Essential apps for decking out your new Mac — the best software and utilities

Best Apps for Mac

If you’ve been fortunate enough to unwrap a new Mac over the holidays or need help deciding how to use those iTunes gift cards, I’ve collected some of my favorite apps and utilities for taking your Mac to the next level.


Pixelmator is one of my favorite Mac apps. For someone interested in design and editing but without the need for an expensive app like Photoshop, it’s an incredible buy for $30. Best of all, it’s constantly being updated and picking up new features.

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iA Writer / Byword

If you’ve got a brand new Mac, you can download your free copy of Pages from the Mac App Store, but for simple text writing it can be a bit overkill. Your Mac ships with a free, simple text editor called… TextEdit… but it doesn’t sync your writing to iPhone or iPad, just other Macs. Two great options with iOS apps include iA Writer and Byword (pictured below). iA Writer has a cool focus mode that highlights in on the exact line you’re writing, and Byword offers a variety of theme and font combinations that I enjoy. Both are available in the Mac App Store for $9.99 so take your pick and find them on iPhone and iPad as well.

Day One

Day One is a cool journaling app for Mac. What better way to write about how excited you are about your new Mac? You can drop in photos, write in full-screen mode, and most importantly secure it with a passcode. It’s a very well designed digital journal, and if you ever wanted to export your entries, you can do that too. Day One syncs with iCloud or Dropbox to make sure you’re data is backed up, and that also means it stays up-to-date with Day One for iPhone and iPad. You can download Day One for Mac on sale for $7.99 on the Mac App Store.

Day One


Mactracker is a free app and very useful for referencing specs on any Apple product you could imagine. It’s both a terrific way to keep up with the warranty status of your Apple products and a fun way to browse the history of Apple products. Check it out for free from the Mac App Store.



If you enjoy listening to podcasts and want a few more features than iTunes has to offer like better playlist management, Instacast for Mac is a great app. It has its own native sync to keep your content up-to-date with the iPhone and iPad apps, and can import your existing subscriptions from iTunes. Instacast for Mac is available for $19.99 in the Mac App Store.


Twitter for Mac/Tweetbot

One of the great things about the Mac is its collection of Twitter apps. The official Twitter for Mac (pictured below, right) is a great app and lightyears ahead of using the website with features like streaming and global new tweet keyboard shortcuts. It’s available for free in the Mac App Store. But if you want more features like Timeline sync support (position in your timeline) or a gesture-driven user interface similar to an iPhone or iPad, Tweetbot for Mac (pictured below, left) offers those enhancements. It’s available for $19.99 on the Mac App Store.

Twitter & Tweetbot


OS X comes with a built-in Reminders list, but it wasn’t updated for 10.9 Mavericks and really looks a bit out of place. Clear for Mac offers similar functionality (sans alerts and location-based reminders) in a simpler, modern user interface. Best of all, it syncs over iCloud to stay up-to-date with Clear+ for iPhone and iPad. Pick up Clear for Mac for $9.99 in the Mac App Store.



Caffeine is a free utility that lives in the menu bar of your Mac (near the clock). It’s a little cup of coffee that you toggle on and off to keep your display from going to sleep or screensaver. Technically, you could manage this stuff in the System Preferences, but Caffeine makes it really convenient. Grab it for free in the Mac App Store.


Dropbox for Mac. It’s free and you’re probably going to need it unless you live in a silo. Download it here.


Fantastical is by far the fastest way to schedule dates in your calendar. It’s a simple menu bar app with natural language text input with real time feedback. I’m a fan of the built-in calendar in Mavericks, but anytime I’m entering a date for something, Fantastical for Mac is where I start. It’s currently on sale 50% off for $9.99 in the Mac App Store so check it out.



Just like with Dropbox, you’re probably going to need Skype. Your Mac has FaceTime built-in, but some of our friends haven’t made the graduation to Mac just yet, and FaceTime still doesn’t support group voice or video calls. Download it here.

Living Earth

Living Earth is a neat menu bar app for keeping up with the weather on your Mac. It displays the temperature of your current location discretely, and clicking its icon reveals the current conditions and time of other locations you track. Grab it for $6.99 in the Mac App Store.

Living Earth


Instashare is a hidden gem. It essentially brings full Airdrop support between iPhone, iPad, and Mac. It’s the easiest way to send a photo between your devices once you set it up. Free to use on iOS and just three bucks on the Mac App Store.


If you keep your passwords written in a notebook or use the same password for everything (and we all know that’s a nightmare and near impossible), check out 1Password for Mac. It’s a safe place to manage your online identities securely and syncs with Dropbox or iCloud to your iPhone and iPad. It’s even on Windows if that’s needed. Grab it for $34.99 in the Mac App Store.


After you’ve finished, check out Benjamin’s recommendations for how to turn your iTunes credit into fun and function on iPhone and iPad, and most of all, enjoy your new Mac and the holidays!

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  1. If you’ve got a Retina Macbook Pro, QuickRes is definitely an essential app for decking out your new Mac! You guys should add it!

  2. 311sie - 9 years ago

    Great list, some interesting choices but have to agree with Day One. It has become essential to my daily routine, specially at end of day.

  3. Andrew Watson - 9 years ago

    I’d definately add Wunderlist!

  4. ikir - 9 years ago

    Nice list! I would add MPlayerX
    It is the best media player on any platform, try it

  5. Hi! Since this is one of the best resources when it comes to Apple products I was wondering if anyone had used this iPad Video Lesson Kit? I have just purchased my first iPad and was wondering if anyone has had experience before.

  6. viktormadarasz - 9 years ago

    Alfred is a must have, VLC for videos, AirMail is beautiful too for handling those emails.. just to mention a few

  7. livelystate - 9 years ago

    Great article, thanks! I just got my first ever Mac (Macbook Air). Believe it or not I’m totally new to Mac OS. It took me about 5 minutes to realise it blows windows out of the water! Please check out my blog and be sure to subscribe!

  8. Petri Wessman - 9 years ago

    Apparently Day One stores your journal in a plain text file, so it’s wide open to anyone (or any malware) that happens to have access to your machine. No sale. An app for a supposedly-private journal *must* have an encryption option. No ifs, buts or maybes about it.

    • jefbugb - 9 years ago

      I believe Day One relies on users to take advantage of FileVault, the OS X file encryption software found under System Preferences > Security & Privacy > FileVault. You could also use TrueCrypt.

  9. Sanaya Irani - 9 years ago

    One of my favorite apps is “Spectacle” which allow us to automatically arrange our windows in fullscreen/center/left or right side using a keyboard shortcuts inspirited by Windows.

  10. These were terribly boring suggestions. This is how you “deck out your new Mac”? Nothing about this list was exciting or new! None of these apps “deck” out anything, and they were all predictable. Where are the lists with the apps that will make me go directly to the app store and start downloading?

  11. Becky Willson - 8 years ago

    Best apps for new Mac owners! Top 5 with tutorials.


Avatar for Zac Hall Zac Hall

Zac covers Apple news for 9to5Mac and hosts the 9to5Mac Happy Hour and 9to5Mac Watch Time podcasts.