MacAttorney, the FREE Newsletter for Macintosh Using Attorneys

Free Or Inexpensive Macintosh Software

By Randy B. Singer

Copyright © Randy B. Singer, 2018-2020. All worldwide rights reserved.
Permission is hereby given to link to this site, but no other use is permitted without express written permission.
Note: Any discrepancies between the prices listed on this Web site and the price on the developer's site are irrelevant.  
The price you should expect to pay is the price asked by the developer.

One of the things that makes the Macintosh a great value is the wide array of excellent software applications that come with it.  Apple’s included applications are surprisingly competent.  But they don’t always provide everything, or exactly what one could want.  And there are certain types of applications that simply don’t come with a new Mac. There are, of course, a huge number of commercial applications to do whatever you want with your Macintosh, but sometimes folks want something that is either free, or which is extremely reasonably priced.  Fortunately, there are a large assortment of free or very inexpensive applications that are very much worth having, or at least worth checking out.   I’ve tried to list here as many such programs as I know about, emphasizing software that I feel is either invaluable or highly desirable.   Hopefully even long-time Mac users will find something new and useful in this list.

Important:  If you are running a recent version of the Macintosh operating system, and you download software from somewhere other than Apple’s Mac App Store, when you go to launch that software you will get a dialog that says that you can’t open the application because it’s “from an unidentified developer.”  This is simply Apple’s security measure telling you to be careful where you get your software from.  (Software that you get directly from a legitimate developer is just about always perfectly safe.)  This alert does not mean that the application is dangerous or that it won’t run on your Macintosh.  You can open the application by right-clicking (or Control-clicking) on the application’s icon, and then choosing Open; you will still get a warning dialog, but you can now choose to Open the application anyway, even if it comes from an unidentified developer.  From this point on you can launch the application normally and there will be no warning dialog box.  However, this doesn't work if the application is located anywhere but in the Applications folder.  See:

Why is this software free?

AppCleaner (free)
(Macs don’t really need uninstallers, but for those who really want one, AppCleaner allows you to quickly, easily and thoroughly uninstall unwanted apps.)

aText  ($5)
(Create shortcuts to automatically type your boilerplate.  Automatically have common typos fixed.  Don't be put off by the low price; this is a very full-featured product that does exactly what more expensive products do.  Invaluable if you do a lot of writing.)

BGBlitz (free version)
(A supremely wonderful backgammon game.  Addictive.)

BlueGriffon (free. There are three versions, two of which aren't free, but the free version is full-featured and sincerely free.  It isn’t a demo or crippled version.)
“What-you-see-is-what-you-get” Web site creation program (there is also a built-in text editor if you choose to work with the raw HTML, and it helps you by allowing you to add HTML commands with one click).  Easy to use (if you know how to use a word processor you will take to this program quickly), and full featured. It's great for beginners and experienced Web designers alike.  If you liked Apple’s departed iWeb,  you will like this program. Many folks are skeptical upon approaching this program because it seems too-good-to-be-true.  It’s true!
Free video tutorial series:
(The tutorial does not use the Mac version of the program, but the program is virtually identical across platforms.)
A tip for using BlueGriffon:
When you first open it, the interface will look terrible. Don't get discouraged. Do this:
BlueGriffon menu --> Preferences --> General tab --> Theme -> enable "Light"
The interface will now look world's better!

Brave browser (free)
(Apple provides it’s own Web browser with the Mac OS; Safari.  Why would you want a different Web browser?  Because Brave is FAST, it blocks ads without the need for add-ons, it blocks trackers, and it has excellent compatibility with various Web sites.  Brave simply provides a much nicer browsing experience than other browsers.
More info:

Clipy (free)
(An advanced clipboard manager that will allow you to copy and store as many things as you like, and then export them in any order that you like.  Invaluable for doing research and writing.)  
Don't let the Japanese on their home page scare you.  This app is entirely in English.

Coconut Battery  (free)
(Tells you about the health of your Macbook’s battery.  When your laptop gets down to about 80% of its original capacity, it’s time to think about getting a new one.)

