It was an interesting year for OS X software. A few popular apps, such as the vector-design tool Sketch, were frustrated by the experience of the Mac App Store and left it to go it alone. Apple maintained its annual release schedule, offering a solid, no- frills update to OS X. But Microsoft might have made the biggest waves, releasing Office 2016 and Windows 10, which all the virtual-machine makers rushed to support.

Acorn

I've used Acorn for years and was excited to try the latest update that shipped this summer. The affordable image-editing app, tuned for El Capitan, is packed with easy-to-use tools that can accomplish everything except the most heavy-duty Photoshop jobs.

osxfavs.jpg

VMware

Virtualization is not the most gripping topic, but if you were paying attention, this was a pretty interesting year for running OSes other than what came with your computer. First, Microsoft released Windows 10, the long-hoped-for replacement for Windows 8. Then Apple released El Capitan, which didn't overwhelm anyone but was a solid update. Finally, VMware released Fusion 8, which lets you run the two new OSes side by side.

Microsoft Office 2016 for Mac

We seem to be past the days of "Nobody ever got fired for buying Microsoft," but a new Mac version of Office is still a very big deal. We waited five years for the latest Office, but Microsoft used the time to add real-time collaboration tools and to bring the Mac apps more in line with their Windows counterparts Office may no longer be the "only right choice," but if you need industrial-strength tools, this is an essential kit.

Clifford Colby follows the Mac and Android markets for Download.com. He's been an editor at Peachpit Press and a handful of now-dead computer magazines, including MacWeek, MacUser, and Corporate Computing.