My Favorite Apps of 2011: The Best of the Best [Mostly For Android]

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2011 has been an intense year for me. I started writing for MakeUseOf early May, and it has been an absolute blast so far. I often like to take an in-depth look at a single app or website when I write (although I’ve been known to write up the occasional round-up).

Some of the apps I got to review this year were real gems, so I thought it might be nice to compose a list of the cream of the crop, the best of the best, just in case you missed those the first time around. I will go through them in chronological order, and try to include at least one from every month. I am very passionate about Android, and I guess this shows.

Vim: One Awesome Text Editor

May saw me review Vim, with “Top 7 Reasons to Give The Vim Text Editor a Chance”. I have been using Vim for quite a while; it is one of those applications that may take a bit of time to get used to, but once you figure out why it’s so good, you will just stick with it.

These days I do some of my editing with other editors (IDEs, actually), but when I access a remote host to edit something via SSH, it’s Vim all the way for me.

SwipePad: An Awesome Way To Quick-Launch Android Applications

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May was also the month I discovered SwipePad, an incredibly useful app launcher for Android. SwipePad triggers when you swipe your finger inwards from the edge of the screen, and shows a grid of several icons of your choosing. The location of the icons never changes, so launching your favorite program becomes almost reflexive – you don’t even have to look.

When I first started using SwipePad, I was using my Acer Liquid E. Two smartphones later (Galaxy S and Galaxy S II) and several Android ROMs later, I am still using SwipePad on a daily basis. This gem of an app will change the way you launch applications, if you take it for a spin.

Solarized: A Color Scheme Your Eyes Will Thank You For

We now come to June, the month I discovered Solarized. Rather than an application, Solarized is a concept. It is a pair of color schemes, dark and light. While Solarized is certainly beautiful, it can be said beauty is subjective. What makes Solarized so awesome is that it is scientifically based. The colors have been carefully picked for optimum contrast and legibility, and it really works. Code highlighted using Solarized stands out and is easy to read and work with for hours.

Six months later, I still use Solarized as my main color scheme, and it is the first thing I set up when I try a new editor (Solarized is available for just about any serious text editor or IDE). I use it on a daily basis with the three editors I currently work with. Highly recommended.

The Best of Android Apps List

June saw another exciting development: I was asked to curate MakeUseOf’s list of Best Android Apps. I started off with asking for reader suggestions, and went on to compose the list itself. So far, the list garnered over 28,000 social shares and a ton of reader comments, compliments, and extra recommendations.

I am very proud of this list, and we are continuing to maintain it, listening to reader recommendations and adding more fantastic applications. I will soon be sharing another bit of exciting news about the list, but that will have to wait for another post. At any rate, this was certainly one of 2011’s high points.

TED Air For Android Helps You Become a Smarter Person

We now come to July, the month I reviewed TED Air for Android. This app provides a slick gateway into the exciting world of TED, a collection of inspiring, insightful, and generally mind-blowing videos about a host of subjects. A lovely app to have on your device for when you have a moment.

SlideIT Is A Fantastic Keyboard for Android

August is a month that is sweltering hot in many parts of the world; it’s also when I got to review one of the hottest keyboards for Android, SlideIT. SlideIT is a sliding keyboard (like Swype), but with the big difference that it is actually available on the Market. It works exceptionally well, and is the keyboard I still use on a daily basis.

Memorize Information Intelligently With AnkiDroid Flashcards

September is when many of us go back to school, so it was only fitting to open the month with an app that could help you get smarter and do better in tests. On September 1st, my review of AnkiDroid Flashcards was published. This is a flash-card application which you can use to memorize anything, such as material for anatomy lessons, capitals of the world, and more.

AnkiDroid is amazing because it can adapt to your learning rate. You get to practice the harder things more often. I used it to learn the NATO phonetic alphabet, which I still know now, even though I haven’t used the app in months.

Since I reviewed it, Anki got a major facelift with several new versions. You can see more recent screenshots and details on its Market page.

Know Everything About Your Phone With Elixir 2

My choice for “Best App of October” is Elixir 2. This is a free system monitor for Android, with an excellent widget system and notification bar integration. You can use it to find out how much memory you have free, what your signal strength is, and just about anything about your phone.

If you’re ever curious about your Android phone, Elixir 2 probably has the answers you’re looking for.

Keep Your Life Organized With Stickies For Windows

November saw me review an application I absolutely adore, and one which I use every day, all day long – Stickies for Windows. This is a powerful and free sticky-note application that boasts every feature you could think of, including reminders, attaching notes to specific windows, sending notes over the network, and more.

Get Your To-Dos Done The Sexy Way With Any.DO for Android

We now come to December, a month that isn’t done just yet. The most impressive app I reviewed in December so far is Any.DO, a free to-do manager for Android with boatloads of visual flair and UI style.

Looking Forward

That sums it up for 2011. I’ve had to drop a lot of great apps to keep this roundup from becoming a book, but it has been a fantastic year all around. I can’t wait for 2012!

What apps and websites would you like me to cover in the coming year?

Image credit: ShutterStock

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