Whether you're among the chosen to get a new computer for the holidays or are burdened with the responsibility of playing family tech support, we've got you covered with an essential pack of Mac apps, utilities, tools, and time-wasters. Grab another moose-shaped mug of eggnog and start downloading.
This year we've picked out some of the very best apps, games, books, and downloads for your new devices. Dig into our top selections for Android apps, Android games, iPhone apps, iPad apps, iOS games, Windows Phone apps, Kindle books, Mac and PC.
OS X app developers seem to love to create menu-bar apps. When you've got Chrome, Dropbox, and just a few other things running, the right side of your menu bar will feel cluttered — install Bartender (get it?) to clean things up.
Sparrow was fast becoming the go-to email client for Macs, but after it was bought out by Google, development promptly ceased. AirMail has since appeared in order to pick up the slack. You'll find a unified inbox for all your accounts, support for Gmail, Exchange, and virtually any email service you can think of, and tie-ins with popular services like Dropbox to make sending large attachments easy.
Instead of constantly heading to the mouse to keep your windows organized, try a window-management tool like Divvy. It lets you set up simple key commands to instantly resize windows from the left half of your screen to full size and back again. Save your mousing for more important things.
Productivity app Freedom has been an essential install on all our new computers for years. The app simply shuts your internet connection down for a set period of time, which does wonders for getting things done.
Fantastical is the best calendar app for Mac. It lives in your menu bar and effortlessly turns your sentences into events. Open Fantastical, type “Dinner with David at Bon Chon at 8PM,” press Enter, and you’re done.
Google Play Music's web experience has definitely improved since launch and now offers an excellent mobile app on iOS and Android, but we still opt for a dedicated player on desktop. The $3.99 G-Ear Player might not be the prettiest thing around, but it's fast, customizable, and offers full playlist control.
GIF Brewery, a regularly updated $5.00 app, brings clean, fast, and effective GIF-making to everyone not just pros with Photoshop. Just import your video clip, trim to the ideal loop, crop for size, and achieve Tumblr fame.
Apple's Notification Center is getting better, but there's still nothing quite like the full-on blast of firing up Growl. This essential tool offers fully customizable — and skinnable — updates for everything from Rdio to Dropbox.
Calling Alfred a “launcher” isn’t giving this little app enough credit. Alfred replaces Spotlight search on your Mac, but it lets you launch apps, control Spotify, search Google Images, open sites with 1Password, check your clipboard history, and more. Since Alfred is so customizable, its capabilities are really only limited by your imagination.
Whether you're sharing mockups of projects with co-workers or saving an image of that moment in a new movie trailer, it's tough to get by without a capable screencap app. We recommend GrabBox: with it you can take a normal screenshot (Shift-Command-3 or Shift-Command-4) and the app will upload it to Dropbox, create a shareable link, and copy it to your clipboard.
From indie hits like Limbo to titles like Batman: Arkham City; from DOTA 2 to classics like Team Fortress and the Portal series; Steam's massive library of games gives you a safe escape from the insanity of family gatherings.
If you ever wished you could write by candlelight as our ancestors once did, f.lux is for you. The app runs in the background on your Mac and changes the hue and brightness of your screen based on the time of day.
Pocket began its life as “Read It Later,” but has quickly become much more — a storage chest filled with all the YouTube videos, SoundCloud tracks, and news articles you don’t have time to check out quite yet. Its simple but elegant interface makes reading a breeze, and an offline mode lets you download articles for reading on the plane.
Notational Velocity is still unparalleled for keeping track of text and notes, but Simplenote finally released a dedicated Mac note-taking app this year. The fast, free, and fully searchable app keeps your notes synced in the cloud and instantly accessible from your Mac, iOS and Android device, or Kindle.
Instacast for Mac offers a focused, lightweight interface and experience for just one thing: podcasts. You get full control over searching, subscribing, downloading, and organizing all your podcasts, and for users of the iOS, you can seamlessly sync your subscriptions. It's one less reason to ever open iTunes.