Make your new Mac more useful with these essential apps

Posted:
in macOS edited December 2017
A brand new Mac is a semi-blank canvas ready for the owner to turn into their ideal workspace, by adding the applications and utilities they aim to use in the future. AppleInsider has collected together a list of software that those new to macOS may want to install to their new Mac shortly after turning it on for the first time.


Taking Stock

It is worth bearing in mind that all new Mac systems ship with a considerable amount of applications included as part of macOS. Practically most normal uses for the Mac are covered by Apple, including productivity, creative, and entertainment apps, so it is best to look at what is available before downloading anything new.

For example, those requiring productivity tools for writing, calculation, and presentations can use Pages, Numbers, and Keynote. Creative users can try out Photos, iMovie for video editing, and GarageBand for music creation, with Mail, Messages, and FaceTime offered as ways to communicate with other people.

There are many other apps included within macOS, and many more also available through the Mac App Store, which is also used for software updates.


Productivity

Microsoft's Office suite is still heavily used in business, so those needing to use the Mac for work-related purposes may want to consider using an Office 365 subscription. As well as working within the cloud, the subscription also provides the usual array of Office tools for installation, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and numerous others, though it may be an idea to see if there's some corporate program that will allow employees to use the suite from home without paying for their own subscription.

Want to have an Office-style suite but at a considerably lower cost? OpenOffice and LibreOffice are open-source projects that are quite similar to each other, each offering slightly different tools for word processing, spreadsheets, and databases, and while they rely on the OpenDocument Format for files, they also tend to have little issues opening Office files.

By comparison to the above, Apple's built-in office tools are more design-oriented than Microsoft Office, OpenOffice and LibreOffice's utilitarian functionality, giving users the opportunity to put more thought into what the document they are working on looks like. For example, Numbers provides a greater number of ways to lay out a spreadsheet on a page, with a greater emphasis on font sizes and selection and other appearance-based elements.




If you need to communicate with team members, there are two tools you really should install. Microsoft's Skype has become one of the main ways to verbally or visually call other people, both on other Skype accounts and on the phone, making it an essential tool to acquire.

Some workplaces choose to have inter-office communications through Slack, the chat-based tool for businesses. Though it does offer some video and voice call functionality, the meat of Slack is its ability to create different chat rooms for text and image-based discussions, with it being extremely easy for employees to collaborate with each other on tasks remotely.

Creativity

As a one-stop shop for creative tools, the Adobe Creative Cloud offers well-known applications for design, video editing, and image editing. Photoshop, Premiere, After Effects, and other elements are widely used tools for content creation, but at a fairly high monthly cost that makes it an expensive option unless they are regularly used.

A more affordable but still powerful alternative to Photoshop is Pixelmator, the image-editing tool made to take advantage of macOS. Pixelmator offers practically all of the effects and utilities that its Adobe counterpart has, and is also available for iOS, but at a considerably cheaper one-time cost of $29.99.

Recently, the developers of Pixelmator released Pixelmator Pro for $59.99, an upgraded version that offers a refreshed user interface and takes advantage of machine learning for some tools, such as horizon detection and object removal.




The video editing tool Final Cut Pro is a major competitor to Adobe's Premiere, providing editing, motion graphics, color grading, HDR support, and other elements needed for video projects. Again, the price of $299.99 is high but worth it if a lot of video work is expected in the near future, though those wanting to edit the occasional family video may want to use iMovie that comes free with their Mac.

If GarageBand isn't enough for the user, an upgrade to Logic Pro X may be worth a look. This $199.99 digital audio workstation includes a large collection of loops, effects, and instruments, and is built for professional songwriters and editing, though it also works seamlessly with GarageBand for iOS for on-the-go track changes.

While GarageBand and Logic Pro X are great for producing songs, you're better off using another tool if you're recording a single sound, such as someone's voice for a podcast. Audacity is a free open-source audio app that offers both a simple recording interface and an extensive list of options for editing the file, before exporting it for use elsewhere.

Gaming

Blizzard is known for its games having Mac support, and most of its current roster is available to play on macOS, including some free-to-play items that include in-app purchases.

"Heroes of the Storm" is an action RTS-style game that brings together characters from the various Blizzard franchises into a single battle. Fighting alongside others as one main character, players have to level up their avatar and attack the opposing team's base, while simultaneously protecting their own from destruction.

"Hearthstone" is a collectible card game where players use their decks of cards to spawn creatures and attack their opponent, similar to Magic: The Gathering and other titles. An initial deck is provided to players, though booster packs with more cards can be acquired, while adventures provide extra challenges against AI opponents, with extra cards as rewards for successfully completing matches.




If you like driving, "Dirt Rally" is a great racing game that takes you offroad and down dirt tracks in a powerful vehicle. Compete against other drivers on roads, mud, and snow-covered countryside, hurtling along while navigating tough corners and avoiding race-ending obstacles.

"Elite: Dangerous" takes players to space, piloting their own starship across a galaxy in an open-world adventure. Flying to space stations and outposts, the game starts with a small ship and a few credits with wealth and power within reach, depending on the player's chosen path through the cutthroat cosmos, both in a single-player experience and with others.

