The Best Default Mac Apps That You Shouldn’t Need to Replace
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When you’re setting up a new Mac, your first instinct is probably to replace as many default apps as possible with third-party alternatives.

Before you do that, it’s a good idea to give native macOS apps a chance to impress you. We can’t guarantee that you’ll love them all, but you’re sure to find that not all of them need replacing. The apps below are a case in point.

1. Preview

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Your Mac’s default file viewer is quite versatile. You can use it to view not only PDFs and images, but also other file types such as spreadsheets, presentations, and Photoshop files.

Want to split or merge PDFs? Preview can do that for you, too. It can also take screenshots, annotate content, convert it to various formats, and edit images—even batch-editing is possible.

In Finder, Preview teams up with the Quick Look feature to display file content in its entirety without having to open the app itself. To make the best of this macOS app, start with a few essential Preview tips and tricks 10 Essential Tips and Tricks for Preview on the Mac 10 Essential Tips and Tricks for Preview on the Mac Preview is an unassuming app that can do the job of half a dozen standalone utilities. Read More .

2. Safari

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Safari may not be the most flexible or most powerful browser available, but it feels like the optimal choice for Mac users.

Apart from the usual browser-based activities, you can pin and mute tabs in Safari and preview links before opening them. You can also generate passwords, make web pages distraction-free, and float videos over other apps.

It’s handy that you can customize Safari behavior on a per-website basis. For example, you can autoplay content or enable location access and notifications on a select few websites.

If you’re also an iOS user, you’ll appreciate that Safari lets you switch between your Mac and iPhone/iPad browsing sessions seamlessly.

Safari is fast, power-efficient, polished, and improves with every update. (Even user pet peeves such as the lack of favicons have gone away.) With a few tweaks and extensions, you can make Safari even better. That makes it a top choice for your primary browser.

3. Photos

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If you’re a professional photographer, you might need an advanced program like Adobe Lightroom for managing and editing images. But if you’re looking for a sturdy photo management app for personal use, Photos is more than capable fulfilling that role.

It’s fast and well-organized. You can set up albums and folders, tag people in photos, add location information, and compile photos into colorful collections. With the smart albums filtering feature, your photos are easier to organize and retrieve in a few clicks. Photos can become even more powerful if you add extensions like Pixelmator and Affinity Photo to the app.

Thanks to iCloud Photo Library, you can back up your photos to the cloud and keep them in sync across all your Apple devices.

Photos also lets you turn photos into photo books, calendars, and other print products. Our starter tips for managing your Mac photo library will help you get acquainted with the Photos app.

4. QuickTime

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Before you ditch QuickTime for the ever-popular VLC right away, give QuickTime a shot. It might surprise you with its capabilities. The app not only lets you play media, but can also record audio and movies, trim and merge content, and share it to YouTube and Vimeo.

Plus, you have the option to record screencasts with QuickTime. That’s an attractive proposition given that other apps in this space are expensive. QuickTime doesn’t have advanced features like filters and effects, but those are easy enough to get with a video editor. If you need a reliable screen recorder that gets the essentials right, QuickTime is a great choice.

5. Messages and FaceTime

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Apple’s calling and messaging apps are the way to go if you want to keep in touch with other Apple device users. With Messages, you can also send text messages from your Mac to non-Apple users via your iPhone through the text forwarding feature. The Messages app ensures that you get a seamless experience when you switch Apple devices during a conversation.

FaceTime lets you make and receive both audio and video calls for free using Wi-Fi or cellular data.

macOS integrates Messages and FaceTime with other native apps such as Safari, Contacts, and Mail. This means you can start chats and calls from these apps as well.

Automator and Other Mac Utilities

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macOS comes with a stellar automation app called Automator. The app lets you set up various types of automated workflows and actions, all without having to write a single piece of code.

You can use Automator to open specific sets of webpages, batch-edit images, move folder content around, and a lot more. Learn how to use Automator Learn to Use Mac Automator With 6 Handy Example Workflows Learn to Use Mac Automator With 6 Handy Example Workflows A little bit of patience and creativity are all you need to start automating your Mac -- you don't need to know a single line of code. Read More with our handy example workflows.

Automator is not the only efficient macOS app or utility you need to know about. There’s also:

  • Activity Monitor: To keep tabs on your Mac’s performance
  • Digital Color Meter: To identify color values of pixels on the screen
  • Font Book: To preview, install, and delete fonts
  • Time Machine: To back up your data, migrate it to a new machine, and restore your Mac to a previous point.
  • iBooks: To manage, read, and buy books on your Mac. (It works with ePUBs and PDFs.)

You’ll find these apps either in the Applications folder in Finder, or under Applications > Utilities.

Don’t Ignore the Apps That Come With Your Mac

Native macOS apps blend into the Apple ecosystem both functionally and visually, which means you can set them up and use them with minimum fuss. Of course, if they aren’t perfect for you, it’s best to replace the default Mac apps with better alternatives.

