I’m late getting my “Top Apps of 2021” post out. I almost wasn’t going to do it this year, mostly out of just being frequently and excessively tired of late. But I figured I’d keep it short and make it manageable, and at least let you know what I think are the cream of the crop Mac apps this year. This is nowhere close to a comprehensive list of apps I like, but rather apps I love that were new or substantially updated in 2021.

I’m forgoing1 iOS apps because I just haven’t found anything new that blew me away this year2.

Many of the apps below are available on Setapp. If you want to check it out and get access to 100+ awesome Mac apps (and some iOS companions) for a low monthly subscription, here’s my affiliate link. I get a little something if you sign up, and if you happen to use my apps through Setapp, I also get a piece of your monthly payment, which I think is nicer than switching an app like Marked 2 to a subscription model on its own.

And we’re off.

CleanShot X
This is the best screenshot app I’ve ever used. Everything about it is elegant, intuitive, and powerful. Available on Setapp.
I can’t use Fantastical with my work calendar (employer limitations), but Dato at least puts my calendar in my menu bar with some handy features, including “Join Zoom Call” buttons that actually work. Solid app and one I use daily.
BTT always makes my list, and is always improving. I couldn’t begin to enumerate all the new features Andreas has added in the last year. If you’re looking for one of the best Mac automation/enhancement tools out there, this is it. Available on Setapp.
Back from the dead, Kaleidoscope is under new management and active development and remains my favorite tool for file and directory diffs, as well as resolving merge conflicts.
A bunch of improvements last year in this top-notch Git GUI. And I highly recommend the tutorials that they put out on their website — they’re a great way to learn more about areas of git you might not be well-versed in.
I love iTerm so hard. I’ve tried other terminals, but iTerm packs so many awesome features in that nothing else can really come close.
Hook had a big year in 2021. As I’ve said before, it’s a bit hard to explain in a couple of sentences, but if you want to always have relevant files and documents at your fingertips while you’re working without spending time searching, it’s worth learning how Hook can help.
If you edit podcasts (or even video), you have to try Descript. It generates transcriptions automatically, and then you can edit the audio/video just by cutting and pasting the text. They’ve added a host of effects and audio tools this year, and just released an M1-optimized version.
I pay to upgrade ScreenFlow regularly, and it’s pretty much always worth it. If you need to create screencasts, whether long presentations or 5 second gifs, ScreenFlow is hands down the best tool for the job.
It’s just one of my favorites. It keeps your menu bar clean. The new features in version 4 are outstanding.
It’s not new, but I just started using this one in 2021. It regularly scans all of your installed apps, Mac App Store and direct versions, and lets you know when updates are available. It makes installing them easy, and can do batch updates at the click of a button. Regularly updated and improved.
Brand new in 2021, this is an awesome tool from Tyler Hall for performing a wide array of operations on text. It comes with System Services (or Quick Actions or whatever macOS is calling them now) you can set up for easy keyboard control, and is fully extensible with JavaScript. If you dig a little, you can even learn how to include your own System Services in the array of available operations.
This one didn’t have any major updates in 2021, but it’s still solid and I use it often enough that I thought it worth mentioning. It’s the easiest way to edit launchd jobs for running background tasks on your Mac. I don’t know what ever happened to Lingon, but this is better anyway.

That’s it (for now). Short and sweet. I might do a second installment if time allows, but for now have a great 2022!

  1. Today I learned that there’s a difference between “foregoing” and “forgoing” (other than an “e”). Glad I caught that one. Would have looked mighty silly. 

  2. To be fair, I do not do a lot on iOS other than social media, email, text messaging, and games. Which I guess is a lot, but other than games, none of those areas are rife with competitors and new ideas.