10 Productivity Apps For Your Mac-Based Home Office

Bakari Chavanu 27-04-2013

productivity apps for macIf you work at homebased office like I do, you no doubt spend a significant amount of time getting things done on your Mac. While I have already written about the advantages of using a standup desk From Sitting To Standing While Typing: Why You Need To Change Your Working Habit Writing full-time keeps me sitting at a desk nearly eight hours a day. My office chair is not one of those Lexus ergonomic models designed to take away the pain of sitting, and though I’ve... Read More , there are also several important and general productivity apps for Mac, for almost any type of workflow you engage in.


Though there is no robot application (yet!) that can do all the work for me, the following are 10 of the most useful free or low-cost productivity apps that I use on a daily or regular basis. These applications not only save me time but in many cases help me work more efficiently.


It’s difficult to work in any home-based office and not need a useful calendar. Though OS X comes installed with a default Calendar Mac app The Best Mac Apps to Install on Your MacBook or iMac Looking for the best apps for your MacBook or iMac? Here's our comprehensive list of the best apps for macOS. Read More , the third-party option, Fantastical [No Longer Available] is hands down the best calendar you should run on your Mac.

With Fantastical, you can input and check calendar events and schedules right from your Mac’s menu bar. You can create a new event simply by opening Fantastical’s drop-down window and entering the data for the event. Instead of clicking numbers and times, you simply write the event as if you were writing it on a scratch sheet of paper.

For example, to schedule a lunch meeting for next Wednesday, simply type: “Lunch with Bakari next wed, 11:30am, at Fresh Choice.” As you type, you watch Fantastical fill in all the data for you.

productivity apps for mac


You can preset the type of reminders you want for calendar events. Fantastical syncs with Apple’s Calendar application. By having Fantastical in your menu bar, you don’t have to open the Calendar app just to add or review a few events.

Super Memory Cleaner

If you find that your Mac slows down throughout the day or when you have several applications open, you should download Super Memory Cleaner [No Longer Available]. It does a great job of cleaning up hundreds of megabytes, or even gigabytes, of memory with one simple click. You can select to have it auto-clean, or clean at startup.

productivity apps mac

Desktop Wallpapers

If you meet clients in your home office, and/or you like your office to have professional décor, your desktop wallpaper should be just as classy as your iMac or Macbook computer. My wallpaper of choice is a collection produced by Vlad Studio.


productivity apps mac

These free wallpapers are designed by digital artist, Vlad Gerasimov, and you can download them for nearly any size desktop monitor. I recommend selecting and downloading a few dozens of your favorites and simply have your Mac change the pictures everyday, or each time you wake up your Mac. I find that these unique wallpapers add a little inspiration to my daily workflow.


There are occasions when you need to keep your Mac desktop or laptop awake when you’re doing a presentation, or playing a video while multitasking in another part of your office. This is where Caffeine [No Longer Available] comes in. When you enable it, it keeps your Mac from going to sleep until you cut if off. Jackson reviewed this application Keep Your Mac Awake With A Dose Of Caffeine Read More when it was first released back in 2008.

productivity apps mac



There are no shortage of to-do applications for the Mac, but if you’re still looking for one, you should give Wunderlist (free) a try. Dave reviewed Wunderlist - The Best To-Do List Application On The iPhone [iOS] Wunderlist is one of the simplest ways to keep track of what you need to do. It has an elegant user interface that just makes sense. Anyone can pick it up and figure out how... Read More the iOS mobile version of Wunderlist, but the desktop version contains a similar user interface.

productivity apps

Wunderlist is a clean, well designed cross-platform program where you can mange and sync all of your to-do lists. You can also share and collaborate lists with your colleagues. If you don’t need a task manager with lots of bells and whistles, Wunderlist can be very useful in your workflow.


FunctionFlip (free/donation) is a Preferences utility that allows you to customize those Fn keys at the top of your keyboard that you might rarely use. For instance, while I constantly use the assigned volume keys, I hardly ever use the brightness, iTunes, Exposé and Launchpad Fn keys on my iMac.


