A few of my favorite Mac apps in 2013

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It’s been a good year for software. I’ve had the pleasure of using and exploring a ton of new apps. I took inventory of the apps installed on my main Mac, ran it through SearchLink and put together this post1 to share the ones I use the most often.

The apps are roughly broken into categories, however arbitrary they may be. They’re also listed in alphabetical order, not by preference or awesomeness. Check out the ones that sound interesting!



I’m a “basement” musician these days. Logic Pro X, Garage Band and the following Mac apps (plus a lot of great iOS apps) make up a pretty decent virtual studio when mixed with the right hardware:

My favorite effects processor for guitar and bass. Combined with an iRig HD and a good pair of headphones, this is a complete replacement for a practice amp and recording setup.
Best drum machine app ever. Great on iOS, too.
This accurate tuner is a must-have for guitar and bass players.


I use Spotify and iTunes for almost all of my music, and these apps make the experience much better:

The best solution for getting audio from your Mac to other computers (see Airfoil Speakers) and AirPlay devices.
My favorite desktop music controller for Spotify, iTunes and others. Also see Sidecar, my custom jacket for Simplify.
I was excited to announce this app when 1.0 finally hit, and I still use it almost daily.


I do most of my audio editing and recording in Logic Pro X, but there are some smaller tools I wouldn’t want to be without:

A perfect, affordable solution for quick edits, trimming and audio conversion.
Permute 2
My favorite tool for converting both audio and video files to various formats. It uses the usual tools (ffmpeg, et al) but it has an excellent interface and high-speed process management for batch conversions.


I don’t have a ton of video apps these days; most of my video output is in the form of screencasts. I love using Motion and iMovie, but my needs are pretty simple.

The best way to mirror iOS to a Mac, with built-in recording.
Hands down my favorite screencasting tool, with full recording and editing tools.

Design/Web Design

My pick for best Photoshop replacement.
ColorSchemer Studio
If you make color palettes (or wish you were better at it), get this.
Great screen capture and image annotation. I use Droplr for sharing, but for screenshots on my blog and elsewhere, this is my pick. See also, Monosnap.
Icon Slate
The best way I’ve found to build icns files for Mac apps.
ImageAlpha is the best PNG compression tool I’ve seen, and it’s free. So is ImageOptim for lossy compression of other formats, and it works seamlessly with ImageAlpha.
My favorite tool for live previews of web designs. Yes, you can use Grunt, but LiveReload is much easier to set up, especially for quick projects. See also, CodeKit, another favorite of mine.
A great tool for making great-looking screenshots with annotations.
An oldie but goodie, you can’t beat Paparazzi! for vector PDFs of websites with searchable text.
A great (and constantly-improving) tool for managing all kinds of images.
My tool of choice for quickly grabbing and modifying on-screen colors, and for copying them as hex, rgb(a) and NSColor formats.
This has become my vector graphics tool of choice, especially when creating icons and web graphics. @2x export and automatic batch updates make it ideal for app and web development.
If you’re building graphics in Photoshop, this is the tool for slicing images (to 1x and 2x).
For all your pixel-perfect design needs.


The best way to quickly test code in a multitude of languages. Pretty good code editor built in, too.
Dash is probably my top pick for developer tools. It gives you instant access to documentation for just about every language you could need.
The best terminal emulator anywhere.
My top choice for file and image comparisons and merges.
PaintCode turns vector graphics drawn in its editor into Objective-C code you can use in Cocoa applications. I don’t always use this code in final productions, but it’s a great learning tool.
Pattern Digger
Grep out the FIXME, TODO and any other lines you want in your code, with live updates and a nice display.
A handy tool for automatically formatting your header and method files based on various style rules. Indentation, bracket placement, etc. are all adjusted to consistently fit your choice of code style.
My favorite Git utility. I use the command line 90% of the time, but when I want to do a large commit, check file histories on multiple files and handle badly-mangled merges, this is my tool of choice.
Yummy FTP
Still my favorite FTP app, over five years later. Don’t get me wrong, Transmit is awesome, but I feel very at home with Yummy and its powerful features.

Regular Expressions

I like enough of these that it gets its own sub-group. Each of these have their special talents, and all of them get the job (of building and testing regular expressions) done:


The mad scientist’s text editor, task manager and bread timer.
MultiMarkdown Composer
My top choice for Markdown editing this year. I still love Byword and Sublime Text for writing, but MMDC has taken the lead with great new features (including excellent CriticMarkup support).
My go-to for longer writing projects and books. If you write long-form pieces and haven’t already heard of Scrivener, you’re behind the curve.
Sublime Text 3
Sublime Text has replaced all other code editors for me, with the exception of the work I do in Xcode.
Another excellent app for both long and short-form writing. I shared my excitement when it came out in April.


I don’t play many games, especially on the Mac. This one has helped me while away some time with challenging puzzles while waiting for other processes to finish, though.


