One of my favorite things about Drafts is its quick adoption of the new OS features that come year-over-year. Not only are they quickly adopted, but they are well implemented, carefully considered, and provide increased capability for both existing and new users alike.
This year with the release of iOS 13, iPadOS 13, and macOS Catalina, Drafts gains an updated look, improvements to the interface and navigation, full iPadOS support, and greatly improved Shortcuts integration. While this may not seem like a big list, I can assure you that the new features of the app are fantastic, and have made a monumental improvement to my daily workflows.
Telling the time is a given, and activity tracking has become another default inclusion for that category of gadget. But we’re talking about a computer here, not a simple watch with built-in pedometer. The device should present the information you need, exactly when you need it. This would include notifications to be sure, but also basic data like the weather forecast and current date. It should integrate with the various cloud services you depend on to keep your life and work running – calendars, task managers, and the like. It doesn’t have to be all business though – throwing in a little surprise and delight would be nice too, because we can all use some added sparks of joy throughout our days.
Each of these different data sources streaming through such a device presents a dilemma: how do you fit so much data on such a tiny screen? By necessity a wrist computer’s display is small, limiting how much information it can offer at once. This challenge makes it extremely important for the device to offer data that’s contextual – fit for the occasion – and dynamic – constantly changing.
Serving a constant flow of relevant data is great, but a computer that’s tied to your wrist, always close at hand, could do even more. It could serve as a control center of sorts, providing a quick and easy way to perform common actions – setting a timer or alarm, toggling smart home devices on and off, adjusting audio playback, and so on. Each of these controls must be presented at just the right time, custom-tailored for your normal daily needs.
If all of this sounds familiar, it’s because this product already exists: the Apple Watch. However, most of the functionality I described doesn’t apply to the average Watch owner’s experience, because most people use a watch face that doesn’t offer these capabilities – at least not many of them. The Watch experience closest to that of the ideal wrist computer I’ve envisioned is only possible with a single watch face: the Siri face.
First and foremost is the switch to a subscription-based business model by some of my favorite apps. As we noted in our look at the modern economics of the App Store earlier this year, it is becoming increasingly challenging for indie developers – the ones who make the apps we tend to use and cover most frequently on MacStories – to find a balance between reaching new customers with paid app updates and supporting an app over the span of multiple years for existing users who already paid once.
A subscription seems like an obvious solution: new customers can try an app for free and later decide to subscribe; longtime users of an app get to support their favorite app over a longer period of time; developers are more incentivized to keep making an app better thanks to the financial security provided by an ongoing revenue stream. Recurring subscriptions for all apps launched two years ago just before WWDC, and it feels like we’ve only now reached a point where more and more developers are willing to experiment with them. This major shift in app pricing wasn’t always met favorably by longtime users of existing apps, which has resulted in developers testing different approaches such as optional subscriptions, bundles containing subscriptions and In-App Purchases, or even multiple ways to unlock the same features. In looking at the apps included in this list, I was surprised by how many now include some form of recurring subscription; I think this transition will only become more prominent in 2019.
The second trend I noticed in my usage of third-party apps is a strong preference for those that fully embrace modern iOS technologies. From Siri shortcuts (by far, the most important iOS developer framework of 2018) to Files integration and support for external keyboards on iPad, I tend to prioritize apps that eschew proprietary functionalities and adopt native APIs such as iCloud, the Files document browser, or Reminders. With iOS growing more powerful and complex each year, I think it’s only natural that I’ve stuck with apps that shy away from Apple-provided solutions as little as possible; those frameworks are always going to be more integrated with the rest of the system than any alternative a developer can come up with, and I seek that level of integration because I enjoy the comfort of an ecosystem where all the pieces work well together.
Lastly, I’ve noticed some overall changes in the kinds of apps I consider my must-haves for iPhone and iPad. In the “pro” app department, the Photography and Development lists have grown to include apps such as Lightroom, Scriptable, Darkroom, and Halide – all new entries this year. One of my goals with the new iPad Pro is to use it as a workstation for editing photos and programming my own little additions to iOS; I felt like my increased usage of these apps warranted some changes in the annual picks. You will also find more apps designed to interact with macOS as a result of my purchase of a Mac mini (which I’m using as a home server for various tasks) and different utility apps as some of the old ones have been replaced by Shortcuts. An app that, by the way, I can no longer include in this roundup due to my self-imposed rule of not featuring Apple apps because they’re kind of obvious choices for an iOS user (this also applies to Shazam, officially acquired by Apple this year).
