35 Absolutely Essential Mac Apps

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published at FreelanceSwitch, but has been moved here since it makes more sense on AppStorm!

For one reason or another, a lot of freelancers use Macs. It may be the raw power, the stability or they may just look rather – cool? Well, both of us know why that really is. It’s the apps! The software that makes the hardware bling, and it’s not necessarily thanks to Apple. Aperture and iCal may be nice, but often we rely on the smaller, even more useful applications. Here’s a list of great little applications that the Mac-powered freelancer should consider.

1. Text Expander

is a great little application for all those little snippets of text you need all the time. Writer? Typos can trigger Text Expande. Developers? No more code library needed. Designers? Well, we can always add signatures to email, right?

2. Quicksilver

is a world of its own. Unlike most launchers, the best thing about Quicksilver is that it’s not only a launcher. As probably the best productivity application on the Mac, it’s something you need to learn how to use in order to master it.

3. Backdrop

is very simple. Just fill in a color or image and hide the desktop clutter. Need minimalistic? Now you have it…

4. Shoo Apps

does what the long forgotten (or so it seems) Spirited Away did. it hides inactive applications.

5. Hazel

is a maid for your Mac. Have a lot of files just sitting waiting to be organized? Well, Hazel can move those files based on the criteria you set up. Be it name, date, location or what site or e-mail the file came from, this little application takes care of it.

6. Sticky Windows

is an application I personally can’t live without anymore. Say hello to tabs. Drag a window to the top, left or right edge of the screen and a tab will appear. To remove a tab, you just drag it away. It’s that simple.

7. Pzizz

is quite neat. It creates custom nap and sleep melodies for you to help you relax. Need a power nap – take one. It really may help, or it may just work as placebo. But hey, why not try it?

8. Scrivener

is a great tool for writers. From brainstorming, to outlining to writing in fullscreen mode, this application supports all the creative phases that a writer encounters. Say goodbye to Word and just… Write!

9. Writeroom

is a simple, yet very powerful application and full screen writing is the name of the game. Not more, but less. If the complexity of modern word processors isn’t inspiring, work it all out with Writeroom.

10. Avenir

is a writing application specialized for fiction. Characters, locations, scenes. If you’re a fiction writer, Avenir will give you even more flexibility in writing your next bestseller.

11. Circus Ponies Notebook

is just that – a notebook. If you really love that old Moleskine, but want to go digital, this application lets you do just that. The interface resembles an actual notebook, letting you do outlines, add tasks, etc.

12. Yojimbo

is many things to many people. It can be a text archive, a code archive, a bookmark list, a web archive, just about anything you desire. This flexibility in both format (text, images, PDF, rich text,…) and control lets you customize Yojimbo to your own workflow.

13. Montage

is yet another specialized writing tool. Well, it actually isn’t. It is specialized, but quite uniquely for screenwriting. That’s right, say hello to TV, movies and theatre. Integration with Address Book even lets you submit, track and send your queries and scripts.

14. OmniFocus

is a GTD application by the legendary OmniGroup. the makers of OmniOutliner and OmniGraffle. The application grew out of a collaboration with Ethan Schoonover who made a GTD workflow plugin for OmniOutliner. The plugin was so successful it deserved to be an actual application. Today, Ethan works for Omni, and with the help of GTD guru Merlin Mann it’s safe to say OmniFocus will be a very good application.

15. Things

is a task management application that’s not yet released, but looks amazing. If everything goes well, this could be the GTD application with the best interface. Some of the features CulturedCode is planning are quite unique, but time will tell if our waiting is worth it. Now go and subscribe to their newsletter!

16. Linotype Explorer

is a great font management application for the Mac. You can use it to both install, manage and “test” fonts. Best of all – it’s free.

17. Xylescope

is great for fine tuning the CSS for your sites. The web, html and css views let you find that little bug that’s been troubling you. Have all the source code organized and shown in a way that makes you want to code, and code, and code…

18. Quicksnap

is a great alternative to Mac OS X’s own screen capture system. You can time them, customize them, change the format and much more.

19. Knox

lets you encrypt and backup your files. Creating vaults using advanced encryption standards is now even more secure. Because it’s based on the same technology Apple’s FileVault uses, all your data can be opened without Know if needed.

20. Cocktail

is a maintenance utility that keeps your Mac running smoothly. Lots of features, all accessible via a simple UI, let you check and repair your disks, run maintenance scripts, clear system caches and a hundred other things.

21. CSSEdit

is the best looking CSS editor for the Mac out there. You can edit it, preview it, extract. It chops, slices, even dices. It can even play along with AJAX.

