15 Must-Have Apps for Those Who Spend All Day on a Mac

Akshata Shanbhag 24-07-2015

Our list of the best Mac apps 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  already caters to all kinds of users, but today we have a set of apps aimed squarely at those who are glued to their MacBooks and iMacs all day.


These powerful utilities are designed to enhance your everyday Mac OS X experience. They’ll make your digital workflow not just more productive, but also more comfortable and pleasant.

We have saved applications like office suites, image editors, and outliners for another day.

For Protecting Your Eyes

f.lux (free)

Whether you’re working insane hours to meet a deadline or bingeing on YouTube videos, staring at a computer screen all day long isn’t exactly pleasant. But you knew that already. All we’re saying is have mercy on your eyes and install f.lux.


f.lux ensures that your Mac’s display changes color to adapt to the time of the day Use F.lux To Sleep Better After Late-Night Computer Activities If you look carefully, most of LCD monitors have a button to automatically change the attributes of the screen to adjust for the types of media which is being viewed. Read More . Once you install the app, tell it where you live and it will take care of the rest. As the sun sets, your computer screen will stop blinding you with its bright sunlight-like glow. It’ll take on a warm, subtle hue instead.


Want to preview how the app will behave at, say, sunset or bedtime? Want to tweak the color temperatures to your liking? You can do that and more via the Preferences section. Click on f.lux’s menu bar icon and you’ll find a link to it. You can also disable f.lux temporarily or even for specific apps.

For Supercharging Spotlight

Flashlight (free)

Flashlight hosts a large set of plugins that extend the capabilities of your Mac’s search feature, Spotlight Search More Efficiently In Mac OS X With Our Top Spotlight Tips Spotlight has been a killer Mac feature for years, with Cupertino regularly schooling Redmond in the art of desktop search. Here are a few tips to help you find more on your Mac. Read More . The result is that OS X’s native search feature gets superpowers Add Superpowers To Spotlight With This Unofficial Plugin System Bring Google, Wolfram Alpha, the weather and just about anything else to Spotlight. Read More  and you can access them all with a few keystrokes.

So what can you do with these added features? What can’t you do is a better question. You can search Google, translate text, send emails and iMessages, quickly set reminders, add calendar events, send tweets and Slack messages and even view pictures of cute kittens. You can even install more tweaks from the Flashlight control panel, and it’s all free!



For Keeping Your Clipboard Saves Handy

Copy’em Paste ($9.99)

Copy’em Paste keeps a record of things you have copied to the clipboard. It works with text, files, code snippets, images — pretty much everything you can copy. You can sort clips, search through them with ease, save the ones that you use often, and even skip saving clips copied from specific programs. The app is quite versatile that way. If you don’t want to paste clips manually, install the free Copy’em Paste Helper app to add the auto-paste feature.

The feature-rich Copy’em Paste gives you the ability to save unlimited clips and manipulate them as you like. This makes it well worth the $9.99 price tag. If you’re looking for a free solution to begin with, give PasteBox a shot.


For Tracking Time

RescueTime (free, premium option available)

How can you stop wasting time if you don’t know what you’re wasting it on? Install RescueTime to get a clear picture of which digital activities are taking up more of your time than they should. It runs in the background, making a note of the time you spend on each app and website you open. Then, it compiles all that data into a thorough report that you can use to plan your work and manage your time better.

The Lite version of RescueTime is free. The Premium version has a free 14-day trial and is $9 per month thereafter. If you want to block distracting websites or track time when you’re away from the computer, the upgrade will do just that.

If you’re a freelancer looking for an app to help with time tracking for your projects, try Kapow. Graeme Gott is the man behind Kapow. He’s the same guy who gave us the popular minimalist writing app FocusWriter FocusWriter - Minimalist, Distraction-Free & Beautiful Text Editor Read More .


For Blocking Online Distractions


If you can’t get any work done because you often get sidetracked by distractions online, you need a dose of SelfControl. Use it to create a blacklist of websites you find particularly distracting, set a timer, and get working. SelfControl will block access to the websites on your blacklist for the time you specify. You can browse other sites as usual — a good thing if your work depends on the Web.


Already thinking of ways to cheat? You can’t — even if you restart your Mac or delete the app itself. You have to wait for the timer to run out.

For Working with The Pomodoro Technique

Pomodoro One

You know we love the Pomodoro technique Cut Through Procrastination With These Pomodoro Technique Apps & Software Procrastination is a malady that pervades students and workers in all corners of the world and it infects amateurs and professionals alike. As a writer, I suffer from procrastination on a daily basis. Some people... Read More here at MakeUseOf, interspersing productive periods of work with short, regular breaks. If you want to use it while working on your Mac, keep Pomodoro One handy. It doesn’t have too many fancy features, which is what makes it perfect.

