Some people have found the older installments of this list to be helpful, so I figured it was time for an update. The Apple App Store for iOS continues to suffer from discoverability and search issues. App prices have dropped, but it can still be costly to try out new mobile software. I am mainly focused here on the iPhone, but many of these apps work on iPads and have Android or other non-Apple versions versions.  I pay for these out of my own pocket and do not accept compensation related to these, with the exception of the two mentioned here that are offered by my employer. The order is roughly based on frequency of use. 

My iPhone 5S home screen circa September 2014.

My iPhone 5S home screen circa September 2014.

Calendars 5 I have found myself having to juggle a lot more meetings, staff schedules and invitations in recent years, so I needed something with more features and multi-calendar ability than the built-in calendar. As my old brain's memory has started to misfire, I find myself setting calendar items, alerts and reminders for more and more things to keep me on track even in my home life. This app syncs with BusyCal, my desktop client, and both work well with gmail and iOs calendars. You can set up events with natural language: "have coffee with Joe at 9 a.m. on Thursday" will be converted into a regular calendar item.

Omnifocus The essential, intuitive to-do list, project manager, organizer, lifesaver. Expensive, but I buy it for every device I own. 

Tweetbot As the official Twitter site and its apps get more commercial and intrusive, with new distracting features I don't find helpful, this continues to be my tweeting standby. Key features: You can save draft tweets and mute people temporarily when they are live-tweeting sports or other events you don't care about.

Overcast There are many great podcast apps out there, but this one allows you to see recommendations from people you follow on Twitter and has a key feature, Smartspeed, that subtly eliminates pauses and silences in recorded shows. In fewer than six months of heavy podcast listening, Overcast saved me nearly 24 hours.

1Password This has become an amazing tool now that iOS 8 integrates it with the iPhone fingerprint reader and Safari. I can safely log into any account on the phone, without having to remember my increasingly long and complicated passwords, with no fear that someone could get into my accounts if my phone were compromised.

Weather Underground The best, most-detailed weather app I've found, and I've tried them all. I use it in combination with Dark Sky, which gives local, highly focused accurate alerts with radar images about rainstorms ("light rain for next 20 minutes"), essential for walking and biking around New York.

Slack This chat room / messaging tool is becoming essential for editing teams working on many of our new products in the newsroom. I am quickly alerted to a range of keywords -- from my own name to "stylebook" -- no matter where I am or what I'm doing, if I choose to be paying attention. 

Unread This simple, intuitive RSS reader has replaced Reeder on my screen. I switched around the time Google pulled the plug on its feed reader. Good for breaking away from the curated streams of people you follow or various services. 

Digg I also have my RSS feeds flowing into Digg, which is a good reader. But I've also become addicted to the "top stories" curation, which does a good job finding the best content every day, a mix of both substantive and viral links. 

Quotebook from Lickability. 

Quotebook from Lickability. 

Quotebook I bought this because I know a couple of the developers but I didn't really expect to be using it as much as I have. I've now saved dozens of quotes found on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere. The auto-detection and import functions are remarkable. 

Evernote I have used Evernote as a junk drawer in the cloud for years, and the tools and notebooks have steadily improved, making it a useful part of my workflow for articles, pictures, and other information I want to save. Clip web pages, use the OCR scanner to make PDFs searchable, stash notes for the future. Combine it with Hazel on a Mac desktop for auto-saving of downloads, bills and other important documents.

Fitbit I wear a Fitbit Flex and obsessively check my daily steps and other activity here. It syncs data with the wrist device via low-energy bluetooth, and, now, with some other health apps I'm still trying out that use Apple's new Health Kit functionality on iOS. So far I do not share data competitively with friends, but I would if anyone is game.

Drafts and Simplenote are very plain, simple note-taking apps where I jot down bits of information. Drafts has more features, with actions that can create tweets, emails, append items to Dropbox files, and more. But Simplenote, which syncs with Notational Velocity on a computer, is faster and simpler with more intuitive search of the notes. At some point I'll probably shift completely to drafts.

ProCamera The iPhone camera app has a confusing menu system. The buttons are too small, it takes too long to switch between stills and video (you have to scroll past "square" and other dumb options), and there are Instagram-style filters that pop up at inconvenient times. For a long time I used Camera+ (from Tap Tap Tap; big buttons but no video) and Camera Plus (from Global Delight; has video and interesting wifi sharing). Lately I have been using ProCamera, which seems to be the best of the lot.

Chess.com Nothing beats playing real people. I've tried many of the apps and desktop sites but many were buggy, with lost connections at mid-game being the worst part. This is the best I've found. The free version is fully featured, but I chose to give them money for a subscription, which gets you some advanced game statistics and tutorials. 

Curated links from around the web on NYT Now (swipe to the left).

Curated links from around the web on NYT Now (swipe to the left).