22. Coda

is an all in one application that makes designers want to take notes and is a lot of web developer’s only tool. A text and css editor, a built in file browser (let’s not forget, these guys built Transmit) and an Apple Design Award to its honor. It also comes packed with a an actual web reference book reformatted and built into the actual application.

23. TextMate

is probably the most popular text editor for the Mac. Do you need to code? You probably already have TextMate. Why am I even mentioning it?

24. Transmit

is a FTP application with a very simple interface. Don’t underestimate it though. Panic put a lot of power into this application, adding features like docksend, iWeb and WebDAV integration and a ton of automator actions you can use.

25. Cyberduck

may not be as powerful as Panic’s Transmit, but still supports FTP, SFTP as well as Bonjour. Its advantage is that it’s open source. Get the duck quacking!

26. Forklift

is a very nice file manager and FTP client. Need better integration? Well, Forklift has an application deleter as well as Amazon S3 support.

27. RooSwitch

is a great application whose features make it quite unique. The core feature is application data profiles. You can then switch through these profiles, basically letting every application support multiple users. Developers can create custom user profiles for testing their applications while other users can have “home” and “work” profiles.

28. Billings

lets you track and then invoice your clients. Simple. Choose a template or create your own. No need for professional graphics software. That said, print designers don’t really need this application.

29. OnTheJob

performs just one task and that’s tracking your time. One task, but it does a great job of it. You can work and then take a break letting OnTheJob’s idle time checker stop the timer. Checking its status is as easy as looking at the dock badge and after finishing it can even create a simple invoice if needed.

30. iBiz

is a very powerful invoicing and time-billing application. Unlike the past two, it has a ton of features, letting you have all the information you need. Add to that advanced networking as well as iCal and Address Book integration and iBiz is something a freelancer who wants to track his income really needs.

31. Serverskine

is a godsend for web developers and designers. If you know the feeling of trying to look for a clients hosting account password, you’ll love this application. Track server, domain hosting information – all for free!

32. Devonthink

is a database application. You can store any kind of document in it. From text and images to MP3s, keep track of all your data in what every way you see fit. Organize, reorganize. Are other organization applications chaotic? Make your own.

33. Skype

is the most popular VoIP client out there. Although recently they did have a problem or two, Skype remains a key communication tool for a lot of companies. Low prices make it a great option for freelancers who work with international clients.

34. Ecto

is a desktop blogging application that works with most weblog systems. From Blogger to WordPress and beyond. Its interface makes it a good tool for freelancers who like to blog between productive sessions of procrastination.

35. Spanning Sync

will be a great companion if you use Google Calendar. This application let’s you do the impossible – synchronize Google Calendar and Apple iCal. Finally.

What about you? What’s your favorite little Mac application that makes your freelance career that much easier?


Add Yours
  • Very nice list of apps! Quite a few ones I’ll have to try.

    If you’re craving for some more free mac apps, there are loads at http://freestuffonyourmac.blogspot.com/

  • A great List, thank you very much.

    Just to let you know, the link for Omnifocus is incorrect. You’ve accidently given it the link to ‘Things’.

  • Some favourites:
    -iClock Pro

  • You mentioned Spirited Away, why not include it?! (wth, there are 6+ text editors there :P)
    I’m using version .6 happily (.7 doesn’t work on Leopard), and for free!

    Also, The Unarchiver and smcFanControl (for Macbooks).

    Sorry to say this, but this is one of the worst envato sites (really, 35! essential apps?!). If it were a random product blog I’d understand, but not you.Reviews range from almost useless to “clearly paid for by the product vendor”.

  • Great list, so much useful stuff here. Thank you a lot.

    • Thanks for writing such an easy-to-underatnsd article on this topic.

  • Lets not forget 1Password!

  • Nice list.
    FYI, link for OmniFocus is not correct.

  • I’l like to post my tool – RenameX. For mass file renaming.
    You can download the latest version here – http://v.1oo.im/2010/02/01/i-just-updated-renamex-v1-2/
    Maybe someone has the time to check it and give me some feedback. Thanks a lot!

  • Great list. With exception to Skype I had never heard of these apps until now.

  • Very comprehensive and nice!! My choice of 5 applications to start with would be

  • Thanks for sharing. What’s more i have found many free apps for ipad, iphone,ipod in ifunia.

  • I think PLEX is a verry usefull app too..

  • Another great app is Billings app which is awesome for invoice software, though it’s not free. An online free invoice software alternative is Invoice Bubble, though it’s not Mac Desktop app it’s an online app. Billings is amazing though.

  • Can’t complain about Transmit. I recently started using a Mac and still getting the hang of it, so posts like these are really help.

  • Thanks for sharing this knowledgeable information with us……great list!

