15 Mac Apps to Boost Your Productivity

Over the past 7-8 years I've been on the hunt for the perfect workflow.

I haven't found it just yet (I may never) but I feel like I'm edging every closer to finding a combination of tools that really will make my workflow more efficient and quicker, so I can get stuff done and concentrate more on tasks that reap the greatest benefits.

In this article I'm going to give a quick rundown of the top Mac desktop/iphone I'm using RIGHT NOW.

Whether you're a developer, blogger or an entrepreneur I hope you find some of these tools useful in your armoury.

Without much further ado here's my rundown of the top 10 apps I use the most

Evernote - Cloud-based Notetaking

Website: Evernote
Cost: Free

Evernote has to be first on my list since it's the app that I've used consistently and the most. I use it to make notes about pretty much anything, from meetings at work, capturing whiteboard brainstorming sessions to bullet list brainstorming about ideas.

It's a blank canvas on which you can write notes about almost anything.

The best part is the starting tier, which is suitable for most people, is FREE. A free account gives you:

  • 60mb of monthly upload space per month
  • Clip anything from anywhere on the web
  • Share and discuss notes in Evernote with other team members
  • Sync access across phones and computers.

You can also purchase Evernote plus for £19.99/year which gives you the following additional features:

  • Increased 1gb monthly upload space
  • Offline access to your notes
  • Password locking on the mobile application
  • Saving emails to evernote

Premium gives you bunch more features at £34.99/year:

  • Search in office docs and attachments
  • Turn notes into presentations
  • Annotate attached PDFs
  • Scan and digitize business cards
  • View previous versions of notes
  • See content relating to your notes

What I love about it the most is how easy it is to capture notes in almost any form, the fact that it syncs online to a beautiful mobile app, and that notes can be read from anywhere (even offline if you pay for a plus account).

There's also a webclipper plugin for the browser that you can install. Click the clip button and it automatically save the contents of the page you are currently on into Evernote.

If you use any of the apps I recommend in this article, this app is certainly the one I would recommend over all others.

1Password - All Your Passwords in One Place

Website: 1Password - AgileBits
Download: 1Password in iTunes
Cost: £34.99 (desktop) -- £39.99 (mobile)

There's a well known rule of thumb, that if you do something often enough and it eats up enough time then you should automate it to make the process faster, saving yourselfa ridiculous amount of time in productivity.

Ask yourself, how many times have you manually filled out a login form?

How about if you could record every password you've ever known, make them ultra-safe and be able to login every website using just a shortcut?

That's the power of 1Password.

Full feature list of 1Password includes:

  • Encrypted passwords
  • Secure Password Generator
  • Ability to store:
    • Logins
    • Secure Notes
    • Credit Cards
    • Identities
    • Passwords
    • Software Licenses
    • Email Accounts
    • Bank Accounts
    • Wifi Passwords
  • Tagging
  • Auto-fill via Browser Plugin
  • Sync via Dropbox on Desktop & Mobile
  • Versioning History

The big selling point for 1Password is that you can auto-fill login forms for websites you visit using the Cmd(⌘) + \ shortcut. This means you never have to try and recall a password or even look it up in the app ever again!

Buffer - Queue Up Your Social Shares

Website: Buffer
Cost: Free to connect a single account or $10/month or above for multiple accounts.

For those of you who run a blog or just want to maintain some form of a social media presence, Buffer is a fantastic way to do that. It's a workflow tool that allows you to queue up social media updates to multiple accounts for up to 100 social updates (above that requires a premium account).

It has a number of features that I really love:

  • Ability to share directly from within other apps such as Feedly, Twitter and Pocket
  • Scheduling on a per feed basis
  • Optimised scheduling based on best time to share (per network)
  • Customisable hero images
  • View share engagement

I've found that, over time, it's become an essential part of my workflow and I couldn't do without it.

Pocket - Organise Your Reading Material

Website: Pocket
Cost: Free or Pocket Premium for $49.99/year

Ever wondered how people with social media accounts are able to come up with so many tweet or social shares?

