45 Awesome Utilities for Tinkering With Your Mac

This post is part of a series that revisits some of our readers’ favorite articles from the past that still contain awesome and relevant information that you might find useful. This post was originally published on May 17th, 2011.

The “utility” software niche is one that is extremely active in the Mac application community. There is an abundance of fantastic utilities currently available, and that list is ever changing. We love this type of software at AppStorm, regularly reviewing different apps that let you tweak and tune your computer.

With the area changing so fast, we decided to take a look at some of the best and most useful Mac OS X utilities that are available right now. What you’ll see here is by no means an all-encompassing list, but rather a collection of utilities broken up into some basic groups that I found to be very useful to a lot of people.

I hope you discover some applications that will be helpful for you!

System Utilities

Mactracker

Mactracker

Mactracker is a simple appliction that will provide you with about all the information about your Mac, iPod, iPhone or any other Mac piece of hardware for that matter, you’d like. This can be really useful information for purchasing software or hardware upgrades. Sometimes finding all the info you need isn’t that easy and Macktracker makes that process extremely straight forward.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5.0 or later
Developer: Ian Page

DesktopMonitor

DesktopMonitor

This application aids you in monitoring your Mac’s performance. You’ll be able to track things like fan speed, CPU/GPU usage and memory usage. An application like this can be helpful in tracking down hardware and software problems with your Mac.

Price: $1.99
Requires:
Developer: Buick Wong

MiniUsage

MiniUsage

MiniUsage is an application that will essentially take all of the information avaliable through the Activity Monitor and place it in a quickly accessible place in the menu bar. You’ll see a running CPU percentage and, when clicked, you’ll see all of the other activities being monitored.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 or later
Developer: sekn

Cockpit

Cockpit

Cockpit calls itself the “missing Mac control center” and that fits the bill quite well. This application will automate many system tasks. These can consist of Automator workflows, AppleScript, or shell scripts. Easy to use for the novice and very extensible for the power-user.

Price: $3.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: green&slimy

Wallpaper Wizard

Wallpaper Wizard

With Wallpaper Wizard you’ll be able to have a fresh wallpaper just about whenever you’d like. You can set the application to automatically change your wallpaper and even customize the types of images it cycles through. It is also possible to add your own images into the mix if you’d like. With over 100,000 images in the database you’ll have plenty of variety.

Price: $9.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Coppertino Inc.

Caffeine

Caffeine

Caffeine is a super simple application that solves one problem. It will allow you to prevent your Mac from automatically going to sleep or dimming the screen. This is a menu bar application so it is easy to turn on and off.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Lighthead Software

SmartSleep

SmartSleep

Another sleep management application here with the difference being that you’re able to customize how your Mac goes to sleep. You can set different sleep settings based on the battery level, or also just keep it awake permanently. This application adds a whole new level of sleep and power management customization.

Price: $3.99
Developer: Patrick Stein

Shuttie

Shuttie

Shuttie is a basic scheduler application that will give you the capability to set times when you’d like your Mac to shutdown, restart, sleep, or log out. It proves itself very handy in certain situations.

Price: $1.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 or later
Developer: Kuko.sk

Mac Pilot

MacPilot

MacPilot gives you access to easily enable and disable hidden features in Mac OS X, optimize and repair your system, and perform lots of other routine operations all without needing to use Terminal. There are many many features that can be enabled and disabled with the click of a button along with maintenance tasks that are easy to initiate.

Price: $19.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: Koingo Software, Inc.

Cocktail

Cocktail

Cocktail calls itself a general purpose utility for Mac OS X. This application basically simplifies many complex UNIX functions. Performing certain maintenace tasks regularly can make a world of difference for your OS X experience and Cocktail makes those tasks dead simple to perform.

Price: $19.00
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6
Developer: Maintain

OnyX

OnyX 2.2.1

OnyX is a free Mac OS X utility that allows you to verify the Startup Disk and the structure of its System files. It will also run all sorts of maintenance tasks. OnyX has got you covered.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Titanium’s Software

AppleJack

AppleJack

AppleJack allows you to run some maintenance tasks from single user mode. This is extremely handy when you don’t have your OS disk handy or can’t load the GUI at all. A utilitarian application for sure, but a handy one that can really bail you out.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6
Developer: Kristofer Widholm

Geekbench

Geekbench 2

You’ve just made some hardware upgrades to your Mac and now you want to know how much better your performace will be. How do you do it? GeekBench is an application that will measure your Mac’s processor and memory performance so you can really see if you’re getting the gains you had hoped for.