So with FunctionFlip, I can turn off those functions and assign them another purpose using applications like Keyboard Maestro or QuickSilver.

productivity apps


Another useful task and project manager is an online and mobile application called Trello. It’s sort of like a whiteboard for sorting ideas, lists of tasks, and project workflows. You can share your “whiteboards” with others, and view them in any web browser or the iOS version (free) of of the application and service. Erez reviewed Trello in more detail here Trello - A Unique, Simple & Powerful Project Management System From A Good Home Does the name Joel Spolsky mean anything to you? If so, you’re going to want to read this post, because it showcases Spolsky’s latest and greatest project. And if not, you should know this is... Read More .

productivity apps

Launchpad Manager

If you have amassed a lot of applications on your Mac, you have probably experienced how difficult it is to use Launchpad to access all of your applications. The Launchpad feature in Lion and Mountain Lion is not very useful if you don’t have your applications organized alphabetically or in folders. This is where Launchpad Manager ($7.99) comes in.


Launchpad Manager includes over a dozen features, including the ability to alphabetize applications, delete icons from Launchpad without uninstalling the applications themselves, and move selected applications to another Launchpad page. You can easily move applications into groups, rename icons and groups, and quickly cut and paste applications from one folder to another. You can use custom layouts of your Launchpad for different purposes.

You can download a free version of Launchpad Manager, but many of its advanced features are only available in the paid pro version.


Dropzone ($9.99) is a nifty little application that enables you to perform various tasks from the menu bar or from the left or right side of your desktop screen. For example, say you download a new application that is delivered to you in a DMG file. You can drag that DMG file to Dropzone and drop it on the Install Application action, and it will proceed to automatically open and install that application, and then delete the DMG file for you.


You can create another action that sends files to a pre-selected folder. There’s actions for quickly printing a file or converting a long URL to a short URL. You can download a 15-day trial of the application, which I recommend. Spend some time with it, and check out the user contributed actions for Dropzone.

If you find more than five actions that will enable you to get better at increasing productivity A Simple Productivity Guide for Everyone With all distractions that modern life brings, it's not easy to keep your productivity up. Whether you're an enthusiastic procrastinator, or just happen to have very little time at hand. Read More , then it may be worth paying for the application, which you should download from the Mac App Store.

Time Out

One of the ways to be more productive in your Mac-based home office is to actually take breaks from your Mac. Time Out (free) will remind you to take “normal”, say 10 minute breaks, and “micro” breaks, like 10 seconds every 30 minutes, based on the time intervals you set.

productivity apps for mac

When I don’t use this application, I end up working at my computer for hours before I take a break. Not taking a break causes a strain on my eyes, and by the afternoon I’m less productive. You can postpone or skip breaks, but doing so too often will defeat the purpose.

That’s it for my Mac-based home office applications. Let us know which productivity apps for Mac that you find most useful in your workflow.

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  1. RPJ
    May 2, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    I just tried Fantastical and while it is handy and appears quickly, it is no substitute for a real calendar. One of the things I use my calendar for is checking to see when I am busy and when I am free. Fantastical cannot do this, it only lists appointments. Of course you may have meant it should be used as an add-on. So I would have to keep using Calendar and pay $20 for Fantastical... not a real bargain. But I'm sure it suits some people. Cheers.


    • Bakari Chavanu
      May 2, 2013 at 8:18 pm

      RPJ, you might want to take a look at another calendar app called BusyCal. I use Fantastical mainly because I all I need is to get appointments and events inputted in my calendar, so I can get reminders. I rarely open my calendar app to view events. But I understand what your needs are. So if you don't think Apple's calendar is sufficient, check out BusyCal which I think offers a free trial download.

  2. supertofana
    May 1, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    Thanks, If I had Mac ... ;-)

    • Bakari Chavanu
      May 2, 2013 at 8:19 pm

      Time to switch, supertofana?

  3. Dan
    May 1, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    Thanks for this super useful article. If I may I do also suggest to check OmniFocus (little expensive), Anxiety (free) and Vitamin-R (paid). I use them as a combination of todo lists, capturing ideas, organising projects, making small task, making big task, reminders, marking progress, etc.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      May 2, 2013 at 8:20 pm

      Good point, Dan. There's a new version of OmniFocus that I think will released soon. I'll try to review it when it's released.

  4. Sofye
    April 30, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Evernote stay a good tool to taking notes at work, but it’s true, during meetings, for my project tracking iPad I prefer use Beesy. It’s a really good app for work, help to sort out and don't forget a thing on my differents projects. Very useful also in meeting, I can import, annotate and share my files, export PDF with people, archive my files on Dropbox.. Take note and send minutes at the end of the meeting by mail very quickly and easily.

    I discovered this tool on Picks Evernote, so I think it's can be interesting.


    • Bakari Chavanu
      April 30, 2013 at 8:21 pm

      Thanks Sofye, I've never heard of Beesy. Will definitely check out.

