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The Indispensable Productivity and Media Mac Apps I'm Using In 2024

Posted on Feb 24, 2024
Reading time: 7 minutes Tags: Tech Stack Productivity

tldr

We spend hours in front of our computer…but barely spend time learning how to use them well. Here’s what I rely on to work really, really efficiently.


I’m an absolute computer tool junkie. I’ll freely admit that buying apps is my go-to method of retail therapy. But the advantage is that over the past few years, I’ve accrued a set of Mac tools that I use, many dozens of times a day, that occasionally make me feel like a true superhuman with a keyboard .

We spend more time than we should in front of computers working but, for the most part, most non-programers have never really learned how to use a computer.

Sure, folks learn how to use word processors and how to open a browser but I’m talking real professional training. For example, if you work in just about any marketing role, you’ve likely needed to learn how to use Excel (what, you don’t Index/Match, bro?). But what about using the rest of the computer at that level? Your file manager? Your browser?

The right tools and the right shortcuts can 10x a person. .

I’ll leave the shortcuts for another post but wanted to share a snapshot of the tools I am currently all about. I won’t go too deep into any of them (some deserve their own post) but will:

  • Provide pricing info
  • 🌟: Tools I can’t live without with a
  • πŸ’Ό: Great tools…that I would probably not have bought without being able to expense it

One caveat.

The total cost of what I deem necessary is still steep - close to $500/year. But when I think about how much time I spend in front of my computer, it’s obvious that I’m saving far more time than the money I invest in this.

And, of course, your mileage may vary.

I just know that conservatively I’m spending about $1.5 a day - or $0.17 cents an hour - to make my computer do stuff it would take me far longer to do myself.

Let’s do this.


Productivity Apps

  • Raycast: Free, 🌟: Took the crown from Alfred Launcher for an easy launcher for anything on my computer, on-the-fly calculator, clipboard manager and more. Explaining how great it is requires a full post. Very little happens on my computer that isn’t done faster with Raycast.
  • Reflect.app: $120/year, 🌟: My note taking tool, AI hero, transcriber and second-brain. Absolutely indispensable. I’ve gone through every note-taking app out there but Reflect is simple, easy to use, and feels like it has a thesis for using AI that no other app has show me.
  • Arc Browser, free: This is my Chrome-replacement, a browser that actually pushes the envelope. Some feature bloat but the command tab, easy profiles, tab management, and integrated AI features make it a 2x better browser, which adds up. Fast.
  • ChatGPT: $20/month, 🌟: Use it for everything from writing to editing, brainstorming, visualizing, summarizing and more.
  • Bitwarden: $40/annual, 🌟: My password manager. I pay $40 for two main reasons - this lets me share password management with my wife, which is super helpful, and the autocomplete of TOTP passwords. In other words, when you would normally struggle for your phone to grab a code, I just hit…paste.
  • Readwise: $100/year, 🌟: My reading experience has been transformed since I started to read deliberately, highlighting and summarizing what I read. Readwise is like a Pocket/Read It Later that helps me actually remember everything I read, read faster, listen to my favorite articles and newsletters and even sync with Reflect.
  • Vimcal: $150/year πŸ’Ό: Outstanding calendar tool. Great for easy natural language scheduling, sharing links ala Calendly, automatically sharing general time slots, coordinating international meetings, and more. A little steep of a price; not sure I’d be using it if I couldn’t expense it.
  • Mimestream: $50/year: I’m trying to use my browser less for thing like email, mostly to stay deliberate. Mimestream is a native Mac client for email that supports allll the shortcuts and can be wrangled to work across multiple accounts. It’s also just build really well.
  • Todoist: $20/year: I’m a big fan of David Allen’s GTD. Todoist helps me do it. I am waiting for the functionality to replace it to hit Reflect but am sticking around for now.