  • Hi All,

    I found 201 mac apps in mebaze. It’s really good just take a look (http://mebaze.com/freebies/201-most-essential-mac-apps).

  • I would add iServer : http://iserver.pro
    It’s the best Intranet for Mac, available on the Mac AppStore.

  • I would also add http://www.appgiveaway.com for those that want to get their hands on pricey MAC apps for FREE….

  • Mac Update always has wicked deals on Mac apps at the moment they have 10 apps for 50 bucks worth Nearly 400 bucks.

  • Good list. I would add 1Password which is awesome.

  • computer users not to relay on their mac alone to safe guard them from spyware infestations. You can no longer assume that you mac is immune from viruses and spyware

  • List is a complete bullshit. First 12 apps are absolutely useless and all about utilizing screen space. Probably the writer has 11 inch small mac. Stopped reading after the 12th. This should not be on 1st place in google.

  • NewsBar is a new Mac RSS app with Google News support

  • You forgot this one


    Menu Eclipse 2

    • Dim, Colorize and Scrub the menu bar.
    • Gain better focus on your work & play, and away from the menu bar.
    • Runs in the background, and does not show up in the Dock.

  • Hey guys! Thanks for the list.

  • The list is not complete without Stellar speed up Mac. An ultimate mac tool to clean your mac drive and delete unnecessary and duplicate data from your machine. It creates free space required by the applications to run swiftly. The stellar speed up Mac can delete
    1. Duplicate files
    2. Language files
    3. Binary files
    4. Large files

    and uninstalls the unnecessary applications

  • Great list! Thanks for compiling it for us :)

  • I like the idea of Dropzone, but it really isn’t all that great. I purchased it when I found it, like 2 years ago maybe, and while its a great concept, there aren’t hardly any extensions for it. There are only the handful that the provide.

  • Ghana’s new national team home cheap authentic nfl jerseys still continues the tradition of white, a huge five-pointed star on right shoulder Obscure is the renowned “Black Star.” Puma for the Ghana national team designed a subversive of the road with red Huang Jian personalized nfl jerseys , striped border inlaid with thin green edges, the overall effect is also a wild hand-painted style, the inspiration for this design Since in Ghana flag, also contains “the flag draped over his body,” the implication.

  • One of the best ways to be able to choose the most appropriate blogging software is to seek reviews and forums. Surely, some of the other bloggers might have already experienced using one or two of these software and their opinions and testimonies can be very good references to your choice

  • What a huge list.
    Does anyone have any review for applicatiob Kdevelop? Now i’m using Coda which is pretty good but i always support open source software so i thinking about Kdevelope.

  • Character Pro puts a proven system for understanding human behavior at your fingertips – The Enneagram – to create a character spine for your character. But that’s only the beginning. Character Pro isolates each part of the character, provides tools and extensive help files to guide you to a well-rounded, complex and realistic character.”

  • I know its not just a MAC app but dropbox is a must and what about Growl?

  • was pretty unimpressed with this to be honest. I understand these apps may be useful to some people, but i have no use for almost any of them! how many text editors do you want?! and so many of these apps seem worse than useless!

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  • Nice list … If you are a writer like me then you will surely need Open Office to write your books, and PDF Index Generator to create an Index for them.

    Open Office
    PDF Index Generator

  • Hi
    Thanks for this wonderful list of applications. But unfortunately i can’t use these applications. Because my Mackbook is not working its HDD is fail.

  • This post was originally published at FreelanceSwitch

  • absoutely great list, thank you!
    my list of mac to do apps: http://www.totalapps.net/general/apps/to-do-applications-for-mac-os-x/

  • very nice blog , i like it , thx

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  • Nice work you did, and mainly the obsessions are brilliant and easy to read.

  • This Is Specatacular ! I Can read It Clearly And Everything Thanks !

  • today i purchase a mac app and i think it should be in the list


  • http://www.desktopcurtain.co.uk

    Free mac applescript application to hide all you desktop icons. Good for beginner developers for a starting block in applescript.

    • Fantastic application, it was also very helpful for me to start learning applescript.

      The fact it’s free is a big winner but the website showcasing this software is awesome.

      Congratulations desktop curtain developer

  • nice collection of apps thanks for sharing

  • If you have lost your Mac data and looking for recovery then Stellar Phoenix Mac Data Recovery Software could be best options for you. With the help of this reliable software you will be able to recover lost or deleted data even after formatting. It is really amazing software.

  • It was extremely interesting for me to read that article. Thanks for it. I like such themes and everything that is connected to this matter. I definitely want to read more soon.

  • And Sublime Text 2, beats TextMate by far.

  • Multas gratias vobis ago

  • Very Very good list…Thanks :)

  • Thanks :)