Leading apps for Mac business users

Erik Eckel lists the most frequently encountered applications in Mac-based businesses, based on his own consultant experience. Do you deploy different apps than these? Add your observations or recommendations.

Enterprise and business users are consistently curious as to the applications other firms, and potentially competitors in particular, leverage to power their organizations. Many have come right out and asked which software programs others use.

Fortunately, supporting numerous commercial and nonprofit firms provides more than passing familiarity with the software packages, applications, and suites companies select. Over time first-hand knowledge reveals truths. For better or worse, here are several applications Mac businesses frequently independently select and employ for fulfilling critical tasks and operations.

Office productivity

Microsoft Office is by far the most common productivity suite encountered within Mac businesses. Even in cases where Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are present, it's rare Microsoft's competing Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps aren't also installed. Microsoft's productivity tools are simply the standard, which should come as no surprise. The applications typically provide a consistent, reliable and compatible experience.

Design and layout

Many publishing, graphic arts, media, advertising, printing and marketing firms tap Apple's Mac technologies for design, layout, web development, graphics, illustration and similar creative tasks. Adobe's collection of design and layout programs, including InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop, are almost always part of the software mix. Typically, and especially due to the common need for small and medium business' to minimize IT expenses, these applications are a release or two behind the most current offering. But rest assured, Adobe's Creative Suite tools are popular, even if releases are not regularly upgraded.

Financial management

Anomalies exist everywhere. Financial software within Mac businesses is a good example. iBank and QuickBooks applications immediately come to mind, but personal experience (validated over years) suggests financial management within Mac environments is frequently fulfilled by an accounting department using a one- or two-year old version of QuickBooks Professional on a Windows-based PC. Mind you, I don't mean QuickBooks being run within a Windows virtual machine on a Mac, but QuickBooks being run on a Windows machine. QuickBooks and Windows continue to prove a popular combination within small and medium businesses, even when those businesses largely use Macs for other operations and purposes.

Contact management and CRM

I'm surprised the proven success of 37 signals' web-based Highrise application hasn't reduced the number of times clients request Act! for Mac, which isn't available. Filemaker and Bento offer two contact management options for Mac users. Daylite and Elements CRM are two other CRM tools that receive many popular reviews. But most often my office finds Mac users attempt to leverage Calendar and Address Book, or Microsoft Outlook with its Contacts and Tasks features, to manage contacts and customer relationships.


Organizations and end users continue to debate the necessity of antimalware software on OS X, but the fact remains that Apple recommends users deploy antivirus. We often encounter ESET NOD32 Antivirus Business Edition for Mac, although we've also supported Norton AntiVirus for Mac. Overall, the ESET Remote Administrator simplifies endpoint management, including for Macs and mobile operating systems.

Web browser

Questions often arise regarding which browser is most popular. On Macs, Safari remains the most popular. Google's Chrome is increasingly turning up in SMB Mac offices, however. My suspicion is many clients' dependence upon Gmail, Google Apps and Google Docs is encouraging installation of Google's browser.

Virtualization software

My recommendation to clients needing or wishing to run Windows on a Mac is to deploy Apple's Bootcamp software. Windows, when run on a Mac using Bootcamp, is for most practical purposes a Windows installation. RAM and CPU resources aren't overly stressed trying to run the OS within a virtual machine, and USB peripherals tend to run better, too.

But clients frequently request Parallels, or even vmWare Fusion, both of which place greater demands than Bootcamp on a Mac's available system resources. We've also seen many knowledgeable users, including reasonably proficient power users, become frustrated attempting to consistently and reliably print to USB printers, access network resources, and obtain acceptable performance when running larger applications, such as Outlook and QuickBooks, on the Windows virtual machine.

Which applications does your business favor?

Does your organization prefer different software programs than those mentioned here? Maybe your firm standardized on an application or programs within different categories. Join the Mac software discussion below to add your comments.


Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president o...


I run a business on macs and mac networks and most of my clients are on mac and I don't recognize hardly any of the programs listed above as standard. Here's what I see from companies on macs specificalyl with 10 terminals or more:

Design: Adobe CS

Presentation Software: Prezi (www.prezi.com), Sliderocket (www.sliderocket.com) or Keynote

Office Productivity: MS Office (microsoft.com/mac/products)

CRM & Project Management: Highrise and Basecamp (www.37signals.com) OR Sugar CRM (www.sugarcrm.com)

Accounting: AcctVantage ERP for companies with complexity/inventory (www.acctvantage.com) or Freshbooks for 1-3 person operations (www.freshbooks.com)

Inventory: AcctVantage again

Nobody uses antivirus software bc its just not an issue with macs. Chrome is the standard - not sure where the statistic referenced here comes from that Safari is #1? Maybe for consumers but most businesses need something more robust and capable of integration. Parallels I agree with for VM/VD.


I don't think this article is based on reality..for real Mac businesses - I think it's from an MS consultant - not a Mac user or business. I agree with Keith. I see more small businesses using Paperdesk, Goodreader, and many other apps that are gaining a lot of traction. Lightspeed is the most used POS systems in small and medium businesses - they aren't really using 'spreadsheets' anymore. It's also a shame that you don't mention Mint or other Mac options for finances as it shows that this a singleton and biased view. Medium sized businesses are only requiring Office apps because of old and outdated business requirements and opinions, not based on the actual need. I'm seeing huge increases in Google Apps and Docs - especially for non-profits. Almost all small businesses can easily utilize Pages, OpenOffice, LibreOffice and even Abiword without training or added costs of migration. There will be a large business cost just migrating between Win 7 from 32bit to 64bit, and then a bigger disparity to go on to windows 8. You will need a virtual environment for Windows platforms just to correlate the version differences and to support legacy platforms. You would be far better off to place your IT strategy with an emphasis on cross-developed or open platforms. (Web applications+Hybrid Private/public Cloud) Boot camp is an archaic method for managing legacy Windows apps. I have been seeing much more implementations of Parralels and VMware which are far beyond the boot-camp mentality of 2004. The best and fastest operations of any Windows 7 installations have all been running Parallels on a Mac. Even on native HP and Lenovo 'windows certified' hardware, the virtual PC running in Parallels or VMware on a Mac is by far better than any other boot-camp option OR even running on native hardware. These are deep-rooted (or deep-rutted) opinions about how a lagging platform is still trying to be relevant. It's not anymore. You don't have to use MS Office to be a 'business'. There are so many better options today. After all, what does Google, Oracle, IBM, Facebook, Twitter use for office products? And their businesses seem to be much more successful in the IT industry. Innovators in the IT industry allow their users to choose what they want for tools, not force them back to the abacus.


I am very happy with the apps that are available for the Mac. LibreOffice, Firefox or Chrome, Dropbox, Gimp, Blue Griffon (which is a very good HTLM editor), and VMware's Fusion (for those situaltion where a program does not exist in native Mac binary code.) BTW all these programs (and many more) are free (or donate-ware) except for VMware's Fusion which costs $49.95 (as a direct purchase from the company's website). I don't run a very large business but wouldn't have any trouble doing most everything for a small to medium size business. Just my opinoin. Keith


Why bother with bootcamp? No need to virtualise, just go native. You could buy 3 serviceable work PCs for the price of 1 Mac. I'm sure, in certain circumstances a Mac running DTP software is required, but for 95% of business use the power to be able to buy more hardware for your coinage is very appealing. So appealing in fact that over 90% of business machines are PCs... and long may that continue. There seems to be some symmetry there doesn't there?

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