Below, you’ll find a collection of the 60 apps I consider my must-haves on the iPhone and iPad, organized in nine categories; whenever possible, I included links to original reviews and past coverage on MacStories. What you will not find is the usual list of awards for best new app and best app update, which we’ve relaunched as a team effort under the MacStories Selects name this year. Instead, at the end of the story you’ll find my App of the Year, which is also joining MacStories Selects as an award that recognizes an overall outstanding iOS app that had a profound impact on my workflow over the past year, regardless of its release date.
Welcome to the MacStories Shortcuts Archive, the official repository for shortcuts created by Federico Viticci and the MacStories team.
Since the original release of Workflow in 2014, we’ve created hundreds of automations to help readers use their iOS devices more efficiently. The goal of this archive is to offer a complete catalogue of our old workflows as well as new custom shortcuts for Apple’s Shortcuts app.
Each shortcut in this archive has been created, updated, and tested by Federico and the MacStories team. Shortcuts are organized in categories, and you can jump directly to a specific category by using one of the section links below.
Wake up an Apple TV on the local network and, if it’s past sunset, dim the lights in the room.
Check if the current time is after predicted sunset time for today.
Add a HomeKit scene that will dim the lights.
Scan an iTunes gift card, extract its text, and open the App Store to redeem the associated promo code. You can import an image of a gift card from the clipboard or take a new picture. Toolbox Pro is required for this shortcut.
Redeem an iTunes code contained in the system clipboard. The shortcut will prompt you to pick a code you previously copied before launching the App Store’s redemption page, where the code will be already filled in.
Calculate travel time to get to the next calendar event that has an address attached to it. The shortcut can be configured for different transportation methods and can be invoked from Siri or the widget.
Create a new calendar event choosing from a list of templates. Templates are represented by a Dictionary action at the beginning of the shortcut and they support customization for calendar name, location, duration, notes, alert time, and the all-day setting. The shortcut will only ask to confirm the event’s title and start date. This shortcut was originally created for members of Club MacStories.
Open a WhatsApp conversation for a selected contact. The shortcut needs to be configured for contacts that have a Country in their contact card’s Address field; the country and its phone prefix (country code) have to be added in a list at the beginning of the shortcut.
Dictate an iMessage to a friend from a widget. The dictation language is set automatically based on the recipient’s address stored in their contact card. iMessages are sent in the background, but you’ll be asked to confirm the message before sending it.
A mail merge shortcut that supports multiple variables for email addresses and a second piece of information for each recipient. Each email address is automatically paired with the corresponding variable in the second group. Supports customizable message and subject templates.
Convert a tweet URL into an embeddable rich text version that contains the original text and links of the tweet. The rich text is then appended to an existing note in Evernote. The shortcut cleans up shortened Twitter links, maintains author names, and lets you customize the list of Evernote notes to append tweets to.
Quickly append text or an audio recording to a note called Scratchpad in your Evernote account. Audio will be recorded using Shortcuts’ native microphone access and recording UI; the audio file supports inline playback within Evernote.
Save selections from Safari webpages as highlights in Evernote. Ideal for articles that will have multiple highlights, which will be appended to the same note. The shortcut integrates with the ShareQuote shortcut to make it easy to share highlights with iOS extensions later.
Turn any web article into a clutter-free Evernote note that maintains formatting but removes extra visual elements from the original webpage. The shortcut has to be run in the extension from Safari or Safari View Controller.
A comprehensive menu to save webpages from Safari as notes in Evernote. The shortcut supports saving links as rich text, .webarchive files, PDFs, plain text, or attachments. The shortcut can either create new notes or append to an existing note. See comments below for instructions on how to store a list of your favorite Evernote notebooks, tags, and notes.
