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Each year I look forward to rounding-up my top list of applications used throughout the year, and today I’ll start by listing my OS X picks. Highlighting my favorites also acknowledges the hard work of developers in creating awesome and constantly updated applications that address the needs and wishes of users.

There are several applications from my 2011 and 2012 From ProCamera to Paprika: My Top 10 Favorite Apps for 2012 From ProCamera to Paprika: My Top 10 Favorite Apps for 2012 Following an annual tradition I started last year, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight the best and most useful apps from this past year. By now we all take for granted how... Read More favorites lists that should be re-listed for 2013, but I’ve decided to not to highlight applications from previous years, and instead focus on old and new Mac applications that have been especially useful in my workflow in 2013.

Keyboard Maestro ($36)

The Mac automation program Keyboard Maestro saves me tons of time, and I get a kick out of seeing how I can automate redundant tasks on my Mac.

Since I reviewed Keyboard Maestro Automate Everything On Your Mac with Keyboard Maestro [Mac] Automate Everything On Your Mac with Keyboard Maestro [Mac] I've written several articles about Mac automation, including a MUO Automation Guide on how to get started with Apple's Automator and the built-in OS X features for creating smart folders, playlists, albums, and mailboxes. But... Read More back in May it has received a major upgrade to version 4.0 that includes Safari and Chrome actions, advanced sorting options, customizable icons for macros, wireless network triggering and much more. Keyboard Maestro was built for non-developers, so you don’t need to know how to code in order to use it.

Keyboard Maestro macro


Scrivener ($45)

Though I use MarsEdit Write, Edit & Manage Blog Posts Faster With MarsEdit for OS X Write, Edit & Manage Blog Posts Faster With MarsEdit for OS X While WordPress is the quintessential blogging service, writing blogs directly in its text editor is not always user friendly. That's why I use MarsEdit for composing and uploading all of my blog posts. Read More to write my MakeUseOf articles, Scrivener is the best application for all my major writing projects.

Scrivener writing panel

Scrivener is great for writing research papers, ebooks, PDF guides, and novels because it enables users to keep all their notes, research sources, plus their main writing project in one place. Written documents can be exported to different formats, including Word and ePub or Kindle formats.

Download a free trial copy of Scrivener and check out our free PDF guide for the application.

SnappyApp (free)

Screenshot applications are plentiful for the Mac, but SnappyApp Snappy Does More Than Just Capture Your Screen Snappy Does More Than Just Capture Your Screen Even though there's a good dozen third-party screenshot tools on the market, the built-in Mac OS X screenshot tool always seemed to suffice for me. It's simple, elegant, and it just works. Read More is a little screenshot gem I like to use when I need to capture and view something on desktop while I write. What’s different about SnappyApp is that it keeps screenshots above other applications instead of automatically saving them as a file on the desktop.

SnappyApp 1

Simon’s extended review of SnappyApp Snappy Does More Than Just Capture Your Screen Snappy Does More Than Just Capture Your Screen Even though there's a good dozen third-party screenshot tools on the market, the built-in Mac OS X screenshot tool always seemed to suffice for me. It's simple, elegant, and it just works. Read More describes its other useful features. If you work on your Mac throughout the day, you will probably benefit from this free app.

BetterTouchTool (free)

Though I referenced the automation program BetterTouchTool Power Up Your Mac With Advanced BetterTouchTool Automations Power Up Your Mac With Advanced BetterTouchTool Automations I started using BetterTouchTool back in 2011, and since then it has become one of the top three Mac applications for boosting my productivity and streamlining my workflow. Though BTT can be used by any... Read More above, I think it must be also highlighted as a favorite because I use it several dozens times a day. BetterTouchTool enables users to activate actions on their Mac using assigned finger gestures on their trackpad or Magic Mouse.


I use BTT to close application windows, grab a quick screenshot, open selected webpages, move windows to my second monitor, play and pause Rdio and iTunes A Closer Look At iTunes Match vs. Home Sharing vs. Web Streaming A Closer Look At iTunes Match vs. Home Sharing vs. Web Streaming With the recent launching of Apple's iCloud and the music streaming service iTunes Match, cloud computing seems to be the future of Apple and other computer companies. If you use multiple Apple devices like I... Read More  and execute keyboard shortcuts in different applications among others. This application saves me the trouble of remembering and typing keyboard shortcuts, and it works surprisingly well with Keyboard Maestro. BetterTouchTool is not available in the Mac App Store, but it can be downloaded from the developer’s website for free.

