When I look back at the apps I’ve used over the last several years, there is an unmistakable ebb and flow between generalized apps that try to do and be everything and those that don’t. The former type has the benefit of reducing the overhead of having to track data in multiple apps by centralizing it. However, the focus of the latter often allows them to fulfill a particular need better than a general-purpose app ever could. Directive, a new app released today by LittleFin on the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, is a perfect example of a thoughtfully-designed, focused utility for managing recurring maintenance tasks.
Posts tagged with "utility"
At some point, I think everyone who manages their work and personal lives in a task manager runs into a clutter problem. With everything from reminders to move my laundry from the washer to the dryer to another to publish our latest MacStories project, it often feels like my list of tasks never gets shorter.
If you’ve ever experienced that feeling yourself, or just want a lightweight way to quickly manage your life, Due is a fantastic option that Federico and I have both covered since it first debuted in the earliest days of the App Store. What I like so much about Due is that by moving short-term, smaller tasks out of my main task manager to it, my primary task manager becomes more focused and easier to use. It’s also so simple to add reminders and timers to Due that I’m far more likely to use the app for ephemeral to-dos, reducing day-to-day mental overhead.
The core functionality of Due has remained the same since Federico’s review of version 2.0 and my review of version 3.0, which are great places to start if you’re unfamiliar with the app. What I said in my review of 3.0 is as true today as ever:
Due is a pro-user implementation of reminders and timers. The app has one of the best quick-entry UIs I’ve used in an app. Picking dates and times is a clunky, laborious process in most apps, but Due gets it right making it simple to add a date and time to a reminder with a combination of natural language recognition and a unique date and time grid.
With today’s release of version 20.5 of Due, the app adds updated Shortcuts support complete with actions with parameters, which I expect will make Due an integral component of many users’ shortcuts. The app’s numbering scheme changed earlier this year, too, jumping from version 3 to 20 to indicate the release year.
I’ve tried a lot of TV tracking apps and none ever stuck for long, until I tried TV Forecast. Some of the apps I’ve used had busy UIs, were hard to navigate, or just weren’t organized in a way that fits with how I watch TV. In contrast, I’ve been using TV Forecast for the last 11 months and absolutely love it. TV Forecast elegantly combines a simple, modern design aesthetic with smooth, fluid UI that carefully balances the shows you already watch with effortless browsing of new shows.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve never heard of Finder Sync Extensions. I haven’t run across many apps other than Dropbox and HoudahSpot that support the feature. Finder extensions allow third-party developers to customize the Finder on the Mac with buttons in the Finder’s toolbar or changes to the contextual menu that’s displayed when you right-click on a file.
Service Station is a new Mac utility that takes advantage of Finder extensions by letting users create rules to control when and which apps are displayed in the right-click contextual menu. The app can also be used to kick off AppleScript and shell scripts and Automator workflows. These are all tasks that macOS already supports in one way or another, but Service Station surfaces them as top-level contextual menu options and can be customized to suit your individual needs, which makes this a very handy tool.
I wish I had Highlights for iOS and iPadOS when I was a lawyer. Back then, it wasn’t unusual for me to review PDFs of legal documents that were hundreds of pages long. Unfortunately, the digital tools I had for annotating those documents were primitive. So instead, I typically fell back on marking up hard copies with highlighters and adding notes in the margins.
Highlights is a PDF annotation app that’s been available on the Mac for a long time but is brand new on iOS and iPadOS. The app translates the analog process of marking up a PDF to the digital world very well by providing tools that demonstrate an understanding of the needs of students, researchers, and anyone who spends a lot of time with PDFs.
I don’t have the same PDF needs I once did, but as I’ve used Highlights the past couple of weeks, I’ve appreciated its flexibility and power, and I expect that anyone who works with lots of PDFs will too.
Sensei is a brand new Mac app that monitors the status of various components of your Mac’s hardware and provides a set of utilities to optimize its performance. The app is certainly not the first to offer these features – there are tools built into macOS and third-party apps that can accomplish many of the same functions, and in some cases more. However, what sets Sensei apart, and what has quickly won me over, is its ability to translate the data it collects and implement its utilities in a beautifully-designed, standalone app.
Metapho has been one of my favorite photo utilities on iOS for years. The marquee feature has always been its ability to strip metadata from images, which is handy when sharing photos online, for instance. Over time though, Metapho has grown to incorporate other functionality for inspecting and editing photo metadata that has made the app a must-have iOS utility. With its latest update, Metapho has added Deep Fusion and Night Mode photo detection, an intriguing addition that I haven’t seen any other app offer.
Earlier this week, Guilherme Rambo released a new Mac utility called NoiseBuddy that toggles between the noise cancellation and Transparency modes of AirPods Pro and the Beats Solo Pro headphones when they’re connected to a Mac. The app can place an icon in your Mac’s menu bar or on the Touch Bar and uses the same noise cancellation and Transparency iconography found in Control Center on iOS and iPadOS. The app’s settings allow you to run NoiseBuddy in the menu bar, on the Touch Bar, or in both places. To switch modes, simply click the icon in the menu bar or tap the Touch Bar button.
This isn’t Rambo’s first time working with Bluetooth headphones and the Mac. He also created AirBuddy, which we covered previously. AirBuddy is a Mac utility that displays the charge status of AirPods and Beats headphones that use Apple’s proprietary wireless chips. The app also allows users to connect those headphones to their Macs via Bluetooth with a single click.
NoiseBuddy is the kind of Mac utility that I love. It takes overly fiddly aspect of interacting with macOS and makes it dead simple. The free app is available from Rambo’s GitHub repo, where it can be downloaded as a ZIP archive and then dragged into your Applications folder.
FoodNoms is a new privacy-oriented food tracking app that tackles the tedium of logging what you’ve eaten in innovative ways that make it one of the most promising apps in this category that I’ve seen in a long time.
Too often during the year, I find myself eating what’s easy, not what’s healthy. When I sense that happening, the first step I take is to open a food tracking app and log what I’ve been eating. The process imposes the discipline to help get me back on track with healthier eating habits. However, I don’t usually stick with food tracking long, mostly because I find the process tedious.
With FoodNoms, I’ve found it easier to stick with food tracking than ever before. The app’s database of foods seems a little limited compared to other apps I’ve used, and I’d like to see more ways to visualize trends over time added to the app. Still, those limitations are largely made up for by the ability to log portion accuracy and scan nutrition labels, along with the multitude of other ways to log meals. Add FoodNoms’ privacy focus, and I expect it’s going to win over a lot of people.