Most of Apple’s customers get by just fine with all the applications the company includes with every new Mac (as well as their iPhone and iPad counterparts). The basics are just table stakes, though. Everyone needs Mail, Safari, Photos, iTunes, Calendar, Reminders, Notes, Maps, and if you need more, well, there’s also Pages, Keynote, Numbers, GarageBand, iMovie, and a bunch of useful utilities that are included with the price on every piece of kit that carries an Apple logo.
Yes, Virginia, there is life beyond Apple and if you’re on a budget here is my little big list of free Mac apps everyone needs.
Pocket – Just get it. Set up an account, and use it for free on Mac, iPhone, and iPad to collect articles you find as you browse the web. I don’t know what Pocket’s business model is, but it'[s one to have.
Dropbox – Alright, iCloud is better than ever, but Dropbox is faster– much, much faster– at synchronizing files between devices. You don’t get as much free storage as iCloud, so use it with caution and consideration, but almost any applications that uses a cloud service for backup and sync uses Dropbox. It’s that good.
Chrome – Google’s popular browser shows up on everyone’s free apps list and it’s good, but it doesn’t really do much more than Safari other than let Google track you even more. Chrome does Flash movies while it drains your Mac notebook’s battery, but I love the extension options.
Itsycal – Calendar is good and all that, but it’s inconvenient to switch to while you’re using a different app on your Mac. Itsycal is a Menubar drop-down that comes with, you guessed it– a calendar and list of events, all derived straight from the Mac’s built-in Calendar. There is nothing to not like here.
Onyx – There is no better way to get your Mac geek on without causing fear in your dreams that mucking around on macOS Sierra or other Mac apps will cause Russian hackers to change your plist file settings. Onyx is the free maintenance tool that won’t give you grief.
Dr. Clean – This is for my formerly Windows user friends who switched to the Mac but still feel they must do something to clean their shiny new Apple products. Dr. Clean deletes a few caches, throws away useless log files, even empties the Trash can, but it’s free, so no need to worry.
iBooks Author – Hey, wait. This one comes from Apple. iBooks Author lets you create your own iBooks to be sold on the iBooks Store. It’s free. Think of it as a page layout app for your Mac that lets you create a book with photos, videos, text, and all the accoutrements of modern publishing. Did I mention iBooks Author is free?
Yes, you can add even more free apps, including a few anti-virus apps in the Mac App Store, Evernote, Microsoft’s very good OneNote app, the terrific Fotor photo editor, the excellent LastPass password manager, and many others. Free apps are everywhere, but caveat emptor applies. Even the Mac App Store’s Free Apps list lets you sort only by Name and Bestseller (which probably means Downloads because the apps in the Free category are, well, free). Just be aware that many App Store free apps also come with In-App Purchase options, so free doesn’t always mean what you think it means.