In the last couple of years I’ve tried to look for apps that made a big and positive impact in my life. Not just fun games or another minimalist markdown editor, but apps that helped me do something different and live in a better way.
Last year, the big theme in my app choices was health as I had started a good health routine using some of these apps. This year, the biggest impact has come in the form of “Deep Work” and idea from Cal Newport that I’ve sort to apply to my life and help me truly focus on a single and important task at once.
Unlike the last two years, I wouldn’t really say that these apps “changed my life,” but they really made a noticeable difference and helped me a lot. So with that in mind check out these great apps:
Spark and Airmail
Email can be really distracting and hard to manage, plus there are lots of tools to help “solve” the problem of email the good side of this is that you can probably find a tool that helps your particular style and needs. In my case, this has been both Spark and Airmail. I’ve switched between the two apps this year and seen different advantages to each one. Sparks smart inbox and smart notifications as well as its simple controls are great for most people, whereas Airmail has a few more individual controls and settings which allow you to really tune your experience.
This has helped me manage my email better and not be controlled by my inbox but instead be in control of it.
This year I noticed that Snapseed had improved dramatically. A few little features like the ability to keep a change log and undo those changes (iOS only) plus some of the new fine editing controls and face filters really make Snapseed an app that is good enough for most amateur photographers. Sure, it won’t suit everyone, but I find it much easier (and more enjoyable) to edit photos on than Lightroom for the Mac.
On a similar note, Lightroom on mobile has also improved a lot with better support for RAW files and more editing tools.
Paper by 53
I’ve had the Paper by 53 for a while now, however I didn’t use it that much. This year I’ve taken to making my own sketches for classes and myself a lot. It was largely inspired by reading the Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rhode. Sometimes It would be quicker, easier or have a better result if I went to an online graphics resource bank, but I enjoy creating my own sketches and find it therapeutic.
Around the time of the American Presidential results, I decided to avoid Facebook as much as possible. I realized that no matter who won, there would be a lot of crowing and lamenting (I had seen the Brexit result play out that way). However, I was using Facebook a lot to stay in touch with other people in my church via messenger, I also ran a few pages and was part of a couple of groups that I found very valuable. As such I downloaded the breakout apps for Facebook so I could keep the parts of Facebook I liked and lose the parts I didn’t.
While I don’t find the messenger app to be the best messaging app around, the ability to connect with people who use it is its best feature. This is the collection that has surprised me the most.
Workflow continues to become more and more useful. The developers have added a whole host of useful extra additions such as WordPress publishing and web API tools. This makes it a great tool for uploading images and blog posts as well as simplifying complicated tasks. For example, I’ve automated my invoices that I send to students thanks to workflow. Now I only need to answer a couple of simple questions and then I have an invoice ready to send.
Old Apps that I’m Still Using
Looking back over the last two times I’ve written this, I thought I’d include a brief look at a few of the apps I’ve mentioned previously and that I still find really useful.
- Editorial (powerful markdown editor with automation tools)
- Buffer (scheduling social media updates)
- DayOne (journaling, the new update is great)
- Paprika App recipe manager (saving recipes and planning meals)