Generate a .webarchive version of the current Safari webpage and save it in the Evernote app. The shortcut needs to open Evernote for iOS and is also supported in Safari View Controller. The title of the original webpage is copied to the clipboard for easy pasting in Evernote’s title field.
Extract all files from a compressed archive passed as input and save them into the same folder in iCloud Drive/Shortcuts. The name of the archive is used to create a new destination folder in Shortcuts’ iCloud Drive container.
Perform OCR (Optical Character Recognition) on a document. You can import a document from Files or a scanned image from Photos. Recognized text is copied to the clipboard and can be shared with app extensions. Toolbox Pro is required for this shortcut.
Clip any kind of text contained in the system clipboard to a Clipboard.txt file stored in iCloud Drive. This shortcut is designed to allow you to keep a record of previously copied bits of text and easily sync them across devices. The shortcut can be executed from the widget, and it also supports rich text and URLs.
Create bookmarks for files and folders stored in iCloud Drive (and third-party file providers) that you can reuse as direct launchers. FS Bookmarks requires Scriptable, and it generates launchers that reopen files and folders directly in the Files app.
Preview the contents of a folder stored inside iCloud Drive/Shortcuts. The shortcut lets you filter items by name; if no name is entered, all files contained in the folder are returned. You can choose to preview a selected file with Quick Look or share it with extensions.
Scan a document using iOS’ native document scanner. The shortcut lets you choose whether you want to share the scanned file as an image or run OCR on it to extract text. Toolbox Pro is required for this shortcut.
Use youtube-dl to check the available download formats for a YouTube link copied to the clipboard on iOS. The shortcut assumes youtube-dl has been installed on a local Mac under the /usr/local/bin folder.
Change the volume of individual HomePods (or AirPlay speakers) connected to iTunes and choose which ones should be currently active. The shortcut lets you select one or multiple speakers as well as enter an exact volume level.
Extract section headings from Markdown text shared with the extension and generate a Table of Contents for headings between H2 and H6. The final list supports indentation and is copied to the clipboard as Markdown.
Preview Markdown text passed to the Shortcuts extension as converted HTML. The shortcut works from any app that can pass Markdown-formatted plain text to the share sheet, and it’ll open a rich preview inline using a native web view.
Find the IDs for media sections of your Plex library running on a local server. These IDs can then be used with another shortcut to refresh (scan) individual Plex media sections such as Movies or TV shows. The shortcut requires your Plex token and returns raw XML data. The shortcut was originally created for Club MacStories members.
Refresh (scan) individual Plex media sections such as Movies or TV shows from Shortcuts or Siri. The shortcut requires your Plex token to communicate with a Plex server running on the same local network as the iOS device. The shortcut was originally created for Club MacStories members.
Create a detailed report for the music you’ve listened to in the past year. The shortcut can optionally create a Top 25 playlist for your most played songs and generate a PDF report. The shortcut is primarily designed for Apple Music subscribers.
To calculate number of plays, the shortcut looks at songs that have been played in full without skipping and added to your library in any given year.
Start a playlist in Apple Music with shuffle enabled. The shortcut needs to be configured with the names of your playlists from the Music app. The shortcut supports adding friendly names for playlists if you don’t want to display their actual names.
MusicBot is the all-in-one Apple Music assistant, powered by Shortcuts. Entirely customizable and designed for Apple Music, MusicBot speeds up access to your favorite music and comes with dozens of features to help you play albums, browse songs, check out new releases, and even listen to Beats 1 radio or ambient sounds by Apple Music. Additionally, MusicBot lets you create your own collection of favorite albums and new music releases, comes with AirPlay 2 support, and provides you with Smart Mixes – intelligent playlists to discover songs you love from your Music library.
Use iOS’ native speech-to-text to dictate a note in a language of your choosing from the Shortcuts widget. The list of supported languages can be customized in the shortcut. Starting with Shortcuts 2.2, it is possible to save dictated text to Notes in the background – directly from the widget – without showing the Notes composer. The Notes action can be replaced with other note-taking apps such as Evernote or Drafts.
