Three Apps I Can’t use my Mac Without

March 20, 2023

I’ve been through the process of setting up not one but two new Mac Book Pros in the last six months — a process that’s as fun as cleaning your apartment, but just as necessary. In this post, I’ll be sharing the three superpower apps (and some more) that have become my go-to essentials, saving me time and boosting my productivity and creativity in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

“Progress isn’t made by early risers. It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.”

— Robert A. Heinlein.

1. Alfred:

This is the first app I’d download on any Mac — without fail. And I’m not the only one.

I’ve got absolutely no idea how Macs can be used without Alfred, and why would you do it to yourself anyway.

‘Spotlight search on steroids’ is how the internet describes Alfred, but that’s not a reasonable description because what if a user doesn’t feel the need for Spotlight search or is perfectly content with their Spotlight experience? Therefore, I’d describe it as “Your Mac on steroids.”

Alfred’s superpowers: Alfred is the Mac assistant we needed. It remembers everything you copied (clipboard) from various sources — just this feature makes Alfred worth it in my opinion. Also, it can save you several hours with snippets and workflows. However, you need to spend some time setting up those.

check time zones and add to do
Checking time zones and adding a ‘to do’ simply by typing two alphabets (without opening another app/screen)

2. Arc:

Talking about context switching, Arc is my browser of choice because it helps reduce tab overload and context switching. Arc is a new addition to my stack, and I’m so glad I moved away from Chrome (and other archaic browsers). At the time of writing, Arc is Mac (and invite) only.

We spend so much time in our web browsers, so why not use one that’s enjoyable?

Arc’s superpowers: Auto archiving and command bar make Arc a joy to use. The ability to set up workspaces and profiles makes it a better browser than everything out there. Just this feature makes Arc worthwhile and I’ve got my personal and work spaces set up and separated. I’ve got more about my Arc love here.

3. NotePlan:

I recently discovered NotePlan (Dec ’22) and it’s quickly become an essential tool for me. While some might find it hard to believe, this app truly helps me make each day more intentional with my daily template.

For me, the big picture matters. With Noteplan’s ability to align tasks with my long-term goals, I stay focused and avoid getting lost in the details.

NotePlan’s superpowers: Most task management and planning apps don’t have a way to align tasks with the big picture. Yes, you can list your goals as projects and list your tasks under them, but that’s a very project management approach to life management.

NotePlan spoke to me because it has a more human approach to life management — bringing tasks, calendars, and notes into one place. The hashtags, mentions, and smart folders make organization super simple. NotePlan’s founder, Eduard Metzger, personally responds to support requests, making the subscription even more special.

Honorable Mentions:

There are the apps I use a ton on my primary Mac, but haven’t yet installed on the two MBPs.

  1. Things: I often use Things as my go-to task capture app. It works remarkably well with Alfred (screenshot above), and I love the app’s design. Since discovering NotePlan and the recent improvements to Apple’s ‘Reminders’ app, I have found myself using Things less frequently. I’ll still keep using it on my phone and primary computer.
  2. BetterTouch Tool: I use BTT on my primary computer a lot but haven’t installed it on any other computer (but I might). You can set up a lot of shortcuts using BTT, but for me, the biggest superpower has been the ability to set Caps Lock as ‘hyper key’.
  3. Hazel: This one app makes me feel smarter than I really am, and you can’t put a price on that. Hazel can be used to set up Mac automations without writing any script/code. Currently, I use it to auto-trash specific files and file specific file-types. There is a lot more Hazel can do though.

On my list to try:

  1. Fantastical: The OG ‘natural language processing (NLP)’ calendar app. I’ve been meaning to try Fantastical for a long time, but couldn’t justify the price. I recently discovered the ‘scheduling’ feature and that could make me jump the ship.
  2. Mimestream: As a Gmail user, there’s no reason not to try Mimestream. “Made for Mac. Optimized for Gmail” says the app’s landing page — I’m impressed already. I’ve never really liked using Apple Mail, and Spark didn’t stick, so maybe Mimestream could be the perfect (Gmail) inbox solution.
  3. Drafts: One of the greatest capture apps out there. I used it for a few days a couple of years ago before finding Things. But now my use case has changed considerably and it might be a good time to revisit Drafts.

As a productivity and PKM enthusiast, I’m grateful to be part of the Mac ecosystem with so many amazing native apps for every possible use case. I do have a SetApp subscription which has a decent collection of native Mac apps. Let me know what are some of the apps you can’t use your Mac without.

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