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Top 5 Software You Must Have on Your Mac

Whenever a new Mac shows up here, or for that matter, whenever I reconfigure a Mac or install a new OS, one of the first things I do is install this base group of 5 applications.

My list of 5 must-have applications doesn’t include any of the major productivity applications, such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Creative Suite, that most users rely on for their daily tasks. I’ll install them later, but they’re not top priorities. Instead, the applications and utilities I install first are designed to provide a framework that will make it easier to use and manage my Mac. Now let’s check it out.



1Password is a handy password manager that frees me from having to maintain a list of login data for all of the various sites and services I use daily on my Mac. Besides login information, I also keep application serial numbers in 1Password, which is one reason why its one of the first applications I install.

If I had to install applications without having 1Password available, I would waste a great deal of time running down licenses and serial numbers. Instead, 1Password puts the information at my fingertips, letting a new install on a Mac go very smoothly.


mac-software-2I have to say that generally I prefer Apple Safari for day-to-day web browsing. But Firefox also has a place on my Mac, in fact, a very important one. Without Firefox installed, a few of the web sites I need to work with won’t function correctly.

Even though I prefer Safari, Firefox is one of the best available browsers for the Mac, and Mozilla is very good at keeping it up to date.

It seems many other Mac users agree that Firefox is indispensable, so much so that Firefox won the Reader’s Choice award in 2010 in the web browser category.


mac-software-3If there’s one thing I’m diligent about, it’s backups. Backup, backup, backup. It always must be said at least three times, just for emphasis. It’s that important.

I use Apple’s Time Machine for my general backup system; it’s easy to use and robust. But I also like to have something to fall back on, especially when it comes to computer backups. If you have ever found yourself in the middle of restoring a backup because of a system failure of some type, you know how gut wrenching it is to discover your backup is corrupt and can’t be used.

That’s why I maintain multiple backups, as well as multiple backup methods. It may seem a bit extreme, but it doesn’t hurt to be paranoid, at least when it comes to protecting your computer’s data. I use Time Machine and SuperDuper in combination to create a robust backup system for my Macs.

I use SuperDuper to create bootable clones of my startup drive. With SuperDuper I can easily get back to work quickly should a drive fail or important data become corrupt. By just re-booting and setting the SuperDuper clone as the startup drive, I can be back to work in about the time it takes to restart my Mac.

SuperDuper is my personal choice for a clone-making backup application. I like it for its user interface, and ability to schedule the creation of startup clones.


mac-software-4TextWrangler is a handy text editor. It has some basic features that I tend to need a few times when I’m first configuring a new Mac, including the ability to open hidden files without first using Terminal to make the files visible.

Another TextWrangler feature I use a great deal is its Search/Find/Replace capabilities. You can even use Grep (a command line search and replace tool originally written for various UNIX shells) regular expressions for searching through documents. I find this especially useful when trying to pick out events in log files while troubleshooting.

Once I have a properly configured Mac, I tend to install other text editors designed more for the type of tasks I perform on a daily basis. But TextWrangler always has a place on my Macs, and I use it often for troubleshooting or to quickly access hidden text files.


mac-software-5Cocktail is a system utility that provides quick and convenient access to many OS X settings that are normally hidden from users. With Cocktail, you can easily set user interface options such as the number of recent items to display in the ‘Open Recent’ menu, and where to place scroll bars on a window. One thing I always do with Cocktail is change the screen shot format from PNG to TIFF. I need to use TIFF format for specific work I do, and having it as the default is easier then converting multiple files to the proper format.

Cocktail also provides access to some hidden Time Machine capabilities, such as using Time Machine on non-Apple network drives. You can also use Cocktail to eliminate one of the most annoying dialogs that Time Machine pops up again and again, asking if you want to use a newly connected drive as a Time Machine backup. No, I don’t, thank you very much, and quit asking me!

Cocktail also provides a set of maintenance routines that can be run manually or at scheduled intervals.

Here is my list of the apps I use on my Mac, feel free to share yours on our site and if you need data recovery software when you meet data loss problem you can get help on our blog post.

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