The 24 best Mac App Store apps for your new MacBook or iMac

Photo editors, music apps, tools for writing, and office stuff for being all productive. This is what to install first on your new Mac

Your brand new Mac has booted up and is sitting there, expecting something to happen. What next?

You could do something boring, like setting up email (yawn) or typing a letter (bleh). Instead, have some fun, with Stuff’s pick of the Mac App Store’s finest creative apps for photos, videos, music and writing. 

And then set up your email and such anyway, because that’s quite important. But you need the right apps for those things, too.

Pixelmator Pro

Imagine a refined, modern Photoshop with some cool black threads and that’s Pixelmator Pro in a nutshell. It’s easy to use, but feature-rich, with a great combination of drawing tools, editing options, and stunning visual effects.

Want something cheaper and simpler? The original Pixelmator’s still on sale for 29 quid.

Buy Pixelmator Pro (£54.99)

Affinity Designer

One for arty types, Affinity Designer is a buttery smooth app for getting your vectors on, whether you’re smashing out a logo or working hard on some cutting-edge illustration. It feels like what Illustrator could be without the flab, and is an unmissable bargain at a shade under 50 quid.

Buy Affinity Designer (£48.99)

Affinity Photo

If Pixelmator Pro doesn’t quite float your boat, yet you still hanker for something Photoshopish on your new Mac, Designer’s sibling is a superb choice. Affinity Photo is packed full of high-end tools and features for creating, processing and retouching images, all housed within a sleek and usable interface. 

Buy Affinity Photo (£48.99)

Flare 2

Flare 2’s sneaky. Load a photo and it feels like a one-click iPhone filter app, albeit one with pretty amazing filters. But access the edit section and suddenly there are loads of sliders - you can fine-tune everything, creating every kind of custom photo effect imaginable.

Buy Flare 2 (£9.99)

Comic Life 3

ZOK! KAPOW! and BIF! your way to something a million times better than a Facebook album, by transforming pictures of family and friends into comic strips. Get your words straight in the script editor, before adding photos, comic filters, speech balloons and sound effects. VOOOOOM!

Buy Comic Life 3 (£28.99)

Final Cut Pro

iMovie? Pfft. A mere abacus next to the supercomputer that is Final Cut Pro. Fast and powerful, this is the app you want to be using to edit your home movies, even if it’s probably overkill in the same way you don’t really need that iPhone X for playing Pokémon GO.

Buy Final Cut Pro (£299.99)

DM1

UNCH! UNCH! UNCH! UNCH! Over 100 drum kits lurk within DM1, ready to assault your ears. But this is more than a mere noise-maker; with the step-sequencer and song composer, you can craft songs for export or just make a noise that happens to be a bit more coherent. UNCH! UNCH! UNCH! UNCH!

Buy DM1 (£9.99)

djay Pro 2

Yes, it would all be lovely if everyone was surrounded by piles of vinyl, but they’re not. But don’t despair, budding DJ, because with this app you can beat-match, cross-fade and add irritating phasing effects to your heart’s content. And if you don’t want to do the hard work yourself, fire up the Automix AI.

Buy djay Pro 2 (£48.99)

Logic Pro X

If you fancy yourself as a chart-troubler, this is the app to get you there. Logic Pro X gives you all the tools to make beautiful music (or a horrible dirge): virtual drummers; loads of digital instruments; amps; effects; loops; samples; even auto-tune. (Just go easy on the auto-tune, OK?)

Buy Logic Pro X (£199.99)

Sound Studio

Although it’s had a wallop from an ugly stick, Sound Studio’s long been a popular Mac audio app – and for good reason. For relatively little outlay, you get a whole host of tools for digitising and editing audio, tweaking fades, effects and levels to perfection.

Buy Sound Studio (£28.99)

Capo 3

Capo enables you to slow down any song without affecting its pitch, and loop bits so you can nail tricky guitar riffs. You can also isolate specific instruments, draw on a spectrogram to build the notes you’re hearing, and have the app guess the chords being played. To be more helpful, this app would have to play the guitar for you. 

Buy Capo 3 (£48.99)

VOX

iTunes is bloated, clunky and treats certain audio formats like something smelly you might step on in the street. VOX plays FLAC, can pull files from NAS devices, integrates with SoundCloud, and has the kind of drag-and-drop support loved by old-schoolers angry at iTunes’s continual meddling.

