10 best Mac OS X add-ons to get more done

Get productive with these great utilities, apps and applets

Get more from your Mac

Apple has always had a very definite idea about how you should go about doing things. Typically, its operating systems have been stripped back, lacking the slew of options and configuration settings power users tend to like.

From a stability and usability standpoint, this can be a good thing, but OS X can sometimes also feel restrictive.

Fortunately, Mac developers are always on the case, providing add-ons and system utilities that boost productivity. Here are our ten favourites.

1. Moom

£6.50 (US$10), Many Tricks

Become a window management expert with Moom.

Perhaps fittingly, it's Windows that has usually taken the lead when it comes to window management. Comparatively, the Mac's been weak in this area. Install Moom, though, and you get a huge range of options, including: mouse-oriented resizing akin to Aero Snap; keyboard shortcuts for triggering window set-ups; and the ability to 'draw' the area a window should snap to, on hovering the cursor over the green zoom button.

2. 1Password

£34.99 (US$49.99), AgileBits Inc

1Password safely stores all your sensitive login details.

With OS X Mavericks, Apple is introducing iCloud Keychain, a secure system for storing browser passwords. It remains to be seen how well it works, but we'll happily recommend the somewhat similar 1Password. We say 'somewhat similar', because 1Password matches iCloud Keychain in storing passwords and accounts, but goes further, enabling the storage of notes and software licenses. It also supports more platforms and browsers than iCloud Keychain, including Windows, Android, Chrome and Firefox.

3. iStat Menus

£10 (US$16), Bjango Pty Ltd

iStat Menus
Get diagnostic data about almost everything on your Mac, with iStat Menus.

One might argue that monitoring tools are the preserve of the more techie user, and iStat Menus certainly provides plenty of scope for such people. From the menu bar, you can access detailed readouts of CPU, disk, memory and network usage. However, even if you're a more casual Mac user, the app's recommended, for its battery monitor and the system's best menu-bar clock/calendar/world clock combo.

4. Default Folder X

£26 (AU$41.71, US$34.95), St Clair Software

Default Folder X
Default Folder X soups-up Save dialogs in all your Mac apps.

Although Apple's busy attempting to kill off the traditional file system with iCloud, the reality is it'll be some time before Open and Save dialogs are a distant memory. Default Folder X seriously powers both of these up, providing directory navigation, access to open Finder windows, a list of recent folders, and more. A menu-bar extra also provides fast access to your files, lessening the need to resort to Finder.

5. Alfred

Free; Powerpack about £17 (US$26), Running with Crayons Ltd

Alfred does for OS X what Spotlight fails to offer.

Spotlight is one of OS X's biggest disappointments. The concept's great — the ability to rapidly find anything on your Mac via search — but it's slow and too often reorders the results list about a millisecond before you select something. Alfred is essentially Spotlight Pro. You get far more control over everything, from the file catalogue through to how the search field looks. Unlike Spotlight, Alfred's also extensible and enables folder navigation.

6. Hazel

£18 (US$28), Noodlesoft, LLC

Hazel can speed up all sorts of workflows for you.

Hazel's the perfect add-on for anyone willing to put in a small amount of effort to save a lot of time later on. It's essentially an automation tool, dealing with files in folders it's tasked with watching, based on user-defined rules. For example, you can tell it to watch the Downloads folder and send PDFs to /Documents, music to iTunes and images to /Pictures, along with labelling anything very old in red. Scripting and Automator integration provide almost limitless scope for more complex rules.

7. BetterZip Quick Look Generator

Free, MacItBetter

BetterZip Quick Look Generator
Make previewing zips in Finder worthwhile with this add-on.