It's not because they manage to share them as and when they find them, that's for sure. They use essentially a social media sharing funnel. Pocket, is one such tool and a key piece in this funnel because it allows a user to save and organise interesting content for a later date so you can share it.

This means that every few weeks or so you can go through all the content that's been saved, review it and share it directly to buffer using the "Share via Buffer" button.

You can also tag up the content using tags, that way you can categorize content by topic, whether you want to read it now or not, or in fact if you want to mark content as content yo uwant to share via your funnel.

Upgrading to the Premium version gives you:

  • Permanent reading lists
  • Save from anywhere, including your browser and over 800 apps like Twitter, Flipboard, and Feedly
  • Automatically syncs across your phone, tablet, and computer
  • Offline viewing of articles and webpages
  • Search by Title or URL
  • Personal backup of all the articles and webpages you’ve saved
  • Suggested Tags for quick organization
  • Search by Full-Text, Tag, Author, or Topic
  • Access to Advanced Search Operators
  • Sort Search Results by Relevance or Date Saved
  • View Recent Searches

If you want to figure out what the best content is, you have to be organised with it!

Omnifocus - Organise Your Life using GTD

Website: Omnifocus
Cost: Mac $39.99 -- iOS $39.99 (upgrade to Pro)

Several years ago when I first read David Allen's book on Getting Things Done(GTD) I was blown away. I explain in my article Achieve Supercharged CEO Productivity about how this methodology can help you achieve your goals by putting in place a system that your brain trusts and where tasks will never be lost or forgotten. It also frees up your mind so you can concentrate on the facts and details that matter.

Omnifocus is an app that is entirely based around the philosophy of GTD and the guys at the Omni Group have done a fantastic job of building an app that works around GTD but without getting in the way.

It supports all of the sort of things you would want from a power-user task-based app:

  • Tracks tasks in Projects
  • Has a context based view (whether you're at work, home, out and about or at a computer, or just have a few spare minutes to make a call)
  • Due dates
  • Quick task adding shortcut
  • Synchronisation using Omni Cloud Sync (no recurring cost)
  • Mobile companion app
  • Forecast view so you can see what tasks are coming up today and over the next week
  • Inbox (for dumping tasks)
  • Plenty of views for filtering tasks as and when you need it
  • Export to iCal format so you can see tasks in your calendar view (works beautifully with Fantastical

Whilst it takes a long time to get used to and master using Omnifocus and GTD together, it really does mean that you never forget anything you ever needed to do and your workload remains uncluttered (no analysis paralysis!).

I highly recommend people get this app, sure it's not the cheapest of options but when you compare it's features with the likes of basic task tracking apps like Wunderlist, and factor in the fact that there's no recurring cost, it's a fantastic and reasonably cheap alternative in the long run.

Alfred - Never Leave the Keyboard

Website: Afred App
Cost: Free or £17 Single License powerpack upgrade

For years MacBooks have had spotlight (which until recently was pretty basic) and other options for quick searching and shortcuts, but for me Alfred is powerful, easy to use and you can do so much more with it.

I must admit I don't take advantage of all the powerful features it offers (I've been meaning to learn) but I do tend to use the quick shortcodes for opening up common pages at work.

For example, let's say you have a web page you access quite frequently like http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=%s

In Alfred you could add a shortcode such as "goo Alfred app" which would link the keyword "goo" to open the above url and substitute the %s with the string "Alfred app"

As we mentioned before about automating those things that give you the most frequent pain, opening common webpages frequently is something we all do, so a quick code that Alfred offers is going to save us a LOT of time.

The app is worth it's weight in gold and I haven't even scratched the surface of all the features that are possible to use:

  • Default Results
  • File Search
  • Web Search
  • Calculator
  • Dictionary
  • Contacts
  • Clipboard History and Snippets
  • iTunes Mini Player
  • 1Password
  • System Commands
  • Terminal/Shell

Interestingly, Alfred also provides integration with 1Password, so by just typing '1p %site%' you can open up a website and log into it without even needing to open a browser (Alfred will do that for you). Should save you a few more seconds each login at least.