When the timer runs out, you’ll hear a ding. You can throw in a visual reminder if you want, but there’s no Pause button though. The app has a Reports section where you can keep tabs on your Pomodoro activity for the current week and the last.


As you can see in the image above, Pomodoro One displays one advert, which doesn’t look like much of a distraction to me. If you think otherwise, you can remove it and support the developer with a $1.99 upgrade. Tomighty is another free desktop timer worth checking out.

For Turning Websites into Standalone Apps

Fluid (free)

Should you keep your favorite websites open for quick access or should you close them to save on browser space? Get rid of that dilemma by turning some of your most-used websites into standalone desktop apps with Fluid. The process is pretty straightforward. All you need is the website’s url and a name to go with it.

The free version of Fluid comes with the ability to create unlimited apps. The $4.99 license gives you some extra features like full screen mode and custom styling for Fluid apps.

For Better Drag and Drop

Dropzone 3 ($4.99)

Whether you want to move files around, upload them to a cloud service, or share them via AirDrop, Dropzone 3 is the app to use for dragging, dropping and doing. It sits in the menu bar, and provides actions onto which you can drop files and let Dropzone take care of the rest.

With extra Dropzone actions, you can perform some of your regular tasks in a single click. For example, consider the process of installing a Mac app. You open a .dmg file, install the enclosed app and move it to the Applications folder, and then delete the .dmg file. A Dropzone action allows you whittle this down to a one-click operation.

Bakari has already shown off what else Dropzone is capable of, Dropzone 3 Turbocharges Your Mac With Drag & Drop Actions You could waste time putting your files and folders to use the traditional way, or you could save time and do everything directly from your menu bar using Dropzone. Read More  and below is the official demo video from Aptonic.

For Keeping Your Mac Awake

Caffeine [No Longer Available]

Caffeine does one thing and it does it well. It stops your Mac from going to sleep. No screensaver and dimmed screen either after you activate Caffeine via its menu bar icon. Click on the icon a second time and the app gets disabled. That’s all there is to it. The most you can change is set the app to launch at login and specify a default duration for which it stays active.


For Using Your iPad as a Second Display

Duet ($15.99)

Duet turns your iPad (or iPhone) into a second screen for your Mac via a wired connection. Mark reviewed Duet Turn Your iOS Device Into an Extra Monitor With Duet You can now use an iPad app to expand your collection of screens, turning your $500 tablet into a small, portable monitor. It's called Duet. Read More and came away impressed by it. The app seems to fare much better than its (laggy) iPad-as-secondary-display peers, which often use a network connection as opposed to a Lightning cable.

The iPad version of Duet costs $15.99 and its companion app for your Mac (or PC) is free — which isn’t bad if you consider the true cost of buying a second monitor. If you want an app that works over Wi-Fi or supports more than one extra screen, Air Display is an alternative you might want to check out.

For Customizing Mouse and Trackpad Gestures

BetterTouchTool (free)

BetterTouchTool is one powerful (and free!) app that gives you granular control over the behavior of your mouse and trackpad. Opening files, putting your computer to sleep, switching between windows — you can configure gestures for all tasks like these.

BetterTouchTool may come across as overwhelming at first. But if you persist with it, you’ll find a significant improvement in your workflow.

For Playing Music

Spotify (free, premium option available)

You have some great choices when it comes to streaming music on your Mac. Spotify leads the way with unlimited free music. A premium subscription brings you an ad-free experience with high quality streaming, offline support, unlimited skips — the works. The desktop and mobile clients will cost you nothing, and you can try the premium version for $0.99 for the first three months (after which you’ll have to pay $9.99 per month).


Apple has also joined the fray with its own music streaming service, Apple Music. The service is integrated with iTunes and comes with a free three-month trial. Pandora and Rdio are a couple of other choices available to you.

The service that’s best for you depends on quite a few factors such as its availability where you live, the features you’re willing to compromise on, and the money you’re willing to spend on subscriptions. It all boils down to personal preference really. Experiment with the options we have listed. Once you have picked a favorite, search the MakeuseOf archives for more information on it. For example, if you decide to go with Spotify, be sure to read our guide to Spotify Spotify Music Streaming: The Unofficial Guide Spotify is the biggest music streaming service around. If you're not sure how to use it, this guide will walk you through the service, as well as offer some crucial top tips. Read More . We also have a detailed introduction to Apple Music Getting Started With Apple Music — What You Need to Know After the purchase of Beats last year, Apple has finally unleashed its streaming music service upon the world. Read More .