  5. sneha sood
    April 30, 2013 at 3:41 am

    I am also using Mac from last 4 years and I love all these features- Time Out, Dropzone, Trello, Function Flip etc.. But, over a period of time, Your Mac started slowing down due to system junks, unwanted data etc. So, you need to keep any optimization tool to keep your Mac healthy and Stellar Drive ToolBox is one of the famous Mac optimization tool. I have practical experience of using this tool.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      April 30, 2013 at 8:22 pm

      Sneha, thanks for the tip. I've never heard of the Stellar Drive ToolBox. Will definitely check it out.

  6. Curtis
    April 29, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    A memory cleaner? Seriously? You want to tell me that a user (or some half-with software developer) knows how to better manage the RAM than the kernel? That is a terrible recommendation.

    This is especially a terrible recommnedation since OSX includes the "purge" command which does exactly what the recommended application does. But it is really for development purposes, to ensure that a reloading of an application is not pulled from RAM while you are developing.

    To anyone out there who thinks a memory cleaner is a good idea, learn the most basic usage of the command line (meaning, just open a freakin terminal) and type "purge" and hit enter. You ahve a memory cleaner, wow!

    But this is likely to actually slow down your computer. Used memory is of no consequence. It keeps recently used programs in the RAM so that it will load super fast if you reopen it. It does not do this at the expense of current RAM usage. So if your running program needs more RAM, the cached programs are marked as able to be freed, and that RAM can be used for your RAM hogging current application. The computer knows how to do this, and do it well. You, the user, do not. Nor does the developer of the SuperDuperBetterMemoryMasterCleanerOptimizer or watever the h*ll it is called.

    Don;t use this crap!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      April 29, 2013 at 5:36 pm

      Hey Curtis, thanks for your passionate feedback. I typically write about applications that I have experience with, and Memory Cleaner is an app that has worked for me on both my iMac and MBA. It also has received good customer ratings in the Apple Store, at least the last time I checked. However, I must admit I have limited knowledge of basic usage of command line, and using it to purge memory. So you've definitely schooled me on the importance of looking into this subject. I appreciate your feedback and challenge to the application.

  7. Himali
    April 29, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Another great tool for Mac based Home Office is Brightpod( ) , a project, task management & collaboration app specifically for marketing teams. It takes the entire campaign planning & collaboration online so you don't miss anything.

    • Bakari Chavanu
      April 29, 2013 at 5:37 pm

      Cool, Himali, I'll take a closer look at this. Thanks for pointing it out.

  8. Bakari Chavanu
    April 28, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    Thanks Macwitty. I used MenuPop for a while, but for reason I stopped. I'll check it out again. I also use Typinator, but I kind of want to switch to TextExpander because of its iOS integration.

  9. mieszko200
    April 27, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    Thanks for the article! Looks great!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      April 28, 2013 at 5:39 pm

      Appreciate the feedback, mieszko200.

  10. doo
    April 27, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    Hi Bakari! Great article. You’ve listed some wonderful apps! But let me just suggest one more: doo. doo lets you access all your documents, wherever they are, then find any one of them in seconds: a great way to make your workflow more efficient and definitely a must-have for any writer.

    doo lets you access all your docs, stored locally or in the cloud (Dropbox, Google Drive, email, etc). After you connect your sources, doo automatically extracts relevant information from your documents and uses it to create intelligent tags. Selecting and combining tags makes document search-and-retrieval a cinch! doo provides intelligent suggestions as you type.

    Check it out for your Mac! It’s a great addition to any home office!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      April 28, 2013 at 5:38 pm

      Hi, thanks for your feedback. I have Doo downloaded on my Mac, but I just need to take a little time to check it out. I'm surprised someone hasn't reviewed it for MakeUseOf yet. I'll check into it.

  11. Scott M
    April 27, 2013 at 11:50 am

    I find myself using my Macbookpro much more often these days and the suggestions offered will make my life a heck of a lot easier and I'm hoping very much more productive.Of course they won't make my life perfect as I will still remain the one who is responsible for any new ideas and problem solving.I need an app on my bad and lazy days that I am able to start up and let run to produce gold from straw.Who knows more apps are coming evrey day!!

    • Bakari Chavanu
      April 28, 2013 at 5:37 pm

      Scott, I hear you about those "bad and lazy days", which are usually Mondays and Fridays for me. But probably a long vacation is what is needed, more than another app. Thanks for the feedback.