So, you decided to take the plunge and make the switch to Mac. Congratulations. While I am a big fan of both Mac and PC (I’m a computer nerd, after all), there are many great reasons to choose a Mac. In fact, if your experience with computers is somewhat on the novice side of the fence, then I would definitely recommend a Mac for your next computer despite all the competing high-end Windows based laptops. There are many reasons for this, but that is a discussion for another day.
Today, I want to focus on new Mac users that just recently made the switch from PC to Mac. While there is a lot of great software installed right out of the box, you are going to need other software to compliment it and provide you with the best user experience. Today, let’s examine some of the software you should download and install on your Mac to make your new user experience the best it possibly can be.
To help keep things organized, I have sorted these apps into different sections. Hopefully, this will help you keep track of what you need to download on your new Mac. Many of these apps are available for free although there are a few apps that you will have to buy in order to use.
The leading free office software out there, LibreOffice is easy to use and features all the apps that you will need. Create presentations, edit spreadsheets, or compose documents that are fully compatible with Microsoft Office all without having to pay a dime. This software isn’t as old as some of the free Office suites out there, but it is definitely the best. If you want Office but don’t want to pay for it, this is your best option.
I’m sure most of you would prefer I didn’t mention the evil Microsoft in this post. However, the fact is they make some great software today and have softened their stance on other platforms. Today, Microsoft Office has been designed and optimized for macOS so it runs well and seamlessly inside the operating system. If you need to use your Mac to create spreadsheets, documents and more and you need to make sure you are compatible with PC users, this is by far your best option. You can purchase a full version if you like, or go with a subscription to Office 365 in order to get the apps. Which you choose is largely up to you, as both work very well on the Mac today.
Dropbox was one of the first to offer cloud storage, and today they are considered one of the industry leaders. With software compatible with all platforms, including the Mac, you can easily install the app and sync your files to the cloud so you can access them from anywhere, even your iPhone. If you want to simplify your digital life, cloud storage is a good first step. If you use multiple systems, then consider Dropbox. Chances are it makes software for all of them.
OneDrive is Microsoft’s answer to Dropbox and Google Drive. OneDrive is designed to work seamlessly with Microsoft’s apps and software, but there is a Mac version as well that works almost as well. On top of that, if you use Microsoft Office, then you may want to consider OneDrive as your cloud storage option. Office easily connects and uses OneDrive so you don’t even have to think about it when you save your files. Personally, if you use Microsoft and Apple products at the same time, then this may be the best option as it will work well across those platforms without much setup on your part.
Google Drive is Google’s answer to cloud storage, and it is designed to function seamlessly with Google’s set of apps. So, if you use Google Chrome, or Google’s Office suite, then you may want to give this one a try. It is easy to safe files straight to your Drive and with a few apps that are cross platform compatible, you can access your files from pretty much anywhere you happen to be. The Mac app integrates well with macOS, so you won’t have any weird interface issues if you do choose to use Google’s storage options.
Chrome is the fastest browser around, and if you love Google apps you will love this browser as well. Currently, it is the leader in the browser wars, mainly because of all the features built into the browser. You can easily extend the power of the browser using the Chrome store adding all types of functionality. Do you hate ads on websites? No problem. There is an extension for that. You can even build the weather right into your browser if that’s what you like. It’s fast, secure, and just a pleasure to use. Personally I think everyone should download Chrome and use it as it is simply hard to beat today.
Another great browser option out there, Firefox first rose from the ashes of Netscape. How many of you remember Netscape? Firefox was one of the first alternatives to Internet Explorer in the early days and while it has lost some luster to Chrome, it is still a safe and secure browser that is great to use. While Google may have expanded the idea of apps built into the browser, it was Firefox that started it all. Today, there are all types of ways to extend the power of Firefox. However, not as many as can be found for Chrome. If you aren’t a fan of Google, then this is definitely the browser for you.
Chat and Instant Messaging
How many chat applications do you use? Instead of installing all of the different options out there, why not use one application that can connect to them all? Adium will connect to many different instant messaging networks including Yahoo Messenger, AoL Messenger, and many more. You can easily manage your connects across all the networks so you don’t have to worry about opening several different apps at once just because you want to chat with your friends online.
If you love making VoIP calls, then Skype is definitely the app for you. The free account will allow you to make calls over the Internet with ease, but if you pay a monthly fee you can even call people on their cell phones and land lines. On top of that, it has been combined with the Microsoft Messenger apps to give you great chat and instant messaging functions all in one app. Personally, this is my go to app for Internet calling and chatting, and it could be yours as well.
Music, Video, Pictures
Do you enjoy watching movies and television shows that you have downloaded on your computer? If so, then you definitely need VLC Player. This player will literally play anything that you throw at it. Personally, I have never found a video it wouldn’t play. The interface is clean and easy to use and it will even help you create your very own library so you can watch your favorite movies and music whenever you want. While your Mac comes equipped with Quicktime for movie watching, I highly suggest you switch it to VLC. In the end, you will get much more usage out of it compared to the default player built into macOS.
There are many great music streaming services out there, including one provided through iTunes. Still, for my money I still go with Spotify. It was one of the first to introduce streaming music for no monthly fee. All you had to do was listen to an ad or two. At the same time, you can pay a monthly fee and shed those ads. It will also let you download music and listen to it anywhere. If you love listening to music while you are working on your Mac, a highly suggest giving Spotify a try. If you are like me you will use the free version for a while and then upgrade to the premium account for the extra features.
If you only edit photos as a hobby and you don’t need complicated image creation tools, then Pixelmator may be just what you need. Sure, Apple’s Photos app does let you make some basic edits to your images, Pixelmator offers much more. Think of it as a half way point between Photos and Photoshop. If you want a little more control but need something easy to use with more features that Photos, this is definitely the right choice for you.
The industry leader and standard in photo editing and image creation, Adobe Photoshop is not cheap. However, if you are really into photo editing or it is part of your profession, then picking up this one will be worth it. Overall, it isn’t too hard to use, although it is professional grade software, so the many features will take you some time to master if you are new to the software. Despite the cost, this is without a doubt the very best photo editing software on the market today.
Originally known as XBMC, this software was originally designed to transform the Xbox into a home theater system. Today, it has really evolved into something new. With versions that work across all platforms, including a Mac, you can easily turn your Mac into a home theater system. This works really well with a Mac Mini, by the way. In fact, I have a Mac Mini that I have used just for this. If you want to stream content to your television through your computer, then this is a great way to do it.
Do you need a better way to manage your library of movies and television and you want something that can stream to multiple devices in your home? Then may I suggest Plex. It features a great server software that will install on your Mac and then stream to all types of devices on your home network including computers, tablets, smartphones and even your Xbox One. The interface is easy to use and it will automatically download information about your movies without you having to work hard for it. Make your digital media management even easier with Plex.
Apple installs many great apps with their operating system, including apps such as iMessage, Maps, and Photos. Even its default browser, Safari, is a great addition to the OS. Still, there are many other apps you will need to complete your user experience. I think you will find this list is a great way to get you started on your journey into the world of Apple. While it is by no means complete, there is enough here to cover all your bases. I encourage you to explore and test other apps as well. Many of them are free thanks to its UNIX roots, so there really is no reason why shouldn’t give them a try.
What do you think of this list I have made for new users? Did I leave anything out? If so, let me know what you think should be added in the comments below. Who knows, perhaps I will update it with your suggestions.
About the author
Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing for LaptopNinja where he enjoys talking about everything tech.