12 Apps That Should Be in the Apps Starter Kit

If you are searching for good apps at the Mac App Store, chances are you’d take a look at the featured app categories on display.

I’m talking about the “Apps for Writers,” “Get Stuff Done,” “Better Together,” and “Great Free Apps” categories where apps similar to one another are grouped together and given a snazzy section of their own. More importantly, these categories help you cut search time by providing unique gateways to apps that can contribute to your productivity, help you stay fit, or make work easier for you.

One of my personal favorites is the “Apps Starter Kit,” which welcomes new Mac owners with a set of 30 apps that can enhance user experience further. Although the suggestions are pretty helpful (I see a few of my favorites in there), it’s pretty limited. There are a handful of other apps at the Mac App Store that deserve a cozy spot in this category too. So in this post, I’ll share 12 apps that should be in the Apps Starter Kit as well.

A Bigger Apps Starter Kit

The Apps Starter Kit is a great place to start when choosing apps to buy and/or download for your new Mac. Here are other apps that should be on this category as well:

Growl notification system

Notifications made beautiful by Growl.


Start your Mac download spree with Growl. It is by far the best notification system for the Mac, informing you in the most beautiful manner what your apps are up to, who sent you that latest email, who’s calling you on Skype and more. With its paid upgrade to 1.3 following OS X Lion, Growl is more powerful, intuitive, and personal with a whole collection of sounds and styles ready at your disposal.

Older Growl users new to the latest version may find the new preference pane a bit more complicated than usual, but features like the notification rollup make it a worthy upgrade.

Price: 1.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.7 or later, 64-bit processor
Developer: Growl

alfred launcher

Alfred, your very own Mac butler.


Alfred is another great app to download as soon as you get hold of your new Mac. It’s a great companion to have when you need to search and open files, search and open apps, define words, make quick calculations, perform system commands, and many more. It’s easy to use, it’s beautiful and it’s fast, making it a must-have productivity app.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Running with Crayons Ltd


With Cloud, almost everything is shareable.


Cloud makes file sharing on the Mac and to the web really easy and quick. You can upload almost anything to Cloud, including browser URLs, archives, bookmarks and copied text. Just drag to the cloud menu bar icon and it will instantly generate a shareable link.

Although it’s limited in terms of file size (25MB for free users, 250MB for Pro), it works well for users who need to quickly share a file or two, who love slick design, and who do not like ads.

Price: Free, pricing plans for the service
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Linebreak


Record videos and images with Screeny.


There aren’t a lot of screen recording apps out there that are affordable and of great quality, so when I came across Screeny, I was convinced that this is my best alternative to Screenflow and Camtasia.

Simply put, Screeny records screen activity (with audio), captures screenshots, and resizes the canvas to adjust file size and focus. Opening up the preferences, you can adjust the canvas transparency, video frame rate and upload finished recordings to your Cloud account. It’s a convenient and high quality recording app to use for troubleshooting, video blogging, recording online meetings, etc.

Price: $14.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: Drew Wilson


Task management made simple and beautiful.


Multi-platform, free, cloud sync—all this in one beautiful task manager called Wunderlist. This productivity app puts together simple but elegant design and seamless functionality to give you a tool that is beautiful and that manages and organizes all of your tasks well.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: 6Wunderkinder

tiny expander

Extract 25 archive types with Tiny Expander

Tiny Expander

One problem I had with the Mac was not being able to extract anything other than .zip files. Tiny Expander is a simple utility app that solves this completely. It works seamlessly with the system in that as soon as you double-click an archive file, it extracts immediately. No open windows, no notifications, it just works.

Of course, you can open up Tiny Expander’s preferences to change the default settings. You can choose to extract files to a default folder or remove the archive as soon as it’s done extracting. The features may be limited, but it serves its purpose well.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later, 64-bit processor
Developer: Macinapps.com

textexpander for mac

TextExpander for Mac

TextExpander for Mac

TextExpander is another great app that deserves a spot in the Apps Starter Kit. It saves you time and keystrokes by creating abbreviations that, when typed, would automatically insert snippets, email signatures, text templates, and fill up submission forms. Tired of always entering your email address, by-line, or About Me profile description? This is the app you will need.

Price: $34.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: SmileOnMyMac, LLC

ia writer

iA Writer keeps your focused while writing.

iA Writer

When you need to write a letter, your homework, your app’s sales copy, or web copy for your brand new website, iA Writer helps keep you focused. It’s a distraction-free writing app, which means there’s no noise, no formatting options, and it’s not dependent on your mouse to work. Along with that are a few great features, such as autosave, auto markdown, and focus mode.

All in all, iA Writer is a great writing app for everyone.

