12 of the best software utilities for your Mac

There's little doubt that OS X 'El Capitan' is a fully-featured operating system that helps you to get a lot done, but by adding a few extra utilities will allow you get an awful lot more from the platform with very little extra effort.
1 of 13 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet


There's little doubt that OS X 10.11 El Capitan operating system is a fully-featured platform that come with a lot of built-in features to help you get your work done. But by adding a few extras in the form of utilities you get an awful lot more from the platform with very little extra effort.

Here's my list of top utilities that I have installed on my Macs. Some are free, others are going to cost you a few bucks, but all of them are superb.

These utilities are all compatible with the latest OS X release, as well as many earlier releases. For exact system requirements check out the vendor's website.

See also:

Parallels Access
2 of 13 Parallels

Parallels Access

After trying many different solutions, Parallels Access is my favorite method for accessing my systems remotely. With Parallels Access I can connect to my Mac (or PC) from pretty much any device, and work with the applications and files on that system as though I'm sitting at it.

This has been an absolute lifesaver for those times when I've left an important file on my computer at the home or office.

Price: $19.99 per year | More info

F-Secure Freedome VPN
3 of 13 F-Secure

F-Secure Freedome VPN

If you take your Mac out and about, chances are that you connect to a myriad of different Wi-Fi connections at cafes, hotels, and workplaces.

But how do you know your connection is secure?

Don't leave it to chance, instead, install Freedome VPN and with just one click of a button you can enjoy private, untracked, anonymous browsing wherever you are. I've tried and tested a number of VPN solutions, and Freedome is, without a doubt, the best, most reliable, easiest to use on offer.

Price: From $49.99 (free 14 day trial) | More info.

4 of 13 VLC


Without a doubt VLC is the best media player for the Mac (and for that matter, Windows too).

VLC with a myriad of different audio and video file formats, including DVD, audio CD, and VCD, with no codec downloads required. It can also do media conversion and streaming. It also supports many streaming protocols.

And best of all, it's free!

Price: Free | More info.

5 of 13 Bjango

iStat Menus

I love this app because it allows me to geek-out of a massive amount of system information!

iStat Menus is an advanced Mac system monitor, covering an enormous range of stats ranging from system temperatures to CPU performance.

iStat Menus puts an awful lot of important and useful information right at your fingertips.

How detailed is it? Well, it can show you the battery levels of your Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad and Apple wireless keyboard. That's pretty detailed in my opinion.

Not only does iStat Menus display a lot of vital information, but it does so in a stylish manner that fits in well with the OS X look and feel.

Price: $16 | More info

6 of 13 Lighthead Software


A simple app that does just one thing, but is does it so darn well that it's an invaluable addition to almost any Mac.

Caffeine is an icon that sits in the menu bar, and when you want to stop your Mac from going to sleep for whatever reason, you click on it. When you're done, you click on it again.

Yup, it's that simple.

You can also enter custom durations for it to prevent your Mac from going to sleep. Works perfectly on OS X El Capitan.

Price: Free | More Info

7 of 13 Alasoft

DiskWarrior 5

Here's one of those utilities for those days that just go from bad to worse.

With a single click, DiskWarrior reads the damaged directory and finds all salvageable files and folders and builds a new error-free, optimized directory for you to use. DiskWarrior works not by patching corrupted directories but by creating new ones, and it verifies that the replacement is error-free before saying the job is done.

If you're serious about your Mac and the data that's on it, this is the tool for you.

Price: $119.95 | More info.

8 of 13 BinaryNights

ForkLift 2

Finder is good, but ForkLift 2 is better. It is the most advanced file manager and FTP + SFTP + Amazon S3 + WEBDav client available for OS X. It is packed with awesome features such as:

- Multi-file rename
- Sync to
- Transfer queue
- Virtual file containers
- And much more

Price: $29.95 | More info

9 of 13 TechSmith


I know that there's a way to take screenshots in OS X using some keyboard voodoo that I can never remember, but I take a lot of screenshots every week - sometimes many hundreds - and SnagIt is a huge timesaver that streamlines the whole process.

It also makes taking complex screenshots - where perhaps you have to use a delay timer or have it scroll down a window - a snap.

This is one of those utilities I've been using for years, and it's never let me down.

Price: $49.95 | More info

10 of 13 Surtees Studios

Bartender 2

I have a lot of apps installed, and that means I have a lot of icons cluttering up my menu bar. Bartender 2 allows me to take control of the menu bar back by letting me control how they are displayed.

Bartender 2 is the fastest way to access the apps you use on a regular basis.

Price: $15 (one month free trial) | More info.

11 of 13 Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNet

The Unarchiver

While the tool built into OS X can do a reasonable job with some compressed file archives, The Unarchiver has you covered no matter what crazy file format you have to deal with.

It will open common formats such as Zip, RAR, 7-zip, Tar, Gzip and Bzip2, more obscure formats such as StuffIt, DiskDoubler, LZH, ARJ and ARC, and can extract files from ISO and BIN images.

It can also extract files from some Windows .EXE files.

Awesome tool that I use regularly!

Price: Free | More info.

12 of 13 Appgineers


If you juggle a lot of volumes on your Mac then Mountain is the tool for you. It allows you to fast and intuitively work with volumes from the menu bar, letting you eject and remount volumes without having to unplug cables or turn off devices.

It also supports automatically ejecting all external volumes when the system is going to sleep and remounting your favorite network drives when recovering from sleep.

One of the features I really like is being able to identify apps that are preventing volumes from being unmounted, and allowing me the option of either closing those apps or forcing unmounts.

This is an absolute must-have app.

Price: $5.99 | More info.

13 of 13 Tunabellysoftware

Temperature Gauge Pro

Apple is pretty good at keeping Macs running cool even when they are under heavy loads, but when I'm pushing my hardware hard I like to keep it a little cooler than the limits Apple's engineers have built into the system.

To do this I use Temperature Gauge Pro. This is a simple utility that sits in the menu bar that not only gives me a complete overview of system temperatures, but also allows me to set temperatures at which the system fans kick into high gear.

No other app shows more temperature sensors or has as many options for notifications and fan speeds.

Price: $14.99 | More info

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