You can also manage iTunes using the Alfred Mini Player (which will first time index all of your music). Basically you can manage iPlayer and search through all of your music without leaving your current application.

The more you can stay on the keyboard the more productive you'll be with your machine...

Oh, and I forgot to mention one other amazing feature. If you download the Alfred Remote app in iTunes you can pair it with your Mac with the Alfred Mac app and remote control your laptop - cool huh?!

IFTTT - Glue for Your Workflow

Website: IFTTT
Cost: Free

I like to describe IFTTT (IF This Then That) as the glue for your workflow. IFTTT is designed to allow you to integrate two seemingly disparate apps so that one event in one app, triggers another event in another.

Let me demonstrate.

So, let's say I want an easy way to curate content to share on social media. I've already mentioned Pocket earlier in the article, to leverage Pocket I need to add articles from all over the web.

What if we found an interesting article on Twitter and we wanted to share it in Pocket. We could Favourite each tweet then go through the favourited tweets at a later date, visiting each article in the browser and clicking the 'Save to Pocket' button from the Pocket add-on. However, that takes time and time is precious.

IFTTT on the other hand gives us a nice little shortcut. IFTTT has things called Recipes that link two apps together. As a result, we could use a recipe that Saves links from liked (favourited) tweets to Pocket. This means we no longer need to visit each individual link we can just favourite tweets in twitter and review them all in Pocket.

Feedly - Newspaper

Website: Feedly
Cost: Free or paid $5/month

I used to be a huge fan of Google's RSS Feed reader, unfortunately it was shut down. This led me to finding an alterative. That's when I came across Feedly as my RSS feed reading weapon of choice.

Feedly rose to fame in the wake of the news about Google RSS reader shutting down. As users, like myself, fled to other options.

What I love about Feedly is that it reads like a newspaper and presents your RSS feeds in categoreies that you can easily wade through. There's also a companion mobile application that you read articles on when you're on-the-go.

Aside from the obvious 'mark as read' features and 'to read' count, Feedly also provides direct integration with Pocket and Buffer, enabling us to share articles from within Feedly directly with either app depending on our mood (whether we want to share them now or not).

RSS feed reading for me is still the ultimate way to find some of the best content from your most trusted authors.

p.s. I've recently started taking a look at inoreader as I've heard it suggested that it's also an excellent alternative to Feedly.

Calm

Website: Calm in iTunes
Cost: Free

Months ago I wrote an article about Conquering Stress with an Early Morning Routine. In it I talked about how some of the most successful people in the world all have something in a common with one another; an early morning routine.

My routine consists of writing a quick entry in my 5-minute journal, followed by meditation, then a few quick 7-minute workouts.

To meditate I use the Calm app, which provides me with numerous motion backgrounds accompanied by a soundtrack. Whether you're after the soothing sounds of falling forest raindrops, or the calming sounds of water lapping against a beach or maybe even the wind rustling through a meadow - Calm has it all.

7-minute workout

Website: Cost:

After finishing a 10-minute meditation session I get up and ready for the day by taking a few circuits of the 7-minute workout.

The 7-minute workout app provides you with very simple 30 second interval exercises that work your body. You can choose from a range of different circuits for working different aspects of your body depending on where you need the work most. This could be core, upper or random body circuits.

It also provides numerous voices to give you that additional incentives/motivation to complete your workout. I opt for the Drill Sergeant, because there's nothing more motivating than a guy yelling that you're a lazy sack of potatoes and that his gran could do better than you.

Byword

Website: Byword
Download: Byword in iTunes
Cost: $11.99 (App Store)

As I write I'm looking at and using the very app that I mention here. I've used a few writing apps in the past in particular ones that support Markdown. I previously used Typed which is great simplistic (which is what you want from a writing app) but it just didn't provide quite enough features.

When I chose to go with Byword, I did so because it supported uploading articles directly into Medium. Now this is a huge benefit for bloggers because it enables them to publish their articles on multiple platforms but without having to re-enter content (thus massively increasing productivity). At the click of a button I can literally send this article to medium then just provide a few tweaks to the layout as needed.

