Like most operating systems, your Mac has a handful of standard apps that cover all types of use cases: office work, web browsing, email, tasks, navigation, photo management, music, and more.
Although Apple has generally done a great job naming these apps, you may still be confused as to what they do or whether you actually need some of them. This is true whether you have recently converted to macOS or are a satisfied Mac veteran.
We'll go through all the standard applications installed with Apple's desktop operating system, explain what they do, and whether you should take care of them or not. You can find all of these apps in the Applications Folders in the Finder.
Standard Mac apps: A to D.
App store: In the App Store, you can install and update Apple-approved apps on your system. You can also install the latest major versions of macOS from the App Store, although the latest versions of macOS are now updated through System Preferences.
Automator: This app gives you the ability to automate hundreds of different system actions that you can combine and use to perform complex tasks without programming or scripting skills. While it is not a requirement, learning can be very useful.
Books: Books are like iTunes for e-books. It has built-in memory where you can purchase thousands of titles (including the latest mainstream versions) or import your own titles if you have e-books on your system. You can easily use it as an e-book reader and manager and support both the EPUB and PDF formats.
Calculator: You can easily use this app daily to update personal budgets, calculate estimated tax payments, or just do some mental math.
Calendar: This app is a clean and efficient way to manage your daily tasks. It may not be the most advanced calendar available, but more than enough for most users. It is also synced with iCloud. Be sure to read our Mac Calendar tips to make the most of it.
Chess: We are not sure why Chess is a system application that is protected by System Integrity Protection. Regardless, chess is just a simple chess app that is only available offline.
Contacts: This app is essentially a digital Rolodex that stores contact information about your friends, family, and acquaintances. It syncs with iCloud so you can access these contacts in other apps like Mail. If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can sync your contracts with these devices.
Dictionary: A simple but potentially useful app if you ever need access to a dictionary, thesaurus, or Wikipedia. Provided by the New Oxford American Dictionary and the Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus.
DVD player: This app is out of date at this time. Modern MacBooks, iMacs and other Apple computers are no longer equipped with DVD drives. Therefore, the DVD player is only useful if you have an external DVD drive. Many thought it was gone with macOS Mojave, but if you need it, just type "DVD Player" into Spotlight to open it.
Built-in Mac apps: F to K.
FaceTime: FaceTime is Apple's proprietary video and audio calling service. However, this means that you can only use it with Apple devices. If you have friends or relatives on Windows or Android, you need Skype, Google Hangouts, or another video calling app.
Find my: Apple has combined the older "Find My iPhone" and "Find My Friends" apps into a single app called "Find My", which is now available on macOS. The Find My app is useful for finding people who share their location with you, as well as your own devices.
Script: macOS has a built-in font management utility that makes it easy to install, preview, and delete font families on your system. Font Book can separate system fonts from user-installed fonts, making it easier for you to know what you have installed.
GarageBand: A simple and intuitive music studio that lets you create loops, music, or even podcasts. Many new musicians use this as a springboard for more complex apps like Logic Pro X. It is so useful that this app alone is the reason why some Windows users convert to macOS. See our GarageBand guide
Using GarageBand: a step-by-step guide
start with it.
At home: If you have a HomePod or Smart Home devices, you can manage them with the Home app. You can quickly switch the light on and off, set your thermostat and set up automation for your smart home.
iMovie: A simple and intuitive movie editor very similar to GarageBand for movies. You can import raw clips and images, edit them together and polish them up with text, music and basic post-processing effects.
iTunes (macOS Mojave and earlier): Everyone knows iTunes – even those who have never touched a Mac. Over the years, it has evolved into an all-in-one media manager for music, movies, TV shows and iOS devices. With macOS Catalina, Apple replaced iTunes with music, podcast and TV apps. However, if you have an older Mac, you can still use it to manage music and other media.
Image capture: If you have a scanner or camera connected to your computer, you can use Image Capture to take pictures. Some older digital cameras may use an app like Image Capture to import directly from the device. However, most now have Wi-Fi sharing (or you can just insert the SD card into your reader).
