Ten Essential Free Mac Apps

You can download and use all sorts of awesome apps from the Mac App Store and their developers’ own websites, and there are many apps you can get for free. Here’s a roundup of some of the best.

Bean

Developer: James Hoover
Get it From: www.bean-osx.com
System Req: OS X Tiger 10.4 or later

If you need a simple, unfussy word processor that does more than TextEdit but isn’t as feature-packed as Pages or Microsoft Word, take a look at Bean. It’s simple to pick up and use, has plenty of formatting options and can export documents in rich text format and .doc for Word compatibility. If you just want to compose and print a letter or flyer, it’s the perfect word processor for you.

Speedtest by Ookla

Developer: Ookla
Get it From: The Mac App Store
System Req: OS X 10.11 or later, 64-bit processor

You may be paying for 40mbps Internet, but is that what you’re getting? Ookla’s Speedtest is the easy – and free – way to find out. Just open the Speedtest app, click Go and wait for your results. You’re told your current ping, download and upload speeds in seconds, and these results are saved so you can compare your Internet’s performance over time. You can share those results with others too.

Handbrake

Developer: The HandBrake Team
Get it From: https://handbrake.fr
System Req: Mac OS X 10.11 and later

Handbrake is an open-source video transcoder. What this means in plain English is it can convert video files from one format to another, making it possible to play them on a device on which it can’t play natively. It’s a daunting app, but if you don’t want to learn its advanced features, you can use the app’s presets to convert to standard file types such as those used by Apple and Android devices.

Calibre

Developer: Kovid Goyal
Get it From: https://calibre-ebook.com
System Req: OS X 10.9 Mavericks or later

If you have digital books bought from sources other than Amazon or Apple Books, maybe free downloads from the Project Guttenberg website or PDF documents you need to store, Calibre is just what you need. You can manage your collection, convert titles from one ebook format to another, read them on your Mac and perhaps most importantly, copy them to your ebook reader. It’s not the prettiest or most user-friendly app, but it’s free and has a good range of features.

Amphetamine

Developer: William Gustafson
Get it From: The Mac App Store
System Req: macOS 10.11 El Capitan or later

Amphetamine stops your Mac from going to sleep. You can click the icon in the menu bar to turn it on and off, or if you need something more specific, like keeping it awake for a set period or while a specific app is running, Right/CTRL click and choose from the menu. It’s very easy to use, but also incredibly versatile and configurable. Just the thing if you need to stop your Mac from going to sleep while a file is downloading.

VLC

Developer: VideoLAN non-profit organisation
Get it From: www.videolan.org/vlc/index.en-GB.html
System Req: OS X 10.7.5 or later, 64-bit processor

Being unable to view a video file on your Mac is really frustrating. VLC is the solution. It has a lot of hardcore features you might not need, but it can play just about anything you throw at it. You can stream content from networked storage drives too. It’s not the prettiest of apps, but its sheer versatility means it’s definitely worth keeping it in your Applications folder. Older versions are available for earlier systems.

Audacity

Developer: Audacity Team
Get it From: www.audacityteam.org
System Req: OS X 10.7 and later

Another complex app that rewards perseverance, Audacity is a free audio editor that lets you record your own audio files through a microphone or a mixer too. It won’t take you long to get the hang of its simpler tasks, such as trimming or converting files, but there’s plenty to keep the more experienced audio engineers happy, such as sound effects, spectrogram analysis and the ability to import from and export to a wide range of file types.

GIMP

Developer: The GIMP Team
Get it From: www.gimp.org
System Req: macOS 10.9 or later

Graphics are what GIMP is all about. It stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, but don’t let that put you off. It’s a superb free alternative to pro-quality photo and picture editors such as Adobe Photoshop. The range of tools it offers is surprisingly wide, and its abilities are extended still further by third-party plug-ins created by fellow GIMP users. Advanced colour management ensures reproduction is first rate, and it plays well with other free apps.

The Unarchiver

Developer: MacPaw Inc
Get it From: The Mac App Store
System Req: OS X 0.7 or later, 64-bit processor

If you have an archive file you can’t open, download The Unarchiver. It can uncompress just about any archive format you’ve ever heard of, and quite a few you probably haven’t. The Mac’s operating system has given us a built-in file compressor for years (just click on the files or folder you want to archive, and click the right mouse button), but The Unarchiver is still a useful free fall-back option for when a compressed archive refuses to expand.

Wunderlist

Developer: 6 Wunderkinder GmbH
Get it From: The Mac App Store
System Req: OS X 10.10 or later, 64-bit processor

Wunderlist is a cloud-based task management app for getting things done. You can set reminders, make to-do lists, make notes, store web pages and more. It’s available for almost all computer and smartphone platforms, and if you install Wunderlist on more than one device, you can sync your account with all of them; it’s available on iOS with a watchOS element as well as the Mac. A paid-for Pro version is available.

Ian Osborne

Ian has worked on computer and video games magazines since the legendary Crash and Zzap! 64 in the early Nineties, so he’s seen many changes over the years (including an expanding waistline and receding hairline). A lifelong Mac user, he bought his first Mac in the year 2000. It’s a testament to the resilience of the Mac that his mother is still using that computer to this very day.

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