to the Mac. It’s that good. Outstanding ease of use and power makes PowerPoint fans green with envy.

Publisher: Apple Inc.
Website: https://www.apple.com/keynote/
Version: 10.3.9
Kind: Universal
Category: Presentation
Price: Free

Ludwig
This handy writing utility lets you check your prose against accepted writing norms, thereby preventing embarrassing structural faux pas, which we just can’t like. Ludwig was conceived by a bunch of Italians, like Bear, who wanted a more creative way to master English.

Publisher: Ludwig S.R.L.S. (Italy)
Website: https://ludwig.guru/
Version: 1.1.7
Kind: Intel
Category: Writing
Price: Free; $10/mo. for unlimited searches and results.

MacFamilyTree
An M1-optimized family tree builder with a beautiful interface? What more is there to say! 😍

Publisher: Synium Software (Germany)
Website: https://www.syniumsoftware.com/macfamilytree
Version: 9.2
Kind: Universal
Category: Utility
Price: $29

Microsoft Excel
Microsoft recently released M1-optimized versions of its super popular Office suite. Unless you have been hiding under a rock, Excel does spreadsheets and now features a more elegant Big Sur-like esthetic complete with rounded corners.

Publisher: Microsoft Corp.
Website: https://www.microsoft.com/excel
Version: 16.46
Kind: Universal
Category: Spreadsheets
Price: $140; $7/mo. for the entire suite (Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Word, and OneDrive)

Microsoft OneNote
Microsoft’s OneNote is supposedly an Evernote killer. It used to have a real hokey interface but now supports the Mac’s more palatable dark mode. It’s free and M1-optimized; what more can we say? Try it, you’ll like it.

Publisher: Microsoft Corp.
Website: https://www.microsoft.com/onenote
Version: 16.46
Kind: Universal
Category: Notes
Price: Free

Microsoft Outlook
Microsoft recently released M1-optimized versions of its super-popular Office suite. Unless you have been hiding under a rock, Outlook does email and now features a more elegant Big Sur-like esthetic complete with rounded corners.

Publisher: Microsoft Corp.
Website: https://www.microsoft.com/outlook
Version: 16.46
Kind: Universal
Category: Email
Price: Free; $7/mo. for the entire suite (Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Word, and OneDrive)

Microsoft PowerPoint
Microsoft recently released M1-optimized versions of its super-popular Office suite. Unless you have been hiding under a rock, PowerPoint creates presentations and now features a more elegant Big Sur-like esthetic complete with rounded corners.

Publisher: Microsoft Corp.
Website: https://www.microsoft.com/powerpoint
Version: 16.46
Kind: Universal
Category: Email
Price: Free; $7/mo. for the entire suite (Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Word, and OneDrive)

MilanoteYou don’t always have to rely on native Mac apps to manage specialties, that’s where the web comes in. Apps like Milanote, an organizer of thoughts and notes designed for creatives and marketers are available both on the web, Mac and iOS.

Milanote
Milanote is an easy-to-use tool to organize your ideas and projects into visual boards with kanban views. Drag a template, like Creative Brief, and you can populate its standard elements like “About the Client” and “About the project” with notes, images, files, videos, audio, etc. Great for organizing thoughts and brainstorming.

Publisher: Milanote
Website: https://milanote.com
Version: 2.2.34
Kind: Intel
Category: Design
Price: Free (limited to 100 notes, images, or links); $10/mo. (unlimited notes and file uploads)

Moom
Moom is now our favorite window organizer. It can even create separate desktops for when you jack in that excellent, big LG 5K monitor. Ultra-convenient must-have.

Publisher: Many Tricks
Website: https://manytricks.com/moom/
Version: 3.2.21
Kind: Universal
Category: Utility
Price: $10

Name Mangler
Need to rename a large set of files, such as adding a file’s pixel dimensions and/or file size to the file name? Name Mangler will take care of this chore. It can also remove characters from file names starting at a particular position or add suffixes and prefixes to file names. It will “dumb down” file names for Windows, trim white space, convert AM to am, and add a time-stamp to file names.