Search your photo library for old photos taken on this day in previous years. The shortcut can look for photos from multiple years, with multiple photos per day. If more than one photo is found, photos are resized to square and combined in a grid.
Create a custom icon on your iOS home screen for any app URL scheme, shortcut, contact, or solid color. This shortcut uses the same technique of Apple’s Shortcuts app to save an icon to the home screen, but extends it with the ability to fully customize the launcher, including icons and launch images. (Due to a limitation in iOS 13, you’ll have to force-quit instances of Home Screen Icon Creator-based launchers in the app switcher for the launchers to work again>)
Add device frames to screenshots for iPhones (6, 7, 8, X, XS, and 11 generations in standard/Plus/Max sizes), iPad Pro (11” and 12.9”, 2018/2020 models), and Apple Watch S4/5 (40 and 44mm). The shortcut supports portrait and landscape orientations, but does not support Display Zoom. If multiple screenshots are passed as input, they will be combined in a single image.
Perform OCR on an image (either captured from the camera or selected from Photos) using Prizmo Go. The shortcut can ask Prizmo Go to perform standard OCR or Cloud OCR. You can choose to copy extracted text to the clipboard or send it as a text file to DEVONthink.
Add device frames to screenshots for iPhones (6, 7, 8, X, XS, and 11 generations in standard/Plus/Max sizes), iPad Pro (11” and 12.9”, 2018/2020 models), Apple Watch S4/5 (40 and 44mm), MacBook Pro (Retina 13-inch), and iMac (5K). The shortcut supports portrait and landscape orientations, but does not support Display Zoom. If multiple screenshots are passed as input, they will be combined in a single image.
Filter your photo library by the lens used to capture a photo. The shortcut is optimized for the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, and it supports the wide, telephoto, and ultra-wide lenses. By default, the shortcut looks at the last 300 photos from your library.
Preview photos shared from Photos’ share sheet in a custom preview page. The preview contains the photo, its timestamp, plus metadata including an interactive map. Toolbox Pro is required for this shortcut.
Filter your photo library by the lens used to capture a photo. The shortcut is optimized for the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro, and it supports the wide, telephoto, and ultra-wide lenses. By default, the shortcut looks at the last 50 photos from your library and opens a custom preview showing metadata for each photo. Toolbox Pro is required for this shortcut.
Save a video clip shared from Overcast in the Files app. The shortcut will extract the video file from the Overcast clip (shared via the share sheet) and rename it with the title of episode being shared.
An advanced shortcut that lets you create multiple tasks at once in Things using natural language parsing. The shortcut has its own special syntax to add tasks with natural language, and takes advantage of Things’ JSON Import for multiple tasks.
Reschedule any reminder to a later date. You can pick multiple reminders at once and change their due date by choosing from some presets or typing a date manually. Toolbox Pro is required for this shortcut.
Append notes to an existing task in the Things app. The shortcut can append links or text passed to the share sheet, but it also lets you type or paste your own notes manually. To use the shortcut, you’ll have to add your Things URL token and paste the unique IDs of existing Things tasks.
Create a reminder for the webpage currently open in Safari or Safari View Controller using the webpage’s original title and URL. You can type a due date in natural language. The shortcut needs to be executed from the action extension.
Reschedule reminders due today (or overdue) to a later date. You can pick multiple reminders at once and change their due date by choosing from some presets or typing a date manually. Toolbox Pro is required for this shortcut.
Save a link from the clipboard or shared via the extension to 2Do as a new task. You can pick from multiple lists and optionally define a tag to be automatically applied to the new task. The original link is embedded in the task as a ‘Visit URL’ action.
Turn a Safari webpage into a rich task in Things. The shortcut can add a task with a specific tag, into a specific project, under a specific heading in Things using the webpage’s original title and URL as the task’s metadata. Additionally, you can type a due date in natural language before creating the task in Things.
Quickly create a new reminder in the Due app. The shortcut can be run inside the Shortcuts app or via Siri, and it’ll ask you to enter a reminder title and due date. In Siri, dates and times support natural language input.
Save the number of reminders completed on the current day as a new row of a Numbers spreadsheet. The completed count will be saved alongside the current date, allowing you to chart your progress over time in Numbers.