Price: $12.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: Primate Labs

NovaBench

NovaBench

NovaBench is a benchmarking tool as well, but this is a free one. You may not get quite as much detail from this application, but you will get some really solid system performance information. Kick it off and in a couple minutes you’ll have your results.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 or later
Developer: Novatech Network

Drive Management Utilities

MacCleanse

MacCleanse

MacCleanse is a tool that will give your Mac a good “clean”. It will run through a range of tasks for you to free up some hard drive space. It does things like erase caches, logs, cookies, histories among other things. You’ll get detailed information on everything the application did.

Price: $19.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4.4 or later
Developer: Koingo Software, Inc.

Smart Drive

Smart Drive

Hard drive failures suck. If you’re vigilant about your backups, it’s not a huge deal, but they always come at unexpected times which creates more problems than you want to deal with. Smart Drive is an application that will analyze your hard drive’s health and allow you to predict when things are going bad – before they really go bad.

Update: Smart Drive appears to be a dead project, you may want to try Disk Warrior instead.

Price: $2.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Lestat Ali Productions

Daisy Disk

DaisyDisk

Running out of drive space is often a frustrating issue, and Daisy Disk puts a fresh spin on managing your storage. It will display an interactive visual map of the files on your machine. You’ll be able to see exactly what the space hogging files are, and even access them directly from the app. It’s a great tool to clean your drive of files you don’t need and didn’t even know you had.

Price: $9.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.0 or later
Developer: Software Ambience Corp.

Space Gremlin

Space Gremlin

Space Gremlin has a similar functionality to Daisy Disk, but uses a different method of visually displaying your files and the space they are occupying. It arguably isn’t quite as pretty, but it is functional nonetheless and I would venture a guess that some folks would even like this style even better.

Price: $3.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: 10 Million Apps

Carbon Copy Cloner

Carbon Copy Cloner

Carbon Copy Cloner is an application that will allow you to clone your hard drive, and you can create a bootable backup if you’d like. It is also a very handy tool for migrating to a new hard drive. Backups can even be scheduled so you don’t have to remember to run them. A really great tool for a variety of situations.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS 10.4 Tiger (10.4.8 or higher), Mac OS 10.5 Leopard, Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard
Developer: Bombich Software, LLC

File/Folder Management Utilities

Total Finder

TotalFinder

TotalFinder really makes the OS X finder what it should have been in the first place. It makes Finder just flat out more useful and easier to interact with. It’s one of those applications that just blends right into the OS. The 30-day trial will certainly hook you. Give it a try, I dare you.

Price: $18.00
Requires: OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard)
Developer: Binary Age

Telling Folders

Telling Folders

Telling Folders is a little utility that lets you customize the look of your folders. Drag an image onto the folder and you’ll see the custom icon. A handy undo fuction will bail you out if you make a mistake.

Price: $1.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: omz:software

The Unarchiver

The Unarchiver

This application is a simple tool to extract about any file type you can throw at it. It claims that it is the only unarchiving program you’ll ever need. A good one to have in the toolbelt.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: Dag Agren

Cloud

Cloud

Cloud is an application that works in conjunction with the CloudApp web application. It is a tool that allows you to quickly share files. Drag a file onto the menu bar icon and a shortcut link to the file is placed in your clipboard ready to share. A really helpful application for sharing things with your team.

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

FileShredder

FileShredder

This application will allow you to quickly and securely delete files from your Mac or an external USB drive. It can be added to the Finder toolbar to allow for quick removal of files.

Price: $3.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: VoidTech Inc.

File Sorter

FileSorter

I’ve have a folder where I throw things that I’m not sure belong any other place. It’s a “catch all” folder, essentially. Sometimes there are things I need to keep from there, but it’s tough to figure out what is what. FileSorter simplifies the file sorting process and allows customization by creating rules and assigning actions that are taken on the files.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Clemens Schulz/a>

Singlemizer

Singlemizer

Singlemizer will sift through your files and find duplicates. I’m sure we’ve all got multiple copies of the exact same files occyping disk space on our machines. This application offers a quick and easy way (that also guarantees 100% matching) to clean up those unneeded files.

