Posted on Mon 14 July 2014

Apps I like: July 2014

Periodically I like to write about some of the apps I'm using a lot (previous app posts: Feb, March). As a personal project, I also take a screenshot of my iPhone's homescreen once a week, so I thought I'd include my most recent homescreen this time around:

Homescreen: July 13, 2014

I don't really like having folders on my homescreen, and only recently added them. It's an experiment to see whether that saves me time or not. Since I accidentally upgraded my iOS version and ruined my jailbreak, I've found that my phone feels really slow, especially in animations like opening and closing folders and multitasking, so anything that can make using my phone feel faster is a welcome change.

The bottom three rows and my dock include the apps I open most often—social apps like Viber, Tweetbot and Dispatch (email), and productivity apps like my calendar and to do list. Tumblr is a recent homescreen addition that I use purely to save quotes to (just to make them consistent and easy to add, so Sifttter can pick them up). Everest is the other new addition, which has been there for a few weeks now. It'll probably feature in a future apps post, since I'm really enjoying it.

And onto the apps for this month:

Dispatch

Dispatch

I've tried many an email client on my Mac and my phone, and Dispatch is one of the few I've stuck with for months at a time. It's got some great gestures and a few neat features that make it fun to use like Mailbox is, but it also does a lot of heavy lifting to help you actually get email done.

Dispatch relies on gestures which I like—once you've learned how they work, gestures are quicker and more comfortable to use than tapping, I find. It has some great animations and lets you swipe back to the original email to view it, instead of cluttering up your compose view with previous messages.

Dispatch is probably most well-known for integrating with lots of apps so you can complete actions like opening links in different browsers, creating reminders, tasks or calendar events with dates and times and the most recent version introduced an option to help you unsubscribe from newsletters without leaving the app.

Editorial for iPhone

Editorial

Editorial has been my iPad text editor of choice since it arrived, so I bought it without question when it came to the iPhone. It's a super flexible text editor for Markdown that also includes formatting for .taskpaper documents in the most recent version. If you're a fan of plain text task management, Editorial is a great option for managing your tasks on the iPhone.

It also has lots of powerful document management features like renaming, deleting and moving documents, and creating new folders. This all happens inside your Dropbox account, but lots of other text editors that sync with Dropbox don't let you manage your documents so well.

2Do

2Do iOS Beta

I'm torn over using 2Do for my task management. I really love the app's Mac version, and I recently got to try out the beta of the new iOS version, which is a long time overdue. I haven't found another task management app I love using as much as 2Do, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it, except for one thing: the app doesn't offer its own syncing options, but connects to third party services instead. You can choose between Dropbox, Toodledo and iOS Reminders.

This isn't a problem, except for the way iOS Reminders sync is set up. The app requires your iCloud login details, instead of using the built-in Reminders Sync support released by Apple, 2Do connects to Apple's iCloud servers directly. The reason is apparently to sync task meta-data:

2Do adds a lot of value on top of the simple Tasks you see in Reminders. In order to ensure all information is synchronized correctly across various devices, we would need to store extra meta-data that the built-in Reminders SDK does not currently support. Once this feature is made available, we will look into supporting Reminders Sync directly.

I don't use the iOS sync option, but I don't like the idea of any developer settling for taking user credentials in order to "deliver a better product." If you actually care about your users, I would hope you'd take their side in rallying for a more secure way for them to share their data, rather than putting them at risk by settling for an unsecure and questionable option. This is the reason I refuse to use apps like Sunrise and Pocketbook.

Having said that, I've found it impossible to replace 2Do with anything that works as well for me. Things is a viable replacement (though certainly not my favourite app to use), but the iOS app is as old and outdated as 2Do's, and the company behind Things has a bad history of taking forever to release updates and losing customers in the process. I've also tried task management powerhouse Omnifocus and found it wasn't as enjoyable to use as 2Do (and in fact, Omnifocus has apparently asked users for iCloud credentials in the past, so they're no better, really). So for now I'm sticking with 2Do, but my eyes are ever open for a better option.

Lift

Lift

I've been through many, many habit-tracking apps since I first tried Lift, and I've come full circle. Lift has been through quite a few versions since I used it last and has added some really important features: you can now track your habits privately (social encouragement is the big focus for Lift, but I never found it motivating or interesting), and you can choose to complete habits on whichever days of the week work for you. Previously, Lift was entirely focused on the idea of building up a chain by completing a habit every single day, which doesn't work for everyone.

The design has also improved, and there are some fun animations added that make checking-in to a habit even more satisfying. My one bugbear is that the notifications are unsophisticated: tapping a notification opens the app to the appropriate screen but doesn't dismiss it, and opening the app manually doesn't dismiss any accumulated notifications, which are both behaviours I've come to expect from iOS apps. Still, after trying many options for habit-tracking, including several paid apps, Lift is my favourite right now.

Digg

Digg

I hadn't used Digg for a long time, but recently I was looking for better ways to find interesting articles to read online. I gave the Digg app a whirl and found I actually really enjoy using it. Digg makes it really easy to find interesting stuff to read and send it to Instapaper (my current read later app of choice).

It also lets you subscribe to RSS feeds, which I find handy, since I don't want to manage my own RSS account and reader app. Adding RSS feeds to Digg means content I like is there when I'm looking for it, but it doesn't feel like an inbox I need to clear out, as an RSS reader often does.


P.S. I make some stuff you might like: Exist, a personal analytics app to help you understand your life, and Larder, a bookmarking app for developers.

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