I’m relatively picky when it comes to iPhone apps and iPad apps. I’ve downloaded countless apps and rarely open them more than once before deleting them. Among the apps that don’t get quickly deleted there’s a small group that have made it into my daily or weekly flow for longer than a few days or weeks. These are the apps I ‘love’.
In the spirit of sharing a good thing, I’ve put together a list of the apps that have surprised me and become become an integral part of my regular routine along with what I love about them. Have a look and see if you find a gem worth trying.
TextExpander (iPad / iPhone & OSX)
I was interested in TextExpander for a long time before I finally decided to give it a try. I had a hard time seeing how I would use the mobile app so I started with the free demo for OSX. It only took a few days to realize I loved it and buy the mobile version as well. It’s an app that molds to your needs. I use it for coding on the iPad, correcting spelling, writing markdown, running shell scripts, writing email signatures, creating templates for blog posts, and quickly typing anything I frequently write. I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. If there’s something you find yourself repetitively typing or doing, TextExpander can make it easier. It will worm its way into your workflow across all devices: once you start using it, you start looking for more ways to use it.
Drafts (iPad / iPhone)
Here’s another app that will slowly worm it’s way into your workflow. What it offers is a simple text window with highly customizable actions for what to do with your text. You can jot something down and return to it later or send it just about anywhere you can imagine: another app, Dropbox, Evernote, your calendar, your to-do list, a browser, append it to a file somewhere, send it as a message, a tweet, a text, or an email. With TextExpander integration and custom URL actions — the sky is the limit. I even have a URL action that quickly generates a Bit.ly shortened link.
1Password (Universal & OSX)
I started using 1Password on my computer hoping for better security ( a different password for every site ) and the convenience of not having to remember it all. I never imagined I would want to use it on an iOS device - after all why use an app with a built in browser when I already have a browser. On the computer I have a hotkey that opens the browser extension and allows me to automatically login to any website I’m on. Once I had all my passwords saved on the computer I found myself wanting the same convenience on my mobile devices. So I broke down and bought it. If I’m going to a site where I need to login, I open the app, put in my master password, choose the site and the app takes me to it and logs me in. It’s also integrated with a number of iOS apps including Drafts which makes it even more useful.
Launch Center Pro (iPhone)
I bought Launch Center Pro because of the promise of actions. One of my favorites: Open the app, pick an action ( search Pinboard ), fill in the prompt and watch as the app magically opens Chrome, and searches my Pinboard links. I use a few actions frequently — they cut down on tapping but honestly I mostly use it to keep my home screen free of clutter and launch my second most used apps from my home screen. It’s like a utility belt for the iPhone and has a spot in my dock.
Textastic (iPad / iPhone & OSX)
Code editing on the iPad? Ridiculous. Or so I thought. I researched every iPad app for coding that’s available - thanks to Brett Terpstra’s brilliant chart. My requirements: TextExpander integration, markdown, web preview, code inspector, Dropbox integration, FTP integration, syntax highlighting, code formatting, the Solarized dark color scheme ( which I also use in Sublime Text and Chrome Developer Tools ), and some form of code completion. Along with all of that Textastic delivers a brilliant navigation and selection system which I have found myself attempting to use in other apps. It’s not easy to write code on a mobile device - but Textastic makes it as easy, pleasant and productive as possible.
Omnifocus (iPad / iPhone & OSX)
I’ve been using Omnifocus on my computer, iPad and iPhone for a number of years now. I’m sure I don’t use all the features available and while my setup and methodology has varied over time as my needs shifted, Omnifocus has always been flexible enough to adapt. I’ve used Omnifocus for everything from a simple to-do list, a way to set reminders, a place to store things I plan to do one day, to an in-depth project management system. The great thing is it can be used for all of those things at the same time.
Writing Kit (Universal) along with terminology (iPad / iPhone)
Writing Kit is truly one of the most brilliant apps I’ve come across. In fact I’m writing this post on it now. Before I discovered Writing Kit I was a devout iA Writer user - loving its pure simplicity. Writing Kit however has mastered the notion of a one window productivity suite with an integrated browser, integrated Terminology, integrated quick web search, quick referencing of other sources, access to saved Instapaper, Readability or Pinboard articles, navigation shortcuts, Markdown shortcuts, live preview and customization options - all from one window. If you write ( and / or research ) on the iPad, you must try Writing Kit. It has expanded my vision of what a task focused app can deliver.
Pocket (iPad / iPhone & OSX)
Up until I discovered Pocket I used Readability and before that I used Instapaper. While I really like the reading experience in these apps, I save a lot of articles with code, videos and presentations which seem less ideally suited for those services. What I love about Pocket is how easy it is to save anything and everything I come across on the web that I’d like to get back to later. Once I’ve read or watched something I can easily tag and archive it or share it to numerous services including Bufferapp and Pinboard. As a result Pocket is my time saving intermediary spot for all interesting things I come across and want to read later, share later or archive later. It also has robust integration with ifttt which makes it all the better.
Day One (iPad / iPhone & OSX)
Day One almost feels like it doesn’t quite fit in this lineup, but I include it because it’s an app I use a lot and it has shifted my online sharing behavior. Day One is pitched as a journal app — making it as easy to record your life as sending a tweet. Day One works for both long-form posts or ‘status updates’. You can add a photo, a location, hashtags, the time and / or the weather along with your text and store it all privately in Dropbox. What I love most about Day One is that there is no audience. Since I started using Day One I’ve found myself sharing more with myself and less on other social media networks. When I think about why I share things on Facebook or Foursquare in particular it’s often to have my own record. With Day One I can share without thinking of my audience, my privacy or how many likes I get.
This post has gotten longer than I planned, so I’ll save discussing games and social media apps for another post. In the meantime, I hope you find a new app that delivers more than you expected!
- Brett Terpstra iOS text editor comparison spreadsheet
- TextExpander Tools
- Goodbye Ubiquitous Digital Service
Disclaimer: All links to apps are affiliate links. When you choose to purchase any app via these links you are supporting this blog which I greatly appreciate. In return I promise to always post truthfully and never intentionally recommend something I don’t believe in.