If you feel like your daily computer grind could use a little oomph, we’ve got some. A handful of these add-ons can make tasks that were previously awkward at best a breeze. Most of these tools for OS X are free and the rest are cheap—and all of them are essentials in our book.
We’re used to copying and pasting one item at a time—that’s just the way it works. But imagine if your computer’s capacity for recall worked a little more like your brain’s working memory, scrolling through recently relevant items and surfacing the one you need.
That’s exactly what Jumpcut does. There are a few apps out there that expand your Mac’s inherent copy/paste skills, but Jumpcut is elegant, simple and so well executed that your fingers will rely on its custom shortcuts within minutes. Conjure up Jumpcut’s menu, a transparent overlay triggered by a keyboard command (in my case Command + S), and you’ll be able to scroll through a hundred items, like handy URLs, email addresses and passwords that you might need at your fingertips.
More of a platform than a single purpose add-on, Growl enables customized notifications for everything from Messages to Spotify. If you’re not content with OS X’s built-in notifications sidebar—and why should you be?—power up Growl and decide exactly how you want to be notified of the endless cascade of potential social and app data that streams your way.
Decide how each pop-up will act: where it will appear, what sounds it will make when and what exactly what those should look like. If you’re a multitasker, especially on a notebook, this one is indispensable.
If you’re working with a limited amount of screen real estate, BetterSnapTool makes organizing your windows a breeze. At the simplest level, this Mac add-on/app lets you divvy your screen into two instantly. Once you’ve defined the parameters of how you like your windows arranged—maybe a half-and-half or quadrant array is far too basic for your needs—you can click and drag windows to “hot spots” that will snap them into place without any fiddling around trying to bend a window to your spatial will.
Much like some people always properly pair their socks or maintain inbox zero, some among us keep their desktops entirely free of clutter. If you are not among their ranks, this add-on will let you fool yourself into thinking you are.
Which, as it turns out, feels great. If you have a melange of screenshots, random unidentifiable files and other flotsam colonizing your precious desktop territory, enable Camouflage and poof—it’s gone. Well, until you need it, that is.
When you need some peace of mind, toggle Camouflage on with a shortcut and your desktop mess with be replaced with a delightfully stuff-free overlay. When you’re ready to deal with your digital hoarding, just toggle it back on. Or don’t.
If you’re not a Spotlight fan, Found might be for you. Spotlight never really seems to dredge up the files I wanted, so in a fit of annoyance I disabled it with Terminal’s command line. Happily, Found is considerably smarter than Mac’s native file hunter. Like many of the tools on this list, Found can be triggered by a custom keyboard shortcut and trained to shuffle through your files in services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Gmail and Evernote. Happy hunting.
We can deny the deleterious effects of staring at a glowing rectangle all day, but unfortunately, the fact of eye strain remains. If you get a sense of visual fatigue (or worse, headaches) from gazing into your Mac’s glowing abyss, Flux is your answer.
Natural light—you know, from the sun—varies throughout the day. Flux adjusts your display’s color temperature in relation to the time of day, taking sunrise and sunset into account. Maybe that otherworldly blue glow won’t ruin you after all.
If tabs are on the verge of driving you to madness, Fluid might be for you. It’s not always perfect, but Fluid is a quick and dirty solution for turning a URL into a standalone app of sorts.
Personally, I like to keep some sites handy all day, but leaving the tab open in my browser just adds to the mental burden of things I need to get to. With Fluid, you can transform any website into something your Mac will treat like an app, dock shortcut and all. Then instead of hunting through your browser maze, you can just Command + Tab your way to the stuff you need most.
Mac’s gestures and touch cues are awesome, but they don’t always act exactly the way we wish they did. Enter BetterTouchTool, a lightweight app that lets you remap everything on your trackpad, mouse, keyboard or any other input device. Want to tap to click with your Magic Mouse or remap three finger swipe on your MacBook? Consider it done. BetterTouchTool’s interface is a little overwhelming at first, but it’s chock full of versatility.
Notify is an excellent solution if you like to have your inbox at hand but not in the way—and man, does email love to get in the way. A featherweight app that lives in your upper right toolbar, Notify gives you the at-a-glance peace of mind that you haven’t missed that one critical email. If you’d prefer to err on the in-the-loop side, plug Notify into Growl and get pop-up previews and sound notifications every time a new email sails your way. Notify, no longer updated by its developer, may not play as nicely with newer version of OS X, but personally we’ve had no problems. If you’re looking for an alternative, there are plenty out there (Google Notifier, for one), but your mileage may vary.
10. Skitch (screenshots, image capture)
Skitch is a well-loved app, with good reason. An extremely lightweight imaging app, Skitch is the perfect solution for capturing what’s on your screen, sizing it down, and sending it off somewhere. It performs the most essential, quick image edits with ease, saving you the time and computing power it takes to fire up Photoshop.
Skitch now integrates with Evernote, so you can swipe anything on your screen and sync it for posterity. Personally, we prefer the old version of Skitch, which is still available for download if you know where to look.
Lead image by Madeleine Weiss for ReadWrite