Keynote: Keynote is Apple's answer to Microsoft PowerPoint. With it you can create all kinds of interesting presentations, from simple and elegant to complex and advanced, especially if you have learned some keynote tricks
10 tips and tricks for amazing keynote presentations on Mac
. It can be imported and exported in PowerPoint formats, so you don't have to worry about compatibility.
Basic Mac apps: L to N.
Launchpad: Launchpad is a simple launcher that allows you to open apps installed on your Mac, although you also have Spotlight (Cmd + Space) in order to do this. Access by pressing the launchpad F4 or by clicking the icon in your dock.
Mail: The standard app for managing email accounts and inboxes. You can perform simple tasks such as reading and sending email, or setting up email rules for automatic delivery of incoming messages.
Cards: Apple Maps offers a familiar experience if you've used the app on iOS. It's an easy way to explore an area or get directions. You can also send directions directly to your iPhone or iPad share Button.
Messages: Messages allow you to send and receive messages with other iMessage users. These messages can include photos, audio clips, and other types of files. If you have an iPhone, you can also use messages to send SMS and MMS text.
Mission control: If you activate Mission Control, everything will be reduced so that you can see all active apps at the same time. This makes it easy to switch from one app to another without using it Cmd + tab a couple of times, especially if you've opened tons of apps. It is also great for managing multiple virtual desktops.
Music: To manage your music library and listen to Apple radio stations, the music app is the tool you need. You can create playlists, get lyrics and edit your music in one place.
News: The News app allows you to stay up to date on local and international headlines from sources around the world. If you follow your favorites, you can create a personalized news feed.
Remarks: If you're not yet using Evernote or OneNote, Apple Notes is worth trying. It's a simple service, but it's built into iCloud. Therefore, it is an excellent option if you are using both macOS and iOS. When you finally use the app, you should master these Notes tips for maximum productivity
10 tips to get the most out of Apple Notes on OS X.
Numbers: Just like Keynote is the macOS version of PowerPoint, Numbers is Apple's alternative to Excel. The name is a bit awkward, especially if you're looking for help online, but it's still a great app. If you work a lot with spreadsheets, you'll use them a lot.
Preinstalled Mac Apps: P to R.
Pages: This is Apple's alternative to Microsoft Word. The trend continues because the app is simple and straightforward. Everything you need is there to put words on a page.
Photo booth: Do you need to take a photo or video of yourself? Photo Booth can do this with your Mac's built-in camera or an externally connected camera. It offers three modes: single photo, four quick photos or a movie clip. You can also add over 25 different effects if you want to have fun.
Photos: A central library that allows you to easily organize and manage your photos and videos. No photos or videos are taken (use Photo Booth for this), but it is great for storing albums and creating “projects” like slideshows, prints, cards, and the like. It can even edit RAW files, but serious photographers should consider Lightroom instead.
Podcasts: Use the Podcasts app to find new podcasts, listen to episodes, create channels, and manage your library.
Preview: Standard image viewer from macOS. If you view a lot of photos or read PDFs regularly, prepare to use the preview frequently. It can also handle other types of files, including raw camera output, PowerPoint presentations, and Photoshop PSDs.
QuickTime Player: The standard video player for macOS. Aside from the basics, QuickTime Player offers many other useful features, including the ability to record audio, record your screen, connect videos, and upload to YouTube. It is also one of the best video converter apps for macOS
The 7 best video converter apps for macOS
Memories: You might think Reminders is an alarm app – which is true because it has alarm functions – but it's actually a to-do list app. Create multiple lists with multiple items in each list, and then set alarms for individual items if you wish (depending on the time or when you enter a location). It syncs with your iOS devices through iCloud and also supports recurring alerts.
Standard Mac Apps: S to V.
Safari: Safari is your Mac's default browser and your window to the Internet. Many people recommend Chrome over Safari, but there are several good reasons why you shouldn't be using Chrome on a Mac
Safari vs. Chrome for Mac: 9 reasons why you shouldn't use Chrome
Stickies: Stickies allow you to create and manage sticky notes that are on your desktop. This concept was very popular years ago, but now that we have special note-taking and reminder apps, Stickies is usually just an unnecessary mess.
