Illustration by Grayson Blackmon / The Verge
Make your Mac more useful and easier to use
With Apple’s fancy new MacBook Pros, its colorful new iMacs, and of course, 2020’s still-excellent M1 MacBook Air all offering incredible performance and battery life, it’s never been a better time to give (or receive) a new Mac.
And as more and more people are shifting to remote work, that laptop or computer you buy has to do more than ever. So we’ve rounded up some of our favorite Mac apps, designed to help you be more productive or to simply just make using your computer and navigating day-to-day life and Zoom calls a little more enjoyable.
Image: Pixelmator Team
Adobe Photoshop is a key tool for image and photo editing, but it’s super expensive, thanks to its monthly $9.99 subscription. Pixelmator Pro, on the other hand, has a one-time fee of $19.99 while still offering tons of powerful tools for editing your photos. The latest update added a host of useful new features, including the ability to instantly remove the background from an image and improved masking and selection tools.
Image: Readdle Technologies
Spark is one of my favorite email apps for mobile, and the company’s Mac app is just as great, offering a fast UI, helpful automated sorting, and tons of customization for power users. And it supports Gmail, Outlook, iCloud, Yahoo, Exchange, and more, along with integrations for popular work services like Trello, Asana, Zoom, and GoToMeeting. No one likes having to deal with email, but Spark makes it a little easier to get it done.
Twitter’s official app exists and is free, but Tweetbot is infinitely better if you’re the kind of person that spends a lot of time on Twitter. The paid app has no ads or suggested tweets clogging up your timeline — instead, it just offers the revolutionary feature of showing all the tweets from the people you follow in the chronological order that they tweeted it. The app looks great, too, with a clean, simple interface that makes reading Twitter almost enjoyable.
Alfred 4 for Mac
Alfred 4 for Mac
Like many apps on this list, Alfred does something that one of Apple’s built-in apps already does — in this case, search your computer. But Alfred is way better: a lightning-fast search tool and app launcher that supports virtually endless customization, including automated workflows, bespoke Google searches, or whatever else you can think of. Once you use it for a few days, you’ll never be able to go back to Spotlight again.
Image: Software Ambience
It happens to everyone sooner or later: after a few years of accumulating photos, videos, music, and other random documents, you start to get the dreaded notifications that you’re running out of room on your hard drive. DaisyDisk is meant to help — it scans your computer and shows you just how much storage you’re using, broken down by files and folders in neat, colorful rings that make it simple to dial down to the junk that’s taking up all your space and clear out your computer.
Your passwords probably aren’t secure enough. 1Password will help you fix that, generating ultra-secure passwords and keeping track of everything. With deep integration into both Safari and Chrome, a clean UI, and tons of useful added features for protecting not just passwords but credit cards, documents, and more, it’s a one-stop shop for securing your digital life. An individual subscription is $36 per year, but if you have more than one person in your household, you’re probably better off with the five-person family subscription for $60 per year that adds the option to share passwords, too.
If you’re not using two-factor authentication for your important passwords and log-ins, go do that now. Authy is one of the better apps around for your two-factor setup, with cross-platform apps on iOS and Android. The Mac app does exactly what the mobile versions do: it gets you your 2FA codes when you need to log in. But it’s far more helpful, due to its being on the computer that you’re probably trying to log into something on.
As more people shift towards working remotely, there’s been a big uptick in building out home offices and using an external monitor. MonitorControl is a nifty little menubar app that lets you control your external display’s brightness and volume (if it has built-in speakers) using your Mac’s function keys, just like on Apple’s own hardware.
Image: Hand Mirror
Video calls are a bigger part of the day-to-day workplace than ever before. Hand Mirror is a simple app that lives in your Mac’s menubar and is designed to help you look your best on calls: a single click, and it launches a quick window that shows what the current view from your webcam is, letting you double-check that you’ve moved all the workout gear or messy laundry from your background or that your hair is neat before you start your Zoom call.
Managing your menubar apps can get out of hand pretty quickly (especially if you just installed any of the ones that we’re recommending here). And it’s only become a bigger problem thanks to Apple’s new MacBook Pro models, which eat up a big chunk of your menubar real estate with a hefty webcam notch. Well, Dozer is here to help. It’s a free app that makes it easy to hide all the menubar icons for things you want open but don’t necessarily need to have visible all the time. If you prefer a little more flash, there’s also Bartender, which costs $15 but offers a fancier design.
Meeter is another menubar app that’s designed to help with one thing: wrangling all your different Zoom, Google Meet, Webex, Teams, and other video calls into a single place, with one-click links to join whatever meetings you have scheduled. The free app links to your Mac’s built-in Calendar app and can pull in any video calls it sees, putting them in a handy drop-down menu, complete with notifications to remind you to join before your call starts.
Local media playback isn’t the critical function it once was, thanks to the rise of streaming as the main way of consuming movies, TV shows, and music. But for those times that you do need to play a local audio or video file, there’s still no better app than VLC, which can handle virtually any file format or codec you’ve ever heard of and quite a few that you haven’t. Plus, it’s completely free.