Top Apps for Productivity in MacOS

September 04, 2019

As developers, we use different apps every day to get the job done. Finding a good tool is worth its weight in gold if it can make you more productive and efficient. Today I’m going to go over some of my favorite tools for MacOS.

1. Alfred

Price: free with paid option for expanded customization features (£23.00/~$28.00)

Alfred is a tool I use every day. It has so much packed in that I can’t even cover all of it in this post – but investing a little time here to familiarize yourself with Alfred will pay off big time down the road.

alfred math

Alfred is like spotlight search on steroids – it knows how to do all kinds of useful things like calculating numbers, searching google and your local filesystem and it’s incredibly extensible. Alfred has many workflows you can install that the community creates which can add a whole new layer of power to the app with custom code!

alfred workflow

There are workflows for converting common units like miles and kilometers, opening specific apps with special arguments (for example, opening the terminal in the current finder window) and just about anything else you can think of, since you can write your own workflows in your language of choice.

alfred create custom workflow

2. Spectacle

Price: free
Spectacle is an open source app from github user Eric Czarny

Spectacle does one thing really well – it organizes your windows with keyboard shortcuts. That’s it! here’s what that looks like

spectacle example

Spectacle can even move apps across different monitors!

I’ve remapped it to use the vim movement keys (h j k l) for super intuitive resizing and movement.

3. Sensible Side Buttons

Price: free

Sensible Side Buttons is an open source app from github user archagon

If you use an external mouse with ‘back’ and ‘forward’ buttons, this app makes those buttons work as you would expect in MacOS

the best mouse ever made by man

To ensure SensibleSideButtons opens whenever you start your computer:

  1. Go to System Preferences
  2. Click Users & Groups
  3. Click your username in the left panel
  4. Click Login Items at the top
  5. Click the plus button at the bottom
  6. Go to wherever you put the app (probably your Applications folder) and double-click it

4. Quick Look Tools

Price: free

An open source collection from github user Sindresorhus
This isn’t so much a single app as a series of extensions to the built in MacOX quick look/preview and there’s a bunch of really great stuff in here

json syntax highlighting

  • QLColorCode – Preview source code files with syntax highlighting
  • QLStephen – Preview plain text files without or with unknown file extension. Example: README, CHANGELOG, index.styl, etc.
  • QLMarkdown – Preview Markdown files
  • QuickLookJSON – Preview JSON files
  • BetterZipQL – Preview archives Note: The BetterZipQL plugin was integrated with the BetterZip app
  • qlImageSize – Display image size and resolution
  • Suspicious Package – Preview the contents of a standard Apple installer package
  • QuickLookASE – Preview Adobe ASE Color Swatches generated with Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Color CCSpectrumCOLOURloversPrisma, among many others
  • QLVideo – Preview most types of video files, as well as their thumbnails, cover art and metadata

5. Dozer

Price: free

Dozer is an open source app from github user Mortennn
If you run enough apps, the menu bar can get too cluttered to even use – this really kills my productivity when there are so many icons

an ugly menu bar

Dozer is a free app that lets you hide all of these icons when you don’t need them

dozer's options menu

a beautiful menu bar – good job!

A simple utility that really cleans everything up nicely.

6. Alacritty

Price: free

An open source project by github user jwilm
I’ve been a diehard iTerm user for a long time, but Alacritty is obligatory at this point – it’s such a good piece of software. There are fewer options and ‘fluffy’ features than iTerm, but at its core Alacritty is a rock solid blazing fast terminal. It makes tmux and vim (two tools I am incredibly fond of) a pleasure to use with almost no input delay. It also looks great and supports all platforms, something iTerm doesn’t even try to do.

mmmm, terminals

These are some of the tools I use every day. Please leave a comment or share this post if you found something useful here.


Trevor Atlas

👋 Hello,

My name is Trevor Atlas – I'm a Software Developer and Designer based in Washington, DC

For nearly 6 years, I've worked at agencies and startups building functional and intuitive interfaces, flexible and robust services and powerful mobile applications.

When I'm not building user interfaces in React, most of my day-to-day work involves microservices in AWS using Terraform to scaffold infrastructure, Typescript and Go for application logic and Postgres/Redis as a data store. I've also been working on mobile applications with React Native and Expo.