Stocks: If you work in the financial sector or participate in investments, the share app keeps you up to date with the stock exchange.
TextEdit: TextEdit is a simple text editor that is more similar to the editor than Word or Pages. It works well for simple text editing. But if you need something stronger, look elsewhere.
Time Machine: Time Machine is the integrated backup solution for your Mac. So you know how to use Time Machine
How to use Time Machine to back up your Mac
is essential. With the app you can easily migrate your personal data to a new Mac installation or reset your system to an earlier point in case of major problems.
TV: Watch TV shows, movies, and original Apple TV + content on your Mac with the TV app. You can find new shows to watch children Section and manage your library.
Voice Notes: Draw and manage voice memos from all your devices with voice memos on your Mac. If you prefer to take notes for yourself instead of writing them down, the app works great. You can also edit recordings if necessary.
Apps in the "macOS Utilities" folder
The Utilities Subfolders inside Applications contains a handful of system utilities that may or may not be useful to you on a daily basis. However, most of them will likely come in handy at some point. So let's look at them.
Activity monitor: Similar to Task Manager on Windows, but more detailed. View everything from CPU usage and energy impact per process to total RAM availability and network activity. It is one of the most important integrated system utilities.
AirPort utility: Used to set up and manage AirPort devices (AirPort Express, AirPort Extreme, and AirPort Time Capsule), which are Apple's proprietary line of Wi-Fi cards and routers. Apple discontinued the AirPort line in April 2018. Therefore, you should only need this utility if you still have one of these devices.
Audio MIDI setup: Set up and manage audio devices on your system, including MIDI devices such as keyboards.
Bluetooth file exchange: Configure Bluetooth connections with nearby compatible devices.
Boot Camp Assistant: Create and manage a dual-boot configuration so your system can boot on either MacOS or Windows. This is the preferred method for installing Windows on your Mac
How to install Windows 10 with Boot Camp on your Mac
ColorSync utility: Grants finer controls for the color display and color profiles of your system. If your colors don't look good and you are sure that this is not caused by a color shift app like F.lux, you should play around with them.
Console: A tool that you can use to view various system logs and diagnostic reports. Very useful to find and fix system errors once you learn how to use them.
Digital color measuring device: A handy utility that shows the color value of any pixel on your screen. It can even display color values in other formats such as Adobe RGB.
Hard Disk Utility: A tool that gives you basic information and control over your hard drives. This is the recommended method for erasing hard drives, including USB and external devices.
Grapher: Enter one or more mathematical equations and Grapher will graph them for you.
Keychain access: A password manager that syncs with iCloud. Use this option to store website logins, WiFi passcodes, and other confidential information. And since you no longer have to remember your passwords, you can have them generated for complex protection to protect them.
Migration assistant: A quick wizard to migrate your personal data to your current system, either from another Mac, Windows PC, drive, or Time Machine backup.
Screenshot: What was called the Grab app on Mac before macOS Mojave is now called a screenshot. With this tool you can capture still images and recordings of your screen.
Script Editor: Allows you to create AppleScript scripts that can perform complex tasks with apps on your system or on the system itself. It is often used for task automation because it is more powerful (but also more advanced) than Automator.
System information: Provides comprehensive information about your system's hardware, software, and network. For example, if you want to know the manufactured part number of your RAM modules, search here.
Terminal: A command line program for Mac. The default shell is bash, which means that the command line experience between reinstalling Mac and most Linux distributions is almost identical. Learning the command line is a great way to gain more control over your system.
VoiceOver utility: A screen reader tool for visually impaired users.
Optimal use of your Mac's apps
Hopefully this overview will help Mac newbies find out which apps are on their system. While some of the standard Mac apps are great, you may only need many others in certain cases.
For more information on the best of these apps, see the practical features of the best standard Mac apps. We also looked at the best Mac apps
The best Mac apps to install on your MacBook or iMac
if the default settings are not enough for you.