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Best Mac apps: the best macOS apps for your Apple computer
3:06 am | February 2, 2019

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Now that macOS Mojave is available on our Macs, we finally have access to some key iOS apps, like News and Stocks. However, that’s not even close to representing the smorgasboard of software available to macOS. Your Mac can do everything from playing games to getting some work done. At the end of the day, the software, more than anything else, is what keeps people coming back to the Jony Ive-designed hardware year after year.

You can do so many different things with the best Mac apps, so some might not appeal to you. However, there are some Mac apps like Evernote, the best note-taking app around, that anyone can find a use for.

Not all of the best Mac apps are on the Mac App Store, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth your time. So, with this guide, we’ve gathered up all our favorite apps that we use every day right here. From free apps and utilities to programs for creatives and professionals, these Mac apps will make even the best Mac better than ever. 

Bill Thomas and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article

Check out our Linux vs Windows vs Mac – OS comparison video below.

A computer free of annoyances simply doesn’t exist – and Macs are no exception. For the longest time, it’s been impossible to use our MacBooks – unbound by the chains of a power adapter – while video outputs to an external monitor. As we all know here at TechRadar, Apple’s laptops will automatically enter sleep mode when the lid is closed. This can be a huge inconvenience should you prefer the sheer magnitude of one of the best monitors as opposed to a 12, 13 or 15-inch screen. 

Fortunately, Amphetamine allows you to continue using your MacBook while closed. Before, you could do this by using a similar app called Caffeine, but we prefer the UI features you get with this freebie. Not only does it fit in naturally with the rest of your Menu Bar items, but Amphetamine also supports hotkey commands as well as deactivation reminders – not to mention there are no annoying ads in sight.

  • Get it from: App Store
  • Price: $9.99 (£7.99 or around AUS$14)

While you’ve been able to snap programs to the edge of the screen in Windows since Windows 7, Apple didn’t have a solution until OS X El Capitan. What’s more, even then it lacked some of the comprehensiveness of Microsoft’s alternative. Luckily, HyperDock gives us that full-fledged functionality we so desperately crave, allowing anyone with a Mac to apply it to both the app Dock and windows.

In Windows, you can drag an app to the left or right edges of the screen (or the corners) and it’ll automatically fill that space. This makes it much easier to be productive on the desktop without wasting time dragging windows from the corners. For the Dock, hovering over apps activates something close to Windows 7’s thumbnail previews, giving an overview of the window that can be accessed by a click or closed directly from the preview. Useful.

  • Get it from: Parallels
  • Price: $79.99/year (Home & Student) Around £60 or AUS$100)

If you have recently picked up a Mac and miss some of your old Windows applications, don’t fret – Parallels Desktop 13 can bring them back. Instead of having to dual-boot your Mac into a Windows partition, Parallels Desktop 13 allows Windows and macOS Sierra to co-exist side by side, and you can even run Microsoft-only programs such as Visual Studio 2015, or the Windows versions of the company’s Office 365 apps, alongside your native macOS ones.

All you need is a Windows 10 license – so prepare to buy one if you haven’t already. Or, alternatively, you can use Parallels to try a handful of free operating systems including Chromium (a free distribution of Chrome OS) or Linux Debian. The latest version of Parallels in particular has seen improvements such as Touch Bar support, better resolution scaling for Retina displays and picture-in-picture for using other operating systems in conjunction with macOS. 

  • Get it from: App Store
  • Price: £14.99 (around $20 or AUS$25)

If you’re anything like us, working on just one monitor or screen is just painful. Portable monitors are still fairly expensive (and bulky), luckily, though, you can use an iPad instead using a nifty app called Duet. Developed by ex-Apple engineers, it works by tethering your iPad to your Mac using one of Apple’s Lightning cables and firing up the app on both devices.

You can then drag apps and windows onto your iPad’s screen just like you would with a second monitor, and if you have a more recent iPad with a Retina display, you’ll get the full benefit of all those beautiful pixels. Just realize that the bandwidth isn’t quite what you would get with one of the best monitors, so it can be a bit laggy when you bump the quality up. But it’s still better for watching videos, reading websites and typing up documents. 

  • Get it from: Atom
  • Price: Free

Atom is a text editor that’s primarily designed for coders, but its flexibility and customization options make it a viable option for many different types of users. That’s because of two reasons: first, you can download a number of different Packages – effectively plug-ins – to make it bend to your will. It can be transformed into a Markdown editor for writing blog posts, for example, or you can hook it up to Evernote for storing notes in the cloud.

