The Mac and iOS apps I use — 2023 edition
Every year, I manage to get this type of article published. Looking back at the 2022 and 2021 editions, it looks like I’ve somehow achieved equilibrium when it comes to which apps I install on my devices.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that when it comes to the number of apps I have installed on my devices, I cycle through different state of minimalism: from extreme minimalism (less than 5 apps in total, iOS and MacOS combined) to a more consequent list (about a dozen). My first rush to uninstall apps tends to be too strong, and therefore I reinstall a few more after a while. Then it turns out that some of the apps I added back are redundant, and I delete a few more, until I put one or two back on, etc.
With time, it goes a little like this:
Having few apps means less updates to think about and less shortcuts and features to remember. The Mac default apps are actually pretty good for most of my daily use. Mail is a great email client, iCloud Drive works fine, and the duo Notes/Reminders is a compelling offer, considering it is free and already installed on your devices.
But there are so many great apps around that it’s just a shame not to use them for the things they excel at, especially for someone like me who appreciates nicely made software. And it’s not like installing an app is slowing a computer down like it used to do back in the nineties.
This is the exhaustive list of third party apps currently installed on my iPhone and MacBook Air, and apps I choose to add to my work computer:
Wipr (Mac & iOS, content blocker)
I wish I didn’t have to use it but the fact is that it might be the single app of this list that I can’t function without. As far as content blockers goes, Wipr has proven to be the best one for me, hands down. The must-have app of the must-have list.
Maestral (Mac, Dropbox client)
As you may or may not know, this blog is powered by Blot. To publish on Blot, the text file of a post has to be synced to a specific folder on Dropbox. That’s it. Maestral is precisely that great, lightweight, and native Dropbox client you’ve been looking for.
NetNewsWire (Mac, RSS reader)
If you already use an RSS reader, you probably already know that NetNewsWire is the best out there. If you don’t use RSS yet, what are you doing? Then try NetNewsWire: it feels like — and should be — a default Mac app.
Matter (iOS, read-later app / Mac, Safari extension)
Already on the list last year as a fresh alternative to Instapaper and Pocket. Since Apple’s Reading List feature is stuck in 2012, I have to use a read-later app to save articles, highlight and annotate quotes. Matter is fantastic for this, and looks greats while doing it.
The Archive (Mac, writing app)
A few weeks ago I wrote a very long article reviewing my favourite text editors, which mentioned The Archive, alongside CotEditor and others. For a while I used both (one to write new posts, one to edit files), but two apps seemed overkill and redundant.
Image Sync (iOS, camera sync utility)
As the iPhone 11 appears to be more powerful than my early 2020 Intel MacBook Air when it comes to photo editing, I try to have a phone-only photo workflow with my new camera, the Ricoh GRIIIx. This is the app to send photos from the camera to the phone.
Pixelmator Photo (iOS, photo editor)
The other photo-workflow app of the list. I tried several photo editing apps, and there are many great ones out there. I ended up with Pixelmator Photo because I looked for an app that didn’t require an account, could edit RAW files, and did a better job that the default iPhone Photos app.
WhatsApp (iOS, messaging app)
I could remove WhatsApp. People can send me texts via SMS and iMessage. But in France, WhatsApp is like email: if you don’t have it, you’re just weird. As the guy who is already absent from Instagram, Facebook, and now LinkedIn, I have to make an effort somewhere.
Things (Mac, to-do lists)
The day my employer replaced my Windows laptop with a new Mac, Things was the first app I installed and it has a been a joy to use since. The kind of apps with which you find yourself using the word “craft” a lot when you describe them.
Tot (Mac, notes app)
If I didn’t use the same iCloud account for work and if I could have two separate sets of notes, Tot would be a serious competitor to The Archive. It looks like a fancy sticky notes app, but it’s so much more than this. A delight to use.
I have two other apps installed on my phone: the iRobot app so that our vacuum cleaner can be remotely activated, and my bank app, N26 (which is, as far as bank apps go, probably one of the best around). I have also have Shazam installed as an App Clip (remember those?).
And that’s it. All the other apps I use came with the devices. I’ve talked about it before, but the iPhone and the Mac are pretty good out of the box when it comes to pre-installed apps. I just wish Apple cared a little more about TextEdit, worked a little more on the Quick Notes feature of the Notes app, realised that Safari’s Reading List needs a total revamp, and that RSS needs to exist outside of the Podcast app.
An all-in-one Apple Reader app would make a lot of sense actually: one tab for your own read-later list, another tab listing all the “shared with you” links (from other apps), another tab for Quick Notes links and highlights, and a last tab with an RSS subscription thing. Or they can just buy Matter and be done with it.
Curious to see what your favourite apps are: please send suggestions and links to your own lists using the link below.