Price: $19.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Information Architects, Inc.

wallpaper wizard

Wallpaper Wizard: Quality wallpaper management

Wallpaper Wizard

Wallpaper Wizard will change the way you use desktop wallpapers for good. It’s a fun app that switches wallpapers in such a polished and smooth manner. What’s more, it organizes wallpaper collections while giving you access to hundreds more stored in their impressive database. From abstract art to zebras, you can select from a wide variety of wallpapers and upload to your own selections through your Wallpaper Wizard online account.

Price: $6.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Coppertino, Inc.


With BreakTime, you need to take breaks from work.


I’m pretty sure that with a new Mac, you’d be spending twice as much time tinkering and working with it than usual. While this is understandable, it’s important to give yourself a few breaks in between. BreakTime can help you with that.

BreakTime works by timing your breaks and making sure that you stand up and rest. It dims the screen, disables your dock, and through its “enforce” mode keeps you from ending your breaks too early. The overall design is quite impressive, making it one of the best in its category.

Price: $4.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: excited pixel

smart converter

Convert videos and audio with Smart Converter

Smart Converter

You may never know just when you need to convert a .wav file for the iPod or an .avi video file for the iPad. Unfortunately, most media conversion apps are geared towards tech-savvy users and are a bit expensive, so having a nifty and free alternative like Smart Converter is a relief. It’s a video and audio conversion app that’s easy to use and that converts almost any file to versions optimized for a particular device—Apple TV, iPad, Android tablet, iPhone/iPod, etc.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: ShedWorx


Personal finance management with Koku


Looking at the current Apps Starter Kit, there doesn’t seem to be an app for personal finance. To fill in this gap, you can take a look at Koku, a beautiful personal finance management app that makes it easy to manage and monitor all of your banking accounts—checking, savings, and even credit cards. You can finally take a look at your spending habits, the expenses most paid for, and make significant changes to the way you manage your income.

Price: $29.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: FadingRed

What Else Can We Add?

There are certainly many other apps that deserve to be in this category, including those that aren’t sold at the Mac App Store. Some of the non-MAS apps I’d throw in would be Dropbox, CleanMyMac, Postbox or Sparrow for alternative mail clients, Concentrate and Watts.

I’m sure you have more apps to add to the Apps Starter Kit. List down apps that you think spanking new Mac owners should download as soon as they boot up their computers for the first time.


Add Yours
  • In my opinion Handbrake is better than Smart converter. It’s more complex but it has a lot of good features.

    • I’d add iSquint to that too. Both are better than Smart Converter, IMO.

      • HandBrake’s developers made an interesting choice for version 0.9.4 – they ditched support for AVI files using DivX and XviD (an open source equivalent to DivX). Your only option now is to convert DVDs and other media to MKV or MP4 files – with the option to save as Apple-friendly M4V files. If you want to create MPEG-4 XviD files, you’ll need to stick with HandBrake 0.9.3.

    • Exactly, there’s no better video-conversion tool out there than Handbrake (and I’ve tried quite a few, already).

      • The thing I find really annoying about Handbrake is that it won’t recognise AVI as a file format.

      • HandBrake’s developers made an interesting choice for version 0.9.4 – they ditched support for AVI files using DivX and XviD (an open source equivalent to DivX). Your only option now is to convert DVDs and other media to MKV or MP4 files – with the option to save as Apple-friendly M4V files. If you want to create MPEG-4 XviD files, you’ll need to stick with HandBrake 0.9.3.

        oops, made that comment two times

  • 1. Caffeine (don’t let that screen goes dim)
    2. Sparrow Lite(or paid) for simple mail
    3. Notifr(gmail notification, works with multi accounts)
    4. Divvy (manage your brand new spanking mac screen easily, well… with quirks of course)
    5. Adium (humans are social being)
    6. bowtie, with rolli theme, this will get that tiny itunes addon work wonders when you’re trying to figure out what song is currently playing.
    7. mplayerx (those for having lotsa movies with non-apple extensions)
    8. vox(possibly the simplest audio player i’ve found, good itunes replacement for a quick listening)

    • Hail to Divvy!
      I even forgot over time that it’s a third party app. I gotta check the others on that list.

  • Hmmm, Tiny Expander seems to be dead, website is not available and last tweet is from 2010.
    Maybe better to use The Unarchiver instead:

    But back to your question, TextWrangler is the first app that I install on every mac.

  • Isn’t TextExpander a bit expensive? I think Typinator does basically the same thing. I think Apple has this built into OS X now, too.

  • Dropbox! Easily the first thing I wld download! Use it every day. Also iclip is amazing and has recently been bought back into development.

    • And it’s free! Get 2GB of space for free. Great iPhone app too.

      • SugarSync far superior in my opinion. Plus you get 5gb free!!

  • What about CleanMyMac or an equivalent app removal programme? I would also recommend Onyx.