Create a new task in the Reminders database with subtasks based on the GoodTask syntax. Subtasks have to be entered on multiple lines and they’ll be added to the reminder’s note field. Subtasks can be previewed natively in the GoodTask app.
Searches the Reminders app for tasks that contain URLs in their note field. Optionally, you can add more filters (for dates, Reminders lists, etc.) to narrow down the list of results. The shortcut lets you open multiple URLs from multiple reminders at once in Safari.
Remove unnecessary styles from rich text stored in the system clipboard. This shortcut will maintain formatting for bold, italics, and links, but it’ll remove other elements such as custom fonts, font sizes, colors, and more. The cleaned up rich text will be put back in the clipboard at the end.
Generate a string of invisible characters based on the Braille Pattern Blank Unicode character (U+2800). This is a workaround to create shortcuts with invisible names on the iOS home screen. The shortcut lets you choose how many times you’d like to repeat the blank character to avoid issues with multiple shortcuts having the same name.
This shortcut extracts a project ID and task ID from a project in your Toggl account. These IDs are needed to configure shortcuts that start timers. To access your Toggl account over the API, enter your email:password combination below. The shortcut communicates directly with the Toggl API.
Start a Toggl timer (with the Timery app) based on an event name found in a specific calendar (or multiple calendars). You have to specify the event name in a list and replace the Siri shortcuts for Timery if you don’t have the app installed.
View all the mentions, @replies, and quoted tweets sent to a specific Twitter user in a single screen. The shortcut is based on Twitter’s advanced search syntax and opens the native Twitter app for iOS.
Use the Dark Sky API to display a short summary of current weather conditions and the forecast for today. The shortcut requires a free Dark Sky API key, which has to be saved in iCloud Drive. It also requires pasting your coordinates in the first Text action. Once configured, the shortcut can be used with the widget or Siri.
Use Shortcuts’ native support for parsing web articles to identify the featured (hero) image of an article and save it to the Photos app. The shortcut needs to run as an extension in Safari or Safari View Controller.
Save a webpage from Safari as a .webarchive or PDF file in DEVONthink To Go. To use this shortcut, share a webpage from Safari with the share sheet. You can optionally add a comment to the item. At the end of the shortcut, the DEVONthink URL to the newly created item will be copied to the clipboard.
Convert between currencies using the Fixer.io web service. The shortcut requires a private API key to operate. The shortcut supports historical exchange rates and lets you convert between currencies using the current date or any past date. You can type dates with natural language. The converted amount is copied to the clipboard at the end.
Given a selection in Safari, the shortcut finds all image links contained in the selected portion of the page and offers to open them as new tabs. Selected image links are also copied to the clipboard.
Convert a rich text selection from a Safari webpage to Markdown and copy the cleaned-up rich text to the clipboard. The rich text will retain basic formatting with elements such as bold, italics, and hyperlinks. The shortcut needs to run as an extension in Safari.
Create separate PDFs for each hyperlink contained in a Safari selection. Ideal for list of links that have to be converted to multiple PDFs (such as the Club MacStories newsletter archive). The resulting PDFs are saved into iCloud Drive.
Publish a Markdown post to WordPress via the Shortcuts action extension. The shortcut can extract the h1 Markdown header from a post and use it as title. Optionally, you can publish both standard and “linked list” post types by adding a custom field supported by your WordPress installation.
Filter articles saved in Reeder’s Read Later account by topic. The shortcut relies on iOS’ Natural Language Processing framework to extract organization names from text. You can modify the list of topics to include the ones you prefer. Toolbox Pro and Reeder are required for this shortcut.
A comprehensive shortcut for your morning routine. This shortcut can read you the news, list your upcoming agenda, turn on HomeKit scenes, and much more. By default, the shortcut requires the AutoSleep app to process sleep data (AutoSleep is only available on iPhone), LookUp for the word of the day, and GoodTask for Reminders lists. It also uses the Today Weather Forecast shortcut. Optionally, the shortcut can also integrate with Apple Music, Overcast, and Deliveries. More details about this shortcut are available in the MacStories iOS 12 review.
