Tom's Mac Software Picks 2015

It Takes Exceptional Value and Quality to Make the Grade

This marks the eighth year of selecting apps for our weekly special, 'Tom's Mac Software Picks.' Every week, I look through new Mac software releases and updates, and pore over older apps that are still relevant and current. I then select an app that meets our requirements to offer exceptional value and quality, and be of interest to the readers of Lifewire: Macs.

I announce the weekly winner each Saturday. I also post a review of the app, so you can decide if my pick is right for you and the way you use your Mac.

I like to look through utilities, troubleshooting assistants, and general-purpose apps, as well as apps designed for specific market segments. After all, you may be in the market for a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) application one week, and a video editing system the next. And of course we all need general office tools, such as word processors and spreadsheets. At some point during the year, I'll come across one or more apps that will meet your needs, and this may be the best place to find out about them.

So, if you're looking to add a few apps to your Mac, this is the place to start. We're looking at picks for 2015 here, but don’t forget to check out the picks from previous years as well:

Tom's Mac Software Picks 2015

Want to let me know about a favorite Mac app? Follow me on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook, and leave me a note. I won’t guarantee that I'll include it, but I will take a look.

Published: 1/3/2015

Updated: 12/26/2015

Seasonality Core

Seasonality Core weather app
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Seasonality Core brings a complete weather station to your Mac, without the need to invest in weather-gathering hardware. With support for multiple weather reporting stations, Seasonality Core can keep track of the weather anywhere in the world.  


Courtesy of C-Command

SpamSieve from C-Command is a spam-filtering system that works with the most popular Mac mail clients, and can quickly and accurately rid your inbox of pesky spam.


Hear: Tom's Mac Software Pick
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Hear is a software-based audio processor for the Mac that turns humdrum audio into rich, breathtaking sound. Hear works for any app running on your Mac, and can be used as a mixer to control the volume of individual apps.


Cookie setup
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Cookie can help protect your online privacy by automatically removing cookies, and tracking cookies, databases, and other junk you collect whenever you open your browser to look around the web.

Cookie also has the ability to mark certain types of data as favorites, allowing you to keep cookies you need, such as those used for automatic login to your favorite websites, while still removing those that try to track your every move.


Jettison menu bar item
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Jettison can automate your Mac’s sleep process and ensure that your external drives are ejected properly. If you're tired of seeing warning messages about drives that weren't properly ejected, Jettison can give you a hand.

Orbis (Formerly MenuWeather)

Orbis (Formerly MenuWeather)
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Orbis is a weather app that resides in your Mac’s menu bar. With a quick glance, you can see the current temperature and weather conditions. Accessing the menu bar item provides a detailed 5-day forecast, as well as current conditions at all of the locations you wish to have Orbis monitor.

SoftRAID Lite 5

SoftRAID Lite
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

SoftRAID Lite 5 is a good choice to replace the RAID tools that Apple removed from the OS X El Capitan version of Disk Utility. Its interface is easy to use, and in addition to taking care of your basic RAID creation and management needs, SoftRAID Lite goes well beyond what Disk Utility could ever do. 

Uli’s Moose and Eyeballs

Uli's Moose and Eyeballs
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Uli’s Moose and Eyeballs are our paired Mac Software Picks that provide nothing but entertainment. Although both apps are current and work with OS X El Capitan and earlier, they have a long history going back to Mac OS 7.1; that’s 30 years of Mac fun.

Uli’s Moose is the latest incarnation of the Talking Moose, an animated character that pops up on your desktop and speaks a few words of wisdom whenever he thinks they're needed. Eyeballs is a menu item that spends the day following your cursor, wherever it may roam.


SuperDuper with Option window
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

SuperDuper from Shirt Pocket is one of the original cloning and backup utilities for the Mac. It offers easy setup and use, a scheduling system, and the ability to create custom backup processing using your own scripts. Or, you can just use the included backup scripts, which should cover about 95 percent of all backup needs. 

Commander One

Command One icon
Courtesy of Eltima Software

Commander One is a file manager that brings capabilities for working with files well beyond what is offered with the Mac’s Finder. If you routinely spend time manipulating files in the Finder, Commander One may be a better choice. 

