Best Apps For Mac Desktop

In this industry, it has never been more important to adapt and change. Mac desktop users need to adapt to the newest technologies in order to improve their productivity, entertainment, and collaboration. The Best Apps for Mac desktop is a blog that will take the best apps of today’s technology world, put it under a microscope of experience and passion, and review them with you. Whether it be applications or hardware, we will be discussing everything that relates to your Mac desktop: solving problems and answering questions that plague you on a daily basis.

Best apps for a new Mac laptop or desktop in 2020 - 9to5Mac

Best Apps For Mac Desktop

Alfred 4 running on a Mac.
Think of Alfred as Spotlight with a dash of Siri. It’s an application launcher, but it can do a lot more than just that. With Alfred, you can quickly perform calculations, execute web searches, and find word definitions, among many other functions.

It’s a Mac app that fills the gap between Siri and your Spotlight search by allowing you to automate tasks and perform advanced functions that, frankly, Siri should be able to handle on its own. Version 4 improves the workflow creator, introduces rich text snippets, and more.

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Amphetamine running on a Mac.
Always a favorite, Amphetamine keeps your computer from going into sleep mode, starting the screensaver, or performing the auto-dim function. It’s ideal for Mac users who want to watch streams, videos, or any other activity in which they don’t touch the keyboard or mouse for an extended period.

Note that Amphetamine no longer works with versions of MacOS before Yosemite.


Buy at Apple
Bartender 2 running on a MacBook.
Bartender 4 is an app made for when you’re utilizing too many apps. Put simply, it lets you choose which apps appear in the menu bar and rearrange their position to your liking. It’s a subtle tool that’s specifically designed with organization in mind, and as such, it lets you better systematize various aspects of your interface.

You can also search for specific items or move them into the optional Bartender Bar if you’re in dire need of additional space. The latest version added support for MacOS Monterey and M1 devices, a quick reveal to show/hide apps, and the ability to adjust the icon sizes. You can choose a four-week free trial before purchasing.

Buy at Apple

Dropzone 3 running on a MacBook.
Once installed, Dropzone feels like an integral part of MacOS. This bare-bones app functions as a shortcut tool, meaning you can use it to quickly copy and move files, launch apps, and share content through popular services such as Facebook and Flickr.

You can also upload files via FTP and Amazon S3, or shorten URLs using the newly added shortener. It’s all housed within a tiny icon that sits in the menu bar.


Magnet running on a MacBook.
It’s not always easy to view multiple windows side by side, but Magnet gives you tons of options. The app is made for the multitasking Mac user inside all of us and presents a quick way to arrange your desktop.

With Magnet, you can drag and snap windows to the edges and corners of your screen, which will then lock into place. It’s a terrific tool, complete with predefined keyboard shortcuts if you want to copy content from one app to another.


Quiet 3
Quiet running on a Mac.
While Macs have a cleaner interface than their Windows counterparts, it can still quickly become cluttered and distracting. Combine that with desktop notifications from co-workers and social media, it can be hard to focus when you really need to. That’s why an app like Quiet 3 is crucial for Mac users.

Quiet 3 is a content blocker that will stop notifications and pop-ups while using Safari. Quiet 3 is also surprisingly customizable, and users can create a variety of rulesets depending on what they do and don’t want to be blocked. Quiet for iPhone and iPad just works on the Safari app, but the Mac app has a system-wide filter. Users can even block analytics gathering and crypto mining scripts.

If you’re looking for a way to filter all the noise out of your work, Quiet 3 is one of the best and simplest ways to do it.


Unclutter running on a MacBook.
Unclutter is a basic piece of software that suits its name. This Mac app is accessible with a quick swipe from the top of your screen and, better yet, functions as a convenient place for storing quick notes, recent files, and clipboard information.

Recent updates also allow for a light or dark theme (although MacOS Catalina now has a native dark mode) and include an option for dragging cards on top of other desktop windows. Files and notes even automatically sync across your devices via Dropbox, a suitable addition that adds to the app’s lasting appeal.


A screenshot of Bear for Mac.
Bear is one of the most seamless writing experiences around, and it’s perfect for Mac users who write on multiple devices, including their iPhone and iPad. It’s a markdown editor, which offers a lot of versatility and a smooth writing experience, and the app’s minimalist design is pleasant and limits distractions.

The base version is free, but for only $15 per year, users can pick between a number of themes, export to .docx or copy text as HTML, and sync with multiple devices.

It’s a lovely and flexible experience for writers on the go.


Dark Noise
Dark Noise running on an iPad and an iPhone.
Dark Noise is an ambient noise app available for iPad and iPhone, but now that M1 Macs and Big Sur support iOS apps, it’s up and running on them as well. Dark Noise is a great app for people who like having background noise as they write. But instead of playing a predetermined playlist, users can go in and customize the sounds, their intensity, and the overall ambiance of the app. It gives users complete control over what they’re listening to, and it is a must-have app for professionals who want to drown out other noise with something peaceful and serene.


Day One
Day One running on a MacBook.
Journals are an age-old tradition — just ask Benjamin Franklin. That said, the aptly titled Day One serves as a digital companion for those looking to capture life’s little moments. Aside from text, the app also incorporates photos, reminders, and tags, the latter of which helps tremendously with staying organized. The best part? Password protection keeps potential prying eyes at bay.

The Day One Mac app is free to use, but for unlimited journals and photos — not to mention all future updates — you’ll want to consider the premium subscription ($2.92 per month billed annually).


Evernote running on a MacBook.
Evernote is the undisputed king of note-taking apps, and for good reason. It’s simple, organized intuitively, and syncs with just about any web-based service you can imagine. And since it’s one of the most popular apps in existence, there’s a veritable boatload of browser extensions and add-ons available for it as well.