A comprehensive shortcut to save a variety of file types into DEVONthink To Go. The shortcut can save Safari webpages, images, text, PDFs, videos, MP3s, and more, with the ability to add more supported file types manually. In most cases, files will be previewed natively in DEVONthink.
Create a template for a linked post to an article in Ulysses. The text selection from a Safari webpage is used as a Markdown blockquote. The original title, author name, and URL of the webpage are also preserved in the sheet.
An advanced shortcut for Keep It to save new notes in the app as either text or file attachments, which are previewed natively in Keep It. The shortcut can run from the Shortcuts app or as an extension. In addition to saving text notes and files, the shortcut can also save Safari webpages as web archives, live links, or PDF documents. At the end of shortcut, multiple references to Keep It notes can be saved as tasks in Reminders. This shortcut was originally created for members of Club MacStories.
A comprehensive shortcut to save a variety of file types into DEVONthink To Go. The shortcut can save Safari webpages, images, text, PDFs, videos, MP3s, and more, with the ability to add more supported file types manually. In most cases, files will be previewed natively in DEVONthink. At the end, the shortcut offers the ability to save each DEVONthink item as a task in Things using the Things Natural Language Parser syntax.
Quickly change your device’s system volume by picking a numeric value from a list. You can customize the list to contain your favorite volume presets, which support decimal values. The shortcut can be used from the widget as well.
Create a template for a linked post to an article in Drafts 5. The text selection from a Safari webpage is used as a Markdown blockquote. The original title, author name, and URL of the webpage are also preserved in the note.
Save one or multiple images in DEVONthink To Go for iOS. Images can be passed from the share sheet or picked manually from Photos or Files. At the end of the shortcut, a plain text reference with a DEVONthink URL for the newly created items will be copied to the system clipboard.
Search your DEVONthink To Go database (or specific group) for one or multiple files matching a series of keywords. The shortcut can either perform a basic search or a NEAR-operator search; results can be displayed in Shortcuts (with a ranking score) or in the DEVONthink app.
Open a specific page or sub-section of the Settings app. This shortcut contains over 120 Settings URLs, and you can choose which one to open from a list. You can also create standalone shortcuts for each URL.
Snooze your Slack notifications for 1 hour. The shortcut supports setting a different duration for Slack’s do not disturb mode and can also turn off snooze if already enabled. Requires a test API token.
Anyone is free to download, modify, and redistribute shortcuts from the MacStories archive. Our shortcuts are provided for free and out of love for the Shortcuts automation community. In fact, we encourage readers to download shortcuts and optimize them to their needs. No attribution is necessary, but we always appreciate it.
If you’re new to the Shortcuts app, you can find our coverage here; we also recommend going back through the Workflow archives for additional context. All of our workflows have been updated for the Shortcuts app and are included in this archive.
The archive will be regularly updated with new shortcuts over time. Updates will be shared on Twitter via the @viticci and @macstoriesnet accounts.
The shortcuts in the MacStories archive have been tested as of the date each was added to MacStories.net for compatibility with the then-current versions of Apple’s iOS operating system and the Shortcuts app. Please feel free to use these shortcuts and adapt them to fit your specific needs.
However, please keep in mind that MacStories.net, its editors, and its writers (the “MacStories team”) cannot and do not guarantee that the shortcuts will remain compatible with future updates to iOS or the Shortcuts app. Moreover, the shortcuts linked on this page are provided free of charge and as-is without any express or implied warranties including implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, and non-infringement. The MacStories Team makes no specific promises about the shortcuts, the specific functions of the shortcuts, or their reliability, availability, or ability to meet your needs. In addition, the MacStories Team will not be liable to you for any lost profits or other consequential, special, indirect, or incidental damages arising out of or in connection with your use of the shortcuts.
“There’s something in your latest scan that we need to double check.”
Here’s what I’ve learned about cancer as a survivor: even once you’re past it, and despite doctors’ reassurances that you should go back to your normal life, it never truly leaves you. It clings to the back of your mind and sits there, quietly. If you’re lucky, it doesn’t consume you, but it makes you more aware of your existence. The thought of it is like a fresh scar – a constant reminder of what happened. And even a simple sentence spoken with purposeful vagueness such as “We need to double check something” can cause that dreadful background presence to put your life on hold again.
