Some of the most useful Mac apps are not nearly as easy to discover as they should be. Yet, these hidden gems of Apple’s software ecosystem deserve the attention of both those who have yet to put their first scratch on a Mac and those who have been using Macs for ages.
When deciding which apps to include in this article and which to leave out, I tried my best to focus on apps that can help as many Mac users as possible. That’s why there are no niche tools for software developers or graphic designers, for example.
1. Übersicht (free)
Übersicht is a handy application similar to Rainmeter or Conky that lets you display HTML5 widgets on your desktop. The good news is that you don’t need to know HTML5 to display everything from a weather forecast to current news because there are hundreds of existing widgets that you can download with a simple click.
Check out r/UnixPorn if you want to see some examples of what can be done with Übersicht.
2. XtraFinder ($4.99 with unlimited trial)
Finder is a capable file browser, but it lacks some features Mac power users can’t live without, such as the ability to display two folders side by side. Enter XtraFinder, an advanced version of Finder that preserves its look and feel but sprinkles a ton of useful features on top to make it more capable.
XtraFinder is a paid app, but you can try it for free for an unlimited amount of time. The app has been available for a while now, and it receives timely updates to keep up with new macOS releases.
3. SideNotes ($19.99)
There’s no shortage of third-party note-taking apps in the Mac App Store, but most of them don’t address one very important issue all people who regularly take notes are familiar with: notes are useful only when they’re easily accessible and don’t get in the way.
SideNotes places your notes on the side of the screen and allows you to display or hide them with your mouse or a keyboard shortcut. This unique note-taking app is fully compatible with Apple Silicon Macs, and it’s available on Setapp and the Mac App Store.
4. PopClip ($14.99)
PopClip basically brings the text select pop-up window you may be familiar with from iOS to macOS, automatically appearing when you select text with your mouse or touchpad.
The power of this useful app comes from its almost 200 extensions. With them, you can quickly paste as plain text, capitalizes a title according to typical English titling conventions, convert Markdown text to HTML markup, and much more.
5. Beamer ($19.95)
Beamer is a video player that makes it possible for you to stream from a Mac directly to your Apple TV or Chromecast. MKV, MP4, AVI, MOV, WMV, and other popular video file formats are all supported, and so are text- and bitmap-based subtitle formats.
Because Beamer streams video directly without converting, you can expect smooth playback without distracting glitches. You can buy a license for $19.95 or get the app as part of the Setapp subscription service.
6. A Better Finder Rename (€24.95)
A Better Finder Rename is a must-have app for anyone who often needs to rename a large number of files to, for example, prepare product images for upload or tame a messy MP3 collection.
Yes, you can batch rename files on Mac, but A Better Finder Rename makes everything easier by providing an instant preview of your changes and allowing you to re-arrange items via drag & drop, just to highlight some of its features.
7. App Tamer ($14.95)
A single CPU-hungry app can make even the most powerful Mac slower than a stunned mullet. Using App Tamer, you can slow down apps if they use more than a certain percentage of your CPU’s processing capacity.
Owners of Apple Silicon-powered Macs can run apps only on efficiency cores, saving performance cores for what’s really important and extending battery life in the process. You can try App Tamer for 15 days, which is plenty of time to understand how the app works.
8. CursorSense ($9.99)
Have you ever noticed how off cursor movement in macOS feels when using a mouse instead of the trackpad? This issue is caused by mouse acceleration, and CursorSense can adjust it on a per device basis.
What’s more, this frustration-saving utility can adjust cursor acceleration and sensitivity independently, making it easy to find the right combination of settings so that cursor movement feels just right.
You should also take a look at SteerMouse if you desire an even greater control of how your mouse behaves in macOS. SteerMouse is developed by the same company as CursorSense, and it can, among other things, change scroll direction and customize mouse buttons.
9. Obsidian (free for personal use)
Obsidian is a knowledge management app that organizes information in local folders and Markdown files. The app encourages you to create links between individual notes, and it can then visualize how all of your notes are linked together with its Graph View feature.
While powerful even in its stock configuration, Obsidian shines the most when you take the time to customize it using community plugs and themes, which there are currently hundreds of to choose from.
10. ImageOptim (free)
When designing web pages or sending visually attractive marketing emails, it’s a good practice to optimize images so they take up less storage space. ImageOptim enables you to do just that while preserving their quality.
This free and open source image optimizer combines multiple highly effective compression algorithms to achieve best-in-class results, and it can also protect your privacy by scrubbing EXIF metadata.
