The best M1-compatible Mac apps 2021: top picks for your new MacBook or Mac

best M1-compatible Mac apps
(Image credit: Astro HQ)

When Apple announced it was switching its Macs over to its own processors – starting with the M1 chip – it meant a momentous shift in the macOS app ecosystem. Instead of using the Intel processor architecture, apps were going to have to run on an entirely different system.

Of course, all Apple’s apps like Final Cut Pro and Pages work out of the box. Fortunately, many third-party developers have been quick to adapt, updating their apps to work on the M1 in record time. Here, we have gathered the best of the bunch, so if you have bought a shiny new Mac, you know where to start.

Let us also show you how to use the Mac App Store when you're ready to do so.

best M1-compatible Mac apps

(Image credit: Microsoft)

1. Microsoft Office 365

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Despite the historic rivalry between two of the biggest computing behemoths in the world, Microsoft moved quickly to get many of its apps ready to work on Apple’s M1 chips. In fact, Apple revealed Microsoft Office would be ready from day one before the first M1 Mac was even released, along with many other apps.

That is great news if you use Office 365 on a regular basis in your work or leisure time. Every app included in Microsoft’s productivity bundle works natively on M1 Macs, with no need for Rosetta 2 to work its magic. That means you are set regardless of whether you need to create a killer presentation, analyse your company’s financial performance, or craft your next research paper – you can do it all natively on your Mac.

best M1-compatible Mac apps

(Image credit: Ulysses)

2. Ulysses

Like its namesake, Ulysses is something truly heroic – a writing app that is everything you need to get your work done. It knows exactly when to be minimal and when to be present, ensuring it stays out of your way when you want to concentrate, but is never so minimalistic that you spend ages searching for an elusive tool or button. It has a raft of top features, and you can even set yourself writing goals to help you make progress and hit deadlines.

Another strength is its ability to keep all your documents organised. Your files are stored in a library, which can be categorised into folders and hierarchical groups, so you never lose your important work. Everything is automatically saved and backed up, and can be easily shared with others using Dropbox, iCloud, and more.

best M1-compatible Mac apps

(Image credit: The Omni Group)

3. OmniFocus

Staying organised can be difficult when you have a mountain of work to do and more coming in every day. Before long, you can end up feeling overwhelmed and not even know where to start, never mind how to get everything done. For situations like that, you need an app like OmniFocus – it is one of the best productivity apps on the market.

As a task management app, its goal is to allow you to get your ideas and plans down as quickly and easily as possible. You can add tasks to OmniFocus from any app, and everything syncs across your devices so you are never without your “second brain”, as OmniFocus puts it. Once you start using this app, you will wonder how you ever managed to work without it.

best M1-compatible Mac apps

(Image credit: Flexibits)

4. Fantastical

Calendars are usually thought of as pretty basic things in your day-to-day life. You create some lists and bring in your contacts, add a few appointments and tasks here and there, then wait for the day to arrive and the accompanying nudge on your device. Not much more to it, right?

Fantastical proves otherwise. It makes managing your schedule an absolute joy and is a great example of a perfectly thought-out Mac app. It excels in every area, from its ingenious shortcuts and hacks to its beautiful design and cross-platform compatibility.

It integrates reminders and collaboration features, too, making it a great all-rounder for your productivity. Don’t believe us? It has won multiple plaudits, including being named Apple’s Mac App of the Year in 2020. High praise indeed, and nothing it does not deserve.

best M1-compatible Mac apps

(Image credit: Doist)

5. Todoist

Back in the day, if you had a list of jobs to do, you would write everything down on a slip of paper. Over time you would end up with notes and scraps distributed all through your house, stuck on the fridge and littering your desk, creating more mess and confusion. It was hardly an ideal way of keeping yourself organised.

Thankfully, those days are gone, replaced by cross-platform apps that keep us up to speed wherever we are. Todoist is one of the best, with its natural language input enabling you to create reminders quickly and easily – key to ensuring you spend more time doing and less time organising. 