For Reducing Keystrokes

aText ($4.99)

Your fingers can handle only so many keystrokes before they give up in exhaustion. Avoid RSI and other musculoskeletal injuries by cutting down on your daily keystrokes. Using a text expansion tool What Is Text Expansion & How Can It Help You Save Time? If you could save yourself even a small fraction of the time you spend typing, you could save hours of your time every week. That's exactly what text expansion is for. Read More is one easy way to do that. If you want something beyond Mac’s built-in text expansion features, we recommend aText.


With aText, you can create rich text snippets, search them, and organize them into groups. The app even allows you to sync snippets to cloud storage and add images to them. At $.4.99, aText is a great alternative to pricey apps like TextExpander.

For Saving Mobile Data

Tripmode ($7.99, limited free option available)

Do you worry about using up all your available mobile data while using a personal hotspot? Install Tripmode and you can breathe a little easier. It prevents all apps from accessing the Web except those you put on its whitelist — so no more syncing of Dropbox files or downloading of updates on a mobile connection unless you have allowed it.


Tripmode comes with a seven-day unlimited trial. After that you can upgrade to the $7.99 premium version or stick with the free version that limits you to 15 mins of usage a day.

For Remembering to Take Breaks

Rest ($4.99)

When you’re engrossed in work or online, it’s easy to forget simple things like taking a break often. Over time, this wreaks havoc on your body Log Into Life: Top 9 Tips To Fight Computer Fatigue & Protect Your Health Did you know that your sedentary lifestyle could be killing you from the inside out? Ryan has already presented a case on potential health risks from sitting too long, and for those of us who... Read More . Prevent this from happening with the help of an app like Rest (or Workrave for Windows/Linux).

Rest reminds you to take breaks at pre-set time intervals and even shows you some simple exercises you can work on during a break, and it comes with a Pomodoro timer as well. The promise of RSI prevention is reason enough to spend $4.99 on Rest.


Awareness is another free app that makes you mindful of the time you’re spending in front of your Mac. After every hour, it plays a sound resembling that of a Tibetan singing bell. The timer resets to zero once you take a five-minute break. You can tweak the work and break durations from the app’s Preferences. Awareness is similar to the Mindful Mynah app that comes recommended by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits.


What Are Your Must-Haves?

It’s healthy to strike a good balance between online and offline time What Happened When I Went Completely Offline For A Week Living in the Internet era has changed us to such an extent that the idea of having to live completely offline even for a little while sounds like a prison sentence. But it really isn't. Read More . But if you’re a desk-bound freelancer, Web worker, student, or office goer, that’s an uphill battle. You need reliable apps to delegate some of your workload to. The apps we have listed here fall into that category for sure. Install them to make your day a little more productive. And don’t forget what you can do with Mac’s built-in features The Best Built-In Mac Tips You've Never Heard of, According to Reddit There's a surprising number of things your Mac can do out of the box, if you only know how. Read More  either.

Which apps would you recommend for those who spend all day on their Macs?

Explore more about: MacBook, OS X El Capitan, OS X Yosemite.

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  1. Sean
    April 8, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    Wow, I am shocked nobody mentioned DaisyDisk yet. That and 1Password are the two I always suggest to any Mac user. Anything else varies person to person based on use.

  2. LeeLoo
    November 16, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    VOX Music Player (free)

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      November 17, 2016 at 3:02 am

      Vox is great. I love that it's lightweight and I can hide it in the menu bar.

  3. LeeLoo
    November 16, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    VOX Music Player

  4. Hans
    August 1, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    1password and DefaultFolder

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      August 3, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      Thank you for the recommendations, Hans!

  5. Michael Spurlock
    July 13, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    Here are some of my go to apps. Please note that most of them are not free but I use my Mac in Enterprise work every day and the cost of this software is pennies to me compared to the value they provide.

    1. Alfred 3 with Powerpack - While Flashlight is free and is nice, Alfred is incredible and I simply cannot imagine my daily workflow without it. Workflows, clipboard management, quick searches of everything imaginable, extensible. Absolutely my favorite piece of software, ever.

    2. Keyboard Maestro - By far the best macro/automation tool I have ever seen. Replaces so many other apps in one spot.

    3. Shimo - The best VPN app I have ever seen on any platform. It is missing a few of the more modern VPNs like Fortinet and Junos Pulse but for most of your other VPN needs it is simply irreplaceable.

    4. iStat Menus - As a geek I have a need to know what my system is doing and why. iStat Menus makes it possible at a glance.

    5. Default Folde X - mentioned by a few above - really nice to set defaults for folder locations on a per app basis. Other features too make this a rich tool to expand the abilities of the file requester.

    6. Popclip - instantly act on text you highlight with a myriad of available plugins the can do everything from change the case, dial a phone number, or send data to another app. This tool has saved me countless hours of typing. I hope I never have to go without it again.

