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These apps and extensions make my Mac work

Setting up a new Mac, or just want yours to learn new tricks? These are my must-have Mac apps and Safari extensions that make my Mac feel like it’s mine.

After growing up on Windows, I’ve used a Mac since I was old enough to live on my own and make wiser decisions for myself. More than a decade later, I’ve established some preferences for how a Mac should work. Each of these tools are required to make that happen.

Top 3 Mac apps

Fantastical

You don’t have to attend daily meetings to benefit from a great calendar app. In fact, a well-crafted calendar for your Mac just might encourage you to seek out the perks of scheduling. Apple’s built-in Calendar (once known as iCal) doesn’t inspire calendaring, but there’s an undisputed heavyweight in the Mac calendar space.

Fantastical is a stellar calendar for Mac that started life as a simple menu bar app. Natural language input made creating events super simple, and a streamlined list view made finding upcoming events just as easy.

Apple’s Calendar app has underwent a name change and a facelift, but it still doesn’t match the basic features of Fantastical. Those essential features live on in Fantastical today, and years of progress have turned the Mac app into a wildly functional tool compared to the built-in calendar.

Flexibits, the makers of Fantastical, used the same approach with a contacts app called Cardhop. Both apps are so functional and easy to use that you’ll never touch the built-in apps again.

Pixelmator Pro

Sure, I ran a cracked version of Photoshop on my PC in high school. Who’s asking? I hope Adobe isn’t reading this… anyway, Pixelmator Pro is perfect for casual photo editors and graphics producers who can’t justify the cost of something like Creative Cloud. That’s just one reason to look at Pixelmator Pro. The app is also an amazing citizen of the Mac. Pixelmator Pro is constantly introducing useful new features and takes full advantage of machine learning and more. Essential, must-have, go get it now type of app.

iA Writer

I’ll keep this simple – iA Writer is a really pretty text editor. Apple includes TextEdit in macOS, but I cannot tell you that it’s pretty.

I like iA Writer because it lets me write without alllll the chrome that something like Pages includes. iA Writer is also available on the iPhone and iPad, which is nice. Don’t quote me on this, but I’m told iA Writer is used for a lot of other functional stuff beyond simple text entry, but I’m a simple user.

Top 3 Safari extensions

StopTheMadness makes the modern web browsable without all those insane interruptions that haunt us all. I also use it for never auto-playing videos and automatically using the highest resolution option on YouTube videos.

PiPifier lets you run any video from Safari with picture-in-picture. macOS supports system-wide PiP, but let’s just say not every video player on the web is compatible. PiPifier fixes that. True story: I just assumed Hulu offered PiP on the Mac until last week when I was setting one up from scratch. Nope, that was PiPifier. You know an app is great when it just works in the background without you ever realize you’re using it!

Noir is my new best friend. I love dark mode, especially after sunset. Many websites support dark mode, but not all. Noir does a really good job fixing that. Even the 9to5Mac backend (WordPress) has dark mode thanks to Noir! I can’t believe how late I am to Noir.

Everything else

Presented alphabetically, these apps are just as important to me and worth trying out if you’ve slept on any of them:

  • Audio Hijack is how I record any podcast audio and save it in the right location, and I’m still learning what it’s capable of on the Mac.
  • Broadcasts is how I listen to Relay FM shows and Accidental Tech Podcast livestreams on the Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, CarPlay, and even the Apple Watch without an iPhone (plug in this address for Relay and this address for ATP).
  • KeepingYouAwake is a simple menu bar toggle for stopping or allowing your display to go to sleep (and replaced caffeine for me when that app didn’t go Retina resolution).
  • KeyboardCleanTool is an app for cleaning your Mac keyboard without accidentally typing everywhere or deleting a bunch of files.
  • Mactracker is an amazing Apple hardware reference app that every enthusiast should have.
  • Motif brings back the photo book service that used to be part of iPhoto and Photos on the Mac.
  • PhotoBulk let’s you format image names, resize photos, and add watermarks in one pass.
  • Redacted is a lightweight tool for blacking out, blurring, or pixelating stuff in photos (drawing over something with Markup doesn’t actually do the job).
  • Reeder is my go-to RSS reader app with iCloud as the sync solution.
  • Shush is a virtual mute button for my microphone while podcasting or trying to limit background noise from screaming kids during Zoom calls.
  • Soulver is what you get when you cross a text editor with a calculator.
  • TextExpander for instantly and reliably turning a few characters into much longer text instead of repeatedly cranking out the same phrases.
  • Tweeten replaced TweetDeck on the Mac when Twitter randomly nuked it before Space Karen ever took over the company.

This is hardly an exhaustive list of the great Mac apps of our time, but each of these apps must live on my Mac for it to feel like my Mac. The machine just feels broken otherwise.

Have your own favorites? Share yours with everyone below!

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