Dropzone ($9.99)

Dropzone is another productivity app useful for all types of actions, including moving files, exporting images to ImageShack, Flickr, or Dropbox, executing Automator workflows, and launching applications and folders—either in the menu bar or from the left or right side of Mac screen.


I use Dropzone for resizing a file with Photoshop, sending a file to a project or junk folder, batch renaming and quickly installing applications in a .DMG file.

TweetDeck (free)

Though I use Tweetbot on my iOS devices, I switched back to TweetDeck New TweetDeck for Mac Includes Better Tweeting and Image Preview New TweetDeck for Mac Includes Better Tweeting and Image Preview Twitter has released a new update of TweetDeck, adding several improvements for writing and replying to tweets. Read More on my Mac. Both twitter clients have similar functions, but I prefer TweetDeck for quickly adding and deleting search and hashtag columns, scheduling tweets for later posting, and posting tweets to multiple accounts.


The one Tweetbot feature missing in TweetDeck is the ability to mute and ignore, for a specified amount of time, people who may be posting too many tweets you find annoying. TweetDeck does though allow for filtering timelines based various criteria, including a specified number of retweets, favorites, and keywords.

Despite lying dormant for some time, Twitter started work on both the standalone OS X Twitter app as well as TweetDeck for OS X in 2013 and it now enjoys Retina support and improved compatibility.

CleanMyMac 2 ($39.95)

To run maintenance on my iMac and MacBook Air, I use CleanMyMac Clean Out Your Mac and Give It New Life with CleanMyMac [Giveaway] Clean Out Your Mac and Give It New Life with CleanMyMac [Giveaway] Read More , which cleans out user and system cache files, user logs, broken preferences, foreign language files, forgotten system log files, and other junk that may be taking up memory space. While writing this article, CleanMyMac scanned and cleaned 5.3GB of files on my Mac, including residue left over from applications I had previously deleted.


Alfred (free)

Alfred is best known as an application launcher, but its recent major update added the ability for users to create powerful automatic workflows that can be launched with an assigned keyboard shortcut.

Alfred sample workflow 2

I use Alfred mostly for quickly running a “I’m Feeling Lucky” Google and MUO keyword search, which skips the search results page and goes directly to the first ranked page for the keyword or phrase. To get more details, see my article how to create Alfred search workflows How To Create Your First Workflow System In Alfred 2.0 [Mac] How To Create Your First Workflow System In Alfred 2.0 [Mac] Computers should be about getting things done faster and more efficiently. This is where the award-winning productivity Mac application, Alfred comes in. Using a few keyboard shortcuts, and/or keyword commands, Alfred enables you to quickly,... Read More .

History Hound ($14.95)

History Hound is a little time saver that works in the background periodically scanning my browsers’ caches, history, and bookmarks. When I need to find something among the web pages I’ve visited in the last several days, weeks or even months, I can do a simple keyword search, and History Hound locates and filters search results.

History Hound

Pages can be even be viewed in the built-in browser, making this the perfect history enhancement for anyone who uses more than one browser.


While there are some things I don’t like about Evernote 5 Uses for the Evernote Desktop Clients [Windows & Mac] 5 Uses for the Evernote Desktop Clients [Windows & Mac] A couple of years ago, we had a post on the myriad uses for Evernote, which could well be an all-in-one second brain. With the advent of improvements on the desktop clients, there have been... Read More , the built-in highlighter tool, the improved web clipper, the ability to add notes and notebooks as shortcuts in the top-level sidebar, as well as other upgrades 8 Evernote Upgrades You Should Know About 8 Evernote Upgrades You Should Know About It seems like every other month, Evernote gets additional upgrades. A few are quietly released, while others are highly anticipated by heavy Evernote users. Since I wrote my last article about Evernote's new design and... Read More , have made it more user friendly for reading and writing longer form documents, and syncing content between other Apple devices.

Evernote highlighter

What Are Your Favorites?

That’s it for my favorites for the year. Did I get it right? Have you got any other favourite apps you’ve discovered or simply relied on a lot over the past year? Let us know in the comments!

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  1. Adam Sheckler
    April 29, 2014 at 2:41 am

    Great article, Bakari.

    I would also add Pull - Menu Timer to the list as a good menu bar productivity app. It's a timer in the menu bar you drag to activate. I've started using it a lot lately to make sure I don't get sidetracked on the computer.

    I've also tried both Alfred and LaunchBar. I found Alfred more easily customizable, so I've stuck with that.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      April 29, 2014 at 5:31 am

      Thanks, Adam, I'll check out Pull Menu Timer. I've also downloaded LaunchBar on my MacBook Air, but haven't had enough to really use it, since I'm already using Alfred. Well, thanks for stopping by and sharing you input.

