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favorite Mac utilities

Most of us have a few utilities that make everyday computer use easier. Every time I have to work on somebody else's computer, it's like stumbling around on two left thumbs.

In rough order of indispensability:

Default Folder X
ClipboardHistory (or anything similar)
Plain Clip

Actually, I would rate the first three equally. It's impossible to prioritize them.

What makes digital life more bearable for you?

In random order:

URL Manager PRo
Little Snitch

I have DefaultFolder X and I guess I just don't get it. Could someone outline a use case that makes it indispensable?

Similar list:

TripMode (saves my data plan when working on the road)
TextExpander 5 (last non-subscription version)
A Better Finder Rename (forgot this one, since I use it only occasionally, but it is essential too)

I'd also add BBEdit; it gets used for all sorts of stuff, and it's usually the first utility I install on a new system.
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Carbon Copy Cloner
Little Snitch
Disk Warrior
FontExplorer X Pro

These get installed on everything.

I use NeoFinder on my main workhorse machine, and consider it essential.

I loved Now Utilities, later Action Utilities, back in the Classic day, especially Super Boomerang/Action Files. How does DefaultFolder X compare to Action Files? I tried it once, a long time ago, found it clunky, and have never gotten around to trying it again. Should I give it another shot?

I also miss QuicKeys from the Classic era. I have used Automator to replace the application launch commands that I used to set up with QuicKeys. They produced an OS X version of QuicKeys, but it seemed less capable and is long defunct. I was never able to get the X version to do any of the macros that Classic QuicKeys could handle so easily (but I’m willing to admit that my lack of success with it may have been a PEBKAC situation).

In no particular order:

Dropbox (limited to accessing online only)
Find Any File
Coconut Battery
Disk Warrior

I have DefaultFolder X and I guess I just don't get it. Could someone outline a use case that makes it indispensable?
1. Immediate access from the menubar to your most recently visited folders, listed in reverse chronological order. You can choose to open the folder in Finder or open a file within it from the submenu.

2. In its newest iteration, immediate access from the menubar to your most recently opened files, again listed in reverse chronological order — unlike Recent Items in the Apple menu, where they're listed alphabetically. If the name of the file I wanted to open again starts with "W", I would have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the list and pick it out from amongst others.

In both instances, this certainly beats going back to the Finder and opening multiple windows to get to the folder or file you wish to open.

At least in the work I do, where I have multiple clients, and multiple project folders within each client's folder, it's indispensable to me.

In random order:

URL Manager PRo
Little Snitch

I have DefaultFolder X and I guess I just don't get it. Could someone outline a use case that makes it indispensable?
Default Folder is handy when you are accessing lots of different files and folders. For a server where we have a lot of job folders which can be buried many levels deep, Default Folder greatly speeds up saving and opening files.

How do I love thee my tools. Let me count the ways.

Everyday use:
  • Shell Scripts - Used to open daily reading lists with one click and many other operations which are simple but require typing many words, e.g., set defaults. I have dozens, named for easy recognition of function and shared among systems using Dropbox.
  • 1Password - Acts as my personal external memory and more.
  • BBEdit - Edits almost anything, but sometimes I use TextEdit in plain text mode to clean up cut/paste operations.
  • Doug's AppleScripts for iTunes - especially Multi-Item Edit which enables metadata management my way rather than Apple's.
  • Keyboard Maestro - Has a steep learning curve, but is magical.
  • Dropbox - Does heavy lift multiplatform sharing of anything and everything.
  • Display Menu - Controls Mirroring and special resolutions.
  • USB Overdrive - Controls Microsoft Mouse buttons.
Tools used locally and/or in supporting others and not just Apple users:
  • SMART Utility - Used before every backup run and around any environment change.
  • Carbon Copy Cloner - Make regular local and offsite backup sets and special device or folder copies.
  • DiskWarrior - Does amazing recovery of HFS+ volumes with damaged directories.
  • WiFi Explorer - Displays the WiFi environment.
  • LanScan - Displays the connected systems on a LAN segment.
  • smcFanControl - Keeps my cool.
  • Little Snitch - Keeps me informed and blocks gamed.
  • Toast Titanium Pro - Handles optical media production and control, including virtual media.
  • Tools by Howard Oakley ( - This includes especially LockRattler, which makes up for App Store handling of Apple software updates, SystHist, which shows what updates were done, and Consolation, which enables understandable access to logs.
Some items are carpel tunnel stress removers, as in the daily reading lists which open dozens of windows with one click. 1Password allows me to have complex passwords distinct for each logon in a secure but easily accessed manner. Dropbox is the primary infrastructure for sharing. Some items, like WiFi Explorer, LanScan, and Dropbox, are equally useful in Windows or other OS environments.

