Those Apps I Can’t Live Without
It’s been awhile since I’ve listed out some of those wonderful apps that I use continuously. Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted at all really.
I love to play around with applications. Switch to something, try it, switch to something else – it’s a non-stop procession of a (generally useless) hunt for the perfect setup. Really, it means I probably waste more time than I would have gained had I just stuck with something, but it’s what I do. Sometimes I find something really cool, only to poke holes in it, often because it doesn’t do things the same way I was used to, which makes it silly to have switched in the first place.
Still, sometimes it has benefits. I may find something new that really does work better. I may learn something about how I’m doing things in the first place that I can do better. Of course, it also gives me the chance to ‘review’ lots of apps and evaluate their pros and cons, at least as they relate to me.
Today, I’ll present to you a few apps that I really can’t live without. I’ll give you a quick summary and perhaps try to explain why they are so valuable to me. In any case, your mileage may vary, as I find that everyone has their own process, their own way of getting the job done.
There are several really good Password Managers out there. Everyone seems to have their favorite, and 1Password is mine. It’s extremely easy to use. It hooks into all my different web browsers. It’s cloud storage (with solid individual encryption) makes it work for me wherever I am, for whatever I need. I store over 300 passwords and the list only grows. Of course, the ability to auto-generate and fill password forms with it’s generator keeps the difficulty up for hackers and let’s me stop trying to repeat the same damn passwords over and over again. Solid search, nice formatting, cross-platform (including web), decent pricing. At this point, it’s icon is a comfort to me, a calm in a sea of storms.
I walked away from Evernote a year or so ago. Their bizarre changes to their TOS, seeming lack of awareness of the security needs of it’s users, blah blah blah. It’s expensive too, really way more than it needs to be. The damn thing is so good though. I have always preferred a ‘drawer’ based storage system, rather than tags, and Evernote does it best.
This one has taken a while to grow on me. A contact replacement/enhancement, I have had to carefully build up how I wanted this structured, and how I was going to use it. Now that I’ve gotten it, I find it valuable to quickly track down contacts for various customers, vendors, etc. The ability to add a quick ‘directions’ button has been great for my less visited customers. There is still a while before I really love this app, but it’s growing on me fast. It’d be nice to have an iOS version, but I’m not sure if that’s practical or worth their time.
I’ve used Fantastical forever. Natural language appointment entry, popped up there in the menu bar where I can ignore or focus as needed, and an excellent iOS app make this the best calendar, period. I’ve often dreamed of integrating a calendar and full-function task list, but until that unicorn wanders along, this is perfect. A relatively recent addition has been to calculate and alert based on travel time, and I would like to see that expanded out. It’d be nice to be told ‘In 15 minutes, you have to leave,’ but it’s not there yet. Maybe someday.
This is a tough one. I’ve used OmniFocus for a long time, and it does everything I need. Still, I keep looking for that ‘next’ task manager, one that matches my workflow, and perhaps just does all the work for me. Of course, that’s not going to happen. OmniFocus 3 is coming, and the beta iOS version is showing me that there is a lot of potential to make this application even better. I don’t use it with the whole GTD process, my brain just doesn’t work that way, but for my own time and task management it’s been great. Someday my company may move to a group task manager, and I’ll have to re-think things there, but until that happens, OmniFocus is simply the best at everything.
I manage POP/IMAP servers. I have hundreds (thousands) of accounts to monitor. I’ve seen the good and the bad of IMAP handling (looking at you Outlook) and the bells and whistles that can be used. I have used Mail.app from Apple, and of course dug deeply into AirMail, which is a great product. The problem with AirMail is that it seems so focused on it’s extreme customization over its reliability and consistency. Every time I start using AirMail, I get excited. Then bad syncs, recurring ‘snooze’ bugs, etc. start making it more frustrating that flexible. Spark isn’t perfect, and is missing some little things I’d really like, but seems rock solid reliable. I am in a snit with their support team over their Quick Responses, I admit – there is no reason to put an ad tag for Spark at the bottom of a business email, so they are fundamentally unusable at this point, but they did respond quickly.
The last one I’ll mention is Bartender. I have a lot of things running all the time – I run five spaces at all times and prefer to only use my MacBook display (my terribly crossed eyes don’t like switching between monitors much). Without Bartender to manage hiding some of the menu bar icons, I would go nuts seeing all that stuff all the time. Basically, if you have a Mac, buy Bartender – it’s worth every penny.