Cyberduck (free)
(FTP browser.  “File Transfer Protocol” is how you move files to a server.  More importantly, it’s how you upload HTML files to your ISP’s server to put them on the Web.  There are a number of FTP programs for the Mac, but this one is free, easy to use, and fairly full featured.}

Desktop Icon Manager - DIM (free)
(Saves placement of desktop icons.  A one trick pony, but a valuable one.  It’s way too easy to accidentally set the “View” for your desktop to something that re-arranges everything with no way to get back the organization you set up manually.  With one click, DIM puts your desktop icons right back where they were when you last saved their arrangement.)

DetectX (free/$10 to register)
(Looks for and eliminates all known adware.  Will also remove some malware, but this isn’t a comprehensive solution for dealing with malware....fortunately you don't need a product to look for the latter because the Mac has built-in anti-malware software.)

DrawBerry (free)
(Vector drawing program.  Includes layers and other really nice features.

EasyFind (free)
(Spotlight doesn't look everywhere on your hard drive for things.  It's designed for speed and to keep you away from things that might get you in trouble.  EasyFind looks *everywhere* on your Mac.  It can even look for invisible files.)

Encrypto (free)
(Instantly encrypt and password protect your files or folders.  Decrypt them with a double-click and enter the password.  Not even the FBI can break this encryption.  There is also a free version of this product for Windows, so encrypted files can be shared across platforms!)

FormulatePro (free)
(Allows you to fill in PDF forms on-screen and print them.  Even locked ones.  The latest version of Preview can do most of what Formulate can do, and more, but Formulate is really good at what it does, and makes it easier. )
Note:  This application is not 64-bit and can’t be run under Mac OS 10.15 Catalina and later.

FreeOffice (free)
Comparison chart of the features and costs of each version of this product from Softmaker:
(Very similar to Microsoft Office; with a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation application included.  Excellent compatibility with Microsoft format files!  Softmaker makes two commercial versions of this office suite, but the free version is all that many people might need.  Not a crippled or demo product.  On a par with LibreOffice; each has their strong points and weak points.)

Full Deck Solitaire (free)
(An awesome Solitaire game, offering a bunch of variations and nice game play.)

Gimp (free)
(A very advanced photo retouching, image composition and image authoring program, similar to Photoshop.)
Free tutorials:

Growly Notes
(Notebook program.  A really nice program for keeping notes, snippets from Web sites, etc.  If you work on big projects and need to keep all of your research/thoughts/citations in one place, this is it.  It has a garish default interface, but in Prefs there is an option to change to a very Mac-like interface.  Some prefer Evernote, but this program isn't Web-based, so it's more private.  In very recent versions of the Mac OS, Apple's Notes has evolved to do much of the same things; try Apple’s Notes first and see if it meets your needs.)

GrowlyWrite (free)
(If you want a word processor that is less complex than Microsoft Word or LibreOffice, this one might be what you are looking for.)

GNUCash (free)
(Quicken substitute.  GnuCash is personal and small-business financial-accounting software.  Designed to be easy to use, yet powerful and flexible, GnuCash allows you to track bank accounts, stocks, income and expenses. As quick and intuitive to use as a checkbook register, it is based on professional accounting principles to ensure balanced books and accurate reports. )
How to install:

HitFilm Express (Free after you have spread the word about the product on social media)
(Very powerful video editing and video effects software.)

Inkscape (free)
(A professional-level vector graphics application with layers and many other useful features.)

Itsycal (free)
(A superb little menubar calendar.)

Keynote (free)
(Apple’s own presentation program.  Previously available only with a new Mac or commercially; now totally free.  A joy to use!)

KoalaCalc (free)
(A really nice calculator.  Much more advanced than the one that comes with your Mac.  Includes tape and lots of conversions.)

Libre Office (free)
(A Microsoft Office clone; though more like the Windows version of Office than the Macintosh version.  Compatible with Office files and file formats. Also can open and edit WordPerfect files.  Includes very advanced word processor, spreadsheet, database, drawing, charting, and presentation capabilities.)