Disk Sensei

Disk Sensei icon
Courtesy of Cindori

Disk Sensei is a drive utility for monitoring a Mac’s storage system performance, as well as keeping track of drive health. Disk Sensei also supports S.M.A.R.T. reporting, letting you know in advance of drive problems that may occur.

Privacy Badger

Privacy Badger
Courtesy of the Electronic Frontier Federation

Privacy Badger from the Electronic Frontier Foundation keeps an eye on the cookies used by web sites, and destroys those used to track your movements around the web.

Midnight Mansion HD Episode 1

Midnight Mansion HD Episode 1
Courtesy of ActionSoft

Midnight Mansion is a classic platform game that allows you to explore five different spooky mansions in the guise of Jack Malone, an intrepid explorer who has nerves of steel (unlike you and me), and is sure that he'll find the secrets of each mansion, along with the rumored treasure.


Scrivener Long Form Editor
Courtesy of Literature and Latte

Scrivener from Literature and Latte is a long-form document system that can turn your Mac into a writing studio. Tackling a novel, memoir, or screenplay may be a bit easier with Scrivener.


Composure collage and image editor
Courtesy of Stuck Pixel, Inc.

Composure lets you bring a bit of whimsy to your photos, with its ability to add silly stickers, text captions, and even pirate hats. And it does this with an interface that makes it easy for anyone to create imaginative images or collages.

Parallels Desktop for Mac 11

Parallels Desktop for Mac
Courtesy of Parallels

Parallels Desktop for Mac 11 is a virtualization app that allows you to run Windows, Linux, and other operating systems on your Mac. Parallels 11 offers a number of new features, including Travel Mode, to help reduce battery drain, and automatic performance tuning, to get the best out of a guest OS.


Noiseless from Macphun
Courtesy of Macphun Software

Noiseless from Macphun is an app that can remove or reduce the amount of digital noise added to photographs. From DSLRs to smartphone cameras, all digital photos can have some noise artifacts, especially in low light, high ISO conditions. Noiseless can process your images and remove or greatly reduce the effects of low light noise.


Courtesy of Houdah Software

Tembo from Houdah Software is a search system for the Mac that uses the Spotlight index to provide a better search experience. With Tembo's ability to categorize and filter search results, you can quickly find whatever it is you're looking for.

Audio Hijack 3

Audio Hijack 3 Icon
Courtesy of Rogue Amoeba

Audio Hijack 3 from Rogue Amoeba is a completely new version of the popular app for hijacking audio from any Mac app, service, or device. The latest version offers a brand-new user interface that turns the task of creating complex recording sessions into a far simpler process of connecting audio blocks.


Image2icon icon
Courtesy of Shiny Frog

Image2icon from Shiny Frog helps you create custom icons for folders, drives, files, just about any Finder item on your Mac. Unlike some competing icon utilities that take a very complex and detailed approach to creating icons, all you need to do is select an image, and Image2icon will do the rest. 

Affinity Photo

Affinity Photo
Courtesy of Serif, Ltd.

Affinity Photo is an image editor that has the speed, performance, and tools necessary to be a major player in the Mac photo editing marketplace. It may even prove to be a Photoshop killer.


Courtesy of Etwok, LCC.

NetSpot is a Wi-Fi scanner and site survey utility that can be used with your Mac to map out how well your wireless network is performing. It can also help you discover where your network coverage has holes and issues. Either way, it’s a handy tool for those deploying home or business wireless networks.


Emulsion Image Catalog app
Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Emulsion from The Escapers is an image cataloging and editing app that is designed as a replacement for Aperture, Lightroom, or even advanced iPhoto users. Emulsion provides a wide range of capabilities, including advanced meta data editing, RAW image editing, and a fast image catalog that makes searching and organizing images an easy task.


SSDReporter Icon
Courtesy of CoreCode

 SSDReporter monitors your Mac’s internal SSDs and flash storage devices to ensure they're in tip-top shape and that no problems are brewing


AdwareMedic icon
Courtesy of Thomas Reed and The Safe Mac.

AdwareMedic is a very easy to use scanning system that can find and remove most of the types of adware found on Mac computers. If you're having a problem with unknown popups, strange ads being displayed in your browser, or you've lost control of basic browsing functions, AdwareMedic may be able to put a stop to it.