Other features I like include:

  • Syncing with a mobile device via Dropbox
  • Full-screen writing
  • Typewriter mode - where the cursor stays on the centre line of the screen as you type - fantastic for reducing eye fatigue

Byword really isn't that expensive either so it's a great option all round for writers or bloggers out there who work natively in Markdown for their articles.

Fantastical

Website: Flexibits
Download: Fantastical for iTunes
Cost: Mac £39.99 -- iOS £3.99

I'm not a big fan of iCal on the Mac. It just seems far too difficult to enter events quickly. Again, we shouldn't have to be leaving the keyboard here to accomplish most tasks; the longer we can stay at keyboard the more productive we will be!

Fantastical is a really pretty calendar that provides an easy natural language way of adding events to a calendar. I could type for example. "Coffee at Mike's house on 28th February 2016 at 10am for 1 hour"

Fantastical will enter an event on the 28th with an hour duration at 10am with a place marked as Mike's House. We could even have typed an address with a postcode. The incredibly awesome thing about this is that you can link fantastical with your iCal calendar, which will then mean if you're using Google Maps at that time to find Mike's house it'll show you on the map with a pin where you need to go so you can be guided to your destination.

I also love just how minimal fantastical is. That you can open it and add an event with just a shortcut and natural language - that's all you need.

Google Drive

Website: Google Drive
Cost: $1.99/month

I used Dropbox for a long time due to it's free storage up to X gb if you happen to introduce new people to the service. However, I soon outgrew the Dropbox storage I had and decided to move to paid cloud storage.

When I saw Google Drive on offer for $1.99 per month I was absolutely gobsmacked. That 100gb of storage could be offered for such a paltry amount was astounding (I was paying £4.99 for Dropbox personal storage and only a few gigabytes!).

Google Drive is great also, not just for the value for money that it provides, but also for the excellent mobile app and the integration it provides with Google Docs which works well in collaboration with others.

Probably my cloud solution provider of choice.

Dropbox

Website: Dropbox Cost: Free or Dropbox Pro (£7.99/month or £79/year)

I actually still use Dropbox in some capacity. Mainly at the free tier level. For me the big reason for keeping a Dropbox free account around is because the app integration options are excellent. Byword and 1password both integrate with it so it's an essential part of my mobile workflow that I couldn't currently live without.

If you're interest in Dropbox Pro the features consist of:

  • Instantly sync photos, videos, docs and other files across devices.
  • Access your Dropbox on the go with apps for iOS and Android.
  • Add an additional layer of security to your shared links. Only people with the password can access them.
  • More people can download your shared links with 10 times the sharing bandwidth.
  • Get 1 TB (1,000 GB) of space for your files. Keep everything safe and in one place.
  • Restore a previous or deleted version of any file within 30 days.
  • Safeguard your sensitive files. Choose how long shared links are available for.
  • Delete data from a lost or stolen device. Rest assured a copy is backed up in Dropbox.
  • Your files are safe with 256-bit AES encryption at rest and SSL/TLS in transit.
  • The Dropbox app backs up photos as you take them, keeping your memories safe.
  • Choose whether collaborators can edit files in shared folders or just view them.
  • Got an issue? Get priority email response from the Dropbox support team.

Stencil

Website: Stencil Cost: Free (10 images per month) or Stencil Pro ($9/month)

Stencil is a fantastic tool for building marketing images, such as quotes for social media sites like Twitter or banners etc for your website or blog.

Pro features include:

  • Create unlimited images
  • 640,000+ Background Photos
  • 200,000+ Icons & Graphics
  • Keep unlimited favorites
  • Logo watermarks
  • 50+ Amazing templates
  • Premium support

I hope you've enjoyed the apps I've shared with you and if you've got any of your own suggestions please leave a message in the comments. Enjoy!

James Murphy

Java dev by day, entrepreneur by night. James has 10+ years experience working with some of the largest UK businesses ranging from the BBC, to The Hut Group finally finding a home at Rentalcars.

Manchester, UK
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