Publisher: Many Tricks
Website: https://manytricks.com/namemangler/
Version: 3.3
Kind: Universal
Category: Utility
Price: $19

Notion

Notion
Notion is a remarkable newcomer with a highly pliant interface that, like Coda and Quip, allows you to blend text and tables to create sophisticated, collaborative documents, including business or marketing plans. Notion offers a Chrome web clipper to capture web pages, much like Evernote, another nice feature. We like its elegant interface that can be customized with emoji, although the concept of sub-documents and “default views” can sometimes be confusing.

Publisher: Notion Labs Inc.
Website: https://www.notion.so
Version: 2.0.11
Kind: iOS
Category: Productivity
Price: Free; Basic (1 user, unlimited uploads): $4/member/mo.; Team (unlimited users, unlimited uploads): $8/member/mo.

Numbers
Numbers is the Excel of the Mac. It offers much of its power, but some might think that’s not enough. Now that Apple has upgraded the suite version 10, the new Numbers has acquired subtle new colors that make its interface even more appealing.

Publisher: Apple Inc.
Website: https://www.apple.com/numbers/
Version: 10.3.9
Kind: Universal
Category: Finance
Price: Free

Obsidian
This is new-age research tool recently came to our attention. We will be reviewing it ASAP and look forward to seeing how it parses through hundreds of markdown files to build contextual relationship links.

Publisher: Obsidian
Website: https://obsidian.md/
Version: 0.11.5
Kind: Universal
Category: Productivity
Price: Pro: Free for one user

OmniOutliner Pro
OmniOutliner is a start-to-finish writing app. Perfect for collecting information, outlining Big Ideas, adding structure to any writing, and much more. From grocery lists to email drafts to long-form composition.

Publisher: The Omni Group
Website: https://www.omnigroup.com/omnioutliner
Version: 5.8.1
Kind: Universal
Category: Productivity
Price: Pro: $100 (Essentials edition formerly $10 and Pro $60)

OneDrive
Microsoft’s DropBox but without the ease of use.

Publisher: Microsoft Corp.
Website: https://www.microsoft.com/onedrive
Version: 21.030.0211
Kind: Intel
Category: Cloud Storage
Price: OneDrive Basic 5 GB: Free

OnyX
How about a versatile utility with a friendly interface that handles system maintenance tasks and is shareware? That’s OnyX, and it’s only available on the Mac. The latest 3.9 version is compatible with Big Sur.

Publisher: Titanium Software
Website: https://www.titanium-software.fr/en/onyx.html
Version: 3.9.4
Kind: Universal
Category: Utility
Price: Free

Pages
Pages is the Microsoft Word of the Mac. Like Numbers, Pages has outstanding layout capabilities, as exemplified by its built-in templates. See our review of Numbers.

Publisher: Apple Inc.
Website: https://www.apple.com/pages/
Version: 10.3.9
Kind: Universal
Category: Writing
Price: Free

Paprika Recipe Manager
Grab recipes from the web using its built-in browser, then manage all your recipes on the Mac and sync recipe and shopping list to your iPhone. Paprika is the best recipe manager out there today.

Publisher: Hindsight Labs LLC
Website: https://www.paprikaapp.com
Version: 3.6.4
Kind: Universal
Category: Utility
Price: macOS: $30; iOS: $5

Photos
Photo grabs photos from your digicam, organizes them by event or import date, retouches pictures, and sends them to your friend’s inbox.

Publisher: Apple Inc.
Website: https://www.apple.com/macos/photos/
Version: 6.0
Kind: Universal
Category: Photography
Price: Free

Pixelmator Pro

Pixelmator Pro
Need Photoshop’s features but don’t want to pay Adobe’s monthly cloud fees? Pixelmator does what you need: resizing, retouching, layering, and more. We continue to be impressed with Pixelmator’s speed, ease of use, and simple, clean interface. Its attractive price makes Pixelmator a no-brainer alternative to Photoshop. The best yet is its new “ML Super Resolution” feature which rezzes up low-resolution images and sometimes dramatically improving them. The $213 billion Adobe Inc. was caught with its pants down when the Pixelmator Team beat it to this cutting-edge feature. Now Adobe has announced that Photoshop also will have this feature, dubbed “Super Resolution.” Of course, the true hi-res trailblazer was Alien Skin years ago with its Blow Up plugin filter.

