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Boost your security and productivity with the top Mac apps

Our top picks for Mac apps include CleanMyMac X, Parallels, and SnagIt. We analyzed the best apps for antivirus, security, battery management, and productivity.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Contributing Writer on
Reviewed by Amy Lieu

A computer is only as good as the apps installed on it. If your work computer is a Mac, you need to prepare it for anything life and work throws your way. This includes having the right performance, security, and productivity apps.

Over the years, I've tried and tested dozens of apps. While I deleted most of them pretty quickly, I've discovered my tried and true favorite apps that are reliable for everyday use. 

Keep reading to learn more about the tools that help streamline my Mac experience.

Also: How to get true window snapping in MacOS

Note that these apps work on both Intel Macs and Macs powered by the M1 and M2 Apple Silicon processors.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Stylish, well-designed app
  • Easy to use, with most features being a click or two away
  • Safe to use, no risk of wrecking your system
Cons
  • Some of the fonts used could be bigger, or the space used for more description
More Details

Features: Free up storage space | Speed up your Mac | Uninstall apps | Remove malware | Keep your online activities private | Regular updates

CleanMyMac X is the best way to rid your Mac of accumulating digital junk in order to free up storage space and increase processing speed. It scans your Mac to remove malware, large hidden files, old archives, and unused apps. And the company behind the app -- Macpaw -- continually adds new functions and features. 

I'm always amazed by how CleanMyMac X seeks out digital junk that's otherwise buried deep within the bowels of my computer's operating system.

This app is easy to use without becoming cluttered or confusing. It only requires a few clicks and away it goes. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Stylish
  • Information-rich design
  • Deep dive into your Mac
Cons
  • Can feel a bit overwhelming
  • Need to pay extra for the weather service
More Details

Features: Detailed overview of CPU, network, disk, battery, weather, and other events | In-depth information from the sensors built into your Mac | Customizable interface

iStat Menus is an advanced Mac system monitor that covers an enormous range of statistics. I love this app because it allows me to geek out on a massive amount of system information. 

iStat Menus features a built-in weather app, a notification system that informs you of errors, and a battery level display for your connected AirPods, Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, and other devices.

The information seems nearly endless, data covers a whole raft of real-time data from sensors, including temperatures, hard drive temperatures, fans, CPU frequency, GPU frequency, voltages, current and power, and much more.

This app organizes a plethora of important, useful information right at your fingertips. And it does it in a beautiful way.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Each and every tool is simple to use
  • Wide array of utilities, from media handling to file system tools
Cons
  • Sometimes the number of tools on offer can feel overwhelming
More Details

Features: Over 40 tools for macOS and Windows | Eliminates the need to buy multiple applications | Competitively priced | Regular updates

Parallels Toolbox is a suite of easy-to-use tools that streamlines routine computing chores. It simplifies everyday tasks so you can complete functions in just a click or two, massively increasing efficiency. 

This suite allows you to accomplish a variety of tasks using capture tools, image resizing tools, a GIF maker, tools for downloading videos from the internet, a clipboard history unit converter, a utility for freeing memory, and much more.

Parallels Toolbox 5.5 for Windows and Mac are available today as standalone products. Each annual license includes free updates of new and enhanced tools as they become available, and it costs $19.99 per year.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Reliable
  • Fast, simple, and easy to set up
  • Works across a whole range of platforms
Cons
  • Can sometimes be sluggish unless you have a good internet connection
More Details

Features: Remote access your computer from anywhere using a whole raft of devices | Access all your applications, files, and computers in one place | Streamlined interface optimized for you to run applications remotely

Remote access apps can be a security nightmare if they are difficult to set up or offer unreliable service. After trying various solutions, Parallels Access is my favorite method for accessing my systems remotely. 

With Parallels Access I can connect to my Mac (or PC) from basically any device, and work with applications and files on that remote system as though I'm sitting in front of it. 

This has been an absolute lifesaver for times when I've left an important file on my computer at home or in the office. A single license allows a user to install the software on up to five computers and on an unlimited number of mobile devices.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Can run automatically in the background
  • Ability to access files over the web, or on iOS or Android
Cons
  • The file encryption process can seem intimidating the first time you do it
More Details

Features: Cloud backup made easy | Unlimited files and unlimited file size | Secure encryption

While Time Machine works for carrying out local backups, it's also a good idea to have an up-to-date offsite backup. That way, if worst comes to the worst and my devices are stolen or destroyed by fire or floods, my data is still safe.

I've tested various offsite backup services and found that Backblaze offers the best combination of value, storage space, and performance.