NYTimes and NYTNow Two different flavors of The Times. I use the first one when I want to see the report as the editors intended, and the second as more of a breaking news stream, with curated picks from around the web.

iTrans NYC Comprehensive New York City subway information, including detailed construction alerts. 

Dropbox Useful for syncing some apps and content (Drafts, 1Password, etc.), ready availability of documents and pictures from my computers. 

Dreamer  A handy dedicated tool for recording a dream with a date/time stamp when you wake up in the dark. The screen is black, so you can type without a bright light in your face. It's simple but a little clunky. Some kind of automatic archiving to Evernote or Dropbox would be nice, but you can email the entries manually.

Instapaper  Still my go-to read later app, for links and articles saved from Twitter, Safari, Facebook and so forth. 

Buffer  Let's say you have a heavy tweeting habit. Maybe you don't want to flood your users with 20 tweets in 20 minutes. You can set up a schedule in Buffer that will sprinkle the tweets out at a more manageable rate. It could be used in more nefarious ways, but I'd avoid that: don't be the person auto-sharing joke tweets during a national tragedy. 

Cellartracker The best wine cellar site now has its own app, which has a better look and works better than my previous one, Cor.kz. Keep track of bottles you own (or have owned), how much they cost, ratings and reviews (including your own tasting notes), and when they get consumed. Enter data automatically by scanning the labels with your camera.

Webster's New World and Oxford Shorter English dictionaries - These are so much handier than a huge book or searching the web. Enter a few letters and move quickly and responsively to the entries you want. 

Flipboard After ignoring it for a couple of years, I have recently resumed using this magazine-style web reader, which can give you detailed collections from The Times, your friends on Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIn / Google Plus, and more. They keep adding features and improving the experience. 

TextExpander The useful text shortcut app. Create short snippets that fill in your email signatures, phone number / addresses, entire form letters, corrected spellings, foreign words with correct accents, etc. I use it on all my devices. The new iOS 8 version has its own iPhone keyboard. 

Put your situation in a sentence and let Beats pick the music. 

Put your situation in a sentence and let Beats pick the music. 

Beats  I tried this streaming music service out on a whim ($) after Apple bought it, and I find I prefer it to Spotify, iTunes Radio and Pandora. It features a lot of curated playlists, detailed information about the artists, and a good selection of music. The play-a-sentence feature seems gimmicky ("I'm in the car & feel like road-tripping with my boo to indie") but can be fun for a gathering so you don't have to be constantly playing deejay. The user-interface is O.K., though sometimes non-intuitive; I have gotten lost in menus trying to find my way back to a feature. I don't use this much on the phone, but at home, I stream Beats from my purely entertainment-focused iPad Air via low-energy Bluetooth to a Marshall Stanmore speaker, which sounds (and looks) sweet. I hope Apple keeps the best parts of Beats but integrates it with iTunes in some way so I can use my purchased music library in a single app. 

Shazam What's that song playing in the restaurant, bar or shop? Shazam tells you, and even shows you where to buy it. Rarely fails.

Swarm and Foursquare  I fear Foursquare has damaged its user experience and business by spinning check-ins off to a separate app, Swarm. I'm still using it, but a whole lot less than before. I added a lot of tips to restaurants and other venues, which I found useful on subsequent visits to neighborhoods. I have left very few tips since check-ins were moved over to the ugly orange Swarm app. I still find it useful to check the apps for nearby stuff, but I fear that the quality of the information will slowly be reduced to Yelp-level quality. I have Yelp too, but it can quickly turn into an ugly, confusing rathole of bad information. The key difference is that Foursquare encouraged users to focus on the positive ("try the crispy tuna roll") rather than asking people to be less-than-useful reviewers ("the waiter on Sunday night was very rude.") 

Facebook The only way I check my feed, once a week. It would be even better if it stopped nagging me to download the separate Messenger app, which I don't need. I discourage emails or private messages on Facebook. Too many inboxes in my life already.

Pinbook  I save all my tweets and favorited links on various platforms to the social bookmarking site Pinboard and use this to look at them. Sort of like the old Delicious service.

Opentable Still a great way to find restaurants with available tables for reservations at the last minute. 

Kindle, Audible and comic publisher apps. My preferred book app on iOS devices is for Kindle, because of my large Amazon library, although the continued Apple-Amazon wars mean it's laborious to purchase ebooks (and audio books via Audible, also an Amazon company). Best workaround is to put Amazon store web apps on your home screen. I have a similar problem on the iPad with Comixology, since Amazon destroyed in-app purchases after buying that company. My workaround for comics is to use the apps from Marvel, Image and other publishers; they use Comixology technology but still allow in-app purchases via iTunes. It's not clear how long that will continue.

Threes, Dark Nebula 2, Catan HD My current, insidious time wasters. 

 

 

 

Posted
AuthorPatrick LaForge