Publisher: Pixelmator Team Ltd.
Website: https://www.pixelmator.com/pro/
Version: 2.0.6 Junipero
Kind: Universal
Category: Design
Price: $40

PixelSnap
We finally found the proper on-screen ruler. PixelSnap lets you measure any object on your screen by simply drawing a rectangle around it, and it will snap to that object, instantly providing object measurements. Version 2.43 is universal, so it’s optimized for the M1.

Publisher: MakeTheWeb
Website: https://getpixelsnap.com
Version: 2.43
Kind: Universal
Category: Utility
Price: $15

Quicken Deluxe
If you want to balance your checkbook the Mac way, Quicken is the only way to go. The bad news: the developer recently switched to a subscription model, so you’ll have to fork over cash each year. Updates are frequent now, though, which is good news. According to a company press release, Quicken 6.0 is twice as fast running on Apple Silicon.

Publisher: Quicken Inc.
Website: https://www.quicken.com/
Version: 6.1.1
Kind: Universal
Category: Finance
Price: $52/yr. (formerly $45/yr.)

Reeder
Silvio Rizzi has written the most gorgeous RSS reader bar none. Reeder syncs with Google Reader feeds but showcases articles beautifully and simply. UPDATE: We’re still waiting for an update from Rizzi for this great app. He has updated the iPhone and iPad Reeder and promises to update this one too, someday. 😍

Publisher: Replies AG/Silvio Rizzi (Switzerland)
Website: https://reederapp.com/
Version: 5.0.5
Kind: Universal
Category: RSS Reader
Price: macOS: $10; iOS: $5

Reminders
Everyone else raves about Things, but it’s overpriced at $50. And now that Apple has ramped up Reminders’ features, including project folders and a Today view, we like it very much. Most calendaring and to-do apps, like Things, end up integrating with Reminders anyway, so why not keep things simple? Besides, we know that Apple has some killer features planned for Reminders that will make the app even more prescient.

Publisher: Apple Inc.
Website: https://support.apple.com/guide/reminders/welcome/mac
Version: 7.0
Kind: Universal
Category: Project Management
Price: Free

Safari
For those who need to create screenshots of websites regularly, Safari is the only way to go. Chrome has no setting to get rid of its web address toolbar, which explains why just about all advertising and collateral screenshots are captured with Safari. Even better, the Big Sur version of Safari is fast too. And Apple now lets Chrome developers port their extensions to Safari.

Publisher: Apple Inc.
Website: https://www.apple.com/safari/
Version: 14.0.3
Kind: Universal
Category: Browser
Price: Free

Screenshot Plus
We are big fans of BrowseShot, which lets you capture entire web pages, including the part you can’t see. But if you have to capture sites with the browser window, you need Screenshot Plus. This menubar app has not been updated since 2016, but somehow it still works as long as you change preferences for each workflow to save files to the desktop, or wherever you prefer, instead of opening the screenshot in Preview. Screenshots look beautiful with an elegant shadow. 😍

Publisher: Hyrax Inc
Website: http://www.screenshotplus.com/
Version: 1.8
Kind: Intel
Category: Utility
Price: $2

Scrivener

Scrivener
Scrivener is an outstanding organizational and thought collector tool for thinkers and writers. While it’s designed for book authors, we use Scrivener for just about any project that requires collecting data, organizing it, and distilling it into written or presented materials. Scrivener lets you manage your writing and thoughts by folder or sub-folder. You can paste graphics into its text documents, which can then be organized hierarchically. We’ve moved much of our writing — whether for a book, client, site, collateral, or anything else — into Scrivener. It is highly recommended for anyone who creates any communication, from business plans or brochures to novels.

