22 Must Have Apps for First Time Mac Users

Last Updated: September 17, 2016

So you’ve got your hands on a new Mac. Then what? The first logical way is to populate it with essential applications. But what applications are essential? As a person who uses Mac since the Tangerine iBook, I think I know a thing or two about Mac apps. Here’s the list of must have Mac apps for first-time Mac users.

Launcher: Alfred (free)

One of the most useful apps that I’ve installed on my Mac is a launcher, and Alfred is perfect for first time Mac users. Mac comes with its launcher-like feature called Spotlight, but Alfred is like Spotlight on steroid.

Not only Alfred will help you launch anything with a few keystrokes, but it can also define words, do math calculation, search local folders and the internet, find contacts, play iTunes, become clipboard manager, and more. You can also choose one of the themes to change its appearance. If you upgrade your Alfred with powerpack, you can create custom themes to make Alfred looks the way you want, and workflows to cut down the repetitive task.

New Mac -bb- Alfred

There are alternative launchers that you can try like Quicksilver (free) and Launchbar (€ 24.00).

Files and Folders Management

‘Finder’ is a files and folders management feature that is built into Mac OS X, and it does a good job. But for more advanced files and folders management, you need help from third-party apps. For Finder alternative, you can use Path Finder (US$ 39.95). Other than supporting dual pane window to make copying and moving file easier, Path Finder also provides you with full keyboard navigation, ability to batch rename files, compare and sync folders, and more.

New Mac -bb- PathFinder

Other than Finder alternative, you can also automate file management using Hazel. You set conditions on a folder, and when the conditions are met, Hazel will do a set of actions. For example, every time you finish downloading a movie file, the file will be moved to Movies folder automatically. We have discussed Hazel before, so please refer to that article if you want to know more about it.

One more tool that you can add to your arsenal is Unarchiver (free). It’s an app that can help you extract virtually any archive format.

Note Taking and Synchronizing

What is a computer without text editor? And today’s version of text editor adds the synchronizing twist to the genre. There are quite a few of note taking and synchronizing apps in the Mac’s world.

If you just want a robust text editor, try Text Wrangler (free). But if you want a multi-platform note container, the obvious choice is the mammoth Evernote (free with upgrade options). Or if you want the lighter options, there are Simplenote (free) and the beautiful Letterspace (US$ 9.99).

Since we are talking about writing tools, why not try Desk PM (US$ 19.99)? This (Apple’s best app of the year for 2014 and 2015) is a minimalist writing app that takes a different approach to the old craft. Don’t let the blank canvas fool you, as the editing options will present themselves above the selected text. This app is also a robust blogging tool that supports WordPress, Medium, Blogger, Tumblr, Evernote and even Facebook.

New Mac -bb- desk pm

Video Playing and Converting

Many Mac users consume movies on their machines. Among many video players alternatives, there are two that stand out: VLC and MPlayerX (both free). These two players can play virtually any media files that you throw at them, supports subtitles, and tons of other media playing features. Due to the limitation on Mac App store, (the latest version of) the apps are not available there.

Once in a while, you’ll need to convert media files from one format to another. The most famous media converter is HandBrake (free). This powerful app has very detailed settings that users can choose, but unfortunately, the features make it difficult for ordinary users to use it. If you want something as simple as drag and drop converting, maybe you can try Permute 2 (US$ 9.99).

New Mac -bb- Handbrake

Image Editing and Manipulating

You don’t have to be a professional graphic designer to need an image editor. Even everyday computer users need to edit and manipulate pictures once in a while. You can do anything with Photoshop, but it’s both too huge and expensive for everyday users. The lighter (and almost as powerful) alternative is Pixelmator (US$ 29.99).

New Mac -bb- Pixelmator

If what you need is a little bit of screen captures here and there, and a quick image annotations, you could try Evernote’s Skitch (free) that will quickly snap your screen with a keyword shortcut, and save the result to your Evernote account. Here are some Skitch alternatives too, if you are not fond of it.

And to automatically optimize image size, you can use ImageOptim (free). Just drag and drop your images into the app’s window and it will do its magic.

Alternative Browsers

Mac OS X’s Safari is a very capable browser. It’s fast, light, and does everything that a browser does. But having other alternative browsers ready wouldn’t hurt either. Maybe you want the same experience anywhere you go, or maybe you just want to open a similar website with different identities.

The best browser alternatives are Chrome and Firefox (both free) with others practically non-existent. Other than available for other platforms, these alternative browsers also sync your account across devices and can be expanded using browser extensions.

Windows Management

One of the first thing that those who come from the Windows world would notice the first time they use Mac is that Mac treats application windows differently than what Windows does. In Mac environment, windows float around the screen. They do full screen, but they don’t “snap”.

If you want to recreate that familiar snap feeling in Mac, you can use the help of Spectacle (free). The app will allow you to move and resize windows quickly and easily using keyboard shortcut combination. For example, you can use Command + Option + F to make the window fill the screen, or Command + Option + Right Arrow to put the window on the right half side of the screen.

New Mac -bb- Spectacle

But if you think Spectacle is not advanced enough for your windows management thirst, you can try Divvy (US$ 13.99).

SEE ALSO: Top 6 Apps to Unlock Mac With iPhone

And More

With literally thousands of apps out there, there must be many apps that are not included in the list. So, if you think that there are other apps that should be installed by the first time Mac users, please mention them in the comments section below.


Jeffry Thurana is a creative writer living in Indonesia. He's on a quest of learning the art of storytelling, believing that how you tell a story is as important as the story itself. He is also an architect and a designer, and loves traveling and playing classical guitar.