Alternatives to Mail, Pages and more
I am a big fan of some of Mac OS’ default apps but like everything else online, there are tools and software apps which can do MacOS tasks better, faster, and more efficiently. We would be extremely remiss if we didn’t point them out to you.
Compared to some of the bloatware that Windows packages on their operating system, MacOS’ equivalents are really good. My wife recently bought a new Windows laptop and we had a hell of a job uninstalling Avira anti-virus from it. You don’t get these issues with a Mac.
Mac’s default apps for things like Mail, Calendar, Notes, and so forth are snappy and do the job for most people. But someone somewhere will always find a feature missing that they urgently need.
If that’s the case, here are some alternatives for you to consider. You can’t uninstall the default apps though so just throw them in a folder and forget about them if you don’t intend to use them.
Replace Mail With Mozilla Thunderbird
I haven’t used an email client for many years, preferring instead the portability and flexibility of web-based email. But if you still prefer to have your email downloaded to your computer, you would do well to use Mozilla Thunderbird.
Thunderbird gives you all of the things Mail does, as well as support for reading RSS feeds and instant messaging over Jabber (XMPP). You can also set up mailing lists and events, and encrypt your messages.
Replace Calendar With ItsyCal
I briefly mentioned ItsyCal in a recent article so I won’t raise my word count by rehashing everything again. I’ll refer you to the other article. But since starting to use ItsyCal, I have never needed to use Apple’s default calendar.
Simply add your events to Google Calendar online, then ItsyCal syncs with Google Calendar and shows all of your events and appointments in the handy little lightweight widget next to your clock.
Replace Books With Kindle
The whole iBooks recently underwent a bit of a paint-job but in my opinion, Apple has totally made a dog’s dinner of the whole thing. You now can’t hide iCloud books and the whole interface is just hideous.
Which is good news for Amazon because whoever feels like me and hates the new Apple Books, can switch to Amazon’s MacOS Kindle app instead. The Kindle app is more relaxing on the eyes, has a more minimalist design, and syncs effortlessly with the Kindle app on iOS devices.
It’s just really annoying if you have bought a lot of ePUB books on Apple though, which are incompatible on Kindle….
Replace FaceTime With Skype
FaceTime gets the job done and is really handy if your iPhone is in the other room – you can instead reply to your calls on your Mac with FaceTime. But in terms of features, FaceTime is a bit bare-bones. That is why I tend to look elsewhere for a better video conferencing app.
Until recently, I would have had no hesitation in recommending Zoom as an alternative. But then came the bombshell that the company was running a secret web server on users Macs without their permission. This means my allegiance is now back with Skype. Kiss the Holy ring, Skype.
Replace Safari With Mozilla Firefox
I suppose this is more of a personal preference thing as there are lots of diehard Safari fans out there. I prefer Mozilla Firefox more because of their wide selection of extensions and I generally feel that Firefox is faster and more privacy-focused than Safari.
But hey, if Safari floats your boat more, then stick with it. My wife adores Safari.
Replace Messages With WhatsApp
I’ve never understood the attraction of Messages, except to send free SMS messages to other Mac and iOS device users. I more prefer a cross-platform solution where I can message everyone, regardless of their computer and phone operating system.
For my paranoid, tinfoil hat-wearing friends, that solution is Signal, which I have referred to many times before. For the others, who indignantly proclaim “I have nothing to hide!”, the one to use is WhatsApp, which has a desktop version. Signal also has a desktop version.
Replace Pages With LibreOffice
Apple’s suite of office apps, led by Pages, was something I never really gelled with. Perhaps I was too used to using Microsoft Office or perhaps by the time I got my first Mac, I was too hypnotized with using LibreOffice.
For the staggering total price of free, LibreOffice gives you pretty much everything Apple’s office suite does. Plus it is more lightweight and faster to run.
You can open Microsoft Office and Apple Office documents with LibreOffice as well, and save them back into the same formats.
Replace Quicktime With VLC Player
I am actually a big fan of QuickTime, but its big Achilles Heel is that it doesn’t play every type of media file out there. Two examples are AVI and MKV files. This makes QuickTime rather limited in its usefulness.
Therefore I am forced to also run VLC Player on the Mac, which can take over when QuickTime stumbles. VLC is the granddaddy of running media files where other apps can’t.
Ones I Haven’t Bothered To Suggest Replacements For
- iTunes – as of MacOS Catalina (due out in the next couple of months), iTunes in its current form will officially cease to exist for the Mac.
- Image Capture – for scanning documents, Image Capture works surprisingly well. You can also access your scanner via Preview or via the Printers & Scanners option in System Preferences. So no need to reinvent the wheel here.
- Photos – not so long ago, I would have advocated using Google Picasa but since that has now been killed by Google, Apple’s Photos app is just as good.
- Notes – you could use Evernote or Microsoft OneNote, but they’re not free. Plus, Apple has really improved their Notes app.
- Reminders – this used to be very bare-bones but with iOS 13, Reminders is now an absolute beast with reminder popups when you message a particular person.
- Time Machine – I honestly don’t know anything which can best Time Machine in the backup department.
- Stocks and Voice Memos – who honestly uses them?
Obviously “the best” is a very subjective term so what I think is best may not match your opinions. But hopefully this article has made you aware of some of the other options out there.