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My Must-Have Apps for macOS


I just setup 2 new Macs and I thought I’d share my must-have apps for macOS. I’ve been using macOS for over half of my life now. I've used a ton of different apps over the years and these are the ones that I really advocate for.

I should also mention that I'm very frugal when it comes to software, so these are all free! I should also mention that this list is geared towards developers, designers, and power users.

#1: Rectangle

Rectangle homepage

The native macOS window manager leaves a lot to be desired. It feels very slow and it requires lots of clicking. I’ve tried a few different WMs (including Amethyst, Spectacle, Moom, and yabai) but Rectangle is the one for me.

I make heavy use of the Ctrl+Alt+(u/i/j/k) shortcuts to move windows into the corners of my screen. The Ctrl+Alt+Arrow key shortcuts are also heavily used in my workflows. It gets bonus points for being easy to install and configured out of the box.

#2: AppCleaner

AppCleaner homepage

This one I rarely see mentioned but it is a must-have for me. It’s able to remove all the files associated with an app– including the ones that are hidden in the Library folder. It’s also able to remove the app’s preferences and other files that are not in the app’s bundle.

#3: brew

brew homepage

Brew has been a staple of my macOS setup for years. I use it to install CLI tools and even some GUI apps. It’s great for Linux users who are used to apt-get and yum.

#4: Dozer

Dozer homepage

I use Dozer to hide the menu bar icons that I don’t use often. I’ve got some OCD about having a clean menu bar and Dozer helps me achieve that. I used to use Bartender but Dozer is free and does the same thing. It can even be installed with brew: brew install --cask dozer

#5: kitty

kitty homepage

I started using kitty as my terminal about a year ago. I used to use iTerm2 but found that kitty is much faster and feels more native to macOS. Once you get your dotfiles just right, it’s a joy to use. Here are my dotfiles if you need a sane starting point: ZaneH/macos-dotfiles/kitty

#6: Maccy

Maccy homepage

This one can also be installed with brew: brew install --cask maccy. It’s a clipboard manager that is very easy to use. It supports images, text, and hex colors. It’s also very fast and lightweight. I have it configured to show up when I press Cmd+Shift+C and from there you can search through items that you’ve recently copied.

#7: Shottr

Shottr homepage

This is certainly one of my favorites. It’s a screenshot tool that is so far ahead of the native macOS screenshot tool. It has a color picker, a pixel ruler, a highly effective annotation tool and so much more. I can’t recommend it enough, especially if you do a lot of design work.

Please buy the dev a coffee if you like it.

#8: The Unarchiver

The Unarchiver homepage

99% of the time I’m using this to unzip .rar files. The Unarchiver is certainly the best free app for unzipping files that the native macOS Archive Utility can’t.

#9: VLC

VLC homepage

QuickTime Player is great for simple .mov playback but VLC is the best for everything else. It supports RTMP streams, HLS, and even YouTube videos. It’s also a great video converter. If you work with audio or video files, VLC is a must-have.

#10: Visual Studio Code

Visual Studio Code homepage

Since VSCode launched I’ve been using it as my main text editor. It has everything I need and it’s very fast (assuming you don’t have bad extensions.) I still use Vim for small edits but VSCode is my go-to.

I have a GitHub list of my VSCode extensions if you’re interested: ZaneH/lists/vscode-extensions

#11: Chrome Remote Desktop

Chrome Remote Desktop homepage

I often need a way to remote into my computers from my phone or other devices. Chrome Remote Desktop is (in my experience) the best way to do this. It’s fast, free, and easy to use. I used to use TeamViewer but it feels shady.

If I’m streaming a game, Parsec is another great alternative.

#12: oh-my-zsh

oh-my-zsh homepage

I’ve been using oh-my-zsh for years and I can’t imagine using a terminal without it. It makes tab completion much more useful and it has saved me countless keystrokes by now. This one is a must-have for developers.

#13: asdf

asdf homepage

Why bother with nvm, rbenv, conda, and all the other version managers when you can just use asdf plugins? I use it for Node, Ruby, Go, and Elixir. It makes it simple to install and switch between versions of each language.

Honorable Mentions

These are apps that I can recommend but are either (a) common knowledge (b) not specific to macOS (c) not essential to my workflow.