There’s at least 10 different word counters out there, and you can even add typewriter sound effects as you hammer out your delicious prose. Atom is also infinitely customizable on the visual side thanks to an editable back-end, allowing you to do anything from changing the font size, line height and colors to giving the caret Word 2016-like elasticity.

  • Get it from: App Store
  • Price: £149.99 (around $195 or AUS$255)

Whether you’re a big time producer or you just like making some jams in your downtime, Macs are kind of known for being among the best laptops for music production – and Logic Pro X is a big part of that. Developed by Apple itself, its accessible interface hides a ton of advanced functionality. The latest version also comes with a svelte design, 64-bit architecture and a new session drummer that will save you from having to drop more cash on a drum machine.

It also works in natural harmony with iPads, providing a touch-based alternative method of creating song structures to dragging and dropping blocks in the main visual editor. Whether you’re a seasoned producer already (Sia used the app to record her hit song ‘Chandelier’) or are looking to upgrade from Garageband, Logic Pro X likely has what you need.

An uncomplicated app, but a great one, to do app Wunderlist’s selling point is its cross device functionality. It’s available on Mac, PC, Android and iOS, allowing you to sync your to do list wherever you’re using macOS’ Handoff feature.

Once you’ve started a list, you can schedule reminders, add notes and embed it into the macOS Notification Center using a widget. Team-based features are unlocked by signing up for Wunderlists’s pro subscription, and you can add files of any size without running into limits.

Evernote has morphed into a mighty note-taking app over the years. While some people will say that it’s too bloated, the sheer number of things that you can do with it still makes it best-in-class. You can type up notes, obviously, organizing them using a combination of folders and tags. You can even embed Google Drive documents, which are accessible in a click.

There’s also the ability to set reminders, share notes with friends, find information related to notes using Evernote’s ‘Context’ feature, create lists, and favorite notes that you frequently return to. Better yet, all of your notes are synchronized using the company’s servers, making them accessible on nearly any PC (through a browser or the native Evernote app) or mobile device in the world. The paid version lets you use Evernote with more than two devices while upping the amount of data you can sync each month.

GIMP or GNU Image Manipulation, is one of the best free image editing apps out there. It’s a great alternative to Adobe Photoshop and comes with a wide array of pro-level functions that let you tweak existing images in a range of formats or create fresh ones from scratch. Features include layers, highly customizable brushes, automatic image enhancing tools and filters. You can do even more with plugins, which are available to download from the GIMP Plugin Registry. 

  • Get it from: App Store
  • Price: £34.99 (around $45/AUS$60)

These days, balancing features with simplicity and good design in the best Mac apps is critically important. However, unlike Word 2016, or even Apple’s own Pages, Ulysses has an extremely minimalistic interface. This allows you to get on with writing without being distracted by so many buttons and menus. The app uses its own version of Markdown – a type of text formatting engine – that allows users to focus on their writing in a way that not only makes organization easier but also makes exporting easier – Ulysses will format it in an attractive way, using one of many export styles, when you’re done writing.

There’s a handy attachments bar on the right-hand side that features an attractive word counter and lets you write notes to assist you in your writing. Notes can be accessed anywhere thanks to iCloud support, so you can pick up your iPad and carry on where you left off using macOS’s Handoff feature.

Sometimes you want to play your Xbox One, but you can’t because your roommate has decided to use the living room TV for watching the whole run of Ugly Delicious in one sitting. Now, you could technically stream Halo 5 or Sea of Thieves if you had a Windows PC. However, you just have a Mac.

That’s where OneCast comes in, a third-party work of reverse engineering performed by an independent developer to bring Xbox One game streaming to macOS. It works as easily as connecting both your Mac and Xbox One to the same network and subsequently logging in to Xbox Live. It works pretty well in our experience, though you should have both systems connected to your modem via ethernet if possible.

Nobody can deny that the best Macs are great for network admin uses, and if you need to manage a bunch of Windows devices, being able to remote into a PC to diagnose problems is critically important. Luckily, Microsoft has provided an app just for that.

With Microsoft Remote Desktop 10, you get an officially-supported app that gives you remote access to any PCs on your network – as long as you’re a network admin or an authorized user. It can be a bit of a pain to set up, and the PC you’re trying to access will need to be running Windows 10 Pro. But once you get going, you can access files, copy/paste across desktops and even run games – though, we don’t recommend that last bit. 

Microsoft Remote Desktop 10 is a godsend for network admins and IT professionals, and is easily one of the best Mac apps you can download right now.

Microsoft Office has been available on Mac for years now, but you always had to go through a couple hoops to download it. We’ve been asking for a release on the Mac App Store for a while, and, well, it’s finally here. 

