Essential El Capitan Apps

Mac OS X El Capitan icon

Which OS X applications are you using? Occasionally, I discover a useful, new app by checking out what other people are using. Once a year I publish a list of the applications I find essential. I was recently asked: Q: “Have your Essential El Capitan apps changed from last year's list of Essential Yosemite Apps? A: Unsurprisingly, yes, I enjoy reviewing updates to my runner-up apps and checking out new stuff. The biggest change this year is the addition of Affinity's professional graphic design applications. Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo are powerful, but straightforward and affordable. Another significant change from last year is that I'm now using many of Apple's supplied OS X apps and no longer feel the need to use BusyCal, BusyContacts, Calcbot, Fantastical, Google Chrome and MailMate.

Essential El Capitan Apps from Identified Developers

Essential El Capitan Apps from the Mac App Store

I haven’t linked to the following applications because you can easily chase them down in the Mac App Store:

  • Affinity Designer
  • Affinity Photo
  • Caffeine
  • Chronicle
  • Day One
  • Deckset
  • Ember 20151209 – replaced by Pixave
  • ForkLift
  • InfoClick
  • iThoughtsX
  • Kaleidoscope
  • Logoist
  • Napkin
  • PDFpenPro 20151112 – replaced by PDF Expert
  • Pixave
  • PopClip
  • Reeder
  • Sip
  • Timeless
  • Twitter
  • Ultra Character Map
  • Ulysses 20151030 – replaced by Texts
  • WiFi Explorer
  • xScope
  • Yoink

and here are my

Most frquently used essential El Capitan apps

Most Frequently Used Essential El Capitan Apps:


  1. Safari for El Capitan is excellent, my experimentation with Google Chrome is over, for now
  2. I'm delighted I no longer deal with Microsoft Office and Adobe's apps, including Flash. I've also dumped Java
  3. All of my apps have been 64 bit for over a year
  4. I still find myself wishing BBEdit was 64 bit.

Here’s my MacOS Sierra update.

Big Problem with Markdown Apps

There’s a big problem with Markdown apps. 🙂

Q: What’s the problem?
A: It’s much too easy to switch to the latest, greatest, OS X distraction-free, text editor. This one is prettier. That one makes it easier to write and blog. The monster advantage of plain text is that you’re not locked into a specific application. Unfortunately, that can also be a curse.

Surely, that’s only a problem if you’re an app developer? Well, no, it can also be surprisingly distracting, if you’re easily seduced by new, competing applications.

It’s no secret that Byword app is currently my favourite markdown editor. That said, I recently had a look at Desk app and then Typed. The Typed app got my attention.

Typed app icon

  • Typed is a pretty application – gorgeous, minimalist and completely at home on Yosemite
  • there’s no window clutter, controls (writing view, preview and sharing) only appear when you mouse over the left margin
  • the typography on my 13” MacBook Pro Retina Display makes composing for the web as sublime an experience as writing can be
  • there are plenty of font options and sizes, but I wish Typed and all editors offered font scaling/zoom (bigger/smaller)
  • I prefer the ivory background and it’s oversized, colourful cursor (you also have a choice of white/light and black/dark backgrounds)
  • word count is nicely placed at the top right
  • extensive keyboard shortcuts are easy to remember
  • the autosave implementation is reassuring
  • Zen Mode surprised me, because the music didn’t distract me, as I feared it might
  • HTML preview and HTML export couldn’t be easier
  • I even like the app icon.

Comment: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Let’s just say, there are significant similarities between Typed and Byword.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
– Charles Caleb Colton

While trialling Typed, I experienced a few hangs, after cutting and pasting. I also saw considerable markdown-display funkiness. To be fair, Typed is a v1.0, I know Realmac Software will get it sorted. Based on their team’s history the fixes are likely to happen in the near future.

Typed has potential, but I’m sticking with Byword, at least for now. Byword is currently ahead of Typed in both functionality and stability. In fact, Byword is so good, you really have to wonder why I keep trying out all the new stuff?

Update: I just read and enjoyed David Sparks post about Byword and Typed. David is clearly much less fickle than I am, but he arrived at the same conclusion I did. We both love Byword! In my case, the only question is, “Will the love affair last?”

Essential Mountain Lion Apps

Mountain Lion

Every time Apple introduces a new version of OS X, I whittle my applications folder down to just the essentials. Here’s my Essential Mountain Lion Apps list:

64 bit apps for OS X 10.8 (I’ve added links for the apps I use every day.)

