Essential Mac Add-on Apps

Updated July 22nd, 2019.

Whenever I set up a Mac I always advise adding three great apps that make using a Mac easier, faster, and just plain nicer. Those apps are Moom, Paste, and Alfred, and to me, they’re essential. Try them out and I think you’ll agree.


Moom icon
This is the Moom icon

The name “Moom” comes from “Move and Zoom,” which is what this app does. This is way, way faster than dragging the edges of windows to resize them and then, in a separate step, dragging them to position. If you routinely have to shuffle windows around, Moom will save you a ton of time and trouble.

Install Moom, launch it, and from then on those red, yellow and green dots at the top left of you Mac’s windows gain new functionality. With Moom, just hover over the green “zoom” button to reveal a menu, like this:

Moom menu
Moom menu, after hovering over a window’s green Zoom button

Across the top of the Moom menu you see buttons for full screen, left half, right half, top half, and bottom half– and if you click on any of those, the window snaps to that position– moving, and zooming, nice as you please. If you want to set a custom size just click and drag on the grid to show how large you’d like the window to be, and where you’d like the top left corner. Note that Moom‘s “full screen” is different than the Mac’s built-in full screen, because Moom‘s full screen doesn’t hide the menu bar.

So, to use Moom, you point to any window’s green button, you wait just an instant for the Moom menu to appear, and then you either click a full screen/half screen shortcut button, or you click and drag to position a window anywhere you like, at the size you specify. You can also use keyboard shortcuts if that’s your preference.

If you’re lucky enough to have two screens, Moom can help you move windows from one screen to the other by dragging or by keyboard shortcuts. I like using the mouse with Moom most of the time, but when it comes to moving windows from one screen to another I prefer using keyboard shortcuts (like Command-Control-left arrow to send a window to the screen on the left, and to zoom it to full size). Dave, I’m talking to you!

Get Moom on the Mac App Store.


Paste app's icon
This is Paste’s icon

Paste is one of those things you don’t know you need, but once installed you don’t know how you lived without it. In a nutshell, Paste remembers everything you copy (or cut), creating a kind of scrapbook of clippings that can be pasted later (anywhere, at any time, in any order). I use Paste all the time when scooping up URLs that I want to send in an email, and when writing blog posts, and when adding pictures to Messages, and a whole lot of other times too. Paste is lovely to look at, lovely to use, and it will speed up your work big-time.

To use Paste, you simply copy and cut as you always have (Command-C and Command-X, or Edit/Copy and Edit/Cut). That part stays the same. Then, when you want to have a look at what you’ve copied, you press your keyboard shortcut (mine’s Control-P, for “Paste”) and up pops a window showing all the stuff you’ve copied (or cut). Newer stuff is at the left.

If all Paste did was show you the Clipboard’s current contents it would still be worth installing. How many times have you wondered “Did I copy xyz, or not?” With Paste, you could see whether you had.

Paste's screen, showing four copied items
Paste’s screen, showing four items

I “discovered” Paste only this year, but it quickly found a place on all of my Macs. I think you’ll love it. Get Paste on the Mac App Store.

(You can read more about Paste in my longer article devoted to it.)


Alfred app's icon
This is Alfred’s icon.

Alfred is a keyboard-loving efficiency afficianado’s best friend. With a couple of keystrokes you can:

  1. Open an application
  2. Look up a contact
  3. Find a file
  4. Search the web
  5. Do a little math

And much, much more. It saves gobs of mousing-around time and it’s another one of those “how did I live without this?” items.

Alfred‘s preferences let you assign a keyboard shortcut for popping up the Alfred window. I use Control-Spacebar because it’s similar to Spotlight’s Command-Spacebar. When you press the shortcut, up pops the Alfred window:

Alfred's search window
Alfred’s search window

Type a little and a list of items matching what you’ve typed shows up. Not seeing what you want? Type a little more. Launch the item by clicking on it, or (faster) press the keys shown to the right of the item. For example:

Alfred, after I've typed a single letter ("r")
Alfred, after I’ve typed a single letter (“r”)

I’m looking to launch Reminders, not Remote Desktop, and I could open Reminders by pressing Command-3. But, if I just type a little more, I can hit Return to open Reminders, and that’s a little easier (for me).

Alfred, after typing in "remi"
Alfred, after typing in “remi”

Here’s another example. Let’s say I want to see the contact card for my friend Tom Sumner. I bring up
Alfred‘s window and I type in “tom.” Here’s what I get:

Alfred, after typing in "tom"
Alfred, after typing in “tom”

You don’t even see Tom Sumner (because he’s not in the top ten, according to Alfred). But, if I type a little more (“tom s”) I see it, and if I then hit Return, up pops Tom Sumner’s contact card.

Alfred, after I typed "tom s"
Alfred, after I typed “tom s”

Here’s the really cool thing: Alfred learns! From now on, when I type “tom” in Alfred’s box, Alfred shows Tom Sumner at the top of the list (until I choose some other Tom in the list).

Alfred remembers your preferences
Alfred remembers your preferences

This “learning” is what makes Alfred so powerful. The more you use it, the more it knows about you and your preferences. (After typing in “remi” and hitting Return, Alfred learned that I sometimes use Reminders, so the next time I even type in an “r” it shows me Reminders at the top of the list.)

You can get Alfred for free from the developer. (The version on the Mac App Store is no longer current, so don’t get that one.) You can also buy the “Power Pack” and gain super-powers– that’s what I did, so now I can pop up Alfred‘s window and then type “blog” and have it open a new Safari window and go straight to the administration page for my website, and a lot of other cool stuff too.

Copyright 2008-2023 Christian Boyce. All rights reserved.

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2 thoughts on “Essential Mac Add-on Apps

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  1. Alfred can do what Paste does. Just turn on clipboard history in settings and set the keyboard shortcut you want to use to summon the list of clippings.

    1. Yes it can, and I am a big Alfred fan. I use it on all of my Macs. Paste’s clipboard history is so pretty visually that I give it the nod over Alfred. I have both apps installed and I use both all the time.

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