The raison d'être for my tools collection includes, among other reasons:
  • I'm lazy and don't want to type or mouse over and over.
  • I'm forgetful and don't want to search for a command sequence again.
  • I am susceptible to repetitive stress and should not type or mouse over and over.
  • I'm suitably paranoid and need to securely access sites with sensitive information.
  • I need information to diagnose hardware, software, and network problems.
  • I'm lazy and frugal and don't want to print a lot of paper to carry around.
  • I beta test Apple software and don't want to fight with the App Store or

In no particular order (except 1Password, which definitely occupies the top spot): 1Password, Dropbox, Evernote, Carbon Copy Cloner, Typinator.

Forgot about Evernote: installed on everything, as is Evernote Web Clipper.
Strongly agree with Evernote Web Clipper. CopyLess 2 works well for clipboard history. I keep my and Google Keep in my first two browser tabs. After various random donations over the years to MacInTouch, I finally subscribed. MacInTouch is a great utility!

I also miss QuicKeys from the Classic era. I have used Automator to replace the application launch commands that I used to set up with QuicKeys. They produced an OS X version of QuicKeys, but it seemed less capable and is long defunct. I was never able to get the X version to do any of the macros that Classic QuicKeys could handle so easily (but I’m willing to admit that my lack of success with it may have been a PEBKAC situation).
I also was a very heavy user of QuicKeys for years and years. Used it on my Avid and had dozens and dozens of macros. Used it to open programs, string together commands in many applications, and replace mouse-only commands in Avid with keyboard keystrokes. I also, sadly, witnessed QuicKeys decline. A few years ago, after taking a big gulp, I switched over to Keyboard Maestro and haven't looked back. Of course, there's a bit of a learning curve, but there's a bit of learning curve with QuicKeys, too. The app is constantly being updated and revised and new features are being add all of the time. You won't be able to use one tenth of the features, but you won't have to. The most basic operations will probably take care of what you need. Peter Lewis, the developer, is very active and there's a great community there, too. There are a few different video tutorials online to get you started; some on the web site, and one or two at ScreenCasts online. My guess is that, if you're dedicated enough to master QuicKeys, you won't mind spending a few hours to get up and running on Keyboard Maestro. And it's my guess that it will be well worth your time.

If you do decide to switch over, come back and let us know how it went.

Here's my list:
1Password (it's always the first thing I install on a new system)
Dropbox (need it for 1Password syncing)
Find Any File
Keyboard Maestro
Carbon Copy Cloner
ff•Works (front end for ffmpeg)
Fission (for audio editing)
FoxTrot Personal Search (great for indexed searching, esp. email)
Hex Fiend
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Narrowing it down to two, I would have to say Cocktail, a Swiss army knife of utilities, and Cookie by SweetP Productions, clearly the best cookie manager there is.

I'm limiting my list to only utilities that no one else has mentioned:
  • Amphetamine
  • Apple AirPort Utility 5.6
  • Apple Disk Utility 13
  • iStat Menus
  • ManOpen
  • OmniDiskSweeper
  • Pacifist
  • TimeTracker

I'll list all the ones I use, since it's interesting to see how many of us use the same ones:

Little Snitch
yKey (formerly iKey, this languished for years, but has gotten updated)
Keyboard Maestro (for some function keys that iKey refuses to recognize)
Clear Day
Grand Perspective
Carbon Copy Cloner
Disk Warrior
TechTool Pro

When there is an option to do so, I'll donate for the use of utilities I use. I have a cheat sheet taped to the top of my keyboard which indicates what I have set the f-keys to do (my keyboard has 19 f-keys), and which modifier keys to hold down.