32 bit apps for OS X 10.8

Once again this year I’ve removed dozens of applications, a few will eventually be reinstalled, but most of the apps I’ve uninstalled will never return. Interestingly, my Essential Mountain Lion Apps list has gotten shorter, but my Mac App Store list of ‘Purchases’ is constantly growing; which only makes sense if you realize I’m including the long list of apps that still feature grey ‘INSTALL’ buttons. OK, I’m clearly a sucker for a deal. 🙂 Remember when purchasing a new application meant a trip to the store and an outlay of hundreds or even thousands of dollars? Speaking of expensive applications, you’ll notice that Adobe Design Suite Premium and Microsoft Office have not reappeared on my list; they’ve been gone for years.

20120819 => “Go further”: An online contact found my “apps I use everyday” links, useful, but asked me to “go further and list the five apps you use the most”.

Top five, most used, essential mountain lion apps:

  1. Google Chrome
  2. 1Password
  3. Reeder
  4. Clyppan
  5. Byword, but FoldingText is already a contender

Note: About a month ago, my list would have started with Safari and a month from now, it could be Safari again. Both browsers are fast, but Chrome’s extensions are increasingly compelling. These days, I very rarely use Firefox. OmniWeb and Opera aren’t even installed.

FYI, here’s last years Best Lion Apps list for reference and here’s my Snow Leopard list.

Note: I’ve taken a little flack for including VirusBarrier in my list of ‘Essential Mountain Lion Apps’. Although it’s absolutely true that my fellow Mac users and I have had very little reason to be concerned about malware in the past, times are changing. Apple is selling more Macs and, unfortunately, sooner or later, our Macs will be targeted regularly. In March 2012 around 700,000 Macs, worldwide, were infected by Flashback and I’m convinced, that attack was just a wakeup call. Thus far, I’ve found VirusBarrier has been a “set it and forget it” anti-malware solution. It runs all the time and I haven’t noticed any downside to the real-time protection it delivers.

Best Lion Apps

My heading, Best Lion Apps is a little misleading. The apps I’ve listed work best for me, but choosing applications is clearly subjective, everyone’s needs are different. That said, I’ve tested a huge pile of apps and I always enjoy discovering which apps other people are using.

In past lists, I included links to all of the application’s home pages, but with the advent of the Mac App Store, most of the apps I’ve listed are very easy to find. If you can’t find an app at the MAS, have a look at iusethis or even MacUpdate.

With each major upgrade to Mac OS X I slim down my system. You will note that I’ve eliminated Microsoft Office, Adobe Design Suite Premium and DEVONthink Pro Office. I’ve also deleted and replaced dozens of lesser known apps:

  • Sublime Text replaced both BBEdit and TextMate
  • Alfred replaced LaunchBar and Quicksilver
  • Echofon replaced Twitter
  • Reeder replaced NetNewsWire
  • SmartBackup replaced Carbon Copy Cloner and SuperDuper!
  • Soulver replaced PCalc
  • Sound Studio replaced Amadeus Pro, AudioHijack Pro and Wiretap Studio
  • Webbla replaced WebNote

Here’s my list of Best Lion Apps

64 Bit Apps

  • 1Password
  • Alfred
  • Aperture
  • AppDelete
  • BetterZip
  • Byword
  • Caffeine
  • Contacts Cleaner
  • Default Folder X
  • DiffFork
  • Direct Mail
  • DropDMG
  • EarthDesk (activated occasionally)
  • Echofon
  • Export Address Book
  • Fantastical
  • ForkLift
  • FX Photo Studio Pro
  • Growl
  • iClipboard
  • Integrity
  • Leap
  • LicenseKeeper
  • LittleSnapper
  • Marked
  • Moom
  • OmniGraffle Pro
  • PDFpenPro
  • Picturesque
  • Pixelmator
  • PopChar X
  • Printopia
  • Reeder
  • Sketch
  • SmartBackup
  • Soulver
  • Sound Studio
  • Sublime Text
  • TaskPaper
  • Tembo
  • TextExpander
  • TextSoap
  • TinyAlarm
  • Transmit
  • VidConvert
  • VoodooPad
  • VueScan
  • Webbla
  • xScope
  • Yoink

32 Bit Applications

  • Color Schemer Studio
  • CrashPlan
  • Dragon Dictate
  • Dropbox
  • Flare
  • Google Earth
  • HoudahSpot
  • iLife
  • iWork
  • Levelator
  • OmniOutliner Pro
  • Panorama Sheets
  • PhoneView
  • ScreenFlow
  • Scrivener
  • Skype
  • Syncman
  • ToastTitanium

I suspect most of my 32 bit apps will eventually become 64 bit apps. In any event they work well with Lion today.

If you think I’ve missed an essential app, please let me know.