Apple unveiled its first Apple Silicon-based M1 Macs — the 13-inch MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini late last year. If you have gotten a new M1 Mac recently, check out our roundup of some of the best apps for your new MacBook or Mac mini to use it to its full potential.
We have compiled some of the best and useful Mac apps that run natively on the M1-powered MacBooks. Before we move to the apps list, let’s understand the current app situation on the M1 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.
Apple calls Mac apps Universal if they include native code for both its new M1 chip and the Intel CPU. When developers update their apps to run natively on Apple silicon, they use something called a Universal binary. If an app has yet to be updated to Universal 2, an M1-powered Mac will still run it, but it will do so by converting the Intel x86-64 code using Rosetta 2 emulation software. However, apps that have been updated with Apple Silicon support tend to run much better on M1 Macs and do not affect the battery life in a big way either.
Check out our hand-picked list of some of the best Mac apps for M1-powered MacBook Pro and MacBook Air.
Best Apps for M1 MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini
1. Pixelmator Pro
Right after the release of the M1 MacBook Air and Pro, the team behind Pixelmator Pro released a compatibility version 2.0 with the huge redesign and underhood changes.
Pixelmator calls it ‘the biggest update to Pixelmator Pro yet,’ and it includes an all-new design, support for Macs using Apple’s new M1 chip, full compatibility with the macOS Big Sur, and much more.
In terms of tools, Pixelmator Pro 2.0 includes a new Effects Browser, a new Presets Browser (including over 200 new presets), and more. There are seven new color adjustment preset collections and eight new effect preset collections. While you do not need a Mac with the M1 chip to take advantage of the new features in Pixelmator Pro 2.0, the software does especially benefit from the performance gains granted by the M1 chip.
For new customers, Pixelmator Pro is available for $39.99 USD.
➤ Download: Pixelmator Pro
2. Alfred 4
Alfred is a must-have app for macOS which boosts your efficiency with hotkeys, keywords, text expansion, and more. You can search your Mac and the web, and be more productive with custom actions to control your Mac. It also allows you to launch applications and find files. Alfred learns how you use your Mac and prioritizes results.
Alfred 4 is already compatible with M1 architecture. The company is promising more features and better performance tuned for the M1 Macs.
➤ Download: Alfred 4
3. Microsoft 365 Apps
It took Microsoft a while but the software giant is ready to support the M1 CPU on the MacBook. The updates are making the apps universal ones — meaning these versions will run on both Intel and Apple Silicon Macs, so any upcoming updates or features will be coming at the same time for both platforms.
The apps list includes Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Notably absent, however, is Teams. Office users who have automatic updates turned on should have the new versions available on their Macs.
➤ Download: Microsoft 365
Zoom doesn’t need an introduction unless you are living under a rock last year. Zoom used to work perfectly fine on the M1 laptop using Rosetta 2 emulation but it was hard on the battery life of the M1 MacBook.
As of December 21, Zoom officially rolled out an update to its video calling app so that it natively supports Apple’s silicone. This is a big deal given that the holidays are bound to be a popular time for video calls. Also, video calls are one of the things that typically hit your laptop’s battery life the hardest.
➤ Download: Zoom
Adobe’s Lightroom is one of the first Adobe Creative Cloud apps to be optimized for the Apple M1 chip. For many creatives and professionals, it’s the default choice for editing and organizing photos. Lightroom Classic works perfectly fine with the M1 MacBook but with the recent universal update to the software, you will notice quicker editing and export times without affecting the battery life.
➤ Download: Lightroom
6. Google Chrome
Even after a huge redesign and feature add-on to the Safari browser on macOS Big Sur, Google Chrome remains the default choice for the majority out there. The search giant recently revealed the M1 compatible browser.
In the case of Chrome, just be sure that you select “Mac with Apple chip” when downloading — otherwise, you’ll end up installing the Intel version, which will still run, but not as efficiently. Firefox is also on-board with the M1 MacBook. Microsoft Edge, another popular browser on the Mac is yet to be updated for the M1 MacBook.