Sleep++, developed by _David Smith, was one of the first apps to experiment with the idea of using the Apple Watch as a sleep tracker. Using physical movement data collected by the Watch overnight, Sleep++ allowed you to keep track of time spent sleeping without having to buy a separate device (funnily enough, exactly what Apple itself acquired).
With the transition to iPad Pro as my primary computer fully achieved in 2016 and not surprising anymore, in 2017 I turned my attention to three other key areas of my life: working with the MacStories team, managing my time, and finding my favorite apps among many competing alternatives.
As much as I like to write in isolation, MacStories is also a team that requires a direction and a business that begets further responsibilities. Learning how to balance the multifaceted nature of my job with my hobbies and personal life (which got busier thanks to two puppies we adopted in April) has been an interesting challenge this year, and one that taught me a lot about allocating my time and attention, as well as the kind of writer I am and aspire to be.
There has been a recurring theme that has characterized my relationship with iOS in 2017: I’ve made a conscious effort to try as many new apps and services as possible, ensuring I would have a basic knowledge of all the available options on the market for different categories.
As I was settling on a routine and set of apps that worked well for me, I realized that I didn’t want to lose the spark of excitement I used to feel when trying new apps in previous years. My job is predicated upon writing about software and having a sense of where our industry is going; while finding something that works and using it for years is great, I don’t want to become the kind of tech writer who’s stuck in his ways and doesn’t consider the possibility that better software might exist and is worth writing about. Even though my experiments didn’t always lead to switching to a different app, they made me appreciate the state of the iOS ecosystem and helped me understand my app preferences in 2017.
Thus, I’m going back to basics for my annual roundup this year. In the collection below, you’ll find the 75 apps I consider my must-haves – no web services, just apps for iPhone and iPad. Apps are organized by category and, whenever possible, include links to past coverage on MacStories.
As in previous years, you’ll find a series of personal awards at the end of the story. These include my App of the Year and Runners-Up; this year, I also picked winners for Feature, Redesign, Update, and Debut of the Year.
2016 has been the year that I got used to iOS as my primary computing platform. After years of slowly transitioning from macOS, 2016 was all about optimizing my workflows and getting the most out of my iPhone and iPad.
As I documented in two stories – one in February, the other last week – the consolidation of my iOS-only setup revolved around the iPad Pro. I see the 12.9-inch iPad Pro as the ultimate expression of iOS for portable productivity. With my 2011 MacBook Air now used three hours a week exclusively for podcasting, I invested my time in understanding the iPad platform at a deeper level. Thus, following two years spent assessing the viability of working from iOS, 2016 was characterized by the pursuit of better iOS apps for my needs. That effort was most notable on the iPad, but it also affected the iPhone, which I see as the mobile sidekick to my iPad Pro.
Two trends emerged once I began outlining a list of candidates for my annual Must-Have Apps roundup. First, the apps that define how I work on iOS haven’t dramatically changed since last year. As you’ll see in this year’s collection, the core of what I do on iOS is in line with last year; there are some new entries and apps that have left the list, but my overall app usage is consistent with 2015.
The second pattern is more interesting. To be able to accomplish more every week and automate more aspects of my routine, I have increasingly switched to web services in lieu of iOS-only apps. In looking back at the past year of MacStories, I realized that a good portion of new workflows were based on web services, web automations, and open APIs. Some of those web services also offer iOS clients; others are strictly web-only, but I integrated them with iOS apps through Workflow and Zapier.
For these reasons, you’ll notice a difference in the 2016 edition of my roundup. In addition to my must-have iOS apps, I’ve added a section for my must-have web services. Whether I primarily use them with iOS counterparts, in Safari, or via an API, these are the web services that have helped me handle more responsibilities for my twobusinesses at MacStories and podcasting duties at Relay FM.
As in previous years, you’ll find a series of personal awards at the end of the story. These include my App of the Year and Runners-Up, and, for the first time, a Web Service of the Year and winners in other iOS categories.