    7. 1password - absolutely the best in password and ID management. This tool goes far beyond the simple password storage tools of old and gives you a secure, cloud synced method to store important and sensitive information. Love it (and the iOS app).

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      July 14, 2016 at 3:39 pm

      Your glowing recommendation makes me want to jump ship to 1Password :) I'll be sure to check out Shimo. I'm trying out Cloak right now. Having an alternative can't hurt. Thank you for that detailed list, Michael.

  6. ErickP
    April 27, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    Bartender is super userful.

    Also.... is PathFinder 7, Default Folder X and XtraFinder all the same thing in regards to what they do?

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      May 4, 2016 at 12:07 pm

      I haven't heard of Default Folder X, Erick. XtraFinder adds various features to OS X's Finder app while PathFinder is more of a replacement for Finder itself. In both cases the result is that you get a more advanced file management system.

  7. Anonymous
    August 20, 2015 at 12:23 am

    – XtraFinder
    – Moom
    – PopClip
    – TextExpander
    – Hazel
    – jfSnip
    – Default Folder X
    – Dropbox
    – Yoink
    – BusyContacts

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      August 20, 2015 at 2:46 am

      Thank you for sharing those apps, Bill!

  8. Anonymous
    August 6, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    Couple of apps I find indispensable:

    - SizeUp. A window manager for OS X which takes the pain out of resizing and moving windows. Very, very useful for anyone that wants to make the most of using a large monitor.

    - Aura, a handy replacement for the discontinued Gmail notifier, gives me notifications for all my gmail accounts

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      August 20, 2015 at 2:47 am

      Great suggestions, John. I'll be giving Aura a try.

  9. Anonymous
    July 31, 2015 at 9:13 am

    You forgot the bestest app for Time Saving - Alfred.
    Nothing can beat it when it comes to save your time on Mac


    • Akshata Shanbhag
      August 20, 2015 at 2:49 am

      How can I forget Alfred, Vikas? It's definitely popular, but I skipped that one since I included Flashlight - another app in the same category :)

      • Anonymous
        August 20, 2015 at 1:48 pm

        I forgot Alfred as well. Alfred is wonderful!

  10. Anonymous
    July 27, 2015 at 10:45 pm

    - Moom

    - PhotoSync

    - RawRightAway

    • Anonymous
      July 27, 2015 at 10:51 pm

      Forgot TotalFinder!!

      • Akshata Shanbhag
        July 28, 2015 at 4:50 am

        Thanks for sharing these, Edward. PhotoSync and TotalFinder sound especially useful.

      • Anonymous
        August 20, 2015 at 1:53 pm


        Yes, TotalFinder is very good. I believe that it is dead now and will not be updated for El Capitan due to Apple's sandboxing restrictions.

        This is why I switched to XtraFinder which as I understand it, is El Capitan compatible. (XtraFinder is free, too)

        Now that I think about it, I probably should have added TotalSpaces to my list.

  11. Anonymous
    July 26, 2015 at 7:19 am

    Vox (free)
    Path Finder (paid)
    Hyperdock (paid)

  12. Anonymous
    July 25, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    You can add those amazing tools, sorry for not providing details, some exist in light version,
    some using internet/cloud.
    These are my latest choices of Macintosh applications, tried a lot since 1984 ;-)

    - BBEdit
    - BitDefender
    - ClipGrab
    - CrashPlan
    - Dashlane
    - DNSCrypt
    - EasyFind
    - Find Any File
    - Handbrake
    - HideSwitch
    - Integrity
    - Jing
    - LittleSnitch
    - Monotony
    - Namebench
    - Pingendo
    - PopClip
    - SimpleKeys
    - Swift Calc
    - The Unarchiver
    - VLC
    - VPN Unlimited
    - Yummy FTP

    - FormulaCalc

    Extensions for Safari:
    - BackTrack
    - Form Autosave
    - HD Quality
    - QuickNuke
    - QuickStyle
    - SearchLock
    - uBlock

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      July 25, 2015 at 3:07 pm

      That's quite a list, Stéphane (quite a few apps I hadn't heard of). Thank you for sharing it!

  13. Anonymous
    July 24, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    I absolutely need:

    1. KeepingYouAwake: clone of Caffeine but with Retina support
    2. Look Up: remember every 20 minutes to do stretching and move your eyes away from the screen.
    3. ClipMenu: very tiny utility to manage clipboard

    All of them are free.

    • Anonymous
      July 24, 2015 at 3:04 pm

      Ops sorry, the 2nd is not free.

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      July 25, 2015 at 3:03 pm

      Interesting. I hadn't heard of 1 and 2. Thanks for sharing those, Federico.