➤ Download: Google Chrome
7. Things 3
Things 3 is one of the best task management apps on the Mac platform. The company is claiming to rebuild the app from the ground-up to support the latest line of M1 MacBooks. The app allows you to create to-do lists and easily check items off as you get down with them. With the recent update, Things 3 supports notifications, Big Sur widgets, and all the latest additions to the macOS. The software is available on iOS and Apple Watch as well.
➤ Download: Things 3
Fantastical recently won the Mac App of the Year award by Apple. It’s beautiful, clean, easy to use, and allows you to manage events and tasks like a pro on iPhone and Mac. You can set your calendar view exactly the way you want, and Fantastical also has widgets that you can pop into your Mac’s “Today” sidebar.
The free version is limited in a number of ways. To unlock the full potential, you will need to pay for a subscription that starts at $4.99 per month.
➤ Download: Fantastical
9. Tweetbot for Twitter
Tweetbot is an award-winning, full-featured Twitter client for the Mac. It has a beautiful interface with light & dark themes, multiple-column support, and much more. You get to enjoy an expandable sidebar, drag and drop columns, timeline filters, mute filters, lists, multi-account support, and much more over the boring native Twitter app for Mac.
Do keep in mind that Twitter does not grant 3rd party apps access to every single feature that is available on Twitter’s website.
➤ Download: Tweetbot
10. Bartender 4
If you’ve got a cluttered mess of a menu bar at the top of your Mac’s screen, a Bartender can help you bring order to things. You can smartly de-clutter that menubar space and arrange the app icons into an expandable yet invisible stack that autohides. The app also allows you to manually reorder the icons as per your usage and choice.
If you tend to have multiple apps running, then you can even use the keyboard shortcut to cycle between those app icons. Alternatively, you can also search for the app using the search box. Hiding certain apps protects your privacy from other folks and also cleans up the menu bar.
➤ Download: Bartender 4
1Password is the easiest way to store and use strong passwords. You can log in to sites and fill forms securely with a single click. It essentially takes away all the pressures of creating and remembering a password that’s actually complex and secure. The app is now optimized for the new M1 chip. 1Password offers both personal and family plans, to begin with.
➤ Download: 1Password
12. Affinity Apps
Affinity suite of apps offers more bang for the buck compared to a pricey Adobe Creative Suite subscription. Affinity apps such as Photo, Designer, and Publisher are already compatible with the M1 MacBook. If you are tired of waiting for Adobe to update Photoshop and other apps, then you should seriously consider Affinity’s offering on the Mac.
➤ Download: Affinity Apps
If you have purchased the M1 MacBook Pro with TouchBar then you are in a treat with the BetterTouchTool app. macOS Big Sur does offer a certain level of customization to the TouchBar but BetterTouchTool is a utility that gives you even greater flexibility over what goes where when using the Touch Bar, allowing you to quickly tap useful shortcuts for your most important apps.
➤ Download: BetterTouchTool
14. Scrivener 3
Scrivener 3, a well-known writing app for the Mac platform recently received a major overhaul with a host of new functions. Scrivener 3 is a major update to Scrivener that is now available on macOS. It is a paid upgrade for existing users and includes a whole heap of exciting enhancements, along with a refreshed and beautiful interface. The company claims to have modernized and rewritten the codebase for 64-bit for faster and stable performance.
➤ Download: Scrivener 3
15. PDF Expert
I have been using PDF Expert for a couple of years and I can’t recommend it enough. The M1 optimized PDF editor allows you to edit, read, annotate, change text and images, fill forms, sign documents like a pro on the Mac. That’s not all. You can even use the app to read books with different modes such as Day, Night, or Sepia from the advanced settings menu.
➤ Download: PDF Expert
Start Using Your M1 MacBook
Go through the apps list above and spruce up your new MacBook experience with amazing apps and tools optimized for the M1 CPU. It’s only a matter of time for other developers to join the latest trend in the macOS. Do let us know which apps are you picking up in the comments section below.