Interesting read. My faves.

Carbon Copy Cloner - in my opinion a must have for every Mac user
1Password - another must
Find Any File - way better than Spotlight (which went from useful to horrible in very quick time)
DiskWarrior - for those horrible moments that sometimes happen
AppleScript - we have hundreds of scripts running here daily
Little Snitch - can be annoying but also very handy

Honourable mention to Apple's own 'Text' utility under System Prefs/Keyboard. I previously used a typing expander, but this works pretty well and is built in.

I loved Default Folder back in the Mac OS 9 days - I've just downloaded it again and will try to like it. I think it was a bit 'awkward' in the early Mac OS X versions. Will also give Launchbar a go.

Path Finder is a funny one - I've tried about 5 times in the past and just can't 'click' with it.
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A few tools that come to mind that haven't gotten any mention yet:

MacVim - Vim editor adapted for Mac
OmniGraffle - Flowcharting program
OmniFocus - Individual Project Management
DevonThink Office Pro - Document Management, interfaces well with Fujitsu iX500 scanners, can also archive email.
DevonThink - The lighter version is for documents only, no scanning, no email import.

The tools I always use:

Compost. A great trash-management tool. Some functionality (e.g. Finder context menu) hasn't worked in a long time due to changes Apple made a long time ago, but the basic functionality still works great (although that will stop when Apple finally eliminates 32-bit software from macOS). I never have to worry about emptying trash. I just throw stuff in and when it fills up beyond some threshold, the last-trashed items get deleted, leaving everything else behind. The company handling distribution (and accepting payments) no longer exists, so you may have to contact the author ( directly to get a registration key if you find you like it.

Firefox. I really don't like any other web browsers. I have a core set of add-ons (hopefully that URL will work for you) that I usually install with it, especially:

iGlasses. A nice tool for playing with your web-camera's output. Tweak all kinds of settings (focus, gain, color balance) and novelty effects. I use it to brighten up the output on my iSight camera to avoid needing an extra light source in my office when I'm using FaceTime.

What makes digital life more bearable for you?
A list of both my (tech support + web) and my wife's (graphic design) stuff, not counting the obvious MS Office/Adobe CS (NOT CC!/)/web browsers/social media.

  • System > USB Overdrive
  • System > Malwarebytes
  • Carbon Copy Cloner
  • Critical Updates
  • DiskWarrior
  • Dropbox
  • FontNuke
  • Fujitsu ScanSnap
  • Handbrake
  • iStumbler
  • MacTracker
  • Name Mangler
  • Pacifist
  • Parallels Desktop
  • (Apple) Remote Desktop
  • (Apple) Screen Sharing (app)
  • SheepShaver
  • StarWatermark (now 64-bit, yay!)
  • Toast Titanium
  • VLC
  • XLD
Daily Apps:
  • BBEdit
  • FileMaker Pro
  • GraphicConverter
  • MacBreakZ
  • OfficeTime
  • Sequel Pro
  • Transmit
  • macOS Server (various services inc. Time Machine backups)
  • EasyDNS Dynamic DNS Client
  • Let's Encrypt
  • LingonX
  • iTunes Home Sharing
  • Plex
Some of the apps/utilities that I used to use all the time but have now gone the way of the dodo for various reasons:
  • AppleWorks
  • Cronnix
  • Hemera Photo-Objects
  • LogMeIn
  • MPEGStreamClip
  • Perian
  • PopCharX
  • Sidekick
  • SnapzPro
  • Stuffit Expander/Deluxe
  • TrimEnabler
  • X-Lite

Some more things come to mind as I continue to read the thread.
  • GPGTools ( - OpenPGP email signing and encryption (has a current security issue but that will be addressed later this week, their web site says, and there is a current workaround). All explained on the web site
  • S/MIME - which is built into Apple Mail (as well as Outlook, I don't know about other email clients). All you need is a (free) certificate, which you can get from

I managed to forget another utility that I use all the time on my workhorse system: FileMangler. It is so worth its modest cost. Every time I import a batch of images, I run the appropriate FileMangler preset to add a camera-identifying prefix to each file name and change the extension to lowercase. Huge time saver.