Price: $9.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Minimalistic Dev.

Blast Utility

Blast Utility

Blast is a menu bar utility that aims to help you be more productive. It keeps track of all the files, folders, and applications you’ve recently been using. I know we’re all supposed to be super-organized, but sometimes you can remember exactly where you saved that Pages document you were working on last night. You’ll see it in Blast and open right from there. You can even save your favorite folders for quick access.

Price: $9.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 or later
Developer: Apparent Software

Security and Virus Protection

PwGenerator

PwGenerator

As you may have guessed from the name already, PwGenerator is a utility that creates passwords and Wi-Fi keys for you. Customizations in characters used will allow you to tweak the passwords generated. You’ll also be able to see how secure the password you just created actually is.

Price: $1.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: devserahug

1Password

1Password

1Password is really the mother of all password utilitiy applications. It can generate and save passwords in a secure and easy to organize way. Browser plugins aid in password completion for you as you wander the Web. Accompanying applications for mobile devices make this utility even more useful. As complicated as the online world is today, this utility is one that can do great things to keep your info secure and make your life easier.

Price: $49.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard)
Developer: Agile Web Solutions

Padlock

Padlock

Padlock is a very simple utility that fills an oft-lamented gap in Mac OS X. It allows you to start your screensaver or put your system to sleep with a single keystroke. This can be accompanied with locking your machine so that you can quickly secure your Mac should you need to step away for a few minutes.

Price: $2.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: Mizage

ClamXav 2

ClamXav 2

Virus and malware isn’t necessarily a prevelant problem with Mac OS X at this time. That doesn’t mean there aren’t threats out there, so it may still make sense to take precautions. ClamXav is an open source virus scanner that is actively supported. Being free, easy to use, and actively updated makes it a no brainer to have on your Mac.

Price: Free
Requires: Requires at least Mac OS X 10.4
Developer: Mark Allen

Virus Barrier Plus

VirusBarrier Plus

There are not a lot of full featured antivirus and anti-malware utilities available for Mac OS X out there, but this is one of them. It will offer some added functionality over ClamXav in a little nicer interface. With that does come a cost, but it is still very affordable.

Price: $9.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: Intego

Desktop/Workspace Utilities

XMenu

XMenu

XMenu is a handy little utility that adds one or more global menus to the menu bar for quick access. Quickly access your most used directories and even insert text snippets or web addresses into email messages or Pages documents.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: DEVONtechnologies, LLC

MenuStrip

MenuStrip

This utility will allow you to create custom menus that will either live in the menu bar, or as a separate menu strip that can be placed anywhere. Tons of customization options are available to make this a very useful utility. It can even place a menu strip on a secondary monitor.

Price: $9.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Indeeo, Inc.

Clean Slate

Clean Slate

Clean Slate is a utility that will quickly clean up your desktop. “Clean” maybe isn’t the right word. It will hide everything on your desktop. This could be really handy for folks that do a lot of screencast recordings, demonstrations, or presentations using the Mac. You can keep your desktop as messy as you’d like and just keep that to yourself!

Price: $1.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: Old Jewel Software

CalendarBar

CalendarBar

iCal does have some shortcomings, but is overall a decent calendar application. CalendarBar extends its functionality by allowing you to see calendar events in the menu bar. It will also show events from Facebook and Google Calendar. iCal todos are also supported.

Price: $1.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later, 64-bit processor
Developer: Clean Cut Code

Contacts Cleaner

Contacts Cleaner

Contacts Cleaner is a utility that will analyze your Address Book and report any potential problems back to you. A contact list can easily and quickly get out of control and unorganized unless we give it some attention. This utility automates that tedious process.

Price: $4.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: Spanning Sync, Inc.

Tembo

Tembo

Tembo is a robust search tool for your Mac. Spotlight is pretty great at doing quick basic searches, but Tembo takes that functionality up a few notches. It does context searches, filtering and also groups certain file types together to help you more easily find what you’re looking for.

