Over the years, I’ve tried and tested dozens of apps. While I deleted most of them, I’ve discovered my tried and true favorite apps that are reliable for everyday use. Keep reading to learn more about the tools that help streamline my Mac experience.
Also: How to get true window snapping in MacOS Note that these apps work on both Intel Macs and Macs powered by Apple’s new M1 and M2 chips.

Free up storage spaceSpeed up your MacUninstall appsRemove malwareKeep your online activities privateRegular updates

CleanMyMac X is the best way to rid your Mac of accumulating digital junk in order to free up storage space and increase processing speed. It scans your Mac to remove malware, large hidden files, old archives, and unused apps. And the company behind the app – Macpaw – continually adds new functions and features.  I’m always amazed by how CleanMyMac X seeks out digital junk that’s otherwise buried deep within the bowels of my computer’s operating system. This app is easy to use without becoming cluttered or confusing. It only requires a few clicks and away it goes. 

Over 40 tools for macOS and WindowsEliminates the need to buy multiple applicationsCompetitively pricedRegular updates

Parallels Toolbox is a suite of easy-to-use tools that streamlines routine computing chores. It simplifies everyday tasks so you can complete functions in just a click or two, massively increasing efficiency.  This suite allows you to accomplish a variety of tasks using capture tools, image resizing tools, a GIF maker, tools for downloading videos from the internet, a clipboard history unit converter, a utility for freeing memory, and much more. Parallels Toolbox 5.5 for Windows and Mac are available today as standalone products. Each annual license includes free updates of new and enhanced tools as they become available, and it costs $19.99 per year.

Detailed overview of CPU, network, disk, battery, weather, and other eventsIn-depth information from the sensors built into your MacCustomizable interface

iStat Menus is an advanced Mac system monitor that covers an enormous range of statistics. I love this app because it allows me to geek out on a massive amount of system information.  iStat Menus features a built-in weather app, a notification system that informs you of errors, and a battery level display for your connected AirPods, Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, and other devices. The information seems nearly endless, data covers a whole raft of real-time data from sensors, including temperatures, hard drive temperatures, fans, CPU frequency, GPU frequency, voltages, current and power, and much more. This app organizes a plethora of important, useful information right at your fingertips. And it does it in a beautiful way.

Easy 2-factor authenticationSecure backupsEasy migration to another device

I used to be a Google Authenticator user, but the old 2FA (2-Factor Authentication) app features a variety of limitations, so I switched to Authy.  Authy works on almost every device and platform, and the app allows me to keep a backup of my codes, which is convenient when swapping devices. I use Authy on all my systems – even my Mac – and I use it almost daily.  Best of all, it’s free!

Remote access your computer from anywhere using a whole raft of devicesAccess all your applications, files, and computers in one placeStreamlined interface optimized for you to run applications remotely

Remote access apps can be a security nightmare if they are difficult to set up or offer unreliable service. After trying various solutions, Parallels Access is my favorite method for accessing my systems remotely.  With Parallels Access I can connect to my Mac (or PC) from basically any device, and work with applications and files on that remote system as though I’m sitting in front of it.  This has been an absolute lifesaver for times when I’ve left an important file on my computer at home or in the office. A single license allows a user to install the software on up to five computers and on an unlimited number of mobile devices.

Capture screen contentEdit and add visualsShare your content easily

My job involves taking countless screen captures, and of all the utilities I’ve tried – even the tools built into macOS – nothing comes close to the power and flexibility of Snagit.  I’ve used Snagit for over a decade, and during that time I’ve taken thousands of screen captures across a whole range of systems.  Not only does this tool allow me to capture simple screenshots and more complex tasks like scrolling windows, but it also features powerful editing tools. Snagit helps me prepare screen captures for posting on the web or putting into publications. 

Block harmful websites and hacking attemptsProtect your real IP address and online trafficSee who is trying to track you onlineEnsure privacy on public Wi‑Fi

Browsing the web without a VPN leaves a digital footprint that others can use to track you down. A VPN allows you to step over geographical fences that sometimes exist around content. On top of that, a high-quality VPN keeps you safe when accessing the web using wired and wireless networks that are not under your control.  After testing different VPNs, I settled on F-Secure Freedome, because it offers excellent security and high levels of reliability at a reasonable price. The apps are also solid and updated regularly. I find I can just leave this app running in the background and not really think about it unless I want to make some sort of change to the VPN connection – such as what country I’m connecting to.

Cloud backup made easyUnlimited files and unlimited file sizeSecure encryption

While Time Machine works for carrying out local backups, it’s also a good idea to have an up-to-date offsite backup. That way, if worst comes to the worst and my devices are stolen or destroyed by fire or floods, my data is still safe. I’ve tested various offsite backup services and found that Backblaze offers the best combination of value, storage space, and performance. I also recommend the Backblaze backup app. Like the name suggests, it simply runs in the background, reliably backing up my data. However, it’s also sophisticated enough to offer features such as advanced encryption and control over bandwidth. After all, if I’m using a hotspot, I don’t want that connection swamped by a backup happening in the background.

In-depth control over your Mac’s battery chargingFree and paid-for version

Al Dente is designed to prolong your MacBook’s battery by limiting the amount of charge it takes. The app enables your MacBook to charge up to 80 percent and holds it there. It’s similar to the Optimized Battery Charging feature in macOS but takes the technology a few steps further. For most people, the free version of Al Dente will suffice. For those who want more, the pro version adds a number of additional features, including:

Heat protection, which stops battery charging when battery temperatures become too highSailing mode, which keeps your battery at a particular levelLive status icons, giving you an at-a-glance view of what the app’s activityTop up mode, which allows you to charge the battery to 100%Calibration mode, which puts your battery through a charge/discharge cycle on a regular basis to prevent calibration issues

Prevents your Mac from going to sleep while it’s carrying out tasksKeep-awake can be as simple as keeping the Mac awake indefinitely to as complicated as waiting for a file to finish downloading or an app to close

This app does one thing, but it does it very well. Amphetamine lives in your menu bar and allows you to quickly and easily override your energy saver settings and keep your Mac awake.  If you need a simple on/off switch for the power-saving settings, this is your app. Need more control over power-saving features? Need to prevent your system from going to sleep while it uploads or downloads something in the background? Amphetamine is the app for you. For example, while one person who takes lots of screenshots will appreciate an app that does this well, others who never take any screenshots won’t want an app to do this. That said, I think most Mac users could benefit from using CleanMyMac X, Parallels Toolbox, and everyone needs a good backup solution like Backblaze. I’ve been using Macs for many years, and so I’ve built up a core set of Mac apps that follow me from Mac to Mac. And these apps are a subset of those apps. I’ve not just tested and reviewed these apps – these are apps that I myself use on an almost daily basis.  While many of these apps are paid-for or subscription-based, I’ve also included a few of my favorite free apps. All of these apps allow you to move them to a new Mac without any problems at all.  Any apps that you buy and download from the Mac App Store can be run on the Macs under your control.