Evernote offers a free version that provides a slew of basic functionality, up to 60MB of uploads a month, and syncing for two machines, but if you’re a heavy user, you’ll want to opt for the premium version ($8 per month).


Fantastical 2 running on a Mac
Fantastical is the only calendar app you’ll ever need, so long as you’re willing to pay for it. A subscription grants you access to a powerful set of tools as well as a full-screen calendar window that’s as beautiful as it is practical. The app’s true hallmark, however, is in the way you create reminders; just type in that you have “Dinner with Alexa on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.” and watch the app schedule it with a reminder.

The free edition is minimal at best with the ability to add and delete events, get the three-day forecast, and a few other features. For a premium experience, Flexibits provides subscriptions for both individuals and families starting at $3.33 per month (when billed annually). Premium features include the 10-day weather forecast, priority email support, and much more.


GoodTask running on a Mac.
Apple redesigned its Reminders app in MacOS Catalina. We gave it a try, and while it’s a definite improvement over its lackluster predecessor, it still feels only halfway there. Instead, Apple should take some pointers from GoodTask — it’s the best reminders app out there, bar none.

If you just need to quickly create entries, GoodTask gets out of your way and lets you do that. But it comes alive when you start to use its power features. You can make smart lists based on specified criteria, add new reminders using text snippets that GoodTask intuitively understands, and everything from the calendar view to almost every function can be tweaked to your liking.

mac app store

Tips for Using the Mac App Store
Apple’s Lion (v10.7) operating system, which was released in July 2011, brought some notable improvements to Mac App Store, allowing users to make in-application purchases and receive push notifications and adding an incremental update system that identifies, downloads and installs only the files that need updating, making the process faster [source: Porten]. However, the Mac App Store doesn’t recognize updates for a computer’s existing software apps; you’ll need to re-purchase the apps from the Mac App Store to receive automatic free updates for the apps [source: Gordon].

Now that downloading and updating apps is an exclusively electronic process that doesn’t require disks, packaging materials and shipping, there’s less of an environmental impact. Additionally, many Mac apps sold via disk or download had limited permissions that allowed them only to be operated on a single computer. The chief way around this restriction was to buy a pricey group license. Because the Mac App Store keeps track of past purchases, users can now install apps on every Mac they own and download them again as necessary. This is especially helpful for people who buy a new Mac and want to add software that they’ve already purchased [source: Apple].

Ever tried to open a file and discovered you don’t have the application it requires? On Macs with access to the Mac App Store, a dialog box will open and offer to search the Mac App Store for a program that will open it. If found, you can buy the app instantly [source: Luoma].

The Mac App Store offers free apps, as well as paid. On average, you can expect to pay between $15 and $80 for an app [source: Macworld]. However, there’s at least one app — the iRa Pro mobile video surveillance app — that costs as much as $899.99.

What’s the process for buying this — or any — app? On the next page, we offer a step-by-step guide.

PC App Stores
Don’t have a Mac? There are an increasing number of new app stores for Windows that also offer one-stop software shopping, such as Pokki and Avenue App Store [source: O’Dell].

Mac App Store Guidelines
An Artist Profile page in the iTunes Store, one of the predecessors of the Mac App Store.
An Artist Profile page in the iTunes Store, one of the predecessors of the Mac App Store.
Apple’s hardware and software is part of a closed system that makes it difficult — and sometimes impossible — to migrate Mac-native components and programs to PCs. However, this closed system means that Apple hardware and software are built to work together across Apple’s product lines. The Mac App Store offers a chance for third-party developers to create and sell apps to all Mac users.

Developers can register for free with Apple to download a developer kit, peruse guidelines, read articles and connect with other developers. When an app is complete, it can be submitted for approval along with an icon and keyword description [source: Lewis].

Third party developers pay an annual $99 subscription fee to Apple, but being part of an audience-rich marketplace means they can avoid spending money on marketing and hosting. Developers set their own prices for apps and don’t need to pay credit card fees for purchases because Apple processes the cards and pays the 2-percent to 4-percent fee. Of the retail price, Apple keeps 30 percent and the developer receives 70 percent [source: Evans].

The purchase process is a relatively simple one on the users’ end. Launch the Mac App Store, select an app and click the price icon (it will either say “free” or show the purchase price). Then you will be prompted again with an icon that says “buy app,” followed by a dialog box that requires your Apple ID and password to complete your purchase. You can pay using a credit or debit card, an iTunes card or a Paypal account. The app will begin downloading immediately and will be installed in your computer’s Applications folder [source: Macworld].

If you’d like to know more about an app before you buy it, you can scroll through multiple screen shots. However, trial or demonstration versions aren’t available, so you may have to rely on the app’s user reviews to find out how the app performs. Or you can conduct research on other sites to find more objective opinions. The Apple Mac Store doesn’t vet its reviews, so the opinions offer varying levels of helpfulness.

The Mac App Store offers genre categories, as well a “new and noteworthy” section that features 12 apps on the Mac App Store’s launch page and a total of 40 apps under the category’s own tab. These apps are chosen by Apple; there aren’t any published guidelines for selection, although developers speculate it has to do with having an appealing icon and price point [source: Touch Arcade].

While the Mac App Store continues to grow, both in number of apps and users, it seems Apple is turning its attention to some of its other devices. A major iPhone hardware and software revamp is in the works, scheduled for a 2012 release [source: Luk]. It’s expected to include a new way to charge the phone. If it does switch to a cable-free charging method, that may in turn influence a few positive changes in future Mac computers, just as the iPhone’s App Store influenced the Mac App Store.


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