Maintenance (free)
(Most of the routine maintenance that you need to do on your Macintosh, all in one app.  Unlike other similar utilities, this one is easy to use and it doesn’t include a bunch of confusing and possibly dangerous options that you don't need.)

Numbers (free)
(Apple’s own spreadsheet program.  Previously available only with a new Mac or commercially; now totally free.)

OmniDiskSweeper (free)
(A utility program that allows you to quickly and easily find all of the large files on your hard drive that are taking up a lot of your hard drive’s space, so that you can review them and trash them to reclaim space.)

Pages (free)
(Apple’s own word processing program.  Previously available only with a new Mac or commercially; now totally free.  Polarizing; some love it, some hate it.  Not as powerful as LibreOffice, more powerful than GrowlyWrite.)

PaintBrush (free)
(Basic painting program.  Reminiscent of MacPaint or Microsoft Paint.  There are free painting programs for the Mac that are far more sophisticated.  But this one won't overwhelm anyone.  Recent versions of Preview have similar functionality, though it is well hidden.)

Pathways Into Darkness (free)
(One of the first first-person-shooter games, lovingly recreated.  Part virtual reality, part combat, part puzzle, this game will give you hours of engrossing playtime.)

Pester (free)
(Makes it easy and convenient to create simple alarms.}

Skim (free)
(PDF Reader.  Apple’s Preview includes a lot of nice PDF reading and annotating features.  Some may prefer Skim’s ability to allow you to comfortably read and review any PDF.)

Skype (free)
(Make free phone calls, or send text messages, or have free video chats with anyone over the Internet who also has Skype.)

SpamSieve ($30)
(Eliminates e-mail spam!  The built-in anti-spam filters in most e-mail programs, such as Apple’s own Mail, don’t work very well.  You can waste an awful lot of time dealing with spam each day.  SpamSieve does an almost magical job of sorting spam into its own folder to be looked at and erased at your leisure.  I know that this application is out of step price-wise with everything else on this page.  Really, I just listed it because I find it to be invaluable.  Worth every penny of it’s price.)

Spark (free)
How-To: 50 getting started tips for new Spark users | 9to5Mac
(E-mail client.  Apple’s Mail is a really good e-mail client that gets way too little respect.  But Spark tries to be even better.  The free version of Spark is for individuals.  There are commercial versions for business users who need/like collaboration features.)

Spotify (free/pay)
(Find just about any music and play it on your Mac, legally.  Doesn't download songs; it's more like a radio by-request.  The free version has ads that are easily ignored.)

SuperDuper! (free/$28)
(This program creates a backup of your main hard drive onto another hard drive; a perfect, bootable clone.  SuperDuper is dead reliable and super-easy to use.  And it's fast too!  Some folks prefer Carbon Copy Cloner, but SuperDuper is easier.  The commercial version of SuperDuper allows you do to smart updates of your backup, and is totally worth the price.  SuperDuper, combined with an inexpensive external hard drive, can, and probably will, seriously save your bacon when your hard drive inevitably fails.)

Symphytum (free)
(Personal database software.   Design custom input forms.  Use text, numbers, images, files and other control fields.  Put your data into the cloud for automatic synchronization between all of your computers.  Not a replacement for heavy duty database software, but excellent for keeping track of collections, recipes, members, daily logs, etc.)

TaskTime  ($20)
(If you are a professional who bills by unit of time, you need a time tracking and billing solution.  There are a ton of them for the Macintosh, but this one is quite slick, has lots of useful features, it’s easy to use, and it’s very reasonably priced compared to the competition.)

Tex-Edit Plus (free)
(A very competent text editor that is excellent for quickly cleaning up text that has traveled over the Internet.  Scriptable.  Some use it for distraction-free writing before doing a final formatting in a word processor.)

Tiles (free)
(A window manager which allows you to easily reorganize windows by either dragging them to the edges of the screen, using keyboard shortcuts, or using the menu bar.)

TimeTracker (free)  (scroll down the page to find it)
(TimeTracker displays the contents of your Time Machine backups, and shows what's changed since the previous backup. It’s developer has considered it “in an early state” since basically forever, but it’s been around for many years. It’s also regularly updated to continue to work even on the latest macOS versions.)

