My apps of 2015, desktop and mobile

Like so many others, I found myself using the same apps over the past couple of months that help me taking care of my daily tasks.

I think it’s best to separate these apps by device, since they differ depending on where I am and what needs to be done. My daily devices are my iPhone, a 6s Plus, my 13″ Retina MacBook Pro, a second generation iPad mini and — mostly for watching TV shows in the evening and some browsing — a Nexus 9. I also use an Apple Watch, but don’t find myself using it for third party apps that often.

Mobile apps on my iPhone and iPad

I don’t use my iPhone or iPad as my primary devices, most work gets done on my MacBook. I’ve been thinking about getting an iPad Pro on and off for the past few weeks, but I have yet to invest again into Apples tablet offerings.

That said, I still use my iPad mini but that’s mostly for developing and adjusting widgets for Statusboard, which is part of my admin job. Sometimes I have it open at the office as well, to be able to always have an eye on what’s going on on Twitter using Tapbot’s amazing Tweetbot.

I’ve also found myself using iA Writer on my iPhone more and more. In fact I’m typing this here right now on my 6s Plus. I use iCloud to store, sync and share my articles between the iOS and OS X versions of the app. All my daily writing happens primarily in the OS X app.

What I like most of iA Writer is its simplistic interface. And thanks to the size of the iPhone 6s Plus it’s easy to easily knock out some paragraphs while sitting in the airport waiting for a flight. I only wish my client’s CMS wouldn’t be a handicapped WordPress. That’s also why I’m not primarily writing in Markdown, as much as I’d love to — and am able to do here using Jekyll.

Coming back to important apps on my iOS devices, the first two apps that usually make it on any of them are 1Password and Dropbox. I also use them on my Mac and Nexus 9, even though the Android version isn’t anywhere as nice or functional as the other variants.

My primary browser and email client are Safari and Apple’s own Mail app. Talking about built-in apps, the podcast app isn’t one I would ever touch with a 10 foot pole. That’s where Overcast comes in and will be hard to replace at this point.

When it comes to Maps apps I’m using a mix of Apple Maps and Google Maps. The integration with Apple Watch is my prime reason to use Apple Maps, although there are times where it still has issues, even in Apple’s home turf in the Bay Area. It really should know how some places are pronounced properly.

Google Maps isn’t perfect either, seeing it suggest turns at its own headquarter in Mountain View that aren’t exactly legal. I’m not a fan of Waze, as I don’t see any reason of using it, when I can get many of the same traffic warnings in Google Maps anyway.

My primary photo app is the built-in camera app used in combination with Apples Photos. Backups are also being done by Dropbox and Google Photos though. On occasion I use Camera+ to edit some shots before they end up on Instagram or are being shared with friends and family using Shared Albums on iCloud.

One of the few apps on my first home screen is Slack, which I use for various clients. As such I’m part of currently 5 or 6 different Teams.

Two more productivity apps I use heavily are Panics Transmit and Prompt to work remotely on servers and Amazon Web Services I’m taking care of.

While working I’m usually also listening to music. I tried to listen to podcasts but I found it too distracting, so I usually listen to Beats 1 or something available on Apple Music. I cancelled my Spotify account and quit using it the day Apple Music launched and haven’t looked back. It certainly still has some issues but I’ve come to love Beats 1 and the ease of finding the playing music and just adding the track to a monthly playlist I’ve been creating for the past couple of months.

Hats off to Zane Lowe and more recently even more so Ebro Darden who both find awesome new artists and songs I’ve not known of before. These are not only featured during their shows but also in the Connect part of Apple Music when they decide to share them. The playlists of recent Beats 1 shows are also a great way to find that one song you missed before.

Since I regularly find myself working in a coffee shop, my co-working space and in general using public Wi-Fi hotspots I’m using Cloak as my VPN provider. Even when there are issues, which only rarely occur, but if you’re using any service for several hours a day you’ll find some occasionally, they are very fast to respond and resolve them either via Twitter or mail. The best thing about it is the automatic enabling when not connected to a secure Wi-Fi, which you can define in the app. In combination with Little Snitch on my Mac it also automatically changes the network profile.

For tracking packages I use Deliveries, once again available for iOS and OS X. I use Junecloud sync because I’m not using the App Store version of the app on OS X — the same reason I don’t use iCloud sync for 1Password. Maybe once Apple gets its act together and fixes the Mac App Store I’ll use more apps from there again.

I have no real use for todo apps. It either goes into OmniFocus, because I love their reminders to show up when I happen to drive by a place that has an action within a given context. I use Apple’s built-in Reminders app to share items with other people though.

OS X apps

My daily OS X apps don’t differ much from my iOS apps, although more things happen directly in a browser window, rather than in a dedicated app. Like mentioned before I’m primarily using iA Writer to edit articles and blog posts. If it’s just a note, I usually write it down in TextMate.

For maps and mail for instance I generally use Google Maps, Google Mail – or Google Inbox if there’s just something I want to push out to a later date but not archive quite yet. Sometimes Apple Maps finds a spot in my Dock, mostly to look at something in 3D view.

If I’m listening to podcasts on my Mac I also do so in a browser window, just using the web version of It also syncs with the iOS app. I wonder if this is the hidden secret feature of Overcast.

For Twitter on OS X I also use Tweetbot. The sync with iOS makes it easy to switch between devices without losing track of where you left off. Also, just like on iOS, I’m using Slack’s native OS X version on my Mac.

The browser of choice these days varies greatly. I like to use Safari, because it makes a noticeable difference in battery life when compared to Chrome. But Chrome’s tab handling and speed on many sites usually brings me back to Google’s browser even after trying to stay on Safari exclusively.

Most of my admin work ist also done on my Mac, thus iTerm2 is my chosen terminal app.

Time tracking is done using Harvest. It’s a web service at heart, but comes with an OS X, iOS and Apple Watch app. The latter is especially useful when on the road.

I’m trying to keep on using an RSS reader. If I manage to remember that, Reeder has been and still is my gold standard for reading RSS feeds. I hope Silvio will continue to evolve his app.

Photo editing is done using Photoshop CS. Adobe’s photography subscription also comes with my other photo app: Adobe Lightroom. No way around these two. I don’t know how people are able to just use Bridge and Photoshop.

There’s also a whole bunch of apps, tools or whatever you want to call it running in the background that are necessary for my admin work. Homebrew is the best way to get those and keep them updated. Another nice way to automate setting up a new machine, in combination with Homebrew is Cask. This way you can install almost 3.000 apps with very little effort. Usually it’s just a single line in iTerm.

There’s so much more to this setup alone, that it’s probably something I’ll write about in a separate article.

Bonus section: Apple Watch

As I wrote above, I usually don’t find myself using any third party apps on my Apple Watch. The reasons vary, but primarily it’s about speed. The only app I regularly use is Weather Underground, because the weather predictions and status is much more detailed than anything Apple has ever given me. It also comes with a complication that has found a solid place on my watch face. The iOS app is awesome as well, as is Storm, another great app by the same developer.

A quick note about Android. My main use of a Nexus 9 is Plex in combination with a Raspberry Pi. I also continue to use a Nexus 4, to see what’s going on on „the other side”.