State of the Apps 2018

My iPhone Homescreen as of January 2018Prompted by Myke Hurley and CGP Grey on Cortex, I decided to kick off my year of blogging with a State of the Apps. The idea is to share all of the apps I use regularly in case anyone else is looking for new tools. It also makes for a nice piece of reflection if I keep this up and write a similar post each year. We’ll see if that actually ends up happening.

I’ve broken the apps down into categories to make this a little more digestible. Some apps get used in more than one category, but I’ve slotted them in as best I can.

Day Job Productivity

These are the apps I use in my day job as a digital marketing specialist. I’m not going to include the Adobe Creative Suite here, because it’s just so common. Rest assured, I spend most of my day in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign just like everyone else in this field.

Asana — Asana is a task manager for team collaboration. While other members of my work team use it, we don’t typically share tasks that much. We’re all big fans of the calendar view and repeating tasks. I use it mostly as a content calendar for social media and email marketing.

Toggl — After listening to too many episodes of Cortex I decided to try out time tracking this year. I’m a week in and so far I have to say, I’m learning a lot about the way I work. Toggl’s web UI makes it really easy to track my tasks, but its iOS app leaves a lot to be desired. I may ultimately end up automating it with Workflow, but more on that later.

HootSuite — HootSuite isn’t my true social media manager of choice, but it’s the best budget option. My main gripe is that the analytics leave a lot to be desired. However, any app with robust reporting is outside of my budget. If I weren’t constrained at all by price, I’d be on Sprout Social.

EnPlug — We use EnPlug and their proprietary hardware to manage the informational displays throughout our building. It’s the most cost-effective and robust solution to digital signage that I’ve found. It also has some fun social media integrations including a YouTube player.

Podcasting

I’m going to refrain from mentioning Adobe apps here, but I do edit both Dudes Brunch and Ten Minute Tech Talk in Adobe Audition.

Forecast — Marco Arment’s podcast chaptering utility is still in public beta. However, it’s so useful that I can’t not recommend it to anyone who makes podcasts. Even its admittedly limited interface is better than most tools available right now. It also includes the fastest MP3 encoder you’ll find just about anywhere.

Overcast — Arment’s podcast client (iOS only, sadly) is best in class. It’s chaptering support, timestamp linking and Smart Speed are killer features. The sleeper hit for me though is how it displays show notes, allowing producers to lay them out in HTML however they like. I write really extensive show notes for our shows and I hate that some apps make them look like garbage. If the link lists look bad in your app, you should be using Overcast.

Buffer — Sometimes you don’t need a lot of features from your social media manager. That’s where Buffer comes in. I only use it to post to our Dudes Brunch Twitter and Facebook simultaneously. That’s all it does for me, but it does it really reliably.

Communications

Slack — Most tech adjacent people are familiar with Slack by now. While it’s definitely not great for every workspace, it’s perfect for a podcast network. Each show gets it’s own channel, there’s a channel for merch ideas and another for stupid memes. We’ve been using it for years, and I don’t think we’d get any shows made without it.

Messenger — Facebook’s Messenger app for iOS and Android has become an absolute necessity over the last year. The rich media integrations are great, and it has some of the best group chatting features I’ve seen in a mainstream app. My only complaint is that there’s not a great desktop version.

Outlook — I am forever trying to convince people to use the Outlook mobile app. It has all of the same features as the desktop app, but in a cleaner interface that Microsoft acquired when they bought a couple of other apps. I love that it lets me keep my Outlook email and contacts separated from the personal ones on my iOS devices.

General Purpose

Evernote — I’ve been a hardcore Evernote user since 2010, when I was a junior in high school. I have so much data in there that I don’t think I could ever leave it behind. Whether I’m drafting a blog post, taking notes in a meeting or hunting for new apartments I have always used Evernote as my scratch pad.

Mint — Another long-time favorite, I’ve been keeping track of my finances in Mint since 2012. It keeps me on budget, checks my credit score and shows me trends in my spending. Not exactly sexy, but it does what I need.

Workflow — This was a new fascination in 2017. Workflow allows you to automate things on iOS by writing short programs. I’ve found a few really great uses for it like splitting bills with my roommate, speed dialing FaceTime calls and making memes out of photos. It’s also just fun to goof around with.

Home

Paprika — If you cook, you should definitely check out Paprika. It’s a recipe manager and shopping list where you can pick out meals for the week, add all of the ingredients to a list and then check them off by aisle as you shop. I bought version 2.0 for all of my devices and I’m almost certainly going to pick up the newly released 3.0.

Highball — This is a new addition to my devices, but it is probably the classiest cocktail recipe app I’ve ever seen. The library of classic cocktail recipes is great, but I love that you can make your own recipes and share them as recipe card images with friends.

Nest — My power company gave me a $100 rebate on a Nest thermostat this year, cutting the price of the device in half. It was worth every penny. Most apartments I’ve lived in have ancient thermostats that would run the heat during the day when no one was home. With the Nest our energy bills are a bit lower and much more stable from month-to-month.

News & Entertainment

Feedly — I’ve used Feedly since the death of Google Reader. It’s not my main news source, but it is great for aggregating the music and tech blogs I read.

Apple News — Apple’s built-in news app really won me over this year. The interface is great for reading long articles and my local paper feeds into it, which is helpful. Somehow it also doesn’t seem to have the same paywall as using the New York Times website, which is supremely useful.

Pocket — Any time I see an interesting headline I save the article to Pocket. My list of saved articles is huge so I’ll often wait until I have a free afternoon or a flight and just binge-read through everything. Pocket on the iPad is perfect for long reading sessions like that.

Blackbox — Blackbox was definitely my favorite mobile game of the past year, but it’s barely a game. It’s a series of puzzling tasks that force you to consider all of the amazing things an iPhone can do. I’m honestly shocked that Apple has responded positively to it based on some of the hack-y things you have to do in some levels of the “game”.

If you try out any of these apps I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’m also always open to suggestions for other things I should be using. Leave comment or tweet at me.