Welcome back to another post from AppleToolBox! And it’s your first time, welcome! Today, we’ve got a fun article in store for you. We’re going to be exploring the built-in Mac apps you didn’t know existed.
I’ve noticed that, unlike with Windows, the Mac has a lot of apps hiding just below the surface. If you never go exploring for them, you’d never even know they were there. I’ve had a Mac for four years now and have been a Mac writer for most of that time, and I didn’t even know about some of these apps.
We’re not going to be covering every obscure app on your Mac, because that would be a bit boring. Instead, we’re going to be focusing on the apps that I think a good chunk of you are going to find useful. So without further ado, let’s get into it!
Quick Note: You can open any of these apps by using Spotlight (command + spacebar), typing the name of the app, and pressing return on your keyboard.
12 built-in Mac apps for you to discover
The first app on our list is one that I’ve actually written about quite a bit. It’s a “pro user” app, so there are probably a lot of you reading this who have heard of Automator.
For the more casual user, however, here’s a quick breakdown. Automator is an app that allows you to automate certain processes on your computer using keyboard shortcuts, right-click options, and more.
For example, you can create an automated routine that deletes files in your Downloads folder after 30 days. Or you could create one that automatically changes your desktop background whenever you like. I have a full list of ideas for things you can do with Automator here, so check it out!
Although I do think Automator is a pretty cool app, it is a bit dated. Apple has already replaced it with the Shortcuts app on Mac. Both are still available for now, but we expect Apple to get rid of Automator eventually. Additionally, there are a lot of other automation apps available on Mac that I think are better than Automator (see here).
Even still, this is a great app with a lot of potential. Tinker around with it and see what you can come up with!
GarageBand: One of the best built-in Mac apps
Next on our list of obscure built-in Mac apps is GarageBand. This is probably the least obscure item on our list, but I meet people all of the time who have never heard of this app. So I figured it was worth pointing in your direction!
GarageBand is an app on your Mac that allows you to create and edit music. It’s like the Photoshop or iMovie of music production. And while there are better music production apps out there, GarageBand is incredibly robust for being free with your Mac.
You can create music using the sampled sounds available in the app, or you can record yourself playing by plugging your instrument into the headphone jack on your Mac. And if you already have music files available that you want to tweak, GarageBand makes it easy to do so. I’ve replaced apps like Audacity with GarageBand given that it has so many features available.
And that’s about it! There’s not much more to this app. I recommend it to musicians and those considering paying for a third-party app that does the same thing.
Another app you may not have heard of is Photo Booth. This is an older Mac app that, surprisingly, still ships for free with every Mac.
This app is just baby Snapchat. It allows you to apply camera filters to your face using the webcam built into your Mac. You can take some silly photos and then share them with others.
And there’s not much else to it! This app is kind of fun to mess around with for a few minutes, but it’s also pretty limited considering the things apps on our iPhones can do.
That brings us to the next item on our list of weird built-in Mac apps, which is Stickies. Stickies is a pretty straightforward app that I’ve come to appreciate over time.
Stickies allows you to place digital sticky notes around your Mac’s desktop. You can type whatever you want in them, apply some style options, and just generally use them how you would a regular sticky note.
I use Stickies to create a daily to-do list, and it’s pretty great for that. But you could also use it to jot down ideas, keep yourself from forgetting things, copy/pasting bits of information, and so on. It’s really simple and fun to use – check it out!
Voice Memos is an app that you may or may not be familiar with on your iPhone. It used to be a built-in iPhone app, and while it’s still free, you have to download it now.
Despite being an older app, Voice Memos is still super useful. It’s more or less the Notes app, but with your voice. You can create voice recordings, pause them as you think up what you want to say, and then save and organize them for listening to later.
I’m not a big Voice Memos guy, so the only times I’ve used this app have been on my iPhone when I wasn’t able to type. I’m not sure how useful it would be for me on a Mac, but I imagine there are a lot of users who prefer or even need to use the Voice Memos app for saving ideas. So if you haven’t checked this app out before and it sounds like it’s up your alley, give it a shot!
Grapher: One of the most fun built-in Mac apps
Next up on our list of odd built-in Mac apps is Grapher. This is one of those apps that I only just realized existed, and it’s the app that inspired this article.
Grapher is an app that allows you to plot equations on a 3D graph on your Mac. And that’s it! That’s all this app does. Seriously, I have no idea why Apple included this app on Mac, but it’s surprisingly fun to play with.
You can plot different graphs and then view them in three dimensions, moving around them to see them at different angles. It’s fun to try basic equations and even more fun to look up equation art. For those that don’t know, equation art is when people add a bunch of equations to a graph to “draw” a picture.
If you’re a student or professional who finds yourself working with graphs a lot, then I imagine that you’ll get a kick out of using Grapher. For the rest of us (myself included), Grapher is some fun shapes and colors.