Mac Backup Guru

Mac Backup Guru icon
Courtesy of MacDaddy

Mac Backup Guru provides the ability to create backup clones of your Mac’s startup drive. If it stopped there, the app wouldn't be that unusual, although its interface is easy to use. But Mac Backup Guru goes beyond the basics and provides a few unique capabilities that could easily make it the equivalent of a bootable Time Machine backup system. 


Courtesy of SmileOnMyMac

TextExpander allows you to expand short text snippets into simple or complex writing, making this one of the best productivity tools for the Mac. With an easy-to-use snippet editor, and a powerful text replacement engine that doesn’t seem to slow down, TextExpander can serve the needs of writers and coders, as well as everyday Mac users who are looking to ensure accuracy in the writing they produce.


Courtesy of Marcel Bresink

TinkerTool provides easy access to a large number of hidden preferences within OS X. Not only can you customize OS X to better meet your needs, you can do so using an app that is easy to use, instead of learning a handful of Terminal commands. Just remember, should you set a preference that causes you problems, you can always use the Reset function to restore the system defaults.

DaisyDisk: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Courtesy of Software Ambience

DaisyDisk is a utility for displaying the data on your Mac’s drive in an easy-to-understand sunburst graph. This type of graph is uniquely capable of letting you see how data is organized, where large chunks of information are stored, and the hierarchy of the storage, all of which makes DaisyDisk an ideal tool for locating and deleting unneeded files and folders, to help you maintain a clean and well-running Mac. 


BetterZip icon
Courtesy of MacItBetter

BetterZip is an archiving utility for the Mac that provides a great deal more performance and capabilities than Apple’s built-in archiving solution. If you work with compressed archives, BetterZip may be a better solution for you.

XScanSolo 4

XScanSolo 4 app icon
Courtesy of Adnx Software

XScanSolo 4 is a system and hardware monitor that can grab data from built-in sensors, and display the results in an easy-to-use interface. Want to know how hot your Mac gets on a summer day, or how fast the fans are spinning? This app can answer these and many other hardware-related questions.

VidConvert: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Courtesy of Reggie Ashworth

VidConvert is a video and audio converter that makes changing from one format to another very simple. But simple doesn't mean primitive. VidConvert offers both a large number of presets for converting to the most popular formats with just a click or two, and advanced options that put the conversion details in your hands.

SoundBunny: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Courtesy of Prosoft Engineering

SoundBunny lets you control the volume of apps on an application-by-application basis. No longer will turning up the volume in iTunes cause Mail notifications to blare from your speakers at ear-piercing volumes. With SoundBunny, you can turn Mail down and iTunes up.

Drive Genius 4

Drive Genius 4 icon
Courtesy of Prosoft Engineering

Drive Genius 4 adds a new user interface and quite a few new tools to one of the best drive maintenance and repair apps available for the Mac. Of particular interest is the new BootWell system, which can create a bootable version of Drive Genius 4 on a USB flash drive; just the emergency tool any self-respecting IT person needs to fix their family's collection of Macs.


Courtesy of Maintain

Cocktail is a system utility for tweaking OS X to better suit your needs, as well as a tool to aid in troubleshooting and running system maintenance scripts that can keep your Mac in peek health. With an easy to use interface, Cocktail gives you access to system options that are usually only available with Terminal or by editing configuration or preference files. Cocktail makes accessing these options so much easier.

Cookie Stumbler 2: Tom’s Mac Software Pick

Cookie Stumbler icon
Courtesy of WriteIt! Studios

Cookie Stumbler 2 is a great way to manage cookies stored in your browser(s). Not all cookies are evil, and deleting all of them all of the time can be more trouble and time-consuming than it's worth. Instead, let Cookie Stumbler use its cookie definition database to let you know which cookies are tracking you and which ones are not. You can then create a cookie cleaning schedule to rid all your browsers of unwanted cookies.

Pixelmator 3.3

Pixelmator 3.3
Courtesy of Pixelmator

Pixelmator 3.3 is one of the best image editing applications for the Mac. And when you consider the price is only $29.99, you can see why we call it an extraordinary value. Pixelmator has been one of our favorite image editing apps for a long time. It’s fast and easy to use, and isn't a resource hog like some other image editing systems. It's far from a lightweight app, however, because it has many of the same capabilities and features as editing apps that cost hundreds of dollars more. 

