Here’s my personal list of tiny utilities and apps that I simply can’t live without on my Mac. These are the first apps I install on any new Mac I set up. Not all of these utilities are free, but they’re all worth the money (and not so expensive anyway).
- Rectangle • free open source window manager
- IINA • free video player supports more formats than QuickTime and doesn’t look like a 90s nightmare like VLC
- Stats app • free CPU/memory/temp stats in menu bar
- Amphetamine app (keep your Mac from going to sleep
- PastePal • pasteboard manager/sync for macOS/iOS
- CotEditor • free text editor
- Flotato • create standalone apps from web based apps
- Gapplin • free SVG viewer
- ImageOptim • free batch image optimizer, lossy & lossless
- Keka • free compressor/archive tool
- AppCleaner • free tool to completely remove unused apps
- SoundSource • sound input switcher, equalizers for all apps, also volume control for HDMI devices
- Onyx • free system cleanup, maintenance
- OmniDiskSweeper • free tool to see and delete what takes most space on your drive
- Image Vectorizer • it’s in the name
Must-Have Creative and Productivity Apps
Here’s my list of full applications that I’m using for most of my creative work (mainly design & animation, but also music/audio stuff).
- Design Apps
- Affinity Designer • vector based design app, non subscription. Has completely replaced Illustrator for me
- Acorn • fast, easy but powerful image editor
- Moho Pro • animation app for puppet animation by Lost Marble
- Cheetah 3D • 3D modeling/animation/rendering app, very easy to use, I use it mostly for pre-visualization to figure framing and perspective of shots
- Procreate • This is an iPad app, but still the best drawing app of all
This is the hardware I’m using and have come to love.
- MacBook Pro – Duh, but I’m yearning for an Apple Silicon based machine
- iPad Pro (M1) with Apple Pencil – for drawing nothing can beat it.
- Apple Magic Mouse II (yes, I love the damn thing)
- Cougar 400M Gaming Mouse • For gaming I only use wired mice, this one’s cheap, reliable and looks sleak, not overly pretentious.
- Matias wired tenkeyless keyboard • this one has a very light touch, perfect for heavy writing and no batteries or charging needed.
- Keychron K3 ultra-slim wireless mechanical keyboard
It’s one of those “clickety-clackety” mechanical keyboards. Has a backlight, can be used wired or wireless and it’s great for gaming. It feels quite indestructible, and if disaster strikes you can replace all keys (key only replacement sets are available from Keychron).
- Synology NAS (in my case: the DS1621+)
I replaced my aging DS216play NAS (the predecessor of the DS218play), which I originally bought mainly as a media center server for videos, photos and audio. Once I started using it more and more as a file server for archiving the footage and source files of Phungus & Mowld, only having two drive bays and 1Gbit Ethernet became a bottleneck. The DS1621+ with six drive bays is a beast and quite expandable (RAM, cache NVMe SSDs, expansion cards). Synology’s OS and server apps are just so super easy to use it’s a breeze to set it up.
- SONY MDR 7506 studio headphones
These are not for audiophiles, these headphones have no bias, they’re used to judge audio and not to make it sound better. If your sound is crappy, it’ll sound crappy – and that’s why they’ve been standard headphones in every studio under the sun for decades.
- Yamaha HS5 Monitor Speakers • same deal as with the SONY headphones, these are not for making crap sound good.
- SONY Dual Sense Wireless Controller
I don’t own a Playstation 5, but I’ve been using this wireless controller with some iOS, Apple TV and macOS games (mostly Steam) and it works flawlessly.
- LG 27UD88-W 4k Display
A decent 4k display with a USB-C port, I’m quite happy with it. I’ll stick with this one until I feel the need for a 5k display.
- Apple TV (HD)
Yeah, it’s rather old, but newer than my 3rd gen Apple TV (pre tvOS) which it replaced. I got it used in 2021 for 40 bucks and it’s worth every penny. It runs the latest tvOS (16), works perfectly with my AirPods, and still performs like a champ given its age.