These are all of the apps that, if I were to restore my devices and start from scratch, would be the apps that I download right away. Some of these apps are free, some are not. I’m of the mindset that if I’m going to put something on one of my devices, it’s going to be the best option, so if that costs money, it costs money. Most of these will be iOS apps, so if you want to see any macOS specific apps skip to the bottom of the list.
Disclaimer: These apps are listed in the order they appear on my phone, not in order of importance or how good I think they are.
You can’t beat Fantastical when it comes to calendar apps. I love the UI and the natural text entry is very convenient. The watch complication is really great also
A very nice to-do app. I am not a pro user so I can’t speak to the paid functions, but the free version has a lot of functionality and is great for repeating tasks.
This is the to-do app that does all of my heavy lifting. There are a ton of great functions (almost too many to go into here), but the ability to set projects and contexts, and then assign locations to them, is amazing. The ability to work with other apps to create templates and even automate adding single tasks is unparalleled and has saved me countless hours and headaches. My largest template has almost 40 tasks in it, so it’s nice to be able to just tap an icon to add it and not have to worry about if I remembered all of the 40 things that I have to do. It takes a bit of set up at the beginning, but after that it makes life so much easier. You can read a bit more about how I use OmniFocus and 2do here.
I recently replaced Safari on my home screen with the Google search app. I realized that I really only used Safari for google things anyway, so I thought I’d give it a try. So far I’m very happy with it. It’s a lot more visually appealing then Safari and it gets the job done.
I use notes a lot to capture random thoughts throughout the day. At the end of the day I always go through my notes app and transfer everything to another app. Things I want to remember get transferred to Wunderlist, people I’ve met go into contacts, etc. But because of how easily Notes is able to be accessed from Control Center it’s in constant use throughout the day.
This app has an asterisk. I wish it didn’t, because it’s amazing. This is by far the best email app I’ve found. It has all of the features I think are necessary (as detailed in my post on how to manage your email. The reason I’m hesitant to recommend it is because there isn’t a desktop version of it, it only works on iOS. If Apple accomplishes what they hope to accomplish in 2018 and allow developers to create one app that works across iOS and macOS this won’t be an issue, I’ve also spoken with the developers and I’ve been told that a desktop app is on their road map, although I wasn’t given an indication on how far out it was. I’m still using Airmail on my computer and they work really well together with one exception: If you snooze an email in one app it doesn’t also snooze it in the other. So what I’m doing now is reading email exclusively on my phone, and only opening up Airmail on my MacBook if I have to send an email with attachments I don’t have access to on my phone. It’s not an ideal situation, but I really like this email app, so I don’t want to ditch it yet.
If you download one app from this list make it this one. This app essentially lets you write long lines of commands for various apps and processes on your iDevice. It is absolutely amazing what you can accomplish with this app. I’ve explained how I use it to create OmniFocus templates, but I also use it for smaller things like creating shortcuts to add single tasks in my to-do apps, shortcuts to call or text specific contacts, or even just starting music from my favorite playlists without having to go into my music app. I could talk all day about this app, but you really need to just experience it. The only problem I have with it is that it’s horribly ugly, which brings us to the next app:
I mostly use this as a launch station for my Workflows. This app looks infinitely better than workflow, and it allows you to create groupings of actions. For instance, I can create what’s basically a folder called “Playlists” and then select the action to start a specific playlist. The downside is that there is a limit to how many actions you can save (On the iPhone X it’s up to 18 groups, each with 17 actions in them) but it’s such a high limit that I don’t think I’ll ever reach it. You can also add custom icons to your actions, which is something I love and something that you’re unable to do in Workflow.
This is a 3rd-party keyboard by Google that allows you to swipe text and search for gifs from your keyboard. The swipe text is scarily accurate.
This is a great list app. I use it to keep track of groceries, books I want to read, podcasts I want to try, and pretty much anything else that isn’t urgent and requires a list of things.
Does what it says on the box. I particularly like the plane sound.
