Here are a few apps that add significant functionality to your Mac that we believe every Mac user would benefit from. They’re recommended because they’re the best at what they do and will help you work smarter, keep your files more organized, and keep your online accounts more secure.
1Password’s primary function is password management. It generates and saves crazy, nonsensical passwords so you can have a secure and unique login for every website you have an account on. From Facebook, to Amazon, to Twitter, to your bank.
1Password uses state-of-the-art encryption, so all your sensitive data is secure, and can only be accessed by your master password.
When you visit a Website, you can click the 1Password icon that installs in Safari or Chrome, type your master password into the 1Password popup, and then the app will automatically enter your saved username and password for the site. It’s not only much more secure to use a unique password for every login you have, but using 1Password is actually faster than typing in your username and password every time.
Even with the addition of Password storage and iCloud Keychain syncing, we still see 1Password as a very important app. Primarily because 1Password also stores much, much more than passwords — you can save your credit card numbers, bank account info, secure notes, software licenses, and more.
And, there is an iOS version of 1Password that all your data can sync between it and the Mac app. I use 1Password so much when I’m on the go that it’s one of the few apps on my iPhone’s first Home screen.
TextExpander runs in the background on your Mac, and it expands snippets of text into sentences, words, dates, and whatever else you can imagine. It makes a great tool for quickly punching out common things you type on a regular basis (such as common email replies, email signatures, misspelt words, etc.)
For example, I use the snippet
;home to automatically insert my home mailing address. (A tip about using the semicolon before the word: that helps guarantee that the snippet isn’t something I would type in any normal situation.)
TextExpander also has an iOS app that syncs with the Mac version. Though there are limitations in iOS that prevent TextExpander from working in every single iOS app like it does on the Mac, there are many iOS apps (such as Fantastical, Byword, Day One, and more) that have built-in TextExpander support. When using these apps, your text expander snippets on the Mac will work in the app as well.
Dropbox is most known for its ability to sync documents and folders between multiple computers and iOS devices. In fact, it is one of the most well-known and most reliable cloud syncing services there is.
You can use Dropbox for free and get 2GB worth of document storage and syncing. I highly recommend signing up for at least a free account. While 2GB isn’t a huge amount of storage, it’s plenty big enough for syncing notes, basic documents, and other things.
Here are the ways you should utilize your free 2GB of Dropbox space:
Use Dropbox to sync application data. For example, if you are using 1Password or TextExpander, they both use your Dropbox account to sync their settings between multiple Macs and iOS devices.
Since your Dropbox folder syncs whenever a document is saved, added, updated, etc., Dropbox can act as a real-time backup for your current projects. Suppose you’re working on a spreadsheet and have it saved within your Dropbox folder. As soon as you hit save, Dropbox uploads the latest version of your spreadsheet to its servers. Then, if your computer hard drive dies before you’ve had a chance to backup your current projects you will have a copy safely backed up in Dropbox.
Sync notes and other documents to multiple computers and devices. I use Dropbox to sync all of the articles I’m currently working on. Not only can I access the most-recent version of those articles from my Mac, but also from my iPhone and iPad by using apps that support Dropbox syncing (such as Byword).
Hazel is certainly more on the nerdy side, but it’s so profoundly useful that it’s worth having so you’ll discover and learn ways to use it.
In short, Hazel is a utility application that runs in the background on your Mac that watches certain folders you specify and then does useful and clever actions to the files within those folders based on the workflows you set up. I know, it sounds intimidating and complicated. But once you’ve gotten a grasp on the basics of how Hazel works you’ll be so glad to have it at your disposal.
Here are a few examples:
- One of the best features it has, right out of the box, is its ability to clean up those leftover files that stick around after you delete an app.
- Use Hazel to automatically rename and sort files.
- Hazel can empty your Mac’s trash automatically once it reaches a certain size.
- You could tell Hazel to watch your Mac’s Desktop for old files that you haven’t opened in at least a month and move them to a “Desktop Cleanup” folder.
- If you have a camera and import RAW and JPG images, hazel can sort them and move one to a library and one to a backup archive, automatically.
- If you have a scanner, Hazel can watch for your incoming document scans, rename them, and then sort them all based on the contents of the document.
And much, much more. The more you use Hazel the more you’ll get used to its capabilities. But even if you don’t get hyper-nerdy with it, there are several simple things it does that make it helpful and useful without much effort or thought on your part to get set up.
Alfred is an application launcher, bookmark launcher, clipboard history app, and more.
The whole point of an application launcher is to quickly get to the files and apps you frequently access on your computer. You bring up Alfred using a keyboard shortcut, then type in the first few letters of the app, bookmark, or file that you want. Alfred will search your whole computer for the best results and list them out for you.
As you use it, Alfred learns your most common searches and provides weighted results. Alfred’s learned and weighted results are one of the premier features that make it better than Spotlight for launching common apps and files.
Alfred is free, and is quite easy to learn how to use. It makes navigating around your computer far faster than using the mouse and clicking on the Dock every time.
There is also has a Power Pack upgrade you can buy that opens up all sorts of additional features and functions (such as the ability to create custom workflows, a clipboard history manager, usage statistics, integration with the aforementioned 1Password, and more). Once you get the hang of Alfred, you’ll probably want to upgrade to that Power Pack so you can take things to the next level.
For more recommendations about our favorite apps for the Mac, you should check out the Mac category here.