For further reading, consult our complete guide to default Mac apps A Complete Guide to Default Mac Apps and What They Do A Complete Guide to Default Mac Apps and What They Do Your Mac comes with a lot of apps for all sorts of tasks, but you may still be confused by what they do or whether you actually need some of them Read More . It offers a quick overview of each app and its usability factor, so you know what apps to keep and which ones to replace.

Explore more about: iMessage, iPhoto, Mac Apps, Preview App, Safari Browser.

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  1. fkboi
    July 27, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    No, mac is shit.

  2. Anonymous
    June 25, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    safari suck because it so anyone
    :p

  3. Tim
    August 15, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    There's not much good to say about the Mail Client. I have a list of 9 problems with Mail that prompted me to call AppleCare. Yup, they knew about them. Nope, they haven't fixed them.

    I was told that the fixes have been made to Yosemite, but no commitment was made regarding Mavericks. I'd consider Thunderbird again, but I've bought two extensions for mail that are very useful and don't want to give them up so I continue to work around these NINE APPLE BUGS IN MAVERICKS' MAIL CLIENT. ? PLEASE FIX IT APPLE!

  4. Saumyakanta S
    August 15, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    windows includes most of the tools........you should say that you're an apple fan ..thats it ..

  5. CJ Cotter
    August 14, 2014 at 11:08 pm

    I'm sending the link to this article to my girlfriend, who just bought a MAC Mini with a Thunderbolt monitor. I'm a PC.

  6. Aquadeo
    August 14, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    They are all just computers and most of them help us complete pretty much the same tasks. I liked Apple products back in the 80's-90's but dropped them for the more ubiquitous Windows systems. After spending a time experimenting with various Linux Distros, I've recently switched back to Apple with an iMac, MacBook Pro, iPad, and iPhone.

    I found your article intriguing and hope to try out some of your suggested software. I presently use Mail, Safari, Contacts, Calendar, Notes, FaceTime Audio, Messages, and iPhoto. I like that they are available across all of my devices. I also use VLC, Evernote, Dropbox, Chrome, and Word on both my own hardware and my work (ThinkPad) hardware.

    I really gave a good effort to using an Android phones and tablets as well as the ThinkPads, but always find them a bit clunky compared to the sleek Apple products.

    Thanks for a great article. It'll motivate me to try some new software!

    Just my dimes worth. :)

  7. Charles
    August 14, 2014 at 12:37 am

    I find Office for Mac simply awful. Finder is abysmal and please don't get me started on the mail app. Love imovie and Garageband. Certainly lots of room for improvement. I too was a new convert with my purchase of a 2012 Macbook air. The environment was new at first but my transition was quick. Can't beat the build quality.

    • likefunbutnot
      August 14, 2014 at 12:18 pm

      @Charles,

      Sure you can beat the build quality. I'd take a Thinkpad T or X series or a Surface Pro any day over a Macbook.

      I like OSX. It's a solid commercial UNIX. But there's nothing special about Apple hardware or support and most of Apple's non-OS software is downright awful.

  8. likefunbutnot
    August 13, 2014 at 10:59 pm

    The first thing I do is remove itunes. It's a pain in the ass to do it, but I hate it THAT much. Then I pull all the crap I never use (including Safari, Facetime, Message and the standard Apple Calendar and Mail apps) off the dock.

    After that, I head over to GetMacApps.com and install Firefox, Thunderbird, Google Drive, VLC, Handbrake and the Unarchiver. I normally play music with WinAmp and that's something I have to grab separately.

    My personal /bin folder of techie tools and scripts are sitting on my Google Drive and once that synchronizes, I'm probably golden.

    • Wendy L
      August 14, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      So why have a Mac at all if you are pulling all the software? Serious question not a slam.

    • likefunbutnot
      August 14, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      @Wendy L,

      I maintain some Apple desktops and I have an employer provided Macbook Pro and iphone. Sometimes I'll put together Hackintoshes.

      It truly doesn't matter to me what operating system I use and there's nothing special about either Apple hardware or software. I like OSX just fine as a desktop UNIX variant, but I dislike Apple's one-size-fits-all approach to computing enough that I'd prefer to use other things.

      I pull almost all the Apple Provided software in favor of the applications I'd be using on Windows or *nix.

  9. Jan F
    August 13, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    While I personally prefer Office for Mac from Microsoft I think it's also worth mentioning that Apples entire office suite, iWork, is free for all new Mac owners. So on top of Garageband you also get Pages, Keynote and Numbers free on the Mac App Store.

    Unless Apple has a change of heart all new operating system versions are free too, no need to purchase an upgrade.

    So as long as your hardware is supported you can have a fully up to system and software for your basic office and media work.

    Quicktime is a nice player, especially when they added functionality that was previously only available with a Quicktime Pro license.
    But ever since Perian (basically a codec pack for Quicktime) stopped being developed and stopped working I barely open it at all. It's actually not about not being able to play files - QT does support the most common codecs used these days. It is more of a prevention thing ~ I don't want to get to the point where it doesn't play a file when there are free alternatives like VLC which can play pretty much everything you throw at it.