I’ve previously written a similar article back on my own blog site in 2013 when OS X 11 was released. In this article, I’ve now refine the list to a set of top 5 apps and the rest in a secondary list. This is by no means that apps are not as great but instead are ones that would depend on personal preference if you need such apps or not. Just as an example, as great Affinity Photo is, not everyone needs a powerful alternative to Apple’s own Photo app.
Ok. enough of this chit-chat. Let’s jump straight into the top 5 apps that you need to have.
Top 5 Must-Have Mac OS X Apps
1. Paragon NTFS for Mac OS X 14
Even when I work in a predominantly Mac user workplace, I still need to deal with a lot of NTFS-formatted external storages. More so if you work in an environment that’s largely Windows dominated. And as you would probably already discovered, OS X by default can only read NTFS formatted drives and not write into it.
Thankfully, the good folks at Paragon Software provides us with an implementation of NTFS support for OS X. The latest version 14 provides full NTFS features and supports the latest OS X El Capitan. This alone makes it the top of the must-have Mac OS X apps list. Paragon Software has also made the installation process a lot easier on this latest release, making it simpler for non-techies to install it.
I’ve been using Paragon Software NTFS for Mac OS X for a long time and it’s really stable! And I would also say that this is a software that’s pretty much mandatory for anyone with a Mac, unless of course you exclusively only work on OS X.
Link: Paragon NTFS for Mac OS X 14 $19.95!
With all the password hacks going around the web, it is time everyone starts using stronger passwords for all your online accounts. Not just a single strong password being re-used, but a unique strong passwords for each online account you have. And if that is to be, then you would need to use a password manager to help you remember all those passwords, unless of course you are one of those unique individual who can simply just remember everything. I’m surely am not, and therefore swears by the use of 1Password for this specific use!
When it comes to password management, 1Password is really in a league of its own. What I like most about 1Password is it’s ability to not just store and manage passwords well, but it’s ability to seamlessly sync the stored passwords across all your iDevices (iPad, iPhones and iPod Touch) via iCloud or Dropbox, as long as you also have the 1Password app on your device. It also stores not just passwords, but also credit card numbers (which is really helpful for all your online shopping needs), software license keys, accounts, and much more!
And on the latest version of 1Password, it has a mini interface that is accessible with a quick shortcut key that allows you to quickly search the information you need and immediately copy it into the clipboard and allowing you to paste it where you need it to be.[adrotate banner=”4″]Before, you would only be limited to the browser plugin that helps you automatically login with the stored user id and password, or opening up the full application to gain access to the secured information.
You can even create multiple vaults to be shared across different team or family members for those accounts that are meant to be shared, while keeping your own personal logins accessible just to yourself.
$49.99 and $17.99 may seem steep for an OS X and iOS app, but this amount worth spending so to allow you to start managing (and strengthening) all your online accounts. Getting your password hacked is far more annoying and potentially a costlier affair too!
3. Alfred with the PowerPack
Alfred is one of the few utility apps that I can’t live without now on my Mac. Essentially, it’s a search utility, working pretty much like Spotlight of OS X. However, it does it in a far more elegant way. It also provides you with the quickest way to launch applications. Find out more about what Alfred can do for you here. The basic version of Alfred is available free on the Mac App Store or from their website as well, which makes it a real no brainer to have it installed on your Mac.
But I highly recommend using Alfred with its Powerpack which only costs you £15 as the extra features is really worth the cost! One of the greatest features that the Powerpack includes is the ability to create global shortcut keys that allows you to launch not just apps but also to open a commonly used folder, activate an AppleScript, run system commands, and much more. It also provides a quick file system navigator that’s really handy in many situations.
In addition to that, the Powerpack also enables the ability for you to create workflows! You can find many cool examples of the use of Alfred Workflows here. Personally, I use it as a replacement to bash scripts that executes or starts up servers which I would have to do on the terminal.
Link: Alfred Powerpack (£15)
Personally, I think Airmail is the OS X mail app that should have been. I’ve used Airmail from the very early days of its beta releases and now that the app is officially released on the Mac App Store, I’m highly recommending it to anyone who has looked out for an alternative to the default Mail app, especially if your email is based on Google Mail. Airmail is built from ground up to support Gmail natively.
What’s really great about Airmail is its highly responsive interface. It also have a very intuitive user interface which most mail apps have come to adopt since. One thing I like most about Airmail is its awesome support for multiple email accounts, support for a multitude of email services, including support for Exchange, IMAP, POP3, Gmail, Google Apps, iCloud™, Yahoo!, AOL,, and many other providers with IMAP or POP3 support.
Also, Airmail’s iOS app is on the way and when it is released, it would likely be the first mail app that supports the iOS and OS X Handoff feature.
Uninstalling applications on the Mac is really easy. Unlike Windows which requires an uninstaller to do the job right, on the Mac, you simple would just delete the application. It’s that simple! However, it still does leave some traces on your Mac, in the form of settings and configuration files. If you plan to reinstall the application later on and would like to have all the settings and configurations intact, then that’s fine. However, if you like to wipe it all clean, then AppCleaner does exactly that for you with just a simple drag and drop.