11. Paletro ($6.99)
Paletro is an elegant command palette for any macOS application. You invoke it by pressing ⇧+⌘+P, and it works just like the command palette in VS Code, Sublime, and some other apps.
You can fuzzy search for specific commands and see which shortcuts are associated with different commands. Paletro is customizable, and you can change both its appearance and behavior.
12. HoudahSpot 6 ($34)
The search feature in Finder gets the job done if you know exactly what you’re looking for or don’t have too many files on your drive. For more complex search queries, there’s HoudahSpot 6.
This powerful file search app for macOS lets you refine your searches by adding and combining various criteria to narrow down your search results until you’re left with a small handful of results, which you can sort in a number of different ways.
13. QuickShade (free)
If you’ve ever worked on your Mac in a pitch-black room for an extended period of time, you probably know that even the minimum brightness level can be too bright and cause unpleasant eyestrain.
QuickShade is a simple app that creates a dark display overlay whose transparency you can control from the menu bar. You can even associate with keyboard shortcuts for extra convenience.
14. HazeOver ($4.99)
Getting things done without the ability to multitask would be difficult to say the least, but having too many windows opened at the same time can be distracting—and today’s world is filled with distractions as it is.
HazeOver turns distractions down and focus on your current task by dimming the background of your screen and only highlighting the app you’re currently using. You can adjust dimming intensity and keep separate settings for Dark and Light mode.
15. Browserosaurus (free)
Do you use multiple web browsers, each for a different purpose? If so, then you should download Browserosaurus because this open-source app allows you to choose in which browser you want to open any web link you click.
Browserosaurus is compatible with both Intel and Apple Silicon Macs, and you can download it from its GitHub page or using Homebrew, which I highly recommend for downloading all third-party apps that are not available in the Mac App Store.
16. Wipr ($1.99)
Are you tired of seeing ads everywhere when browsing the web using Safari? Unfortunately, the latest version of Apple’s web browser isn’t compatible with uBlock Origin, but that doesn’t mean you’re entirely defenseless against ads.
Wipr is a capable ad and tracker blocker that takes just a few seconds to set up and costs just two dollars to download. It comes with optimized blocklists for many different countries, and its developers update it twice a week to keep it as effective as possible. Many Mac users also swear by AdGuard for Safari, so don’t hesitate to give it a try as well.
App Store: https://apps.apple.com/app/wipr/id1320666476
17. Motrix (free)
All major web browsers today come with basic download managers that can satisfy the needs of most regular users, but they often leave more advanced users craving for something better, something that can reliably download very large files from a variety of different sources.
Motrix is a beautiful download manager for macOS, Windows, and Linux that supports HTTP, FTP, and BitTorrent downloads. It can handle up to 10 concurrent tasks and can split a single task into 64 threads to achieve the best download speed possible.
18. Airfoil ($43)
Your Mac can be the core of your home audio wireless audio system. All you need is Airfoil, a simple app that lets you send audio from any app to all kinds of devices, from Bluetooth speakers to Sonos home sound systems to Apple TV and Google Chromecast.
For extra convenience, you should also get the free Airfoil Satellite app for iOS, Mac, and Windows to remotely control both Airfoil and many supported audio sources. Unfortunately, Airfoil itself isn’t free. In fact, the app is quite expensive, costing $43.
19. OnyX (free)
OnyX is the Swiss army knife of macOS maintenance. Essentially, it provides a graphical user interface for executing various maintenance and system optimization tasks that would otherwise require you to enter obscure commands in Terminal.
OnyX can also be used to conveniently change various hidden and not-so-hidden settings. For instance, you can pick a different background image for the login screen or configure the built-in screenshot utility to save screenshots in a different file format.
20. Easy Move+Resize (free)
Most Linux desktop environments let their users comfortably move and resize application windows by holding a modifier key and either left- or right-clicking and dragging a window to move or resize it, respectively.
Easy Move+Resize brings this useful functionality to macOS, and it doesn’t ask for any money in return. By default, Cmd + Ctrl + Left Mouse is used to move windows and Cmd + Ctrl + Right Mouse is used to resize windows, but you can pick different modifier keys if you want to.
Bonus: App Fair(free)
Discovering hidden gem Mac apps is a lot of fun, and App Fair makes it easy by providing a well-designed graphical user interface for browsing, installing, and updating apps from community sources, namely Homebrew and Fairground.
All apps downloaded using App Fair are placed in /Applications/App Fair/, and you can sandbox apps that require potentially hazardous permissions to protect your security and privacy.
If you discover a hidden gem Mac app that’s not mentioned in this article, make sure to let me and other Medium users know in the comments.