TNEF's Enough (free)
(When a sender uses Outlook as their mail client on a Windows PC, and Outlook is set to send messages in Rich Text format (RTF) or HTML format, it creates an archive for attachments called "winmail.dat" that can't be decoded by any other e-mail program.  This program will let you open and read those archives.)

VideoLAN Client - VLC (free)
(Video player.  A Swiss Army Knife for playing any and every video format file, especially those that QuickTime can’t handle.)

VirtualBox (free)
(Allows you to run Windows on your Macintosh.  Requires that you also have a copy of Windows.  Unlike Apple’s own Bootcamp, which only allows you to run EITHER Windows OR the Mac OS with a re-start, VirtualBox allows you to run Windows and the Mac OS at the same time.)

TrashIt! (free)
(A sometimes invaluable utility.  Delete files and folders that otherwise refuse to go!
If you double-click on TrashIt's program icon, it will delete what is in your trashcan with extreme prejudice.
If you drop either a folder or file(s) onto TrashIt's program icon,
it will delete what you dropped on it, no matter where those files or
folders reside. (They don't have to be in the trashcan.)

VirusBarrier Free Edition (free)
(This is a full version of Intego's anti-virus program VirusBarrier [usually $40/year] minus some [but not all] of the automated scanning features in the commercial version.  For those who don't know, Intego's VirusBarrier is the only anti-virus [AV] program that comes from a company that only creates software for the Macintosh, and it consistently wins all the believable comparison tests [there are lots of shill sites on the Web].
Have a look at this respected review site:
Do you need AV software?  No, the Mac has it's own built-in, and there is very little malware for the Macintosh in the wild to be concerned about.  The value in having this free AV program is that if you are the paranoid type, you can now use the best program available to satisfy yourself that you aren't infected with something.  Also, this free version is sandboxed and it isn't deeply embedded in your system, like other AV programs, so it shouldn't impact your Mac's overall performance as just about all the other AV programs do.)

Wake Up Time (free)
(A really nice desktop alarm clock.)

WordService (free)
(Allows you to instantly do a number of text clean up chores without having to switch applications.  Reformat text paragraphs, clean up tabs, quotes, line endings, change case. etc.  Also allows you to highlight a Web address in a text document and instantly go to it in your browser.)

Why Is This Software Free?

I've been asked "Why are these applications free?  Are they not professional quality?  Are they unstable?  Do they contain malware?" 

Well, first, they are all of professional quality, they are stable and they are safe.  The reasons that these programs are free are various. 

Some were simply written by Macintosh enthusiasts who want to strengthen the Macintosh platform and give back to the Macintosh community.  Others were previously commercial and the developer decided that they didn't want to be in the business of selling software anymore, so they made the program available for free, or they made the code open source to let the community continue to update it.   Some programs were written by people who just like to code and they wanted to see if they could create a really good app.  Others are free to attract you to the Web site of the developer to see his or her commercial offerings.  Some are essentially unlimited demos, to get you hooked on the program, in the hope that you will want to purchase a more full-featured version of the program in the future.  And some very few of the above include ads, and the developer makes their money via the ads rather than via sales of the program.  In any case, all of the programs on this page are really and truly free and safe, and worth quite a bit more than they cost you to buy.

Other Web pages by Randy B. Singer that might be of interest to Macintosh users:

Macintosh Routine Maintenance

Macintosh Accounting Software

Macintosh Slowdown Solutions

Macintosh Beachballs!

Macintosh Word Processors

Upgrading To The Latest Macintosh OS

If you have any additions to this Web site to suggest
I would very much appreciate hearing your suggestions.
Send them to:
Randy B. Singer

About The Author Of This Web Site:

Randy B. Singer is:

- The head of the MacAttorney User Group
with, at this writing, close to 10,000 members!

- A co-author of The Macintosh Bible (4th, 5th and 6th editions);

- Author of the ABA publication:
The Macintosh Software Guide for the Law Office

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