I would basically keep AppCleaner on my dock and simply drag and drop any applications I like to removed on the AppCleaner icon on the dock. The other options is to simple open up AppCleaner, click on Applications (or Widgets or Others) and search for the app in question and then click on “Search”, confirm that you want to delete the app and its related files, then delete them,
As I’ve mentioned earlier, these 5 apps are must haves and I would recommend them to anyone who’s on the OS X platform. The total amount so far is about US$120 (US$97.92 + £15 which is roughly $23.00).
The rest of the must-have Mac OS X Apps
These next set of apps are really great to haves depending on how you use your Mac and the work that you do with it. I’ve decided not to put it up as top apps as not everyone needs to use these apps if there’s no need for it. Read on to find out more about them and see if you too have a need for them as I do.
6. Scroll Reverser
If you use both a mouse with a scroll wheel and the TrackPad with OS X’s natural scrolling direction, Scroll Reverser is the tool for you. The screenshot below shows the exact settings I’m using, specifically to keep using natural scrolling on the trackpad and maintain the expected scrolling direction for mouse’s scroll wheel.Link: Scroll Reverser
7. PathFinder 7
If you find OS X’s Finder lacking, consider trying out PathFinder 7. I’ve written a pretty comprehensive review of PathFinder 7 here in comparison to OS X Yosemite’s Finder. But even when compared with Finder in OS X El Capitan, the points I made in the review is still valid and I continue to use PathFinder 7 today.
I won’t go deep into the features of PathFinder that makes it my choice of Finder replacement here on this article but here’s a summary of it.
- File Operations Queue
- Dual-pane view
- Bookmarks and Favourites
- Configurable Shelves
- Highly customisable and a whole bunch of features like…[adrotate banner=”4″]
- Calculate file checksums with MD2, MD4, MD5, SHA-1, SHA224, SHA-256, SHA384, and SHA-512
- Built-in hex editor
- Built-in image editor
- Archive files and folders with zip, gzip, bzip, dmg, Stuff, tar, and more
- Ability to quickly get the dimensions of an image file and copy the dimensions into the clipboard as the following text: width=”###” height=”###”
- Built in terminal console module
- Git or subversion integrations
- Ability to securely delete a file
- and more!
Link: Path Finder ($39.95)
8. Affinity Photo
If you need a good photo editor that has all the key features you look out for in Adobe Photoshop, but does not really need something as powerful as Photoshop, then Affinity Photo is the editor for you. First thing first, Affinity Photo is REALLY fast. It really is something that you have to use to believe how fluid the controls are. But more importantly, Affinity Photo provides most of the familiar features and capabilities as Photoshop, the industry benchmark for a professional photo editor app.
Affinity Photo also includes a pretty powerful RAW Processing capabilities as well which is very similar to Adobe’s Lightroom. I’ve not yer personally explored the RAW Persona deeply as I continue to use Adobe’s Lightroom for RAW development. But in my limited use of it, I find it as functional as one would expect from a RAW processing app. However, it does lack the rich support for camera color profiles and lens profiles as Adobe has. And because of that, I would likely continue to use Lightroom to develop my RAW files and then edit them in Affinity for post-processing.Link: Affinity Photo ($49.99 on the Mac App Store)
If you have MacBook with limited SSD storage space, that means you’re more likely to fill it up faster as well. This is where an app like DaisyDisk is really handy.
As you can see form the screenshot, DaisyDisk presents your storage usage in a beautiful flower-like graph which acts as the intuitive visual map of your disk. It also doubles up as an interactive interface where you can discover what’s taking up all that storage space while allowing you to also select and remote the files within the app itself.
So if you find yourself to be running out of space on your Mac, DaisyDisk is the app to use to figure out what you can remove to gain back the space you need.
Just as my recommendation for DaisyDisk, If you use a Mac with limited SSD storage space, any apps that helps you figure out how you can free up files that you don’t need anymore would be very helpful. And with Gemini, it does exactly that by searching your storage for duplicate files.
Gemini does it really fast and elegantly. Due to my highly collaborating work environment where I share a lot of files with my colleagues, there’s bound to be files that are duplicated pretty much all over my MacBook’s storage. Gemini has been a really great tool in helping me find all those duplicated files and allowing me to decide if I would want to delete them. I’ve so far been able to remove about 10+GB worth of storage wastage.
11. iTerm 2
If you use the terminal and work on the command line a lot, then I highly recommend using iTerm 2 as the replacement of OS X’s Terminal. Just check out this list of advanced features of iTerm 2 here and you’ll never go back to Terminal. Trust me.
12. Little Snitch
For all the paranoid in you, Little Snitch is a great app that helps you protect your Mac from the outside world. How it works is quite interesting as it essentially is an anti-firewall, protecting not what’s incoming to your Mac, but what’s going out from your Mac to the Internet. And in some ways, this protects you better than just using a firewall as Little Snitch will prompt you every time an app requires to sent anything out to the Internet, unless you’ve already allowed it to do so permanently.
You can find out more about Little Snitch here. But if you are as paranoid as I am about what’s getting out of your Mac, Little Snitch is a great tool to help you keep that in check.
Link: Little Snitch (€ 29.95)
This article is an adaptation of the original article on my blog post here.