So my more accurate list of essential tools is:

Carbon Copy Cloner
Little Snitch
Disk Warrior
FontExplorer X Pro, or Suitcase Fusion on some older OS drives
Evernote and Evernote Web Clipper
Photo Transfer App (Mac OS and iOS)
Snow Leopard’s Disk Utility

I have Disk Sensei installed on my MBPs.

Essential, but so far, fortunately, not needed: ProSoft’s Data Rescue
Seldom needed but a life-saver on one horrible occasion: BatChmod

My Utilities and apps while running El Capitan:

Disk Utility 15.0
DiskWarrior 5
Drive Genius 5
Carbon Copy Cloner 5
SuperDuper! 3.1.6
CyberDuck 6.5.0
DriveDX 1.7.0

Plus daily/weekly mainstay routine and/or problem maintenance/troubleshooting and backup apps:

Mail 9.3
Pages 5.6.2
TextEdit 1.11
Preview 8.1
Adobe Photoshop Elements 10
Contacts 9.0
Calendar 8.0
EasyFind 4.9.3
NeoOffice 2015.12 Classic Edition
Safari 11.1
Firefox 60
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Oh, and I forgot one critical tool I install on all my computers (not just the Macs): GNU Emacs. I can't imagine computing without this piece of software.

Apple bundles Emacs with macOS, but theirs only works in a Terminal window, so I recommend not using that one. Instead, I recommend building/downloading a copy with full GUI integration. You can build it from scratch, or you can do it via Homebrew or MacPorts. Or you can download a pre-build binary. I prefer to build mine from scratch so I can micro-manage all of the configuration options, but for most people, downloading a binary should be sufficient.

I never install Flash (or any Adobe product for that matter) on any of my Macs because of the constant security issues they have.
I understand completely, and I don't install it on all of my systems, but there are some web sites I visit that need Flash. Using the Flash Block add-on in conjunction with Firefox's "ask to activate" feature allows me to use it where I need it and keep it disabled everywhere else.
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Very interesting to see what others use. I will probably try some out.

Daily use whether I know it or not:

1Password (always the top of the list)
One Key and FunctionFlip
BackBlaze (just works seamlessly in the background)

Onyx (backup prep)
Diskwarrior if needed (now updated to 5.1 but still can’t rebuild APFS disks)
BackBlaze (worth the peace of mind)

Others - I love to try out menu bar apps:
Scroll Reverser
Convert It
TG Pro (temperatures etc)
Smart Reporter and Smart Utility
ClamX AV Sentry
Cookie (great app)

Development Tools

I used to write stuff for myself in RealBasic (then renamed to Real Studio, now it's called Xojo ( It was reasonably priced at $300 and included desktop and console (CLI) development with foreign database connections.

Unfortunately, they have priced themselves out of reach for the hobbyist developer who wants to write the occasional database (PostgreSQL) apps for himself, at $448 for a one-year license renewal. The interesting thing is that you can write an app on your Mac and compile it (on the same Mac) to also run on Linux and Windows without modifications (fully cross-platform).

I also develop using PHP. The PHP version that comes with OS X is always a little behind, so I use Instruction on how to install are on their site.

And of course, I use an RDBMS. There are several; my choice has been PostgreSQL for the past 20 years. No royalties, no big corporations (like MySQL and Oracle), and it just plain works. In all the years I have had it on a laptop, not a single byte lost. I use the brew system to install it these days; before, I used to build it from source myself - it's up to you. You can get "brew" from
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Mine in no particular order:

Super Duper! for bootable clone backups along with incremental Time Machine backups to a separate disk.
EasyFind for file searches (especially on our networked drives at work). This works so much better than Spotlight.
Onyx for various maintenance tasks.
FinderPop for better Finder navigation. No longer actively developed and I will sorely miss this one when Apple finally breaks it totally. Been using it since MacOS 8 days. I have no idea what I'll be able to replace this with.
FontAgent Pro for general font management. I'm a graphic designer by trade and I manage a collection of more than 9000 font files including PostScript fonts going back to the early '90s.
FontNuke to clear font caches when things start looking wierd. That aforementioned font collection takes it's toll on the ol' cache files. FontNuke does a better job clearing them than anything else I've used.
Little Snitch, of course.
Grand Perspective to keep an eye on what's eating the most space on my drives.
Drop Box for non-local shared folders.