CheatSheet: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Courtesy of Media Atelier

CheatSheet provides quick access to every keyboard shortcut supported by the currently active application. It’s a great way to learn shortcuts, or simply explore undiscovered features that may be present in apps you use every day. 

Stellarium: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Stellarium planetarium app
Courtesy of

Stellarium is a free open source planetarium app that runs on the Mac. Once it's installed, you'll see the nighttime sky displayed in all its glory, at any time of day or night. Stellarium comes complete with a huge catalog of objects, including planets, satellites, moons, stars, constellations, and deep sky objects, all available at your fingertips.


Keka - The full featured file archiver.
Courtesy of Jorge Garcia Armero

Keka, from Jorge Garcia Armero, is an archiving app for the Mac that allows you to easily compress or extract files. It also supports a wide range of compression and extraction formats, and provides more features and capabilities than OS X’s built-in archiving utility. Keka is free, although I encourage you to support the developer's work by making a small donation.

Records for Mac

Records for Mac application icon
Courtesy of Push Popcorn

Records is a new consumer-level database offering from Push Popcorn. Records has a nice feel, and a very easy method of designing databases for basic uses. You won’t find complex database relationship support in Records, but as a basic system for working with lists and other data, Records may be a good system to check out.

ChronoSync: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Courtesy of Econ

ChronoSync is the Swiss army knife of file synchronization apps. As if that isn't enough, it's also an excellent backup app that can create bootable backups, both locally and across networks.

GFXBench 3.0: Tom's Mac Software Pick

GFXBench 3.0
Courtesy of Kishonti Informatics

GFXBench 3.0 is the latest graphics benchmark suite that we're adding to our set of tools for testing and evaluating Mac performance. This free graphics suite will allow you to test your own Mac's performance, and compare the results against our tests, as well as the tests of thousands of Mac users, to see how well your Mac compares to others.


AppDelete icon
Courtesy of Reggie Ashworth

AppDelete is an application uninstaller that not only removes an app and all associated files, but can also get rid of widgets, preference panes, plugins, and screen savers.

AppDelete is fast, and offers a number of helpful features, including creating app archives and finding orphaned files that can be removed.

LibreOffice: Tom's Mac Software Pick

Courtesy of The Document Foundation

 LibreOffice is a free office suite that provides applications to take care of your word processing, spreadsheet, presentation, database, and drawing needs. It can be used with, or as a replacement for, popular office suites, including Microsoft Office.


Drive Dx
Courtesy of Binary Fruit

DriveDx is a utility that monitors and tests the health and performance of your Mac's drives; it can work with both hard drives and SSDs. Its ability to let you know of impending drive failure long before your data is at risk makes DriveDx a must-have app.

Default Folder X

Default Folder X
Courtesy of St. Clair Software

Default Folder X is a utility for creating easier to manage open and save dialog boxes for all applications you use on your Mac. Default Folder X can remember frequently used Finder locations and favorite folders, as well as allow you to search the Finder, all from within the dialog box of an application.

You can even rename files and folders directly from the dialog box, if the need arises. With all the capabilities available from the Default Folder X app, you'll probably wish you had come across this utility a lot sooner than you did.

A Better Finder Attributes 5

A Better Finder Attributes
Courtesy of Frank Reiff

A Better Finder Attributes is a utility for working with, editing, and changing just about all Finder attributes a file or folder may have. If you need to make changes to a file creation or modification date, or wish to batch change labels, set file lock status, or even work with older file creator and type codes, A Better Finder Attributes may be the solution.


Todoist icon
Courtesy of Doist

Todoist is a cross-platform task manager that works with the Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android platforms. It can keep your tasks synced on all your devices, and provides an easy-to-use but powerful interface to help you get your tasks done.

There's More to Be Found

Don't forget that my list of Mac software picks is updated each week, so as the year goes by, there will be more and more pages added to the list. And no, I won't make you click through a page for each app. Instead, you'll find 10 apps listed per page.

Enjoy! I hope you find some Mac apps that meet your needs.