Apps All Macs Need

Mac App Store
The Mac App Store is a great place to grab some of these apps from. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Whenever a new Mac shows up here, or for that matter, whenever I reconfigure a Mac or install a new OS, one of the first things I do is install this base group of 10 applications.

My list of 9 must-have applications doesn't include any of the major productivity applications, such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite, that most users rely on for their daily tasks. I'll install them later, but they're not top priorities. Instead, the applications and utilities I install first are designed to provide a framework that will make it easier to use and manage my Mac.

To come up with this list, I looked through the applications I've previously installed on all of the Macs here at home and in our office. I then thought about recently purchased Macs, and what I installed first. I actually came up with a long list of applications and utilities, which I whittled back down to the top 9.

Without further ado, here is the top 9 list of applications I install first on a Mac.


1Password 6
1password. Courtesy of AgileBits

1Password is a handy password manager that frees me from having to maintain a list of login data for all of the various sites and services I use daily on my Mac. Besides login information, I also keep application serial numbers in 1Password, which is one reason why its one of the first applications I install.

If I had to install applications without having 1Password available, I would waste a great deal of time running down licenses and serial numbers. Instead, 1Password puts the information at my fingertips, letting a new install on a Mac go very smoothly.


Firefox Quantum web browser
Firefox Quantum web browser from Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

I have to say that generally I prefer Apple Safari for day-to-day web browsing. But Firefox Quantum also has a place on my Mac, in fact, a very important one. Without Firefox Quantum installed, a few of the websites I need to work with won't function correctly.

Even though I prefer Safari, Firefox is one of the best available browsers for the Mac, and Mozilla is very good at keeping it up to date.

If you need Firefox Quantum, you can download the Mac version from the Mozilla web site.

Carbon Copy Cloner

Carbon Copy Cloner 4.x
Carbon Copy Cloner can be scheduled to clone my start up drive. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

If there's one thing I'm diligent about, it's backups. Backup, backup, backup. It always must be said at least three times, just for emphasis. It's that important.

I use Apple's Time Machine for my general backup system; it's easy to use and robust. But I also like to have something to fall back on, especially when it comes to computer backups. If you have ever found yourself in the middle of restoring a backup because of a system failure of some type, you know how gut wrenching it is to discover your backup is corrupt and can't be used.

That's why I maintain multiple backups, as well as multiple backup methods. It may seem a bit extreme, but it doesn't hurt to be paranoid, at least when it comes to protecting your computer's data.

I use Carbon Copy Cloner to create bootable clones of my startup drive. With Carbon Copy Cloner I can easily get back to work quickly should a drive fail or important data become corrupt. By just re-booting and setting the Carbon Copy Cloner clone as the startup drive, I can be back to work in about the time it takes to restart my Mac.

Carbon Copy Cloner is my personal choice for a clone-making backup application. I like it for its user interface, and ability to schedule the creation of startup clones. But it's not the only choice.  SuperDuper is another popular backup application with very similar capabilities. No matter which backup application you decide to use, be sure to get it installed and working right away on that new Mac.


BBEdit text editor
BBEdit lets you work on multiple documents at once, easily switching between them using the sidebar. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Bare Bones software offers two popular text editors, TextWrangler and BBEdit.​ TextWrangler is no longer supported under macOS High Sierra which could have been a blow to many users of this free text editor. But the good folks at Bare Bones took a bold step and offered BBEdit, a very powerful editor in place to TextWrangler. Even better they created a free version that has a few of the more powerful tools in BBEdit disabled.

TextWrangler and BBEdit iare handy text editor. It has some basic features that I tend to need a few times when I'm first configuring a new Mac, including the ability to open hidden files without first using Terminal to make the files visible.

Another feature I use a great deal is its Search/Find/Replace capabilities. You can even use Grep (a command line search and replace tool originally written for various UNIX shells) regular expressions for searching through documents. I find this especially useful when trying to pick out events in log files while troubleshooting.

Find out more about TextWrangler and BBEdit at the publisher's website.


Cocktail system utility
Cocktail provides access to many of the hidden features of the macOS. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Cocktail is a system utility that provides quick and convenient access to many OS X settings that are normally hidden from users. With Cocktail, you can easily set user interface options such as the number of recent items to display in the 'Open Recent' menu, and where to place scroll bars on a window. One thing I always do with Cocktail is change the screen shot format from PNG to TIFF. I need to use TIFF format for specific work I do, and having it as the default is easier then converting multiple files to the proper format.

Cocktail also provides access to some hidden Time Machine capabilities, such as using Time Machine on non-Apple network drives. You can also use Cocktail to eliminate one of the most annoying dialogs that Time Machine pops up again and again, asking if you want to use a newly connected drive as a Time Machine backup. No, I don't, thank you very much, and quit asking me!

Cocktail also provides a set of maintenance routines that can be run manually or at scheduled intervals.


VLC media player
VLC is a must have media player for your Mac. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

VLC is a media player, much like Apple's QuickTime or DVD Player. VLC understands many audio and video formats; you can also use it as a media converter. One reason I install VLC is because it can play back all of the popular Windows media formats, both video and audio.

VLC is important to have installed if you will be using your Mac as part of a home entertainment center. VLC can output multi-channel audio (Surround Sound for your movies) via the optical output of your Mac.

With all of the media formats VLC supports, you'll be able to play back just about any audio or video file you come across.


Meteorologist app for the Mac
Meteorologist puts your local weather in the menubar. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

OK, I admit it. Meteorologist brings no must-have capability to your Mac, unless you’re a weather geek. Now I'm not saying I'm a weather geek. I use Meteorologist to keep up with weather warnings, such as thunderstorms, high winds, or tornadoes, that could impact the servers we use here at home and in our home office. It's always nice to know when I should be prepared to shut things down.

Are you buying any of this? OK, fine! I admit it. I just like seeing the current weather displayed in my Mac's menu, as well as having quick access to local radar and forecasts.


xCode is an integrated development environment for the macOS. By גלק (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Xcode is Apple's development environment for creating applications for the Mac, iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. It is available free as a download from the Apple developer site. Xcode supports a number of development languages, but the newest offering from Swift, Apple's replacement for Objective C, and the new standard for developing for iOS and OS X.

Even if you're not a developer, you may want to install the Xcode environment. The included editor is handy for any code-related work you might do. The included Plist editor is a fairly good XML editor, although it's geared toward Apple's Plist format.

And once you have Xcode installed, you may get the urge to try your hand at a little bit of programming. Udemy has a C/C++ C# tutorial for beginners.

Google Earth Pro

Google Earth Pro
Looking down on Santa Cruz, CA,. Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Google Earth; what can I say? This free application from Google is a map lover's dream. You can visit any place on the earth without ever leaving your desk. Depending on where you're visiting, you may be able to zoom in from a sky-high view all the way down to a street-level scene.

Google Earth is just plain fun, but it's also useful. Ever wondered what's just over the hill from you? With Google Earth, you can take a peek without leaving home.