We’re sure we don’t really need to go into too great of detail what Microsoft Office is, but it’s essentially Microsoft’s suite of office apps, from Word to PowerPoint to Excel. It’s absolutely an essential app to have, but you should keep in mind that you’ll have to get a subscription to Office 365 to use it. 

It’s one of those Mac Apps that should be essential for any professional, and the fact that it’s finally on the Mac App Store means that you don’t have to worry about keeping it updated. 

The market for disk optimization apps is neither desolate nor particularly interesting, particularly on the Mac – where Apple usually does a good job of cleaning up its drives on its own. However, for a program that’s far more intuitive and user friendly than, say, the built-in Macintosh HD storage management software, your best bet is to turn your attention to Dr. Cleaner. This app splits  up all your data into easily digestible chunks that would otherwise be obtuse.

Dr. Cleaner groups up all the trash on your Mac and labels them in groups like ‘Junk Files’ and ‘Big Files’ – rather than listing off 30GB of documents and 10GB of iOS files you can’t comprehend. Then, you can look at the file names themselves and decide whether or not you want to keep them on your PC. You can also use Dr. Cleaner to monitor CPU, network and RAM usage as well, for the sake of putting some pep in your aging Mac’s step.

  • Get it from: Website
  • Price: Free

It might be kind of like three apps than just one, but SoftMaker Office 2018 takes all the key features of Microsoft Office and puts them into an interface that tailors to your needs. It comes with a group of programs called TextMaker, PlanMaker and Presentations 2018 that are similar enough to Office 365 without the rolling subscription.

Regardless of whether you need an easy-to-use word processor or a spreadsheet or slideshow creator of equal accessibility, SoftMaker Office has what you’re looking for. And, because it’s still in beta, you can get a complimentary, albeit temporary, license over email if you want to give it a spin. Otherwise, there’s a permanent free version called SoftMaker FreeOffice, but it’s only available on Windows, Android and Linux.

  • Get it from: App Store
  • Price: $9.99 (about £7.19, AU$12.82)

Since you’re obviously going to install all of the other apps we’ve mentioned, you’re going to need at least a utility that, well, declutters your desktop. Unclutter is the solution you’re looking for whether you’re a frivolous notetaker or a temporary file hoarder like we are. It’s designed to keep your memos, documents and pasteboard clips in one place rather than scattered across several folders.

It’s a brilliant idea made even better by the fact that it can be configured for use with gesture controls. At any given point, you can swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingers on the trackpad (or one on the mouse) to reveal a trio of windows that can be concealed and re-summoned whenever you please.

  • Get it from: Website
  • Price: Free

When you’re out there hustling every day, it’s easy to lose track of messages. With so many social media companies, SMS platforms and instant messaging services to choose from, most of us also have a number of different accounts used to administer to all of those messages. But what if you only had to log into one?

That’s the central idea in Franz, a messaging app that allows you to view and send messages in WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Slack, HipChat and more. It lets you seamlessly switch between any of these apps as easily as you can toggle between Slack workspaces. Best of all, there’s no limit to the amount of services you can use at once. That way, even if you have 10 Facebook accounts for whatever reason, all of your messages will be visible in the same place.

  • Get it from: App Store
  • Price: $4.99 (£4.99, AU$7.99)

If you’re anything like us, you have tons of packages coming in all the time – and it can get hard to keep track of everything. Luckily, there’s an app for that. With Deliveries, you can keep track of all your incoming deliveries in one place in an easy-to-read interface. 

It will notify you whenever there’s a change in your delivery, syncing the information between macOS and iOS so you are on top of things, even on the go. All you have to do to track a package is hit Command + New and paste in the tracking number – that’s it. It really is one of the best Mac apps for anyone with a busy mailbox. 

  • Get it from: App Store
  • Price: $29.99 (£28.99, AU$46.99)

If you do a lot of cooking, and you have a hard time keeping your recipes organized – especially on a digital platform – you’re going to love Paprika. With this app, you can download any recipe you find online, and it will automatically format it in a way that’s extremely easy to read. 

What’s more, if you download the iOS app, you’ll be able to sync your recipes between all of your devices, so that you can keep tabs on the ingredients you need when you run to the store in a panic. 

  • Get it from: App Store
  • Price: $49.99 (£48.99, AU$79.99)

Sometimes, life gets hectic, and you need some help getting everything organized. Luckily, there’s an app for that. Fantastical 2 is the most fully-featured calendar and reminder suite we’ve ever seen.

You’re able to set events and reminders using natural language, and it’s fully compatible with your iCloud reminders. There’s also an iOS app for iPhone and iPad that will effortlessly sync with the Mac app, so that you can stay on top of your busy life no matter where you are.

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