A slightly different approach to the subject, "Kerbal Space Progam" is a ship building game that often ends in slapstick failure, as players attempt to create a craft capable of getting to the Moon. The comedic NASA-like simulator also includes challenges like constructing and docking with space stations, traversing the solar system, and sending crew out of the ship for "extra-vehicular" activities.




While the Mac App Store includes a large collection of games for the Mac, it is highly recommended to install Steam, the online storefront and gaming service from Valve Software. Aside from the occasional Steam Sales that provide steep discounts on the store's catalog, Steam also provides chat services with other players, friend lists, and other elements developers are able to incorporate into their games for multiplayer purposes.

Other Suggestions

If you have the need to convert video from one format to another, or want to rip your DVD collection to something viewable from your Mac's internal storage or an iPhone, you'll need to get Handbrake. The free open-source tool is a bit tricky to start using, but once mastered, it offers great results for video conversions.

Delicious Library is a great app for cataloging collections of media, providing a way for users to see their entire DVD, Blu-ray, and book collection. Using a webcam to scan barcodes and offering a companion app for iOS, the system can also be used to keep track of items that have been loaned to friends and family, recommends new items to buy, and can even total up the overall value of a user's media collection.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 26
    Oolite is my tip for a great Elite game conversion, totally free. Merry Christmas all!
  • Reply 2 of 26
    Forget Pixelmator. If you've got a Mac and you're looking at graphic design software other than Photoshop you should be looking at Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer. Photo is comparable to Photoshop and Designer is comparable to Illustrator (And they're working on Publisher which will be comparable to InDesign). The apps are cheap for what they do, don't come with a subscription, and having used both Pixelmator and Affinity Photo, Affinity is hands down a better app. Don't get me wrong, I like the guys behind Pixelmator and I wish them luck. But I'd much sooner push somebody towards Affinity's products.
    xzupaisleydiscoaustriacuscecil444applesnorangesbkkcanuck
  • Reply 3 of 26
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,543member
    Davidmalcolm: I think the Pixelmator guys might agree with you, and that's why they developed Pixelmator Pro. I don't have a horse in this race at this point -- I'm a long-time Pixelmator (regular) and Photoshop CC user -- and I'm sure Affinity's software is top-notch (very excited to check out Designer), just saying there's "I make a living with these tools" level, and there's "I just need to fix this image" level for everyone else, and while I haven't compared them head-to-head, I look forward to reading more about Pixelmator Pro vs Affinity Photo. The bottom line is that there's tools at virtually any price point that might meet your needs, and that's a very good thing for Mac users.
    chiaapplesnorangesbkkcanuck
  • Reply 4 of 26
    I don't agree that "The video editing tool Final Cut Pro is a major competitor to Adobe's Photoshop". I guess you mean Premier?
    baconstangAvieshekpaisleydiscocecil444SpamSandwichbkkcanuck
  • Reply 5 of 26
    I'd second both Davidmalcolm for photo/graphic work.  MacPhun's (Skylum's) Luminar is a pretty decent upcoming Photos competitor.  Skylum is promising a DAM like Aperture had, and High Sierra's Photos every so slowly tries to be.  Also, Marxy's right...FCP is not a major competitor to Photoshop, but Premier.  And, the latest version rocks with 360 degree video editing, LUTs, etc. 
  • Reply 6 of 26
    Comparing GarageBand to Logic (in spite of Apples declaration that they are based upon the same development - they are not) is like comparing Adobe Photoshop to Picasa. 

    Is Picasa still a thing? Oh wait - no one cares. 
    lito_lupena
  • Reply 7 of 26
    jdwjdw Posts: 742member
    No mention of Serif's excellent Affinity Photo (no subscription required) as a Photoshop replacement in this article?  
    What the heck?!
    bkkcanuck
  • Reply 8 of 26
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,874member
    Comparing GarageBand to Logic (in spite of Apples declaration that they are based upon the same development - they are not) is like comparing Adobe Photoshop to Picasa. 

    Is Picasa still a thing? Oh wait - no one cares. 
    The article didn't really compare them. It was simply saying if GarageBand isn't enough for you, then look into purchasing Logic. GarageBand is more than enough for a lot of people. 
    xzubaconstangStrangeDaysapplesnoranges
  • Reply 9 of 26
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,603member
    Forget Pixelmator. If you've got a Mac and you're looking at graphic design software other than Photoshop you should be looking at Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer. Photo is comparable to Photoshop and Designer is comparable to Illustrator (And they're working on Publisher which will be comparable to InDesign). The apps are cheap for what they do, don't come with a subscription, and having used both Pixelmator and Affinity Photo, Affinity is hands down a better app. Don't get me wrong, I like the guys behind Pixelmator and I wish them luck. But I'd much sooner push somebody towards Affinity's products.
    I’m not sure Affinity Publisher will ever see the light of day. It was supposed to come out a few months after Designer, which makes it about two years late. 
  • Reply 10 of 26
    1Password. 1Password. 1Password.

    If you’re anybody writing a “must-have Mac apps” article, and don’t mention the excellent (and cross platform) 1Password, you’re doing it wrong.

