Top 20 Mac Apps for Making (Dev) Life Easier

Edward Tsang
6 min readMar 2, 2020

(Updated on 20240214) Just keeping a list of apps I (and my dev team) use on Mac/iOS regularly. Most of them are free apps. Started with 20, but the list is growing. Reminder, you can use this site to check if your favourite app is Apple silicon ready, avoid running old intel apps on M1/M2 if possible for best results.

  • Brave Browser — Just like Chrome, but no ads and you get rewarded if you choose to view ads. Read about why I recommend Brave here.
  • Microsoft Edge — Mac fans can appreciate Microsoft software too, I think Edge is a good web browser. You can now have fun with ChatGPT like service directly from Edge. Just sign up if you haven’t done so already.
  • KeePassXC — To store my passwords which are not in the built-in keychain. No, I don’t trust SaaS to store my passwords.
  • qBittorrent — Bittorrent client, supports RSS which I use with showRSS to watch daily shows regularly.
  • Resilio Sync — I use this to having my own P2P storage for important files which I don’t want to upload to OneDrive. I use Syncthing on servers because it doesn’t have iOS client.
  • Magnet — Just a quick way to organise windows on my Mac. Or use Rectangle for free.
  • AltTab — If you prefer the Windows way of swtiching between windows, this might be what you are looking for. I am happy with Command+Tab for switching between apps.
  • GPT4All — I try not to run all AI requests online, not only for privacy, but just general efficiencies. It’s hard to tell what is good enough. But keep playing with it, try the free models.
  • DEVONthink — Instead of Evernote, I use this to store web clippings, sync using . Setup a free dropbox or cloudme account to sync across devices. I use built in iCloud Notes for typing notes.
  • DEVONagent — For slow/deep searches. Rather than just relying on first few results from Google, I use this to run wider searches. Good for working out related topics/keywords too.
  • VS Code — Still trying to move to VSC, but I am actually still using BBEdit as my main text editor because I am so used to the Grep search.
  • Synergy — software KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) to share my keyboard and mouse across a few computers on my desk. I prefer multi-computers to just multi-screens. Don’t think I will move to Univeral Control in upcoming iOS 15.4 as it still won’t be cross platform, I have Windows and macOS sharing same keyboard and mouse.
  • Lark — Recently moved our company email away from Google Workspace to Lark. After over 10 years, it’s time to try something new, Google is getting too boring and expensive. Lark is good, free for startups.
  • WeChat, Whatsapp, Telegram, Mattermost, iMessage, Skype, Zoom, Webex, Microsoft Teams, Lark, DingTalk, etc. I am not picky with chat software, I just use it by needs. It’s hard to avoid needing VPN if you want full end-to-end encrypted chats. Don’t send keys or passwords on unencrypted chats.
  • TeamViewer — Remote access.
  • Apple Remote Desktop for managing local network of Mac computers.
  • Day One — Good Journal app on Mac and iOS, but getting a bit expensive now, I paid for it long ago, I don’t pay for SaaS version.
  • https://aliceandbob.io — Use PGP or GPG for your own encrypted messages. You can encrypt your own private keys again too. Just make it more difficult for others to get it. It’s easy to search for fixed length text strings on a hard disk. And I use https://github.com/Free-GPGMail/Free-GPGMail because I don’t want to pay for GPGMail.
  • https://app.diagrams.net/ — For free diagrams, just like Visio and Omnigraffle, but all free. Can even download the binary version for offline use, or host your own version online using docker! Great project.
  • https://sequencediagram.org/ — Use this to draw UML Sequence Diagram. Can’t be simpler.
  • Shottr — Good for editing screenshots, even just for the pixelate feature. Skitch used to be good many many years ago.
  • The Unarchiver — Zip utility. Can handle Chinese filenames properly.
  • VLC — still my favourite media player.
  • HandBrake — for most of your video conversion needs.
  • Cryptomator — Use any free cloud storage to store whole folder encrypted. Cross platform. Use it with multi-cloud, Baidu, Netease, Google, iCloud, OneDrive, etc. Another way is to use Cryptomator with Resilio Sync to have your own encrypted P2P storage. DON’T LOSE YOUR PASSWORD.
  • OTP Manager — Good for using 2FA on your Mac. Probably not the best for security as you will then have both passwords and 2FA on your computer, so please make sure you know what you are doing. I started using the built-in iOS/macOS keychain for some non-critical sites too.
  • Calibre — I use this to manage my ebooks, good for converting between different formats (epubs, mobi, etc) and updating meta-information from Amazon. I only import books I read into iBooks/iCloud.
  • Open In Incognito — Useful Chrome/Brave extension to open current page in Private mode.
  • Medium Enhanced Stats & Better Medium Stats — Chrome/Brave Extensions to view or download your readership stats. I don’t usually want these extensions as they might get to know your stats, but I guess if I am publishing on Medium, I don’t really care to be open about these?
  • New Tab Redirect— Chrome/Brave/Edge extension to open up a particular URL when you start a new tab. Most browsers allow you to set the startup page, or even new window page. But not new tab. This extension sort that out. It is useful to reduce noise/distractions.
  • KeyboardCleanTool— Lock the keyboard so you can clean it without unplugging it.
  • Expanso — Text expander, if you like typing using shortcuts. I am better with shortcut keys or with the system built in ones.
  • Audacity — Even with the recent license changes, still a great tool for editing audio files.
  • Plex.tv — Plex is good for having your own local media server. It handles all the conversion and stream to all your local devices. (You can set it up to stream outside your local network too.)
  • AppCleaner — When you want to delete an app, use this. It’s free. It helps to clean out “hidden” or just associated setting files.
  • Apple Notes Export — There are 2 tools I can recommend, 1) http://falcon.star-lord.me/exporter/ freemium app with option to filter by folder if you use the paid version or 2) http://writeapp.net/notesexporter/ free app, can only export all notes without folder structure.

A few more dev tools:

I already put VS Code up there, but there are a few more tools for coding which can be handy:

Cyberduck — Good graphical FTP/SFTP client, I also use Filezilla from time to time when Cyberduck can’t handle many many thousands of files.

GitHub Desktop — Previously used SourceTree, but GitHub Desktop is now working well with my VS Code workflow. (I wonder why GitLab don’t have their own official client app.)

massCode — A good tool to keep your code snippets. Open source and cross platform. We have tried quite a few of these, but most of them are no longer in active development. Generally good to look for one that can easily import and export from other tools using standard formats like MD, etc.

If you are comfortable with using Terminal with a few commands, here are some tools/tips I use, I share them on Gist:
https://gist.github.com/eplt/027c99215e37a3a138c32b19a944b05d

Standard Disclaimer

The third-party applications listed here are just recommendations by our staff, e.g., because they work well with our own apps and workflows. For more information about them and for customer support please directly contact their makers.

We might receive a compensation by the companies we link to through an affiliate program should you decide to buy their product later. Generally not at any additional direct cost to you.

Originally published at https://evolvingviews.com

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Edward Tsang

Experienced technologist, focused on selective combinations of blockchain and AI. I use Medium to repost what I share on https://evolvingviews.com.