Your Mac comes with a ton of great tools that let you accomplish most common tasks without having to install more software. Some of them aren’t great, but they do the job.
Then there are other areas where Apple hasn’t gone far enough, or has avoided entirely. You could make a good case for Apple never including any of these tools (or copies thereof), since they all do the job just fine.
But for the purposes of the title that landed you on this page, here are 8 apps we’d love to see built into Mac.
You can manage your Mac’s startup items under System Preferences > Users & Groups > Login Items, but in the case of persistent Mac malware it’s not enough. You need to dig a little deeper, and look beyond simple startup items.
When your Mac starts up, a process called launchd starts all sorts of other daemons and agents in the background. It’s a service management framework used by the operating system to start and stop processes, and malware tries to use it against you.
KnockKnock takes a deep look at what’s really starting up when you log in, plus a few other potential threats like Safari plugins and rogue kernel extensions. Any processes it finds are examined by VirusTotal, so you can be confident your Mac remains malware free.
Download: KnockKnock (Free)
It’s amazing how many people still have trouble keeping their Mac awake. You can tell Mac to never sleep your machine under System Preferences > Energy Saver, but that doesn’t mean it always works. Sick of network dropouts, sleepy hard drives, and misbehaving monitors? You need Amphetamine.
This tiny app lives in the Mac menu bar and prevents your Mac from sleeping in a few clicks. You can choose to keep your machine awake indefinitely, for a set time period, or based on a set of triggers. These include parameters like when a specific app is running, which Wi-Fi network you’re connected to, and your battery percentage.
You can force Amphetamine to switch itself off if your battery hits a certain percentage. There’s also tool called Drive Alive which keeps hard drives spinning to reduce read times, and you can customize the whole app with keyboard shortcuts, different icons, and notifications.
Download: Amphetamine (Free)
3. Trip Mode
Trip Mode might not be free, but it could save you a lot of money. If you’re reliant on your iPhone’s personal hotspot, and you’re sick of how much data you seem to use because of it, this one’s for you.
The app automatically detects when you connect to a hotspot and limits which applications can access the internet. This way you can block all but the essential apps you need to get work done, without updates and backups swallowing your data in the background.
It’s also a great distraction killer, and it’s now available on Windows too.
Download: Trip Mode ($8) [No Longer Available]
4. Little Snitch
Your Mac has a firewall you can enable under System Preferences > Security & Privacy, but it’s not particularly nice to work with. Often it causes more problems than it solves, and it lacks Apple’s trademark user-friendliness.
Enter Little Snitch, a pricey yet powerful firewall that looks and feels like something Apple should have bundled in with Mac. The app lets you decide which applications can access the internet on a case-by-case basis, with a stack of usability features built in to make managing your machine’s security easy.
The app also includes a network monitor which shows you exactly which process is doing what, and where data is going and coming from. The price may be off-putting, but you can check out a free trial before you buy to see what the fuss is about.
Download: Little Snitch ($45)
This app is so simple, it could come pre-installed in your Utilities folder. AppCleaner does exactly what it says on the tin: cleans all signs of applications from your Mac (it also tidies up unwanted widgets and plugins too).
Drop an application into AppCleaner’s window and it’ll be scrubbed clean. Alternatively, enable list view and browse your entire list of installed applications, then select one and click Remove to get rid of it. It makes light work of cleaning up your computer, which is something you should probably do more often.
Before removing anything you can see exactly what is going to be removed, including the APP file itself under Applications and configuration files from the ~/Library folder. If you want to keep anything, simply uncheck it first.
Download: AppCleaner (Free)
6. The Unarchiver
For opening those pesky unsupported compressed filetypes like RAR and 7ZIP, look no further than The Unarchiver. The full list of supported files is extensive and includes disk images like ISO and BIN files, and even some Windows EXE installers.
There’s not much to say about this one other than it adds support for some common file formats you’re bound to come across at some point, and it’s totally free to boot.
Download: The Unarchiver (Free)
There are plenty of valid reasons Apple wouldn’t include half of what AirServer does out of the box, with one exception: AirPlay. The ability to use your Mac as an AirPlay receiver, as you can an Apple TV, seems like a huge missed opportunity.
AirServer solves this problem by allowing you to stream audio and video from your iPhone to your iMac or MacBook. The newer your Mac and iOS devices, the better it’ll work.
The app also functions as a Google Cast receiver, so it works great with Android devices too. You’ll get a discount if you’re a student, teacher, or have a valid educational email address. There’s also a 14-day trial so you can try before you buy.
Download: AirServer ($15)
Spotlight is great, but it’s a pretty limited in what it can do. There’s some natural language processing, a nice basic way of launching apps, and the ability to do basic math, but it doesn’t go much further than that.
Enter Alfred, the multi-purpose app launcher and all-round system tool. It’s free to install, but you’ll need to buy the PowerPack in order to access the app’s greatest features: integrations. These allow you to create workflows with your favorite apps, so you can accomplish common tasks quicker.
The app also functions as a clipboard manager, Terminal extension, iTunes remote, system command index, calculator, and dictionary. If Apple knuckled down and decided to power up Spotlight, it would look something like this.
Download: Alfred ($26)
Start Using These Must-Have Mac Apps Today
These apps focus on adding genuinely useful features and functionality to your Mac. Most of these apps are on our all-time best Mac software list, so check it out if you like what you see here.