Price: $14.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: Houdah Software

Alfred

Alfred

I suppose you could call Alfred a launcher utility, but it really is much more than that. The developers describe it as a “keyboard-driven productivity application” which is basically right on. I’m an avid Alfred user and can say that it is one of my most used apps and one that certainly does save me a lot of time and frustration. This is one of my favorites on the list.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.5 or later
Developer: Running with Crayons Ltd

Hyperspaces

Hyperspaces

Hyperspaces works with OS X Spaces and allows futher customization of that utility. Customization if the name of the game here. You’re able to make each space noticeably different from the other. Spaces is a really powerful way to organize your workspace and Hyperspaces just adds a little extra goodness to it.

Price: $12.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: The CocoaBots

DockView Lite

DockView Lite

If you’re a big Dock user this one will be really useful for you. It displays a preview window of what applications are currently open when you hover over the correlating Dock icon. I should note that the free version will only display one window. The full version carries a $7.99 pricetag.

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

Moom

Moom

Resizing windows to optimize your workspace can be a pain in OS X. Thankfully there are some utilities available to help us out with this. Moom is one such utility that will allow you to resize windows to predefined and custom sizes and locations using the keyboard or mouse.

Price: $4.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: Many Tricks

Divvy

Divvy

Divvy is another window management utility, but it is more robust than any others you’ll see in this list. It essentially lets you divvy (who would have guessed?) up your screen between applications to take full advantage of all available real estate.

Price: $13.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: Mizage

iSnap

iSnap

iSnap is a window management utility that works a bit differently than the others in this list. By dragging windows to various sections of your screen you can optimize the available space. Keyboard shortcuts can also be set to accomplish the same things.

Price: Free (on sale now)
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
Developer: T-bone

Cinch

Cinch

Cinch allows you to organize windows by dragging windows to pre-defined hot zones. Drag a window into the zone and you’ll see the space it will fill. Release the window and it will take up the defined spaces. Pull it away and it will go back to its original size. Simple, but handy window management.

Price: $6.99
Requires: Mac OS X 10.6.5 or later
Developer: Irradiated Software

Final Thoughts

As I mentioned, this is by no means a complete list, but I do think that these are some of the best – and most useful – OS X utilities available right now. Hopefully you’ve discovered some applications you weren’t aware of that can be helpful to you.

This developer community is so active that I’ll guarantee we continue to see more and more incredible utilities as the days go by. If you think I missed some important apps, or one that you find especially useful, please mention them in the comments below!


  • mac hacks

    MacPilot will pretty much do ever thing from tweaks-optimize-repair’s !!!! I still like Tinkertool 2, I’ve been using using TinkerTool’s since 2000. When removing apps & code thinning I believe it’s better than other apps on market for several reasons. Although, CleanApp has just caught my attention this past week, seems to do good job removing system junk & cache. Cocktail, I do like Ram Purge feature just added & schedule auto-run when im out of town for my home server.

  • http://www.fidelisfactory.ch FidelisFactory

    Hey There,
    I’m the developer from Fidelis Factory. We created a little application called TimeNote. It was initially released a few weeks ago. We think it would also fit that list. If you are interested: http://itunes.apple.com/ch/app/timenote/id430165493?mt=12

  • Jake

    Wallet is a great password/personal data management program that I think is even better than 1Password. http://www.acrylicapps.com/wallet/

  • BJ

    You left my favorite one of the list. Better Touch Tool (http://www.boastr.de/). It lets you customize your (Magic) Trackpad and Magic Mouse to no end. I seriously can’t imagine using my Mac without it. Oh, and it’s free!

  • Ali

    I’m a fan of moApp’s MenuAndDockless and Incredible Bee’s MainMenu Pro, as well as Noodlesoft’s Hazel (gonna check out FileSorter though)!

  • http://twitter.com/florianlionel Florian Taltavull

    Great list with some nice apps!
    Thanks for explaining a little more about what they do!

  • J Carpenter

    I’m a fan of CleanMyMac, how come it’s not there?

  • http://heytherecats.com Paula DuPont

    HyperDock. Hazel. Necessary for survival. (Okay, overstatement, but two great apps.)

    • http://digitalformula.net Chris

      +1

      I’m lost without Hazel and HyperDock (although, unfortunately, HyperDock crashes more than it should).

  • Carmen

    Great list! Some of the apps are now essential for me: caffeine, alfred, 1password, mcpilot, cloud or cleanslate. Divvy is the best for organizing the desktop, but I don’t like iSnap. And I think you have forgotten an app which is much superior to TotalFinder and its Path Finder: It is really a wonderful app with anything you need.

