Essential Catalina Apps

essential Catalina apps

Do you keep your eye on the macOS/OS X ecosystem? I find it interesting and occasionally useful to discover which programs the Mac illuminati are using. I’m certainly not one of the enlightened few, but I have enthusiastically supported the Mac since January 1984. So, what’s new for me in 2019? I finally uninstalled applications I rarely use, which was a significant downsize. My thirty-five remaining, essential Catalina apps are:

Some developers include a version number in their app’s name, I’ve chosen not to do so. Example: Alfred 4 = Alfred. In all cases I’m using up-to-date versions.

You’ll notice my list does not include applications that come with macOS. The Apple apps I use are Safari, Messages, Mail, Calendar, Photos, App Store, Contacts, FaceTime, Dictionary and Maps; listed based on usage, most used to least.

Background: The Mac Pro (2019) and Pro Display XDR, introduced January 3rd, are amazing, but they aren’t for me, not anymore. Today, less powerful computers meet my needs. My first adventure with less exotic, not top-of-the-line, Macs was an iMac (2010). At that time, to my great surprise, I was happy with its functionality and performance. These days laptops are powerful enough to cover my bases. I recently retired my MacBook Pro (mid-2014) and replaced it with a MacBook Air (2018). I used Apple’s online ‘Trade In’ to turn my MacBook Pro into $445. The process was straightforward. I answered a few online questions. They quoted $445. A return shipping box arrived at my door. I sent them my old MacBook Pro in their prepaid box. Money was quickly deposited into my PayPal account.

Before sending my old laptop away, I setup my new MacBook Air. I could have used ‘Migration Assistant,’ as I had done in the past, but instead I chose to do a clean install.

I usually buy my applications directly from developers. Developers use various copy protection schemes. Most ask for your serial number and your name or email address. Some demand more. My trusty registration repository, LicenseKeeper, ceased development some time ago, so my reinstalls consumed more time than I anticipated. An encrypted spreadsheet, exported from LicenseKeeper, was somewhat helpful, but it won’t surprise anyone that I found most of my invoices (serial numbers, email address used, order dates, order numbers and even third-party vendors (eSellerate, FastSpring, paddle etc)) in old emails. I’m now storing software invoice details in 1Password.

After dealing with copy protection schemes it was beyond gratifying to click on the little cloud icon in the Mac App Store. Poof, apps reinstalled and registered, as if by magic. I’ll favour the App Store for new software purchases whenever possible.

Would I do a clean install again? You bet, I’m amazed how much space I cleared. Frankly though, that extra space was worrisome. What did I forget? As the weeks have gone by without discovering missing data, my confidence grows.

My new MacBook Air has all the horsepower I need.

I recently admitted that I had a ‘Bloated macOS App Folder.’ To rebuild my Applications folder I started with two strong, foundational apps; BBEdit and Pixelmator Pro. I then surrounded them with thirty-three other apps. I’ve roughly categorized them below.

Catalina Apps I use that compliment BBEdit:

Catalina Apps that compliment Pixelmator Pro:

The remaining applications roughly grouped.

Catalina Apps – Audio:

Catalina Apps – Database:

Catalina Apps – Social:

Catalina Apps – Utilities:

Will all my essential Catalina apps be fully functional with the new macOS in time for the Fall of 2019 release date? I’m reasonably confident, but we’ll have to wait and see if they all make it.

Update Saturday, June 29, 2019


Gladys is a drag-and-drop shelf that holds things you want to set aside, such as links, text snippets, map locations, contacts, images, photos, emails, messages and much more (even if the application that the information came from is removed)

Unclutter app is good fun. That said, I’ve decided to uninstall it. Going forward I will use Alfred, BBEdit and Gladys instead. I use Alfred’s multi-clipboard all day long, everyday. It’s a perfect fit for the things I do and has never failed me. By leaving BBEdit’s Scratchpad open I have instant access to a powerful note creation tool. Gladys is easy to use, but has depth and tremendous potential. It fits my requirements better than Yoink and Unclutter. Bottom line: Unclutter out, Gladys in with expanded use of Alfred and BBEdit.

iA Writer

After posting ‘Essential Catalina Apps’, I received a few emails from people who were dismayed that I was using iA Writer, because it never appeared on any of my previous ‘Essential Apps’ lists.

Have you prejudged an application without using it? I did. I recall hearing Oliver Reichenstein, iA’s founder, described as an arrogant asshole. I routinely left iA Writer off of my lists, based on that gossip, even though it was a Mac App Store ‘Editor’s Choice’, with many glowing reviews. When I finally gave iA Writer a whirl, I loved it.

Essential App Posts from the past:

Leave a Comment

Notify of