Publisher: Literature & Latte Ltd. (U.K.)
Website: https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener/overview
Version: 3.2.2
Kind: Universal
Category: Writing
Price: $45

Sensei

Sensei
Sensei is the ultimate toolbox to optimize your Mac. It performs a number of functions, including battery monitoring, disk clean-up, app uninstaller, temperature and GPU monitor, plus SSD trim enabler. And as you might expect, it’s M1 optimized and beautifully designed. 😍 Well worth the price of admission.

Publisher: Cindori AB (Sweden)
Website: https://sensei.app
Version: 1.4.1
Kind: Universal
Category: Utility
Price: $29/yr.; $59 one-time purchase

Signal
Signal is a cross-platform centralized encrypted messaging service developed by the Signal Technology Foundation and Signal Messenger, based in Mountain View, Calif. Signal’s focus on privacy appeals to Twitter Co-founder Jack Dorsey, who raves on Signal’s home page, “I trust Signal because it’s well built, but more importantly, because of how it’s built: open-source, peer-reviewed, and funded entirely by grants and donations.”

Publisher: Signal Messenger LLC (501c3 nonprofit)
Website: https://signal.org/en/
Version: 1.40.1
Kind: Intel
Category: Communications
Price: Free

Slack
Slack is a messaging app for teams: everything in one place, instantly searchable. And it’s free for as long as you want, with an unlimited number of people. We think Slack is the best team communication app because of its friendly interface and rich array of chat features. Few other apps even come close.

Publisher: Slack Technologies Inc.
Website: https://slack.com/
Version: 4.13.0
Kind: Universal
Category: Collaboration
Price: Free; Standard: $8/mo. per user

Speedtest by Ookla
Check your internet download and upload speeds from your desktop with this well-designed app.

Publisher: Ookla LLC
Website: https://www.speedtest.net/apps/desktop
Version: 1.20
Kind: Intel
Category: Utility
Price: Free

TextEdit
TextEdit offers the fastest way to quickly cut and paste text from formatted documents and convert them to plain text. It also opens and saves Microsoft Word, HTML, and RTF files. There are dedicated snippet apps, like Paste, but we like to keep things simple.

Publisher: Apple Inc.
Website: https://support.apple.com/guide/textedit/welcome/mac
Version: 1.16
Kind: Universal
Category: Text Editor
Price: $69

Text Expander
Here is another program that we wished we had acquired earlier. Text Expander saves much time by entering repetitive information, like URLs and return addresses, simply amazing. It even handles embedded terms that require further input when you type — highly recommended.

Publisher: SmileOnMyMac LLC
Website: https://textexpander.com/
Version: 6.8.3
Kind: Universal
Category: Utility
Price: Life Hacker: $4.16/mo. (formerly: $35)

TimeMachineEditor
While Time Machine is a great backup solution, it has one annoying habit: it backs up all the time, slowing down your Mac. TimeMachineEditor solves that problem by scheduling backups on a pre-determined schedule. You can decide to backup at 11:45 PM on Saturday or every four hours, for example.

Publisher: tclementdev
Website: https://tclementdev.com/timemachineeditor/
Version: 5.1.8
Kind: Universal
Category: Utility
Price: Shareware

Transmit
The latest version of Transmit is now our favorite FTP program, superseding ForkLift. Transmit is very fast and features two main windows that can either display your server files or your local disk files, so you can drag and drop between the two. You can, of course, also drag and drop between desktop and any window. The program does have a few interface quirks, but it’s the best FTP file transfer program today.

Publisher: Panic Inc.
Website: https://www.panic.com/transmit/
Version: 5.7.2
Kind: Universal
Category: Internet
Price: $45 (formerly $34)

TurboTax Home Business
This is the best tax preparation software, despite its very dated look. While you can choose between filing taxes online or the software version, we think the software has more features. If you file in two states, expect to pay more. Intuit was sued by the IRS for hiding its free TurboTax filing version. Just because you are based in Silicon Valley does not mean you have morals.