I also recommend the Backblaze backup app. Like the name suggests, it simply runs in the background, reliably backing up my data. However, it's also sophisticated enough to offer features such as advanced encryption and control over bandwidth. After all, if I'm using a hotspot, I don't want that connection swamped by a backup happening in the background.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Features range from simple to powerful, depending on your needs
  • Capture, edit, and share from one app
  • Capture images and video
Cons
  • You have to pay to access most of the additional themes and other content
More Details

Features: Capture screen content | Edit and add visuals | Share your content easily

My job involves taking countless screen captures, and of all the utilities I've tried -- even the tools built into macOS -- nothing comes close to the power and flexibility of Snagit. 

I've used Snagit for over a decade, and during that time I've taken thousands of screen captures across a whole range of systems. 

Not only does this tool allow me to capture simple screenshots and more complex tasks like scrolling windows, but it also features powerful editing tools. Snagit helps me prepare screen captures for posting on the web or putting into publications. 

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to switch between different VPN servers in different countries
  • Fast speeds
  • Unlimited bandwidth
Cons
  • Sometimes it can be hard to tell if the VPN is active or not
More Details

Features: Block harmful websites and hacking attempts | Protect your real IP address and online traffic | See who is trying to track you online | Ensure privacy on public Wi‑Fi

Browsing the web without a VPN leaves a digital footprint that others can use to track you down. A VPN allows you to step over geographical fences that sometimes exist around content. On top of that, a high-quality VPN keeps you safe when accessing the web using wired and wireless networks that are not under your control. 

After testing different VPNs, I settled on F-Secure Freedome, because it offers excellent security and high levels of reliability at a reasonable price.

The apps are also solid and updated regularly. I find I can just leave this app running in the background and not really think about it unless I want to make some sort of change to the VPN connection -- such as what country I'm connecting to.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Brilliant alternative to Google Authenticator
  • Easy migration to multiple devices
  • Option to back up your codes
  • Easy to use Free
Cons
  • Setting up can be slow and tedious
More Details

Features: Easy 2-factor authentication | Secure backups | Easy migration to another device

I used to be a Google Authenticator user, but the old 2FA (2-Factor Authentication) app features a variety of limitations, so I switched to Authy. 

Authy works on almost every device and platform, and the app allows me to keep a backup of my codes, which is convenient when swapping devices. I use Authy on all my systems -- even my Mac -- and I use it almost daily. 

Best of all, it's free!

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Simple interface
  • Does one thing, and does it well
  • Many advanced features, such as triggers and keeping the mac awake while files download Free
Cons
  • For such a small app, some of the advanced features can feel daunting
More Details

Features: Prevents your Mac from going to sleep while it's carrying out tasks | Keep-awake can be as simple as keeping the Mac awake indefinitely to as complicated as waiting for a file to finish downloading or an app to close

This app does one thing, but it does it very well. Amphetamine lives in your menu bar and allows you to quickly and easily override your energy saver settings and keep your Mac awake. 

If you need a simple on/off switch for the power-saving settings, this is your app. Need more control over power-saving features? Need to prevent your system from going to sleep while it uploads or downloads something in the background?

Amphetamine is the app for you.

Which is the right Mac app for you?

This depends on what you want to do. These apps all do very different things, and which appeal will depend on what you do with your Mac. 

For example, while one person who takes lots of screenshots will appreciate an app that does this well, others who never take any screenshots won't want an app to do this.

That said, I think most Mac users could benefit from using CleanMyMac X, Parallels Toolbox, and everyone needs a good backup solution like Backblaze.

Choose this Mac app

If you want…

CleanMyMac X

To clean and speed up your Mac

Parallels Toolbox

A suite of several dozen useful utilities

iStat Menus

An in-depth look at how your Mac is running

Authy

Secure 2-Factor Authentication app

Parallels Access

Remote access to your Mac from different platforms

Snagit 2023

To take great screenshots

F-Secure Freedome VPN

To secure your internet connection

Backblaze

To securely backup your data

Amphetamine

To stop your Mac going to sleep when it's busy

How did we choose these Mac apps?

Given the maturity of the Mac ecosystem, there are a lot of Mac apps out there to choose from, and it can quickly become daunting, especially for anyone new to the Mac.

I've been using Macs for many years, and so I've built up a core set of Mac apps that follow me from Mac to Mac. And these apps are a subset of those apps. I've not just tested and reviewed these apps -- these are apps that I myself use on an almost daily basis. 

While many of these apps are paid-for or subscription-based, I've also included a few of my favorite free apps.

Will these apps run on Apple's new M1 and M2 chips?

Yes. These apps all run on both Intel and Apple M1/M2 chips.

What happens when I buy a new Mac? Can I move these apps to the new system?

Yes.

All of these apps allow you to move them to a new Mac without any problems at all. 

What if I have more than one Mac?

Many of the apps -- such as CleanMyMac X and iStat Menus -- offer multiple license or family license bundles, which makes it cheaper to run the apps on multiple Macs. 

Any apps that you buy and download from the Mac App Store can be run on the Macs under your control.

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