Up until this week I was using my own Macbook Pro (2011) for work, but I recently switched to a brand new company Macbook Pro.

Before I got started setting it up, I made a list of all the essential software that I wanted to re-download. I surprised myself with how short the list was; a lot of stuff is cloud-y or semi-cloudy now, but I also apparently like to keep things more streamlined than in the past.

Here’s my list of must-haves and a bit of flavour on how I use them.

What I've installed on my laptop


This is my main browser which is used for everything day-job related, from checking emails to writing blog posts to adding numbers to spreadsheets. At any one time I probably have 10+ tabs open and another 5 or so pinned. It freaks some people out but it doesn’t seem like much to me given that Joe has about 50 open at any one time.

The second I close something I realise I need it again, so I like to have the main stuff in front of me all the time.


I don’t have a whole lot of loyalty when it comes to software and devices generally (one reason why I have a Mac laptop but an Android phone), so I use Firefox too.

Firefox has my Feedly pinned in it, because my Feedly Pro account is my own personal account and I need to be logged into my own Twitter account to use it (I log into the company Twitter account in Chrome). I also use it for writing blog posts for this site, reading other blogs, and general downtime kind of stuff.


Browser plugins (split across both Chrome and FF): Moz, Buffer, Feedly, Refind, Pinterest, Rank Checker.

Office 365

I know a lot of people swear by Open Office and LibreOffice; I’ve tried them but I just can’t get on with them. I need something attractive and comfortable when I spend so much time writing.

I do use Google Docs occasionally, especially for company-wide stuff, but I much prefer the Office suite. I mostly only use Word and Excel, with occasional Powerpoint thrown in when I’m doing a talk.


I’d never used Slack before starting this job, but now I’m hooked on it. It’s reliable, full of features, and attractive. What’s not to like?



I’ve flitted between various social media desktop tools over the years, but Tweetdeck is my go-to one. It’s easy to track searches, mentions, URLs and so on, and it’s totally free.

For social media generally, I use a combination of twitter.com, Tweetdeck, Buffer and Feedly.


I was super late to the Spotify party because I used Grooveshark for a loooong time. However, I was really glad when I bought Spotify Premium and now I wouldn’t be without it.

When I’m using a laptop, I’m usually at work or working on something at home, so I tend to stick to classical music or songs in different languages so they aren’t distracting. Feel free to recommend me some tunes!


I’ve used a lot of professional (and hobby) software for design and image editing over the years, but I always come back to Photoshop. I’m not an expert by any means, but I know enough to do what I need to do fairly efficiently.



Pretty self-explanatory. Again, I have a premium account so I can store more stuff. I have all kinds of things in my Dropbox, particularly things that I want to use between devices, such as fonts and my collection of free design resources.


One of the things I missed when I switched from Windows to Mac at home (I still used Windows at work until starting this new job) was the easy calendar view that appeared when you clicked on the date/time.

So I downloaded a free app from the OSX app store as a substitute. It’s simply called Calendar (current version is 2.0). It’s not perfect but it’s pretty good for an at-a-glance look at when dates fall for scheduling planning time, meetings, blog posts, etc. I don’t store any actual calendar information in it so it stays blank, which kind of defeats the purpose a little bit but I have other services for that kind of stuff.

Calendar App


This is a freemium (is that still a thing?) service that you can install on any/every device you have and it’ll tell you how you’re spending your time with fun graphs and stats and stuff. It’s not perfect for me because I have a lot of boundary issues in my work (for example Twitter could be productive if I’m using it for work or a distraction if I’m using my account but RescueTime will only have it listed as a distraction). Having said that, it’s still really interesting and useful for keeping on track – particularly when I’m working on my own projects.


Okay, this is technically pre-installed, but I absolutely love the way Mac OSX handles fonts. Fontbook involves less clicking and dragging than its Windows equivalent, and it’s nice to have a bespoke way to preview and browse fonts.

Photos (previously iPhoto)

Another pre-installed title, ‘Photos’ has declined from its iPhoto days in my opinion; it now feels more like an image browsing solution rather than combined editing/management tool. However, it’s home to my favourite quick editing tools and is my go-to for managing and editing hundreds or thousands of photos quickly.

What’s your must-have software? Do you share any favourites with me?