Mac software – top free apps for your Macbook

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Apple’s OS X Mavericks brought a fresh design and new features, while still remaining easy to use. But did you know that Mavericks gets new (and free) apps every day?

OS X Mavericks for Macbooks is a hugely popular release (not least because it’s free for current OS X owners). As with previous incarnations of OS X, its general look-and-feel hasn’t changed dramatically. However, its ever-growing selection of apps does make it incredibly customisable.

Sure, you can stick with the tools included in OS X for your every-day tasks, such as QuickTime, Safari, Calendar, Notes or the iWorks document editing suite, but you’d be missing out. New apps are launched every day designed to make your experience easier. Here we roundup some must-have apps to kit out your Macbook or Mini.

Best laptops to buy – the top three laptops Which? has tested

Well known Mac apps to try

Before we get to the main list, there are some well known like-for-like swaps you can make. You could switch from Mail to Airmail so all your email accounts (even from Gmail and Hotmail) can be managed in one place, for example. Likewise, you could ditch Safari for Google Chrome to utilise Google’s handy syncing feature across devices.

The best free Mac apps

Alfred – use Alfred often enough and you could clear your Macbook’s Dock of app icons for a cleaner-looking desktop. That’s because Alfred is a launcher that you can use to open your favourite apps, search your Mac or the web and even play music and create workflows.

Caffeine – do you watch a lot of movies or occasionally download large files? Caffeine acts as digital matchsticks to prop up your Mac’s eyes screen so it stays on. This stops you from having to wiggle the mouse cursor to stop your Mac going to sleep, the screen dimming or it reverting to the screen saver.

OpenOffice – perhaps the most versatile suite of office applications and it’s free. OpenOffice offers Writer (word processing), Draw (graphic design), Calc (spreadsheets), Impress (presentations), Math (formula editor) and Base (databases), all of which work much as iWorks or Microsoft Office do. Check them out and see why there is an ever increasing reason to go free on your office appications.

The Unarchiver – a great alternative to Stuffit Expander which compresses and extracts files. It’s a versatile app that supports zip, RAR, and many different compression formats (even including Stuffit archives).

VLC – this multimedia player lets you open anything from MKV video to FLAC music file, and you can also open online video streams. It’s the ideal alternative to QuickTime, particularly if you find that you’re often stuck waiting for certain video files to play.

Top free Macbook apps – honourable mentions

  • Fotor or GIMP – both offer more advanced photo editing than iPhoto while keeping the process much more simple.
  • MacTubes – play YouTube videos without installing Adobe Flash Player by simply dragging the video’s URL to the MacTubes window. Tubular and Tuba Free for YouTube are similar.
  • Sophos or ClamXav – using antivirus protection is sensible. Sophos even scans for malicious files known to Windows, handy if you use Windows or share files with PC users.
  • Adium – brings together all your chat apps including Facebook. And if you’re keen on integration, make you’re taking advantage of the facility already built into OS X. You can integrate a handful of social media accounts by going to Apple menu > System Preferences > Mail, Contacts, & Calendars. Here, you can add multiple Twitter accounts, one Facebook account, and even Yahoo, Vimeo, and Flickr accounts.

Whether a seasoned Mac user or a relative newcomer, please leave a comment to tell us your favourite Macbook app.

More on this

MacBook and laptop reviews – find out which MacBook or laptop is the best for you
Best Security software programs – get yourself a Best Buy security program
How to stream your laptop to your TV – use built-in OS X features or a cable

Categories: Apple, Apps, Laptops, PCs

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3 replies

  1. Agree on Caffeine and VLC. LibreOffice is similar to OpenOffice.
    Popclip is a very cheap act-on pop-up for selected text – becomes indispensable after a while.
    I would have said 1Password for managing passwords, (quite expensive, latest version will sync passwords between Mac and IOS) but I think OSX Mavericks will provide a lot of 1Password’s function built-in.
    Also like Vienna as a free basic RSS reader, and the BBC iPlayer desktop for downloading programs to watch later.
    And if you have a TV aerial socket nearby then you can use the Elgato tuner and EyeTV software to convert your Mac into a Freeview PVR (but not in HD, sadly).

  2. Apple Mail already natively handles all email account types, “even from Gmail and Hotmail” without the need for another app.
    I do agree however that Open Office is a must-have. Although I (reluctantly) bought Office for Mac, I now find that Open Office is faster, less liable to hang up than Word and as you say it is completely FREE. I have now changed my preferences so that doc, docx, xls etc. files all open in Open Office rather than MS Office for Mac. It also has a data base capability for anyone interested in that.

  3. Have recently migrated form Vista to iMac and am trying to use as many of the inbuilt apps as possible. Have given up on Writer and Calc as they are a bit weak but very good for basics. I have opted for LibreOffice which is so much simpler than MS Office and is adequate for my purposes. I thought I would have to buy O ffice but now am sure I will not need it. I found Keychain password manager a bit scary so have opted for PWSafe/Dropbox which although not free works well on iPad, PC and iMac. Have tried Photoshop Elements 12 for Mac which I do not find as good as the PC version (9 I believe). So will persevere with iPhoto for managing and use Gimp for editing. There are some things which will not run on Mac and so will ultimately have to run Win 7 on VMware Fusion when my PC finally dies. Sadly there is a significant cost to this. Hope these comments help.

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