    Also kind of surprised Dropbox didn’t get a mention…

    Oh also—who uses Skype anymore?! :p
    edited December 2017 Rayz2016jeffharrisdewme
  • Reply 11 of 26
    1Password. 1Password. 1Password.

    If you’re anybody writing a “must-have Mac apps” article, and don’t mention the excellent (and cross platform) 1Password, you’re doing it wrong.

    Also kind of surprised Dropbox didn’t get a mention…
    1Password & DropBox, absolutely!!

    Evernote: same notes across all devices.
    Default Folder X: Streamlined navigation of Open/Save dialogue boxes. Direct navigation to folders in the Finder. 
  • Reply 12 of 26
    Forget Pixelmator. If you've got a Mac and you're looking at graphic design software other than Photoshop you should be looking at Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer. Photo is comparable to Photoshop and Designer is comparable to Illustrator (And they're working on Publisher which will be comparable to InDesign). The apps are cheap for what they do, don't come with a subscription, and having used both Pixelmator and Affinity Photo, Affinity is hands down a better app. Don't get me wrong, I like the guys behind Pixelmator and I wish them luck. But I'd much sooner push somebody towards Affinity's products.
    I coud not agree more - I started dabbling around with Audacity and it is pretty amazing. 
  • Reply 13 of 26
    Arggh - I meant to write Affinity not Adacity. Sorry about the confusion
  • Reply 14 of 26
    Apple Pecile’ still no support from Apple for their own apps. Did I wash §§§$100.  
  • Reply 15 of 26
    I love it when AI does this...I only buy apps based on recommendations. I do have a tendency to stay with Apple's Apps, Pages, Mail, Notes, Podcast App, etc. I patiently wait for Apple's inevitable updates! :) Some of my favs are:

    Dashlane: (although I'm thinking of going all in with just Keychain)
    BackBlaze: (Again, may just use iCloud)
    DropBox: (of course)
    Capo: (To slow down and figure out chords of songs)
    SmartReporter: (Little green icon that sits in Menu Bar...lets you know if you start having problems with your HD. Saved my bacon once. Had a month before my AppleCare was up and the icon turned red. Took my intel iMac to the AppleStore and they replaced the HD and the motherboard!)
    JumpCut: (Expands Copy and Paste)
    PDF Shrink: Shrinks PDF's

    Your Favorites? :)

    P.S. Really recommend you look at SmartRepoter. (No affiliation) :)

    https://www.corecode.io/smartreporter/


    watto_cobraapplesnoranges
  • Reply 16 of 26
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,603member
    Well I got that wrong.

    Serif release a teaser trailer showing Publisher in use. No release date, but it will get here sooner or later. 

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=jZHAk1a8vi0

    edited December 2017
  • Reply 17 of 26
    1Password. 1Password. 1Password.

    If you’re anybody writing a “must-have Mac apps” article, and don’t mention the excellent (and cross platform) 1Password, you’re doing it wrong.

    Also kind of surprised Dropbox didn’t get a mention…

    Oh also—who uses Skype anymore?! :p
    I find little need for 1Password, with Apple’s built-in password management cover Safari in Mac and iOS, and not apps in iOS. 

    Tried 1Password but became annoyed when they wanted me to re-buy it for each platform. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 26
    Forget Elite Dangerous. It doesn't even launch on High Sierra and the developer has no support page.
  • Reply 19 of 26
    Forget Pixelmator. If you've got a Mac and you're looking at graphic design software other than Photoshop you should be looking at Affinity Photo and Affinity Designer. Photo is comparable to Photoshop and Designer is comparable to Illustrator (And they're working on Publisher which will be comparable to InDesign). The apps are cheap for what they do, don't come with a subscription, and having used both Pixelmator and Affinity Photo, Affinity is hands down a better app. Don't get me wrong, I like the guys behind Pixelmator and I wish them luck. But I'd much sooner push somebody towards Affinity's products.
    Amen! When I install High Sierra (can't yet, have a fusion drive), I will probably need to say goodbye to the CS6 versions of Illustrator and Photoshop. I've already spent a lot of time investigating Affinity Photo and Designer and they ROCK! A major concern was opening existing Illustrator and Photoshop docs, editing them, and then saving them to a desirable format. No problem. No subscription. No brainer.
  • Reply 20 of 26
    1Password. 1Password. 1Password.

    If you’re anybody writing a “must-have Mac apps” article, and don’t mention the excellent (and cross platform) 1Password, you’re doing it wrong.

    Also kind of surprised Dropbox didn’t get a mention…

    Oh also—who uses Skype anymore?! :p
    I find little need for 1Password, with Apple’s built-in password management cover Safari in Mac and iOS, and not apps in iOS. 

    Tried 1Password but became annoyed when they wanted me to re-buy it for each platform. 
    Where 1Password shines (for me) is also storing passwords for apps, not just websites. I’ve lost count of the number of times even Steam demands I re-sign in on startup, and 1P saves me every time. Plus with cross platform apps it stores passwords for iOS apps like Foxtel, PlayStation, my banking and health insurance apps etc.
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