With the continually growing adoption of Mac computers in the office and a stronger demand for software and applications that will increase productivity and efficiency, there has been an increasing supply of free or relatively inexpensive programs for OS X that almost any Mac user could use on a daily basis. Below I have listed a few of my favorites.
Save up to 100 of the most recent clipboard copies for easy scrolling through later on, and paste at any time. I’m not sure what I would do without Jumpcut. I use it hundreds of times a day, and it has saved my fingers countless times. Download it and adjust the settings so that it saves after each copy, up to 100. Whenever you need to paste something you copied earlier, just scroll through your clipboard history! (Note: I’ve heard much talk about a more recent progenitor called FlyCut, which does the same thing as Jumpcut, but is kept more up to date.)
At the time I wrote this, GIF Brewery was free, but even if it isn’t still, this is a great app and worth any reasonable price to create GIFs without limitations and watermarks. You can find Gif Brewery at their website.
Why Apple didn’t add an easy to open Calendar to the menu bar of OS X, I have no idea. For the longest time, everyone used Day-O, but if you are using the newest version of your Intel operating system, Day-O will prove to be more frustrating than useful, as the developer stopped updating it several years ago. Itsycal, on the other hand, is updated often is works seamlessly.
If your hard drive is full and you don’t know why, GrandPerspective gives you an easy to understand overview of all your files and scales them by their data size. Chances are, you have at least one folder or file taking up excessive amounts of space. Be it a forgotten file in your Downloads or way back under your layers of Desktop Cleanup folders, GrandPerspective will find it.
I used to use this daily, and still have it open at all times in case I ever find myself in a situation where I need to navigate my computer without it being within reach. In two clicks I can open the corresponding iPhone app and take over the cursor so long as I’m on the same network.
This will probably become irrelevant soon, as the word is out that Apple will be integrating a similar service in their new OS, but for now, f.lux is a great piece of software that adjusts the color and brightness of your computer screen with the time of day and lighting in the room. More than just an auto brightness, it reduces the blue colors on your screen as well, which are scientifically shown to make sleeping difficult after being exposed. F.lux explains further on their website.
Image quality and image size are two different things, and while it’s a difficult concept to explain, it is totally possible to have two images of the same size and same apparent quality, and for one to be half or even a quarter as large in file size. ImageOptim will reduce an image’s quality as much as possible before the difference is noticeable to the human eye, and often times this means reducing the file size enough to get past nasty online upload limits. It’s free on their website.
I realize that this list is supposed to be on free software, but I am writing this on Byword right now so I’m giving it a brief second of limelight. Byword is the most simple, clean and visually appealing word processing software that I have found on the internet. It offers just enough to get your thoughts down, and not enough to be distracting. Things like grammar and spelling mistakes can be edited later, but the important thing is that you get your ideas down before they escape you. And the nicest thing about Byword? The naturally dark paper and white text option. When you’re already keeping your eyes open late at night, they will thank you for at least using Byword.
Unlike the name suggests, you don’t need to be a geek to use this tool. Run GeekTool over your desktop to integrate live feeds of things like the weather, Twitter feed, wiki articles, whatever is playing on Spotify and so much more. There are plenty of pre-made scripts available for people who want to create beautiful desktop backgrounds on their Mac and the possibilities are truly endless. I’ve read up on a popular alternative called NerdTool which is also free and may be easier to use, but I have stuck with GeekTool and find that it does what I need for a visually appealing desktop.
Digital Color Meter: native
This software comes preinstalled on all Macs, but it’s hidden away in the Utility/Other folder and many users have no idea that it exists. If you’ve ever done any sort of digital design, then you can use DCM to pull the color of any pixel on your screen in whatever format you need (HEX, Adobe, P3, native, etc) and copy it with the hotkey CMD+Shift+C.
I hate SelfControl, but I love it. The software blocks any website you want for any designated amount of time so that you can focus on what’s important. There are no workarounds—save opening terminal and sudo disabling i—which means that unlike all those fancy alarm clock apps you downloaded that require you to shake or sing or whatever to disable, you can’t simply force close SelfControl to bypass the restrictions.
If you don’t use Spotify, then this won’t be of any use to you, skip to the next app. For the rest of us, this program sends a brief notification whenever a new track plays on Spotify, so that playlist bingers can always be on top of what they are playing while they continue to multitask. Spotify Notifications is simple and light.
I use this on top of Spotify Notifier because while the above works offline, Shazam isn’t restricted to what I’m playing and will alert me of any song playing around my computer, similar to how the app works on iOS. This does mean that often times I get notified twice about what I’m playing, but Shazam usually has a 30-second delay, so I only notice if I’ve already forgotten.
AirMail 2: $9.99
Imma sneak another paid app in here, but you know what, this is my list so I can do what I want here. AirMail 2 is currently the best OS X mail software out there. If you are still using Apple Mail or Google Inbox, it’s time to put down a Hamilton and get this bad boy.
Seil and Karabiner: free
These two tiny bits of software have the power to completely change up your keyboard. I use Seil to make my Caps Lock key—which I never use—act as a second Delete key, which I now always use. I also use Karabiner to convert my Function (Fn) key to an alternate Enter key, which I use regularly when navigating the mouse with my right hand and managing the keyboard with my left. I use my new keys hundreds of times a week.
I like to keep all the applications on my Dock to stay sorted the way I have them, to allow muscle-memory room to kick in and save my navigating time. Lock and Unlock Dock allows me to keep my Dock locked from accidental changes and alien apps, while making it just as simple to unlock in case I need to add or remove somebody from my dock. Put Lock and Unlock Dock in your Applications folder and train Spotlight to open it by typing “Lock” or “Unlock.”
I like to know what is being sent out and received by my network-card and Little Snitch gives a simple view that reaches beyond the native Activity Monitor. If network usage is any issue with your home network or mobile network, this program and the one below is for you.
I work off my iPhone’s tethering network regularly, but with backup services running, and countless apps pulling data for various tasks, it isn’t hard to eat up all my data plan without consciously doing any more than load a couple web pages. TripMode allows me to block certain services and apps whenever I’m tethering so that I am only using the internet for what I intended when working with restricted access.
CMD+Space is a built in hotkey on every Mac, but so few people actually use this amazing search feature despite it being so accessible. You can use Spotlight to search your computer for files, documents, make calculations, find contacts and so many other things, you’re crazy if you aren’t using it (unless you use Alfred instead, and that would be okay).
This is definitely for the more advanced users, but if your computer is more than a few years old, you may want to have a little control over your computer fans. Sometimes they blow excessively, and sometimes they don’t blow enough. With smcFanControl, you can adjust the RPMs of your fans, which can be a wonderful liberty to have.
Ever wanted access to your files on your iOS device or its backups without Jailbreaking it? iExplorer gives limited but useful access to many files on your iPhone, iPad or iPod which is helpful for viewing, deleting or adding files manually. The software is rather expensive, but it offers a trial version that can be used for a short period of time if you ever find yourself in a pinch.
Similar to Windows, programs tend to stack up in the menu bar of Macs as they are collected by people searching for posts such as this one, and no program cleans those messes up better than Bartender; a handy device that gives you the option to hide any or all of the icons on the menu behind a clean drop-down menu on your top-bar. Try it for free for 4 weeks. No credit card required.
In the event that you try one these programs or apps I suggested above and don’t like it, AppCleaner is a nice and light piece of software that will remove all (or most) of the hidden files that some programs leave scattered around your computer. It’s pretty handy, and with all the software I test out, I use this quite often.