Opening a new Mac is super exciting. The screen paper peel, the new-gadget smell, and the initial “hello” on the screen just feel special every time.
Setting up your Mac is a big part of enjoying and getting the most of your sparkly new device, so here are the 12 best apps to make the most of your Mac.
I’ll be skipping the typical apps like Google Chrome, Spotify, or Zoom and share hopefully more unique and interesting apps that have personally helped me over the years and I find genuinely useful.
If you need to securely store or send files, Encrypto is a must-have and it’s completely free.
The program encrypts any file or folder with AES-256 so that only the right person may access it.
I use it to store important information on my MacBook and hard drives. I also secure confidential documents with Encrypto before sending them via email.
The interface is nice and clean and it’s super simple to use: just drag the file into Encrypto, set a password, let it work its magic and then you can save it or share it immediately. All you need to do is enter the password on the file to decrypt and access it.
Craft is a great note-taking app that I use instead of Apple Notes; it’s a more powerful and attractive version of Notes that is also better designed for collaboration.
So whenever I have a meeting or when I have a thought I want to build on and type out, I’ll use Craft simply because there are great editing tools, tagging, and filing systems and it just outright looks great.
Dark mode on this app looks visually stunning and so does the library of templates that I always pull from.
There are a lot of note-taking apps out there, but Craft is super fast, minimal, and is an iOS-native app I like to use as my go-to.
Next up is the Dropover app. It solves the problem of trying to move files around your Mac, especially with a trackpad.
It’s a drag-and-drop shelf extension, so if I want to attach a bunch of photos from a website (Unsplash) to a folder or email, all I have to do is drag the image, shake it, and then drop it off onto the shelf – collect all the images and files I want, and then dump it all into the email.
I also use it to create quick Dropover links that expire after a certain amount of time if I need to quickly share a file with multiple people via a link directly from my desktop.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to drag a bunch of files on my trackpad only to have them drop off elsewhere accidentally or not attach – having the Dropover shelf is probably the simplest app on this list, but it’s saved me minutes, if not hours since I got the app.
CleanMyMac X is a tool that saves me time and keeps my Mac’s hard drive free.
One of the main reasons I use CleanMyMac and recommend it is that when you “remove” an app by dragging and dropping it into the trash, it doesn’t erase every single file – it leaves around random files in case you decide to reinstall the app you deleted.
I also utilize the Smart Scan tool every week, in addition, to properly removing files. The software scans for ways to improve Mac performance with just one click, and after the scan is finished, you can click “run” to have the app carry out the suggested actions, such as clearing out system junk and viruses or flushing the unnecessary DNS cache.
CleanMyMac is a must-have for removing years’ worth of clutter or preventing it from becoming crowded in the first place. You can download the app for free from this link and see if it works for you.
This app is one I use numerous times per day and might be the greatest screenshot app I’ve used on the Mac so far.
Xnip is “Cmd + Shift + 4” on steroids. I now have access to a plethora of new shortcuts. I can set a ratio and even tweak the snapshot on the screen before saving it.
If I want to highlight something on the screen, I’ll take a screenshot, make a few changes, copy it to the clipboard, and paste it immediately.
Most significantly, the software does not bloat your Mac and functions just as well as the native screenshot option.
If you’re a designer or creative, then Figma needs no introduction. It’s a powerful all-in-one design app that has mopped the floor with its competitors Sketch and Adobe XD.
I use Figma to collaborate with my team on design projects or branding projects. They even have a thing called “FigJam” within Figma and it’s one of the better brainstorming and charting tools I’ve used.
So if you ever plan out design, branding, flowcharts, or just need a huge whiteboard to collaborate on as a team, FigJam and Figma are super useful tools.
Bartender is one of the more recent tools I’ve found useful – it keeps the top menu bar minimal and clean, which is how I prefer it.
It only shows menu items when you hover closer to the bar, and it also has the option of “triggers,” which show specific menu items in certain situations. The WiFi icon, for example, appears only when you are not connected to a network, and the Time Machine icon appears only when it is actively backing up.
There’s also the Bartender Bar, which adds another row of hidden menu bar items beneath the actual menu bar – again, just an easy feature to save space while still getting quick access to apps – you might need it by the end of this video with this list of apps!
Moving onto password management, the go-to free app I use is Bitwarden. I used to have LastPass a year ago but they changed their pricing model and Bitwarden does what I need it to for free.
It’s a password manager that securely holds all of your digital life’s keys. The interface is simple, though not as clean as 1Pass or LastPass. The community raves about Bitwarden, and I recommend it if you’re looking for a completely free Mac password manager that goes above and beyond the standard Apple Keychain, saving passwords in your browser, or God forbid using the same password across all your logins.
The next app you’re going to love is for desktop users or if you dock your Mac as I do.
Magnet is one of the most popular Mac productivity apps, and I believe it is worth the small fee to save you time.
With shortcuts, the Magnet app allows you to quickly resize windows to your liking. It’s a pleasant way to work and enables some extremely efficient workflow practices, particularly for ultrawide users.
And I have to mention an app for gamers – good old Steam; a digital gaming portal where you can buy and play games.
I think we forget that Macs can still do light gaming, and I’m a casual gamer here and there to unwind, and I used Steam on the Mac if I ever wanted to game.
Unlike on Windows though, you won’t have access to the entire gaming library, but there are still some good Mac-compatible games like DOTA 2, Portal, and my personal favorite, Counter-Strike.
Next is the photo-editing app by Adobe, Lightroom – a powerful app that gives you a big range of controls to tweak your photos and takes advantage of your Mac’s computing power.
This app is a no-brainer for photographers or casual enthusiasts who enjoy photo editing.
Lightroom has two versions: Classic and CC. I prefer Lightroom CC in a way that they’re similar; Classic has slightly more tools and control, but Lightroom CC is better at everything else.
The most useful feature I use is Cloud syncing, which ensures that any photo editing you do on your Mac is synced across every device you use to access Lightroom. Definitely a fantastic must-have app for editing, organizing, and managing all of my photos.
And then of course – how can I ever forget – Notion!
Notion is an all-in-one app when it comes to note-taking, collaboration, to-do lists, kanban boards, and more and I don’t know how I’d survive without it.
I use Notion to organize my life and manage my businesses, and it’s all cloud-based, so when I switch from my Mac to my iPad, all of my work is updated and synced.
Yes, other Mac apps may do certain things much better than Notion – and there is even overlap between Notion and Craft – but I prefer having everything in one place and would sacrifice some benefits for simplicity.
If you’re curious about how I set up my Notion, I’ve made a full video about it that you can watch here.
These are the apps I highly recommend when getting started with your Mac. If there are any apps you’d recommend, please do let me know in the comments. I’m always on the hunt for new app recommendations. Go forth and begin building out the rest of your apps!