Download VOX (£free + IAP)

Scrivener 3

They say everyone has a book in them. Scrivener 3 can help you get it out. It’s a hugely powerful writing tool, for hammering out drafts, rearranging text, stashing notes and research, and then exporting the entire lot to PDF, EPUB or plain old text. The app will also sync with the excellent iOS version.

Buy Scrivener (£43.99)

iA Writer

Something snapped in the Mac universe at some point - maybe one too many buttons got added to Word. But either you went Scrivener or totally minimal; IA Writer is the best of the latter kind of writing app - great for quick posts and articles, and with iCloud storaage smarts and a brilliantly designed two-up Markdown preview mode.

Buy iA Writer (£19.99)

Ulysses

Sort of half-way between Scrivener and iA Writer, Ulysses wants to be a repository for all your writing. There’s a minimal full-screen mode, but slide open the sidebars and you gain access to a library of everything you’ve ever written in the app, which can be arranged, compiled and exported. Ulysses also seamlessly syncs with its iOS sibling.

Buy Ulysses (£free + subscription IAP)

MindNode 5

Flowcharts and mind-maps might seem like something dull people do in boardrooms, but they’re a great way to organise thoughts, whatever you’re working on. MindNode 5 is superb for visually representing ideas, connecting thoughts, and outputting your genius to share with others. Or being boring and creating an org chart.

Buy MindNode 5 (£free + one-off £38.99 IAP)

Xcode

This one’s about writing code rather than words. If you’re not overly thrilled with the apps you’re using, make one of your own in Apple’s free IDE, packed full of professional tools for designing, building and testing the next Mac App Store classic.

Download Xcode (£free)

Soulver

Yes, we’ve added a calculator to this list, but bear with us, because Soulver is brilliant and more like writing with numbers. You jot down sums, with numbers in context, and they’re totted up. Answers can be re-used as live tokens, leaving you with a live, reusable calculation. Geeky? A bit. Essential and hugely useful? Definitely.

Download Soulver (£11.99)

Airmail 3

Yes, we know that macOS comes with Mail built in, but Airmail offers you something a bit different. You can compose email in Markdown or HTML, and incoming messages can be marked as todos, or snoozed until later if you don’t fancy dealing with them right away. It’ll also happily integrate with other apps, for example to link emails to events in the likes of Fantastical – which is the next item on this list…

Download Airmail 3 (£9.99)

Fantastical 2

Yes, we know that macOS also comes with a calendar app, but Fantastical is so much better than Apple’s one. The main window twins the calendar view with a scrolling list of events, and you can quickly see what’s coming up via a status menu. Best of all, Fantastical uses natural language for new events, building them before your eyes as you enter new details.

Download Fantastical 2 (£48.99)

Cardhop

After the two previous entries, you know where we’re going with this one. Apple’s Contacts? Pfft! Cardhop takes the data and shoves it inside a contacts app you’ll actually want to use. It sits in the menu bar, makes it a cinch to search and add new contacts, and provides handy action buttons when you fancy giving someone a call or sending them random emoji.

Download Cardhop (£14.99)

Pastebot

We’re not knocking copy and paste, but it’s all a bit 1984. Pastebot brings the concept kicking and screaming into the present. You get multiple clipboards, iCloud sync, custom pasteboard clippings, and powerful filters – ideal for anyone who spends far more time than they’d like knocking Markdown or HTML into shape.

Download Pastebot (£9.99)

Typeeto

Bit of a weird one, this, in that it turns your Mac keyboard into a Bluetooth keyboard for any of your nearby iOS devices. So now you don’t need to buy that expensive iPad keyboard. Well, assuming you mostly type on your iPad when it’s near your Mac. (Still: this one is handy for cutting down on home office clutter, and typing on an iPhone without pecking at its tiny virtual keys.)

Download Typeeto (£9.99)

Moom

Although macOS will let you arrange windows in full-screen and Split View, that’s your lot when it comes to managing the things. Enter: Moom. With this utility installed, you can arrange windows using keyboard shortcuts, by dragging them to a display edge, or even by drawing a box on the screen to say where you want the current one to move.

Download Moom (£9.99)