I was using XMarks (and FoxMarks before it) for bookmark syncronization across MacOS, Android and iOS but Last Pass just killed it. Anybody know of a good replacement that will sync across multiple browsers and platforms?
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I love this thread - thanks to all the contributors. Hello Rick LePage! Been reading you since MacWeek.

Third party utilities and tools I use often, if not daily, in loose order of importance

FastScripts, for attaching key commands to my Applescripts
DiskWarrior (still waiting on full APFS compatibility)
TechTool (still waiting on full APFS compatibility)
Dropbox, Box, OneDrive
Cyberduck, Mountain Duck
Carbon Copy Cloner
Parallels Desktop (app? utility?)

Indispensable Apple utils and tools:

Spotlight, mostly as a launcher but also for file searching - tell me why I should use LaunchBar
AirDrop, at least 2 or 3x / week
AppleScript, for scratching my personal itch; see FastScripts above
Activity Monitor - still use almost daily to kill runaway processes so common in High Sierra
Disk Utility, for cloning, disk images, basic disk maintenance
Maps (plus Handoff - very useful)
iTunes - hey, music is important!
MacOS Server, mostly for VPN access to my home network
AirPort Utility - time to upgrade my router, but still needed for AirPlay over Airport Express
Time Machine
iCloud - yes, it could be way better, but it’s still quite useful as is
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I have to put in a good word for Spark. Sort of like Keyboard Maestro, but free and simpler. I have it working on computers running Snow Leopard through High Sierra. I'd be lost without it.

I also find Wineskin very useful for those times I need to run a Windows program. Like the Windows versions of AppleWorks or the Airport Utility, for example.
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How do I love thee my tools. Let me count the ways...
How soon we forget -- at least I forgot these, among others:
  • Find Any File -- If you can type the name, it will find it.
  • EtreCheck -- Tells me what kexts are loaded, and lots more.
  • GraphicConverter -- It's like a Swiss Army Knife for graphics.
  • Canvas Draw for Mac -- Best drawing tool ever. I use it a lot for network drawings.
  • Pacifist -- Like a can opener for packages.
  • MacTracker -- Tells me about everything Apple.
  • VLC -- Plays almost anything, but wants to own the media.
  • GPGMail -- Use this for signing (non-repudiation).
  • A Better Finder Attributes -- Fixes metada.
  • A Better Finder Rename -- Really nice for flexible batch changes.
Of course I use Apple utilities. The technical ones include Airport Utility, Disk Utility, diskutil (mostly via shell scripts), and Screen Sharing. But I am concentrating on third-party utilities, so I won't list the contents of all those hidden directories with their magical commands.

On a personal level, EyeTV has been wonderful at letting me keep up with This Old House and the like, recording from antenna to hard drive for later viewing. It is unfortunate that Geniatech has removed support for Silicon Dust's HDHome Run receivers. No other recording program has the simple program listing and recording control of EyeTV. I shall miss it when the old version still in use fails under future macOS versions.
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...I was using XMarks (and FoxMarks before it) for bookmark syncronization across MacOS, Android and iOS but Last Pass just killed it. Anybody know of a good replacement that will sync across multiple browsers and platforms?
For bookmarking URLs across platforms I use I keep it in a tab in the Chrome browser on my Mac. On iOS I have an app called Pushpin and on Android there is a Pinboard app. All very rugged with excellent tagging and notes. For the very few times there have ever been issues, the developer posts updates on Twitter at @Pinboard. No connection, except for being an extremely pleased user for many years.
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