I usually save up my Top Apps posts for the end of the year, but I have such a soft spot in my heart for macOS utilities that I actually mentally create these lists frequently. The half-year point seems reasonable to let one out.

Every time I realize how much an app affects my workflow I want to hug it, so this is my big thank you to 20 apps on my system right now that make my life better every day. None of them run in my Dock — most of them are in the menu bar, some are completely background tasks on my machine where it’s easy to forget that they’re an integral part of my workflow. I see you, apps.

In no particular order:

  1. BetterTouchTool

    I have custom trackpad gestures for everything. You know that thing where you sit down at someone else’s machine and instinctively use a gesture or a keyboard shortcut only to have it not work? You should see other people trying to use my machine.

  2. LaunchBar

    I’ve been falling in love with LaunchBar all over again lately. When Alfred came out with their action editor they were a step ahead, but I always come back to LaunchBar, especially now that it has an Action Editor of its own. I appreciated Dr. Drang’s comparison.

  3. Hazel

    This is probably the easiest one to forget about, yet one of the most useful. My two most-used Hazel tricks are my TagFiler system and a trick I use where I can save an image file to my Desktop with an filename like ImageName@2x%%r1600ho.png and it will resize it to 1600px, create a 1x version at 800, and optimize the results. Then I drag it to…

  4. Dropzone

    For everything from moving files to my most common folders to uploading directly to my S3 buckets and getting a URL in my clipboard, I use Dropzone so often I take it for granted. I’ve written my fair share of custom Destinations for it, but also use the heck out of its built in ones. Related props go to Yoink, which I’ve been using more often than Dropzone’s Drop Bar for collecting files to act on.

  5. Default Folder X

    I see DFX every time I open or save a file in any app, so I do tend to forget it’s there, elegantly making folder navigation a breeze.

  6. TextExpander

    I’ve used TextExpander seven time since starting to write this post. Still, my favorite trick is a snippet I wrote that generates and sends Marked crossgrade licenses to customers.

  7. PopClip

    At first I thought PopClip was weird. I didn’t think I’d use it because I’m very keyboard-centric on my Mac. But using it made me realize I touch my trackpad more than I think, and PopClip immediately fit into my everyday workflow. I miss it any time I make a selection and it doesn’t appear. I’ve shared most of the extensions I’ve created.

  8. Fantastical

    I can’t remember the last time I opened the native Calendar app. My entire schedule in my menu bar, with a hotkey, and natural language event entry.

  9. Cardhop

    Cardhop immediately won a spot in my heart right next to Fantastical, both by Flexibits. I can search for a contact and take an action on them (call, email, text…) with just a few keystrokes. New version out today, too…

  10. HoudahSpot

    Since discovering it, I’ve always resorted to HoudahSpot when Spotlight failed me, but in more recent history I’ve been turning to it first. With all of my saved templates and menubar access, it’s as convenient as Spotlight and more powerful. Granted, it does run in my Dock when I make a search, but most of the time it’s sitting quietly in my menu bar, ready to leap into action.

  11. 1Password

    I shudder to think what my day would be like without 1Password. I would probably spend a lot of time feeling the way I feel when I watch other people working without 1Password.

  12. Timing

    Timing is automatically tracking me right now as I write this, categorizing my time and reminding me exactly what I was working on. At the end of the week I’ll be checking my reports to see what projects I put time into, and where I need to shift my focus to be more productive. And it all takes very little interaction on my part.

  13. Droplr

    Image and file sharing apps have come and gone, but I chose Droplr early on and have never been disappointed.

  14. SoundSource

    If you have multiple audio devices on your machine and haven’t checked out SoundSource from Rogue Amoeba, well, you should. Individual input and output source control (system and per-app) instantly from your menu bar.

  15. Choosy

    I run multiple browsers. I want different things to open in different browsers. I know that’s not the case for everybody, but if it is for you, Choosy is still kicking and it works better for me than the alternatives I’ve tried.

  16. Moom

    Moom has long been my top choice for window management. There are multiple good options, but I find Moom’s flexibility and customizability make it my consistent favorite.

  17. Karabiner Elements

    Seriously, I don’t know what I would do without my Hyper key. Actually, I do, it’s disappeared before and I’ve torn my system apart to get it back.

  18. Keyboard Maestro

    Keyboard Maestro can automate many things, but some of my favorites are automations that are triggered when I type strings that match certain regular expressions. And if you’re looking to harness all that power, don’t forget about David Sparks’ field guide on the topic.

  19. Arq

    Toiling away at all hours in the background, I have Arq backing my system up to B2 (Backblaze). Along with my SuperDuper! clones that run every night, it’s a wonderful sense of security.

  20. Bartender

    I would go nuts running all of these apps without Bartender keeping my menu bar sane. I mention it last only because by the time you get through this list your menu bar might be getting a bit crowded, so you’ll understand why you need it.

I regret only that I have 20 spots to give. I mean, it’s an arbitrary number, but you have to draw a line somewhere. To the entire Mac developer community that makes all of this brilliance possible, I salute you. You’re my favorite part of being a Mac user.