  2. Digital
    February 10, 2014 at 6:01 am

    You forgot LaunchBar. Unquestionably the most amazing and easy app launcher tools for Mac OSX. And in this day and age of multiple devices and machines, I find that cloud based services are very confusing. But SugarSync with its ability to designate ANY folder on your Mac as a Sync/Share folder, makes life easy and while I own a premium DropBox, I find the SugarSync so much more user-friendly. Like many, I hope its performance improves, but hands down it's so much better than DropBox for syncing directories across machines and iOS.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      February 10, 2014 at 5:16 pm

      Digital, I haven't used LaunchBar yet. I use Alfred instead. I am curious about LB and wonder what it offers that Alfred doesn't.

    • Jan Peeters
      February 12, 2014 at 6:12 pm

      Hi Bakari, Launchbar offers so much more and it's (one of) the first quick launchers for OS X. I can't live without it. And what I like better than Alfred is that you don't have to remember many different shortcuts for parts of the program. Have a look.

  3. Bakari Chavanu
    January 24, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    Hey Nina, I need to take another look at the Meetings app for Mac. I downloaded it from the Mac App Store months ago. I have though reviewed two iPad agenda and meeting apps that work pretty well: MinuteTaker and Meetings Help You Produce Professional iPad Minute Reports. But they are iOS only. Thanks so much for your feedback.

  4. Nina
    January 24, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    This is one of the best lists for productivity apps I've seen so far. Great job Bakari. But I cannot find the Meetings, it's one of the well known apps for meetings and agendas. It would be perfect for this list. As David did I will expand the list with this one:

  5. Dr Evan Mitchell Stark PhD
    December 15, 2013 at 3:11 am

    Great article. Great. Informative, well illustrated, love your posts.

    Most of us have a different take on Evernote. Reference the NYT article form Tuesday.

    The great functionality of Evernote is NOT note-taking. It's for dumping anything and everything so you never lose it and can sync across devices. Photos, receipts, searchable PDFs. The beauty of it is you can email in your media, drag and drop, and scan. But that's not all. Tags make it super. For example, I run a small business and need to have all my receipts and documents easily accessible so I can calculate deductions and have them in one place should I be audited. I simply tag a receipt I get via email by putting in the subject line
    #tax #2013. When I'm ready to do my taxes, I search on those tags and Evernote provides me all my tax-related documents instantly, whereas I, like most of us, would spend hours looking for relevant paperwork in shoeboxes, in drawers, on shelves, etc.

    So contemplate Evernote as THE place simply dump everything you collect in one place, tagged or not It's easy with other search tools to retrieve whatever you suddenly need.

    Thanks again for your post.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      December 15, 2013 at 11:38 pm

      Dr. Evan, thanks for your feedback. Yeah, I used to dump all kinds of stuff in my Evernote, but I found that I was not reviewing most of the stuff I put in there. So now I try to mainly use if for current projects I'm working on, and job related tasks.

      I also do less bookmarking of web articles in Evernote, and use Pocket and Diigo for those purposes. I mainly save PDFs in iAnnotate, because it contains better annotation tools. But like you, I do still clip important receipts in Evernote. But Tagging is not something I do very much in Evernote. I use folders instead. Just one less step. Again, thanks for you feedback. Really appreciate it.

  6. Topher Hunt
    December 13, 2013 at 11:53 pm

    My "must-have app" is Circus Ponies Notebook. I use it pretty much constantly to hold my to-do list, random thoughts, and blueprints for upcoming projects. It can hold an incredible amount of detail yet only show what I need to see, which makes it easier for me to jump between the forest and the trees when planning websites.

  7. Bud
    December 12, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    CleanMyMac is an EXCELLENT Mac cleaner. Have had for nearly 3 years now and does a great job of cleaning out a lot of accumulated internet JUNK!!!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      December 12, 2013 at 9:02 pm

      Thanks for your feedback, Bud. Yeah, CleanMyMac is the easiest application to use for maintaining a Mac computer.

  8. Sloan
    December 12, 2013 at 11:24 am

    PopShot /

  9. Thomas
    December 11, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    Notational Velocity

    • Bakari Chavanu
      December 12, 2013 at 9:02 pm

      Awesome recommendations, Thomas. Thanks.

  10. David
    December 11, 2013 at 7:53 pm
    • Bakari Chavanu
      December 12, 2013 at 9:04 pm

      Thanks David. I should have included TextExpander in my article, because I use it just as much as I use Keyboard Maestro. Haven't tried Calibre yet.