I don’t think I need to say much about these, I’m sure everybody reading these are familiar with them. I personally prefer Dropbox for storage and transferring of files, but Google Drive has all of the services that are integrated into it (like Sheets, Docs, etc) that make collaborating on things very easy.
I only started using 1Password this year but it’s great. I don’t know how I’ve managed without a password manager for so long. They update quickly (one of the first apps I use that was optimized for the iPhone X) and I’ve never had any issues with it.
Sleep tracking app. Does a nice job with the sleep tracking and giving you data about how you slept, but honestly I just really love the alarm. It starts out very soft and crescendos to a volume that will actually wake me up nicely instead of a blaring sound that jerks me awake.
This is a great app that gives you an overview of where you’re spending your time. I don’t think this would be useful for somebody that works from home, but for anybody else this is really cool. It does a really good job of picking out different places and classifying them, it even is able to figure out when I’m commuting somewhere. There is also the option to change the names of locations if it doesn’t get it correct.
The best podcast app. Smart Speed (the app speeds up silences in a very natural way) alone would be enough to convince me to use this app, but I also have to mention the pure black mode that looks great on the iPhone X.
Self-explanatory. I like to read.
My Reddit client of choice. Pure black mode looks amazing, and it’s infinitely better than the official Reddit app.
All self-explanatory. I like social media.
This is a very relaxing puzzle game. Looks beautiful and is low stress.
Sort of like brick breaker. A simple game that doesn’t require a lot of thought.
By the creator of Carrot Weather, with all of the snark we know and love.
Another puzzle game. It’s got a sudoku feel to it, but it’s different in its own way. It’s very addicting.
Gorgeous game that involves creating a subway system. Highly recommend.
The best calculator app hands down. I love that you can change the app icon, and having a memory function is great. Chock full of features.
Both photo editing apps. Lightroom is more heavy-duty, used for my professional photos when I want to post a sneak peek from an actual photoshoot. Snapseed is for when I take a photo from my phone and it needs to be edited before I share it.
Sorry in advance if this doesn’t work in your city. It may only work in NYC, I’m not sure. But it’s a really great way to plan a trip out using mass transportation.
Do you seriously not know about Carrot Weather yet? It’s a really great weather app that actually entertains you as well. Do yourself a favor and go download it.
Bear is where I do all of my writing. I wrote this entire post on Bear, and I write all of my posts on Bear. It supports Markdown editing, it’s got a lot of great themes, it can export to plain text, HTML, and several other options. Oh yeah, and you can change your icon (why don’t more apps let you do that?!)
Ugh. I wish I had a better recommendation for this. If anybody has better thoughts please let me know… This is where I store my packing lists for any traveling I’m doing. It’s not great, but it’s the best I’ve found.
I’m not going to talk too much about this app since I already wrote an entire post about email. Read that here.
Professional photo editing software. If you’re a professional photographer, you know about these, if you don’t you don’t need them. Honorable mention goes to Capture One, not my thing, but another great app.
This is my Excel alternative. It’s not nearly as powerful, but can still do most things that a low-level user like me needs (conditional formatting, writing basic scripts in cells) and it’s infinitely more beautiful than Excel is. I really like the ability to have multiple spreadsheets in the same window.
This is a neat little program that hides things in the menu bar on the top right corner of your Mac. There are a ton of things that stick little icons up there and not all of them have the ability to select an option to hide them from the menu bar, so Bartender creates a little folder up there that allows you to hide anything you don’t want to see.
If you’re not using Backblaze I don’t know what you’re doing. $5 a month, unlimited cloud backup, and you don’t even have to do anything. You just let it run and it backs everything up automatically.
A handy program that will scan your computer for any unneeded junk that can be deleted. The first time I ran it CMM found about 50gbs of junk that could be deleted. I usually run in every 2 weeks and it consistently finds a few GBs that can be gotten rid of.
Checks grammar and does a really nice job of it.
A really intuitive and nice-looking program that can do a whole bunch of stuff with PDFs. It can compress them, combine things into a single PDF, and a whole bunch of other things. Right now the program doesn’t do a whole lot, but if you work from their website you can do a whole host of things.