Publisher: Intuit Inc.
Website: https://turbotax.intuit.com/
Version: 2020.r21.042
Kind: Intel
Category: Finance
Price: Deluxe: $50; Home and Business: $80

TweetDeck
Heard the bad news? After taking Facebook out of Tweetdeck, Twitter has announced the end of the road for TweetDeck, a trendy and preferred Twitter client. So get it while you still can; it’s still the best social media client, period.

Publisher: Twitter Inc.
Website: https://tweetdeck.twitter.com/
Version: 4.0.2
Kind: Universal
Category: Social Media
Price: Free

Vellum
Vellum imports your manuscripts from Scrivener, Bear, iA Writer, or any Microsoft Word file and creates beautiful ebooks ready for Kindle and printer paperbacks.

Publisher: 180g
Website: https://vellum.pub
Version: 2.8.3
Kind: Universal
Category: Book Production
Price: Free to layout book; Vellum Press: $200 (required for electronic submission of ebooks); $250 (create ebooks + paperbacks)

Visual Studio Code
Microsoft’s HTML code editor is free and works great. It’s now also optimized for the Apple Silicon chip and a more elegant alternative to BBEdit, although with none of its text processing power.

Publisher: Microsoft Corp.
Website: https://code.visualstudio.com/
Version: 1.54.2
Kind: Universal
Category: Development
Price: Free

VLC
VLC lets you watch videos encoded in formats QuickTime Player cannot handle, including MKV, WMC, and AVI. As CNET puts it: If you want a player that can be totally customized and configured and is updated not only frequently but also regularly offers new features and options created by a huge community of programmers and users — the answer is VLC.

Publisher: VideoLAN Association
Website: https://www.videolan.org
Version: 3.0.12.1
Kind: iOS
Category: Video
Price: Free

WhatsApp
For chatting with people worldwide for free, there is no more popular program than WhatsApp; it has far outpaced Skype in user growth.

Publisher: Facebook Inc.
Website: https://www.whatsapp.com/
Version: 2.2108.8
Kind: Intel
Category: Communications
Price: Free

Whisk
Whisk is a realtime editor of HTML files, giving you a WYSIWYG view of what your email newsletter or any other document file will look like in real life. Very cool.

Publisher: Tumult Inc.
Website: https://tumult.com/whisk/
Version: 1.31
Kind: Universal
Category: Utilities
Price: $7.99

Wondershare UniConverter
Even though Macs are hugely popular among video pros, you rarely find good info on the best video converter utility. Search no more; we think Wondershare UniConverter is it. Downloads videos from sites like YouTube too.

Publisher: Wondershare Technology Co., Ltd (Hong Kong)
Website: https://videoconverter.wondershare.com
Version: 12.5.4.17
Kind: Intel
Category: Video
Price: Lifetime License: $60

XMind 8 Pro
XMind is a brainstorming and mind-mapping software program that lets you diagram website structures or org charts. It used to offer a freemium pricing model, but the latest versions require payments for all levels. We’re still enjoying our free version 7, while we still can.

Publisher: XMind Ltd. (Hong Kong)
Website: https://www.xmind.net/xmind8-pro/
Version: R3.7.7.201801311814
Kind: Intel
Category: Charting
Price: XMind 8 Pro: $129; XMind 2020: $40/6 mos. or $$60/yr. (formerly: $28/6 mos.)

Zoom
Zoom is a teleconferencing solution that has gained traction of late. You do have to remember to schedule a conference or end up with participants unable to join in. We can only recommend Zoom if you like to have your conversations tapped by the Chinese government. 😁

Publisher: Zoom Video Communications Inc.
Website: https://zoom.us/
Version: 5.4.7
Kind: Universal
Category: Conferencing
Price: Free (up to 40 minutes); $150/yr. (up to 30 hours)

Note Regarding Pricing

  • Price – All prices are list but promotions are frequently available, as are Amazon.com discounts.
  • Free – Means the product is free.
  • Freemium – There is a more capable version available or you can avail yourself of paid premium services.
  • Shareware – The author would like you to donate money so he/she can survive. Make sure you do if you find the app useful.