There’s a misconception among Mac users that good apps are always paid, but you’ll find plenty of excellent free apps if you know where to look. We knew, so we came up with a mega list of the best free apps to improve your productivity within macOS.
These apps have a diverse range of uses. Some help you launch apps faster, others help you block distractions, and a few fix some of the most common macOS annoyances. Whatever you need to be more productive, you’ll find it here.
1. Quitter: Automatically Hide or Quit Apps Not Being Used
Marco Arment is a champion of all things Apple and Mac. His app Quitter is an excellent tool to stay focused on what you’re doing. The more apps you have open, Marco says, the more likely you are to be distracted. Instead, Quitter will automatically quit or hide apps that you aren’t using.
You control whether to quit or hide, and the amount of time that a window is inactive. The definition of inactive here is “not in focus”, so I’d suggest starting with a larger inactive time period, and then cutting it down as you master the app.
2. Spacelauncher: Replace Command + Tab and Spotlight With Quick Shortcuts
Spacelauncher is one of those tiny nifty apps that make you question how you lived without it. The app lets you create custom shortcuts to launch apps, or instantly switch to them if they’re already open. For example, you can set Space + C to launch Chrome or Space + W to launch Wikipedia within Chrome.
You can also set multiple keys for advanced actions, like Space + F then D to open the Documents folder and Space + F then W to open the Downloads folder. It’s an excellent utility to fix Spotlight’s errors with apps and to speed up your productivity.
3. Lacona: The New Quicksilver
Power users on Mac swear by Quicksilver, the free open-source launcher. It’s much more than a launcher, allowing for complex actions. But Lacona, a new competitor, has some QS loyalists switching over.
Lacona uses natural language processing algorithms to let you type out complex commands in simple words. It hooks into several built-in Mac apps as well as third-party internet services through IFTTT. And it looks darn good doing all this!
4. Be Focused: Set a Pomodoro Timer
A simple Pomodoro timer can make you more productive, so why not incorporate it into your Mac workflow? Be Focused is the best free option out there. You can add up to ten tasks to your to-do list, then click the timer to start it. By default, it is set to 25 minutes of work and then a 5 minute break, but you can change that if you want.
In fact, you can change short breaks, long breaks, intervals, alarm sounds, and everything else. Be Focused is supported by adverts, but you can pay to remove them.
5. Usage: Monitor Time Spent in Your Mac Apps
Productivity experts don’t agree on much, but they’re in unison about time tracking. To manage your time, you need to know where you are spending it right now. Usage tracks how much time you spend on every app on your Mac.
It works automatically in the background, requiring no input for you. As it continues to gather data, you can look up reports over days, weeks, or months. Usage is made by the same people behind Timings, one of the best time-tracking apps for macOS.
6. Time Out: Stay Healthy and Productive
Working at a computer can wreak havoc on the human body. It strains our eyes, and sitting for long hours is even worse. The 20-20-20 Rule keeps you healthy while being productive.
The simple idea is to take a 20 second break after every 20 minutes. The original rule was meant to reduce digital eye strain by focusing on an object at least 20 feet away from you. An ergonomics expert offered a variation on the 20-20-20 rule. In this, every 20 minutes, you walk for 20 seconds to at least 20 feet away. You might want to mix and match the two.
The Time Out app is perfect to employ the 20-20-20 philosophy. It freezes your computer after the chosen period (20 minutes) and won’t let you work for the chosen interval (20 seconds). Set it up and get healthy!
7. Pinstriped: Manage and Run Meetings Productively
Work meetings often go off track and over the allotted time. That’s a sign of a meeting without a clear agenda, and no one to run it. That’s when you need Pinstriped, an app to set a clear plan of action for the meeting.
In any one “meeting”, you can add as many items to the agenda as you want. Each item can be further defined with tasks, links, photos, files, and so on. At the end of the meeting, Pinstriped will automatically generate an email with minutes to send to other participants. The free version allows for three meeting plans at a time, which should be enough for most people.
8. Itsycal: A Calendar in the Menu Bar
Hey Apple, it’s ridiculous that the clock on the Menu Bar doesn’t expand into a calendar when clicked. There’s no reason for it not to. Fortunately Itsycal fixes this macOS annoyance without costing a penny. It’s a tiny, customizable calendar that pops out with a click and syncs with Apple’s Calendar app (formerly iCal).
You can also quickly add events to it, and make it look and behave exactly how you want. It’s the Calendar tool that should be shipping with macOS.
9. Copia: Replace the Default Clipboard Manager
While there are some fantastic clipboard managers on macOS, Copia is the one we have all been waiting for. It’s fast, it’s beautiful, and it’s free. It supports both text and images, and lets you search through the text too. It’ll sit quietly in the background, keeping a track of everything you copy. When you want to paste, use a shortcut or bring up the gorgeous Copia pane to drag and drop. It’s still in beta, but it’s useful right now.
10. Pearl: Check How You Look Before a Video Call
Video calls are an essential part of the modern workplace. Whether you use Facetime, Skype, or something else, you’ll want to know that you look good on the webcam. Pearl sits in your Menu Bar, ready to immediately show a preview of what others will see. This one-click utility is a godsend to quickly check the lighting and angles before you sign into your conference.
11. Coconut Battery: Calibrate and Maintain Your MacBook Battery
MacBooks generally have excellent battery life. But if you have an old device whose battery runs out quickly, you might need to calibrate it again. Coconut Battery one free tool that will allow you to analyze and re-calibrate the battery. Plus, the app will show your battery’s real time availability, and how much time you have left. Forget the percentage you see right now, this is the most realistic estimate of your remaining power.
12. Memory Diag: Isolate Apps Using Too Much RAM
Running short of RAM on a Mac? Well, don’t use a “RAM optimizer” to boost your memory. That does more harm than good.
Memory Diag shows real-time stats of which apps are using a lot of memory. Accordingly, you can close or restart those apps to free up much-needed resources. Go into the app’s Preferences, and check the box for “Detailed Significant Memory Usage” to see those memory-hogging apps in your Menu Bar.
You might also want to switch off notifications. The constant popups and alerts get really annoying.
13. Vanilla: Hide Unwanted Menu Bar Icons
Since most of these apps live in the Menu Bar, you might be left with a cluttered set of icons up there. You could customize and tidy the Menu Bar, but a better option is to install Vanilla to simply hide and expand icons as needed. Drag icons of apps you won’t use all the time to the “hide” part, and leave the regular apps as they are. Suddenly you have a clean, clutter-free Menu Bar, saving you from accidental clicks.
What’s Your Favorite Free Mac Productivity Tool?
You may have noticed the distinct lack of to-do list apps in this round-up. That’s because it’s up to you in the choice between the three best ones: Any.do, Todoist, and Wunderlist.
Which free Mac app for productivity do you recommend? Did we miss any?