The app is clean and concise, boasts excellent collaboration and analysis tools, and connects to a range of apps like Dropbox, Zapier, Amazon Alexa, and more.

best M1-compatible Mac apps

(Image credit: Zoom 1)

6. Zoom

Zoom’s main strength is its simplicity. Setting up a video call is as easy as clicking New Meeting and sharing a link. You can schedule meetings, share your screen, record your calls, and more. There are even virtual backgrounds and filters if you want to have a bit of fun. It is no wonder it has become such a popular app.

Given recent events, it is almost impossible you have not heard of Zoom. Just as unlikely is that you have not used it at any point over the last 12 months. The good news if you own an M1 Mac is that Zoom’s team has moved quickly to make it work natively on Apple’s new processors, meaning you do not need to worry about whether your new computer will cause issues when trying to call your friends and family.

best M1-compatible Mac apps

(Image credit: Serif)

7. Affinity Designer (and other Affinity apps)

If you are an artist or graphic designer, you will love Affinity Designer. It is used by designers all over the world to create posters, logos, user interfaces, icons, artwork, mock-ups, and much more. It has a huge number of tools and workflows that will be familiar to anyone who has ever used a top-level design app – plus plenty of original innovations – all wrapped up in an affordable one-off payment, without the need for an ongoing subscription.

In fact, the whole series of award-winning Affinity apps, including Affinity Photo and Affinity Publisher, run natively on M1 Macs and are excellent on the iPad, too. If you are a fan of Affinity Designer and want to improve your work by making use of the other apps, that is good news.

best M1-compatible Mac apps

(Image credit: Pixelmator Team)

8. Pixelmator Pro

Photo editing is something a lot of us have done, whether that is in a professional capacity or merely touching up last year’s Christmas pictures. The problem with a lot of photo-editing apps, though, is that they can be overly complicated, with a bewildering number of tools packed into a teeming user interface that quickly becomes intimidating. Pixelmator Pro, on the other hand, keeps things simple while still giving you the power to breathe new life into your images.

One of its best features is its automatic photo-enhancement tool. This relies on an algorithm trained on 20 million images, so with a few quick clicks you can get your photos looking the way you want without the hassle. If you do want to dive in, Pixelmator Pro offers the full range of pixel and vector tools that you need in a clear and straightforward interface – perfect for pros and amateurs alike.

best M1-compatible Mac apps

(Image credit: Adobe)

9. Adobe Lightroom

We know Adobe is working hard on bringing its heavyweight apps like Photoshop and Premiere Pro to M1 Macs. While we wait, the company has built in M1 compatibility to one of its major apps: Lightroom. The lightweight photo editor is ready to go right from the off, with Rosetta 2 being nowhere in sight.

If heavy duty apps like Photoshop have put you off due to their overbearing complexity, Lightroom will be right up your street. Its stripped back approach to photo editing gives you all the essentials with none of the cruft, so it is perfect for beginners and consumers who just need to tweak a few snaps. You still get raw file tools, automation, non-destructive editing, and much more, meaning you do not need to sacrifice key features to get simplicity.

best M1-compatible Mac apps

(Image credit: Astro HQ)

10. Luna Display

Buying a second display for your Mac can really help improve your workspace, but most options are not on the cheap side. At the same time, many of us have an iPad at home that we use when we are away from the computer. Wouldn’t it be good to be able to combine the two? Well, with Luna Display you can – it extends your Mac desktop onto your iPad, giving you a de facto second monitor.

But why not just use Sidecar in macOS instead? Well, Luna Display goes much further. It is not just for iPads – it lets you use another Mac as a second display if you prefer, which Sidecar does not. It is compatible with much older Macs (no need for macOS Catalina or later). It even lets you use an iPad as the main display for a Mac mini instead of a traditional monitor. It is a great choice if one display is not enough.

Alex Blake
Freelance Contributor

Alex Blake has been fooling around with computers since the early 1990s, and since that time he's learned a thing or two about tech. No more than two things, though. That's all his brain can hold. As well as TechRadar, Alex writes for iMore, Digital Trends and Creative Bloq, among others. He was previously commissioning editor at MacFormat magazine. That means he mostly covers the world of Apple and its latest products, but also Windows, computer peripherals, mobile apps, and much more beyond. When not writing, you can find him hiking the English countryside and gaming on his PC.