Incredible Presentation and Writing Apps for Macs

  • iaWriter, $49.99 one time, 🌟: I’m actually writing this post with this. I’m a huge Markdown fan for writing and iaWriter provides an outstanding experience for writing on my iPad or mac. It’s basically a no-frills environment that makes you focus on writing, not anything else.
  • Deckset, $35 one time, 🌟: Speaking of which, Deckset is black magic. If you actually know how to write in Markdown (and you probably do, it’s basically using hashtags for titles and asterisk for bolds), Deckset can literally take a few bullet points and make a gorgeous deck. I love it because it forces you to focus on content, not delivery. You can see example of a deck here.
  • PDFExpert, $139 one time, πŸ’Ό: This is expensive AF but it lets you mess around with a PDF however you need to. Exports, text edits, whatever. I use it more than I ever thought I would. But…this is definitely a business expense.
  • Visual Studio Code, free: Before ChatGPT, this would not make my list. But I’ve found that with ChatGPT, I’m that much more comfortable messing around. Think coding in Google Tag Manager or even hard-coding this entire site…even though a sweet potato is more of a coder than I am.

Outstanding Video/Graphics Apps for Macs

  • CleanShotX, $29 one time 🌟: Oh my god. Until you actually get into it, you’ll never realize how much you need this. CleanShotX helps you make amazing screenshots, easily edit them and drag-n-drop them. It also has OCR screenshots, video recording, full page capture, and more. I use this dozens of times a day.
  • Screenflow, $169 one-time 🌟: I’m a firm believer that a truly outstanding and agile tech marketer can bang out a decent video, edit HTML, design a graphic and write a white paper. Screenflow is a simple, straightforward tool that - assuming you know the fundamentals - lets you create great videos easily. There’s a whole post in this eventually but the short is that this is a very, very worthwhile product.
  • Figma, free, 🌟: Similarly, to Screenflow, a good marketer who can at least design well enough to brief an actual designer saves an incredible amount of work cycles. Spend some time messing around. It’s worth your time.
  • Screen Studio, $89 one time, πŸ’Ό: Oh my god. Screenstudio does this thing where it records your screen while doing a product walkthrough and makes it look like Stephen &#^# Speilberg recorded it. I don’t know how. But it looks that good.
  • Sip, $20/year, πŸ’Ό: I use Sip for easily tracking color pallets, like my company colors. Definitely a work-expense product category and one that Raycast can cover.
  • Descript, $144/year, πŸ’Ό: Descript is black magic if you edit audio. You move around text, it moves around audio. I use this for my podcast editing, you should too.
  • Handbrake, free: Take a video, reduce its size. And it’s free. Enough said.
  • Pixelmator, $49 one time, πŸ’Ό: Figma is great for vector image editing but Pixelmator shines for image editing. I don’t use it that often so I do classify it as a business expense but it’s definitely worth considering.

Miscellaneous Mac Apps I use

  • Spotify: $12.99/month ($156), 🌟: Music is great. I have a family package that I share with a bunch of folks.
  • Spectacle, free, 🌟: Like a kazoo in your car, this is something you don’t know you need until you have it. Spectacle lets you easily shift your windows on your Mac around between monitors or onto 1/2 or 1/3 screens.
  • Amphetamine, free, 🌟: You know when your computer screen shots down even thought you don’t want it to? Amphetamine keeps it awake. Get it?
  • Hyperkey, free, 🌟: Only really relevant in conjunction with Raycast. I used it to remap my Caps Lock key to launch Raycast.

Honorable Mentions of Great Mac Apps

  • Hazel, $42 one time: Imagine automatically moving all eBook files into one folder? Or shifting all heavy video files into a folder and then deleting it if not touched for a few months. That’s Hazel’s jam. Really nice for organization and it just runs in the back.
  • Keyboard Maestro, $36 one time: Keyboard Maestro is a master for computer macros. As other tools get smarter, I use it less but it still comes front and center for universal shortcuts like calculating percentage changes or mapping repetitive activities on my computer.
  • **[AudioHijack, $64 one time πŸ’Ό](https://rogueamoeba.com/
  • DaisyDisk, $10 one time: i bought this many moons ago and still use it a few times a year. It lets you easily visualize your storage space being used and delete files in one fell swoop. I probably recover 5-10 GB of space every time I open it.