10 Important Mac Tools You Should Use But Probably Don’t

Bakari Chavanu 23-03-2011

Although Macs are robust computers with plenty of awesome features inside Apple’s operating system itself, there are a slew of free third-party applications that should be in every Mac user’s Applications folder. These tools do all sorts of things, from cleaning out international language files you don’t need, cloning your hard drive, to providing better features for reading PDF documents.


I’ve chosen only Mac tools that I’ve personally used over the years, including ones that don’t duplicate what pretty much already exist as part of Mac OS X. However, I’m sure there are other useful applications that MUO readers can recommend, so please do so in the comment section below. Also, you may want to look for these applications in the App Store Twitter for Mac and the New Apple App Store [Mac] Read More . Downloading these apps from there means that they can be more easily updated in the future.


If you want to reclaim several hundred megabytes of hard drive space, Monolingual can do that for you very quickly. It removes unnecessary language resource applications installed on your Mac. You simply check and remove the international languages you don’t need. This is especially useful if you have a MacBook Air which has a smaller amount of memory than most Macs.

mac tools

Carbon Copy Cloner

With 500GB external hard drives being almost as cheap as an iPod Nano, there’s no reason not to be cloning your entire Mac hard drive. Carbon Copy Cloner can create a bootable backup of your entire Mac without you hardly lifting a finger.

cool mac tools


You can schedule the backup to run on a regular basis. In the event your Mac crashes, you can simply reboot from the cloned drive.


I’ve written about Growl! before. This little behind-the-scenes program can notify you about new email, Direct Message tweets, completed uploads, and lots of other activity happening in your Mac. Growl supports over a hundred different browser, chat, file sharing, multimedia, music, productivity, and download applications.



Your desktop can be more than a place to park files and display wallpaper. With GeekTool, you can actually customize your desktop to display all kinds of information, such as the time, date, weather, or even the tweets from your Twitter contacts.



Check out the possibilities of what this app can do. GeekTool may appear a little intimidating to Mac newbies, but Jeffry’s how-to article GeekTool - Display System Information on Mac in Style Read More should help you get started.


If you regularly download and read PDF documents, I definitely recommend that you ditch Apple’s Preview PDF reader and start using Skim Skim - An Alternative PDF Reader & Note Taker for Mac Read More . It has tens times more features for annotating documents and bookmarking pages than Preview does. It is the best free alternative PDF reader.

cool mac tools



Quicksilver enables you to practically keep your hands on your keyboard at all times, because if you learn how to use it, you can simply activate Quicksilver with a keyboard shortcut and type whatever application, URL, or even Address Book contact you want to launch on your desktop. You can even use Quicksilver to activate features in iTunes without bringing the music player to the forefront.

cool mac tools


If Quicksilver is not as intuitive as you would like, you will find Google’s QuickSearchBox more user friendly. Amazingly, this search application finishes the hundred yard dash well before Apple’s own Spotlight can get off the starting line.

tools for mac


With QuickSearchBox, you can even do Google searches from your desktop, instead of heading over first to your favorite web browser.

Permanent Eraser

When you throw files in the trash of any computer, those files are never fully disposed of. Bits and pieces of it, or even entire files can remain in the bowels of your hard drive. You can use Apple’s Secure Empty Trash feature to overwrite deleted files, but for more sensitive files you will want an application that provides added security.

tools for mac

Permanent Eraser does exactly that. According to the developers, “This utility overwrites your data thirty-five times, scrambles the original file name, and truncates the file size to nothing before Permanent Eraser finally unlinks it from the system. Once your data has been erased, it can no longer be read through traditional means.” This type of application should be  a part of every Mac user’s arsenal.


When you purchase a DVD movie, you will probably want to back it up on your computer hard drive, as you do with other important digital media. HandBrake can do that job for you.

tools for mac

HandBrake works with Mac, Linux, and Windows. Though the application’s interface looks challenging, using it is not too difficult. Check out our instructions here 5 Simple Steps to Rip an Entire DVD to Your Hard Drive Have you backed up your DVD collection? Let us show you how to rip your DVDs to your hard drive for free with HandBrake. Read More .


If for some reason you want to change the classic Mac OS X screen image that appears when you log into your Mac, you can easily do that with Loginox.

mac tools

There are a few very geeky ways to do this, but Loginox makes it a drag and drop process. It’s a very useful tool if you want to customize that part of your Mac.

These are ten Mac tools I’ve used over the years. There are others, like Evernote 7 Ways To Make Use Of Evernote Read More and Skype that I assume many Mac MUO readers are familiar with. But let us know what free Mac tools you think should be part of this list and why.

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  1. Solobuscame Interactivo
    April 27, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    great post

  2. Jerbone
    April 9, 2011 at 1:41 am

    While Growl! (and Herald) are great programs they are in desperate need of updates. Neither is compatible w/Mail 4.5 :-/

    • Bakari
      April 28, 2011 at 6:42 am

      Excellent point, Jerbone. I’m surprised Growl isn’t updated more often.

  3. Alan
    April 8, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    An oldie but goodie: App Cleaner [Broken Link Removed]

  4. Alan
    April 8, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    An oldie but goodie: App Cleaner
    [Broken Link Removed]

  5. Viv Rosser
    April 8, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    I recently came across Alfred its a small free programme and very useful for finding anything on my Mac

    • Bakari
      April 8, 2011 at 4:40 pm

      Thanks, Viv, for sharing this. I came across that app after I posted the article. I want to try it out.

  6. Anonymous
    March 26, 2011 at 11:53 am

    I'd like to add, and finally,

    • Bakari
      March 27, 2011 at 9:36 am

      Thanks, Nutz. I'll look these up.

  7. jorge
    March 24, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    great stuff Bakari.......thnks

  8. Anonymous
    March 24, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Nice article, nice read! Thanks very much!
    To me, iFunia Free YouTube downloader now also is one of my requisite Mac Tools.

    BTW: found this "10 Must-Have Apps in the Mac App Store" in iFunia, what's yours?

  9. Mike
    March 24, 2011 at 8:28 am

    I find it rather interesting that Growl makes it into peoples App lists ~ personally I consider it more annoying and it always throws me off focus. I actually doom Adobe for shipping it with CS5.

    My personal favorites are:
    Liquid CD ~ as Roxio Toast alternative
    TeamViewer ~ easiest Remote Desktop out there
    VirtualBox ~ alternative for VMware Fusion/Parallels (if you don't need to much performance)
    Bonjour Browser/Flame and Zenmap ~ to see what's casting on your Network
    Packages ( ~ for those who need to build installer packages

  10. Quân Anh
    March 24, 2011 at 6:38 am

    Great great article! I used half of them already but Skim and Quick Search Box are brand new to me.
    Thanks Bakari!

  11. Julie
    March 24, 2011 at 3:14 am

    love this!

    • Bakari
      March 24, 2011 at 5:46 am

      Thank you, Julie, appreciate it. There are lots of little gems out there that really make your Mac a powerful machine. Also check out my articles on Automator to get even more ideas. Also visit our PDF section and look up the Mac related books. Lots more material there.