Did Santa drop off a new M1 MacBook Air under the tree last night? macOS Big Sur comes with many great apps, but there is a whole world of third-party apps that make the Mac even better.
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Setapp is one of the easiest ways to find many awesome apps to try without having to purchase a bunch of different ones. Think of it as a Netflix subscription for apps. Some of my favorites are CleanMyMacX, Wi-Fi Explorer, CleanShot X, Mockuuups Studio, and iFlicks. All of the apps included in Setapp are full versions and receive software updates like their direct pay counterparts.
I’ve been a Mac user since 2004, but the app I remember using the longest is 1Password. I’ve been using it since version 2, and it’s something I don’t ever plan to uninstall. 1Password stores all of my passwords, social security information, secure notes, and I even use it to generate two-factor authentication codes. I am currently subscribed to the family plan, so my wife and I can share passwords to joint accounts in a shared vault.
If you want a streamlined solution to help with maintenance on your new Mac, check out Sensei. It helps you free up storage, uninstall apps, and monitor the overall health of your computer. If you only have 256GB of storage, you’ll appreciate the ability to delete unnecessary language files to free up more space for photos and video.s
If you purchased a Mac and plan to increase your writing output in 2021, check out Ulysses. It gives you a focused writing experience combined with built-in document management, fast syncing, and flexible export options. It syncs with the iOS versions as well. If you want a simpler option for just Markdown writing, check out Byword for Mac.
TextSniper is one of those apps you’ll wish you had when the need arises for it. It takes text in a graphic or non-selectable PDF and turns it into actual text using Optical Character Recognition (OCR). Using it is as easy as taking a screengrab and then pasting.
If journaling is on your 2021 goals list, then Day One needs to live on your macOS dock. It’s the best tool for journaling on the Appel platform with built-in sync from Mac to iPhone/iPad. Day One makes it easy to document the funny things your kids say, great school projects, or the best cup of coffee you had on an overseas trip.
If I had to sum up Alfred into one sentence, it would be that it’s macOS spotlight on steroids. In my day job, I spend a lot of time using other people’s computers, and whenever I hit CMD+Space, I am immediately reminded of how much I’ve come to rely on Alfred. Alfred is a free app, but I highly advise purchasing the Powerpack if you find you like it. A lifetime license is right around $45 (£35), and a single version license is around $25 (£19).
NetNewsWire has gone through many owners in its history, but it’s back in the rightful hands of Brent Simmons, and it’s seeing rapid development on macOS and iOS thanks to a team of open source supporters. If you want to streamline your news reading in 2021, moving away from social media for news consumption to RSS will put you back in control of what you read. Reeder is also another great RSS reader for Mac as well.
Best apps for a new Mac: A better email app
The macOS mail app leaves a lot to be desired for features, but there are some great alternatives for the Mac. Spike is a conversational style email app that lets you use email like a chat app while including notes and tasks inside your inbox. Another modern option includes Spark, and one of its key features is creating, discussing, and sharing an email with your team before its sent. Both of these apps support snooze and scheduled send, unlike Apple’s mail app.
Best apps for a new Mac: A new calendar app
If you need more out of your calendar that Apple offers, there are a number of great options for the Mac. Check out Fantastical if you want to combine reminders/tasks and calendars into a single application. I’ve been using it for many years and happily pay for the subscription. One of my favorite features is the included weather forecast each day. If Fantastical doesn’t work for your budget, check out BusyCal
Best apps for a new Mac: Task Management
The built-in Reminders app does a great job of keeping simple lists, but it’s not built for project management or more complex tasks. Thankfully, there are several great task management apps for the Mac that all sync to their mobile versions. Some of the most popular ones are Todoist, Things, GoodTasks, and OmniFocus. I’ve used them all in the past, and they’re all great additions to your Mac.
Backing up your Mac
Getting your new Mac backed up is essential, and there are two ways I recommend. The first is a local backup using a Time Machine drive. Time Machine is built into the Mac, so as soon as you plug up an external drive, it’ll offer to begin a backup. Time Machine is the fastest way to restore your data to a new Mac in the future as well.
I also recommend signing up for Backblaze to complete your backup strategy. Backblaze is a cloud-based backup tool that makes sure you always have a copy of your data even in the event of theft, flood, or fire. As good as Time Machine is for backups, it generally means your backup is in the same location as your computer. By using Backblaze as well, you’ll always ensure you have a backup offsite.
If you want to outfit your new Mac with some accessories, here are some ones I recommend:
- Logitech MX Master 3
- Waterfield Vertical Crossbody Laptop Brief
- RAVPower Mac laptop charger
- Braided USB-C charging cable
Wrap up on best apps for a new Mac
The new M1 Apple MacBook Air is the best computer I’ve ever used. The long battery life means that I charge my laptop at night like I do my iPhone. I love never hearing a fan. Regardless if you own a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air, by downloading some of the best third-party apps, you’ll be able to supercharge all that you can do on your new Mac. What apps did I miss? What’s on your list of best apps for a new Mac? Leave me a comment below.
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