These new apps will keep you productive and entertained [Awesome Apps of the Week]

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Whether you're tweaking your Mac or playing around, these apps will help.
Whether you're tweaking your Mac or playing around, these apps will help.
Image: Cult of Mac

It’s Sunday, and you’re staring at your computer. What’s it gonna be? Work or fun?

Some of the new and upgraded apps in this week’s roundup put an array of clever tools at your disposal if you’re feeling productive. You can free up space on your Mac’s hard drive, download YouTube videos or give your Home app a makeover.

Others focus on fun. They give you new ways to flex your creativity and stay entertained — and maybe even get paid while doing so. Time to dig in!

Parallels Toolbox for Mac

Parallels Toolbox for Mac's new interface makes finding the right tool easier than ever.
So many tools — and now so easy to find!
Screenshot: Parallels International

Parallels Toolbox puts 45 bite-size apps at Mac users’ fingertips that can do everything from decluttering your computer to quickly creating an animated GIF. But with so many tools to choose from, using Parallels Toolbox sometimes felt a bit like digging through your crazy uncle’s cluttered tool chest in the past. Not anymore!

An upgraded interface makes it easier than ever to find the tools you need, when you need them. If you love using the Download Video tool to grab clips from YouTube, for instance, you can add it to the new Parallels Toolbox Dashboard so it’s always right there waiting for you. Alternatively, you can quickly find the tool you need in the new Library, which sorts the mini-apps into 10 categories like Audio, Video and System. This week’s big Parallels Toolbox update also brings improved macOS Big Sur compatibility and other enhancements.

The array of tools in this suite really pack a punch. And, while Parallels isn’t free, you can take advantage of dozens of powerful apps with a free trial.

Price: $19.99 a year, with a seven-day free trial

Download from: Parallels International

Compete: Create or Vote to Win

If you like TikTok but wouldn't mind getting paid for your creative clips, Compete is here for you.
If you like TikTok but wouldn’t mind getting paid for your creative clips, Compete is here for you.
Screenshot: Competitive Media Technology

Sponsored: Hey TikTok … show us the money! New social media app Compete gives video creators a shot at winning up to $5,000 just for showcasing their talents in a short video. And it’s not just creators who can get paid: Simply voting on 15-second clips — in fun categories like cutest pets, best celebrity impressions, and most amazing dance routines — can pay off for Compete users.

The free TikTok alternative is available now on iOS and Android for users 13 and up. And Compete guarantees all the content on the app is “clean and safe,” with no violence, sexual content or other nasty stuff.

Price: Free

Download from: App Store (iOS) or Google Play (Android)

NBA 2K21 Arcade Edition 4+

Apple Arcades scores a major franchise with NBA 2K21 Arcade Edition.
Apple Arcades shoots and scores!
Screenshot: 2K Games

The classic basketball franchise blasts its way into Apple Arcade. NBA 2K21 Arcade Edition 4+ serves up the pro stars you admire on the devices you love. Multiple gameplay modes let players “step into the shoes of their favorite NBA stars,” Apple says.

It’s part of a big push to make Apple Arcade a major player on the gaming scene. And, like all Apple Arcade releases, this version of NBA 2K21 is a slam dunk on iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV. It’s included in your $4.99 monthly subscription, and you won’t cry foul over ads or pesky in-app purchases.

Price: Free with Apple Arcade subscription

Download from: App Store (iOS, iPadOS, macOS and tvOS)

HomePaper for HomeKit

HomePaper makes it easy to quickly "remodel" the Home app.
HomePaper makes it easy to quickly “remodel” the Home app.
Screenshot: Pearce Media Limited

If you want to spruce up Apple’s notoriously bland-looking Home app, we’ve got the app for you. HomePaper for HomeKit lets you quickly customize the look of the Home app with pictures and easily tweakable gradients. It’s a hassle-free way to remodel Apple’s stock offering. (Our how-to shows just how easy it is to make custom Home app wallpapers with HomePaper.)

If you’re curious, you can try it out with one free image to see if it suits you. Then, if you want to add more, the app costs just 99 cents.

Price: Free, with in-app purchase

Download from: App Store (iOS, iPadOS)

Fantasian

Fantasian: This new Apple Arcade game looks amazing.
This new Apple Arcade game looks utterly amazing.
Screenshot: Mistwalker Corp.

Gaming has come a long way from the old 8-bit graphics days, and Fantasian just became the best-looking RPG on the App Store. The new Apple Arcade game starts with exquisite handmade sets, then overlays them with computer-generated characters. The look is amazing — just what you’d expect from Hironobu Sakaguchi, who made the classic Final Fantasy series.

Fantasian is a role-playing game with strategic, turn-based combat. Players take on the role of Leo, who must save the world even as he solves the mystery of his own lost memories. — Ed Hardy

Price: Free with Apple Arcade subscription

Download from: App Store (iOS, iPadOS, macOS and tvOS)

WristControl for HomeKit

WristControl lets you take control of your HomeKit directly from your Apple Watch.
Take control of your HomeKit directly from your Apple Watch.
Screenshot: András Sólyom

WristControl is the HomeKit application for Apple Watch that Apple itself should make. There is a version of Home for watchOS, but it’s rudimentary. WristControl from developer András Sólyom adds plenty of additional features, like a very customizable user interface. And a recent update added “support for target temperature, e.g. thermostat or air conditioning.”

Plus, it’s a standalone app that allows everything to be configured on your Watch without an iPhone nearby. If you regularly control your smart home from your Apple Watch, give WristControl a try. — Ed Hardy

Price: 99 cents

Download from: App Store (watchOS)