    Sparrow, iA Writer, Alfred and TaskPaper are all the apps I can’t live without personally.

  • Wow, there are so many more apps that should be in this list. Wallpaper Wizard? Really? That should be in the app starter kit?

    Gonna have to agree with some of the guys, I would add:
    1. Dropbox
    2. Quickcal – I know Fantastical is in there, but for a starter, QC is much cheaper.
    3. Moom
    4. Sparrow
    5. Permute – Also a simple video converter.

  • I cannot stand Smart Converter. Pretty bad product, IMO.

  • Weird list. Mine would be:

    Adapter (Free multimedia converter MP3, FLV, YouTube, iPhone, many other formats)
    AppCleaner (Free program to help you cleanly delete Mac OS X apps)
    AppFresh (Free program to help you manage updating your apps)
    Cyberduck (Free FTP/SFTP)
    Dropbox (Free Cloud storage)
    Evernote (Free note taking app – my fav)
    Growl (Free version here: https://bitbucket.org/pmetzger/growl/)
    Gruml (Free Google Reader/RSS client)
    iBank (Best OS X banking app)
    iStatMenus (Menubar based system activity monitor)
    Keka (Free app to create zip files – Zip, 7zip, Gzip)
    Miro (Free Multimedia player that does podcasts, youtube, mp3s and other video)
    Onyx (Free System Maintenance)
    Pixelmator (99% of people don’t need photoshop, you can do most of it in Pixelmator)
    Quicksilver (Free HUD style launcher, clipboard history, macros)
    Skim (Free PDF Annotation/Editor)
    Skitch (Free Screenshot Annotation/Manager)
    Sparrow (Slick client for gmail)
    Textmate (Super powered Text editing)
    Things (Task List)
    Unarchiver (Unzip for non-zip compression formats like 7zip and Gzip)
    VLC (Free Video player)

    • “and here’s a big list of random crap I use that doesn’t pertain to the article”

      The article is about apps that should be Apps Starter Kit on the MAS. A bunch of the stuff you listed isn’t even in the MAS.

      • To recommend poor quality programs, simply because they are on the App store is not doing anyone any favors.

  • Growl has so many bad reviews on the Mac App Store… I was going to buy it yesterday but even @ 2 bucks – I want to know why are people complaining.

    • People are mainly complaining because they don’t want to pay 2$ for a soft they’ve used for so many times but they never paid.
      I was skeptical at first by the so called “improvements” of the MAS version, but in the end it’s working fine. No trouble at all.
      You can now disable the dock and menu bar icons (which were bothering me a lot), so Growl is back to the “transparency” that I liked.

      • with recent update, you have much2 better control over your notifications

        and the best feature is the notification rollup, making sure that you don’t miss any notification while you’re away.

  • I’d add Movist to the list. Lots of people would add VLC, but I think we’ll all agree that Quicktime X is tragic, even compared to Quicktime Player 7 (pro).

    • Brilliant suggestion!
      Totally replaces VMC, Flip4Mac and Perian :)

  • I’d add 1Password

    • go with last pass. it will provide you better access(online access to your credentials).

      it installs on any browser, any platform(not sure on idevices though, havent tried) with similar feature to 1password

      very helpful if you have multiple computers at work or at home, or when checking email from a friend’s place.

      • Actually, 1Password is on the PC, OSX, iOS, Android, and there is an encrypted web interface via Dropbox. The price may be off-putting, but you can store so much more than mere passwords in the program. I have copies of important documents, registration numbers for all of my purchased apps, information on all of those membership cards that seem to increase by the day—it has been a lifesaver when travelling abroad.

  • I realize you guys (appstorm) made a promise to make more posts and that it’s probably difficult finding twice as much stuff to talk about, but you really need to stop posting articles and recommending the same set of apps. We get it, you like alfred, growl, iA writer and wunderlist and you remind us almost weekly. These recommendations are some of the standard recommendations given to all beginner OS X users so these constant posts are just repetitive and useless.

  • Actually, I agree with Luca.
    And you guys should add Reeder app, it’s a must have application :)

  • One I really hate:


    It’s FUGLY, works terrible, and the only thing that sets it apart is the free sync. I can’t love it. It’s annoying.

    I have no idea why you like Wunderlist so much instead of say…Things.

    Things is BEAUTIFUL, but dull fully limited to iOS/OS X. But we’re talking Mac here, so really, why not have Things?

    But really Wunderlist is pretty bad.

  • TextMate as editor by default
    Numi as calculator by default
    1Password as password manager by default

  • 1Password
    Turbo 264

  • … and Hazel

  • Screeny? What does it do that the built in quicktime doesnt do?
    And don’t say record audio because the external app Soundflower is required for both.
    Waste of $14 and I found out the hard way. (Screenium is much better)

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