Digital Color Meter
This is one of the coolest built-in Mac apps that I didn’t know existed. I’ve been using a third-party app to access this feature, never knowing that it was built into my Mac this whole time.
I’m of course talking about Digital Color Meter. For those that don’t know, this is an app that allows you to get the information on any color currently visible on your screen. You sample the color, and you get the RGB information required to replicate it. You can even get the RGB values for different color profiles.
Previously, I was using ColorSlurp to perform this same task. And while I’m probably not going to switch to this app, it is interesting that this feature existed on Mac the whole time. So if you’re someone who needs this feature, give Digital Color Meter a try!
Audio MIDI Setup
If Digital Color Meter is the coolest app on this list, then Audio MIDI Setup is the most confusing of the built-in Mac apps. At least for me, anyway.
This app gives you a higher level of control over the audio your Mac is playing and the devices it’s playing through. I found within just a few minutes that I can change the volume of my AirPods Max headphones independently of one another. Meaning that the left headphone can be loud while the right is quiet.
According to this page from Apple, you can also create a surround sound environment with this app. And you can “visually describe your MIDI device configuration”. I don’t know what either of those things means, but hey, if that makes sense to you, great!
In short, this is just a way to control your sound system with more precision. If that’s something you’re into, then Audio MIDI Setup is for you!
Boot Camp Assistant: An outdated (but still powerful) option among built-in Mac apps
Similar to Automator and GarageBand, I imagine that a lot of the more “pro” users already know what Boot Camp Assistant is. For those that don’t, though, it’s the next item on our list of obscure built-in Mac apps.
Boot Camp gives Mac users the ability to run Windows on their Mac computer. You still have to pay for Windows, but you can install it on your Mac using Boot Camp. When you do, you’ll be able to choose whether you want to run macOS or Windows whenever you start your Mac up.
This is great for playing games on your Mac, developing on your Mac, getting work done in Windows-exclusive apps, and more.
The one drawback of Boot Camp is that it doesn’t work on M-Series Macs. That includes my 2021 iMac. I can still open this app, interestingly enough. But when I do, I get a message saying this app doesn’t work on my Mac, and then it quits.
Still, for those still using Macs with an Intel chip, Boot Camp is a super cool feature for niche use cases.
Bluetooth File Exchange
Next is one of the most useful built-in Mac apps that you’ve never heard of. That app is Bluetooth File Exchange.
This app does exactly what it’s named for. It allows you to share files and data with other Mac devices using Bluetooth. This is super helpful, as it makes wireless file transfers a breeze.
It’s an especially important feature as the number and types of ports on Apple devices have changed (arguably for the worse) over the years. This allows you to share files without needing a cable or flash drive.
Interestingly, you can also send files to non-Mac devices. Any device that supports Bluetooth can receive files, including your mouse and keyboard. I don’t know why anyone would want to do that, but hey, with this weird app, you can!
Nearing the end of our list of odd built-in Mac apps is ColorSync Utility. This is another technical app that a subset of users are going to love, while the rest of us have little to no use for it.
Essentially, ColorSync Utility allows users to tweak the color profile of their Mac. You may have never thought about it before, but the colors displayed on your Mac are not necessarily “true”. Just like with sounds and headphones, the quality and accuracy of the colors on your screen depends on your settings.
If you’re a photographer, animator, graphic designer, or videographer who relies on super accurate colors, then you may find yourself needing to switch between color profiles while you work to ensure that each piece is as accurate as possible.
And that’s about all this app does! A simple tool for a complex feature. I wouldn’t tweak this unless you know what you’re doing!
Last on our list of offbeat built-in Mac apps is Keychain Access. While I imagine there are a lot of you already familiar with this app, I’ve noticed that a lot of my friends and family have never used it and do not know what this app does. So, let’s cover it!
Keychain Access is an app that allows you to generate and store login information for different accounts. All of your accounts, in fact! You can manually add your account info, or when using Safari, you can choose to Save Password to automatically store a newly-created password/email combo in Keychain Access.
In addition to storing your information, Keychain Access can also generate new passwords for you. Just choose to use the suggested password when creating a new account in Safari, and your randomized password will be saved by Keychain Access. That way, you don’t have to remember it the next time you log in.
This is great for keeping your accounts secure. It makes it easy to use a different, secure password with all of your accounts. That means that having one of your accounts hacked won’t lead to all of your accounts being hacked.
Overall this is a super powerful tool that you should start using if you aren’t already!
Useful, useless, and strange, those are the built-in Mac apps you never knew existed
And that’s it! Those are the built-in Mac apps you didn’t know were there in all of their unique, odd glory. While some of these apps, like Stickies and Keychain Access, are used every day by users like myself, there are some, like Grapher, that none of us knew were there.
I hope you’re able to get some use out of some of these apps, or at the very least some enjoyment. Let me know if I missed any in the comments below!
For more insights, news, and guides on all things Apple, check out the rest of the AppleToolBox blog.
See you next time!
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