A note from Rach Smith's digital garden

The must-have utility apps I use every day on my Macbook Pro

Added: May 29, 2021

Tags: productivity work

Recently I returned to work after 6 months of leave and as our Dev environment had changed dramatically since then, I formatted my computer. Whenever I have to start from scratch on a Mac, I am reminded just how much I rely on various utility Apps throughout my day. So here is the list of my must-have and nice-to-have apps and services.

Must-have apps


Usually the first thing I do on a fresh Mac is install Chrome. The second thing I do is install the 1Password extension for Chrome. I can’t live without my password manager!


My friend Marie Mosley introduced me to TextExpander years ago as a more efficient way to respond to Customer Support emails, but I have grown used to using it all over the place. Now I have snippets for my email addresses and other personal contact details. I have some fancy date math snippets that can help me create Weekly Notion document titles (e.g. “6 May - 15 May, 2021”). My most frequently used snippet is probably clg which dumps out console.log() with the cursor positioned within the brackets. I could put my coding related snippets in Visual Studio Code but I find the TextExpander expansion to be way snappier.

CleanShot X

I am constantly taking screenshots and pasting them in to CodePen’s Notion and Slack workspaces throughout my day. Cloud-based Screenshot tools like this save so much time. I used Droplr for years and it did a great job but I’m a sucker for the pretty UI in CleanShot. I also like how you can customize it to do many things (copy to clipboard, upload to the cloud etc.) automatically after you take the shot.

Alfred 4

Maybe it is better these days, but I just could not with MacOS’s Spotlight search a few years ago. It was garbage. I installed Alfred as a replacement and have never looked back. I probably don’t take full advantage of Alfred as there are so many cool things you can do with it besides replacing Spotlight with something that actually works well. One thing I love is the clipboard history, so I can copy several pieces of text and then paste them in the order I need. At one point to start the CodePen dev environment you needed to open several terminal windows and run a bunch of commands, so I had an Alfred Workflow that automated all of that for me.


This app lets you arrange your windows using keyboard commands. An absolute must when you’re using an ultra-wide monitor.

Nice-to-have apps


This little tool cleans up your menu bar and lets you hide icons when you’re not actually using the menu bar. You’re either someone who thinks this is worth caring about, or not. I am in the first category.

Keyboard Maestro

This app helps you automate any manual action you take on your Mac. My favourite three Macros:

  • arrange all my App windows how I like them for work on my big monitor. I have a particular side I like them to sit on, e.g. Chrome on the left while VSCode is on the right.
  • arrange all my App windows to full screen when I take my MBP off the monitor.
  • exit all applications.


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