1Password 4
Do I really need to explain 1Password to anyone? Version 4 of the venerated password manager is the best release ever.
Billings Pro
The best app for time tracking, invoicing and account management. Ideal for freelance work.
The best-of-breed e-book reader.
Searching your Messages and chat records has never been easier.
The simplest and most effective way to create documentation with visuals.
The best contact management tool I’ve ever seen.
Brainstorming? Managing projects? Collecting information and inspiration? Check.
Day One
Still my favorite journaling application after a couple of years of use. Don’t forget about Slogger.
The best way to manage your calendar, all from a beautiful menu bar dropdown, with full natural language interpretation for creating events.
I’m Away
If you have to be on multiple chat clients all day, this is the easiest way to toggle your away status on all of them at once.
The best financial management app I’ve used.
A recently-released favorite of mine for mind mapping. It’s replaced MindManager for me.
My new email client, and one I love more than any other I’ve tried.
Mailplane 3
The runner up for favorite email client. If you use Gmail and want to keep your email in the cloud instead of on your Mac, this is the best tool for it.
MindNode Pro
My pick for quick mind maps. It’s not as full-featured as iThoughtsX, but if you just want to lay out an idea with beautiful iCloud sync to your iOS devices, this is a great app. MindNode 3 for iOS is a perfect companion.
PDFpen 6
For all your PDF creation, form filling, reading and annotation needs.
My favorite recipe/shopping list management app. Seamlessly syncs with the iOS versions, too.
I use OmniFocus for day-to-day task management, but for all of my coding projects and folder-specific todos, TaskPaper is it.
I’ve used this app on and off for at least five years now. It’s a file manager akin to Evernote (without the cloud). Version 3 adds a lot of great features, and the most recent updates allow great integration with Marked.
My outlining tool of choice.


This is my default RSS reader these days. It still has a couple of minor quirks, but the best on the market for my needs.
This great little app has changed my reading habits by breaking long stories down into bite-size chunks that I can quickly navigate through while walking at my treadmill desk. I even set up my Leap Motion controller with BetterTouchTool to let me page through using simple hand gestures while I walk.


My favorite client for App.net.
My favorite client for Twitter. Twitter’s own app has gotten pretty good, too.
My Google Analytics tool of choice for quick metrics overviews.


App Store Quickview
This handy app loads web previews of App Store apps when you hover over them in App Store.app, preventing the need for recursing into every app you want to learn about and then backing out. If you’re an app junkie, it’s indispensable.
My favorite backup utility. It does automatic incremental backups to Amazon S3. A recent update added the ability to use Glacier storage, lowering your storage bill (you pay more to get stuff back out, but it works out to be more affordable in most cases).
If you run more than three menu bar apps, get this. It’s brilliant, especially on a MacBook Air with limited menu bar space.
One of the best “send to iPhone” apps yet, with support for a multitude of data types, and with two way communication with your iOS devices. You can even add new devices by scanning a QR code that pops up on your iPhone using your Mac’s iSight, instantly connecting the two.
This is it. It’s buried in here, but it’s my top-number-one-double-plus-awesome pick for 2013. If you want to assign custom keyboard hotkeys, multi-touch gestures, Leap Motion gestures or even commands you can send from iOS devices, this is what you want. And it’s free (please donate).
My favorite tool for sharing screenshots, files and notes (plain text, code, or Markdown). The devs recently added support for basic image annotation before sharing, making it a perfect replacement for what I used to use Skitch for.
Dropzone saw a couple of updates this year, but even without them it’s still one of my most-used apps. Just drag files to your menu bar and get a palette of “destinations” you can drop on. You can even write your own.
Daniel Jalkut’s oldie-but-goody. This replaces the AppleScript menu bar item entirely for me, and allows me to add hotkeys to my favorite scripts.
This is an awesome app if you need to manually maintain a feed for a podcast, Sparkle updates or blog RSS. I use it for handling all of Marked 2’s updates.
I like the notification system in 10.8+, but not as much as I like Growl. Custom notifications for different apps, with an array of awesome popup styles.
The best Spotlight augmentation there is. Perfect for searching your files, emails, tags… whatever Spotlight can search, HoudahSpot can do it better and more easily.
KeyRemap4MacBook / PCKeyboardHack
Hyper Key.
Many props to Alfred, it’s a great app, and the new workflow features are amazing. I still love my LaunchBar, though.
If you want any control over the background processes running on your system, or you want finer, GUI-based control over your own custom scheduled tasks, this is the one.
My window manager of choice. You can get all Slate with it if you need to, but there’s little I can’t do with Moom.
I love PopClip, which gives you an iOS-like popup when you select text anywhere on your Mac. Once you get the hang of it, you don’t want to work without it. It’s also fun to build on.
This isn’t an every-single-day app for me, but when you need it, it’s awesome. Grab any part of your screen and turn it into a floating window for reference.
This is definitely a utility I use very, very frequently. It gives me hotkey control of my microphone inputs, allowing me to mute quickly with just a keypress. It also handles push-to-talk and cough button modes, with a double-tap of your hotkey to toggle between them.
Clone your drives. Make them bootable. Nightly. Someday, you’ll thank yourself.
I couldn’t live without TextExpander making my repetitive typing tasks trivial. With the fill-in snippets and ability to run shell scripts, it’s a productivity monster. It’s also a blast to create new snippets.
A drawer that slides out from the side of your screen (or at your mouse location) when you start to drag a file, giving you a resting place to hold the file (and collect more) for dragging out when you’re ready.
Unmount all types of drives with the press of a key, including safely unmounting Time Machine disks.

So there you have it. Out of all the amazing apps I’ve played with over the last year, these are ones that are still being used frequently, most of them daily. Happy Holidays, go get yourself some new apps.

  1. I make that sound trivial. This was a long edit process…