  • Jess

    Thanks for a great list! A lot of these look really useful!

    I was a bit surprised that HyperDock wasn’t up there though. Although it shares a lot of features with DockView, the ability to stipulate keyboard shortcuts for the dock made me snap HyperDock up right away! I’ve never tried DockView, but after a quick look through its features, it doesn’t look like it has that capability.

  • Matt

    Great list. Is there a utility that will let me schedule iTunes to only download podcasts at night when I am sleeping and not using my Internet connection?

  • meh

    How many of these did you actually try out?

  • http://digitalformula.net Chris

    For passwords – KeePassX (the OS X port of KeePass). I mentioned it on a previous Mac.AppStorm post about password apps and reckon it’s the best out there, even if it’s not the prettiest (i.e. not designed specifically for Mac).

    Open source, fast, full of options … and free.

  • http://www.huisvandetoekomst.nl Chriet Titulaer

    A question about password utility apps like 1password: why not just use Keychain Access? It already stores a lot of your passwords anyway and you can encrypt/password protect it too…. I think…..

    • FubarGuy

      Look at the feature set for 1Password (or the other alternatives suggested) and see if Apple’s Keychain can hold its own. If you have to manage even a handful of passwords, credit cards, Identities for different sites then it becomes a no-brainer to use a 3rd party solution. Being able to sync 1Password to Dropbox (securely) and access all of my logins from any place with a browser is worth the price alone.

  • Alex

    I think Better Snap Tool and Sophos Antivirus for Mac also deserve a mention here, that latter being completely free.

    • ivan

      Better Snap Tool, cover all 4 windows manager from list.

  • Gasport

    Clean Slate is not free… Link takes you to MAS and cost is $1.99

  • http://triconium.com David Aaron Fendley

    1) LaunchBar ($35) The best replacement for Quicksilver bar none: http://bit.ly/lo7v7k

    2) BetterTouchTool (Free) Lets you customize dozens of multi-touch trackpad gestures: http://bit.ly/jg4e7t

  • niksimpson

    Awesome list!! It is one of the finest collection of OS X utilities which rarely found. I also wanted to increase this list to alteast 62 by adding by frequently used Mac OS X tools. Inspite of adding Mac OS X utilities one by one I am adding a its collection, the name of collection is “Stellar Drive Toolbox” (can be found on the web at http://www.drivetoolbox.com).

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  • http://about.me/tomek_piatek Tomek

    Padlock is nice but not necessary. Here’s how you can implement your own “Padlock”:

    • Open “System Preferences” > “Security & Privacy” and tick “Require password for sleep and screen saver “.
    • Now go to “Desktop & Screen Saver” pref panel and click “Hot Corners…”
    • Select your favourite corner (mine is lower right) and set it to “Put Display to Sleep”

    Et voilà! Instant Padlock-like functionality with a simple swipe of the mouse/trackpad.

  • http://geniusgeeks.com Ricky Shah

    Wow! An awesome collection of Mac utilities you’ve got here. This will help a newbie like me to utilize Mac better ;)

  • Maarten

    I’d like to mention Windownaut aswell. It has just been released and it’s a great window-manager with an simple and elegant UI.

    It’s now on sale (I bought one):
    http://www.binarybakery.com/product.php?app=windownaut

  • Greg

    You forgot to mention xScan 3.2 that is very cool to survey your Mac behavior
    http://www.adnx.com/i/apps/xscan4mac

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    Great list.

    It is really a wonderful app with anything you need.

    Thank You a lot!

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    Some applications are very helpful !!!

    Thank you A Lot!!

  • Benzamin watson

    Hello,
    Great content, informative, smartly written. I just want to add that although we know that Mac has many advanced features but still it needs some more third party tool to optimize it’s performance.

  • Ted

    I can recommend XtraFinder for that Finder extraordinaire feeling :-)
    http://www.trankynam.com/xtrafinder/

  • Ruben Schouten

    I can recommend SizeUp. It allows for some handy key combinations to instantly maximize a window (that doesn’t have that option natively, like Safari), move it to the upper, lower, left or right half of the screen, center it, resize it to a specified size, etc. Costs $13 at http://www.irradiatedsoftware.com/ but has a trial version available.

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