Following an annual tradition I started last year, I would like to take the opportunity to highlight the best and most useful apps from this past year. In my view, app developers are the problem solvers of the 21st century. By now we all take for granted how relatively inexpensive mobile apps are, though many of them are very much a part of our daily workflow for getting things done.
From a mobile pro camera app to a food recipe manager, these apps are what make my iPhone and other Apple hardware devices worth the investment. Not all of these apps were released for the first time this year, but they are the ones that I’ve used most often throughout the year, and I also recommend them for their design and creativity.
I don’t get out and shoot photos as much as I like, but when I do, ProCamera ($2.99) is my iPhone app of choice. Whether you’re a photo hobbyist or a professional, ProCamera has nearly all the features you need.
Tap on the app’s Settings button, and you’ll get a few dozen features for customizing your shooting situation – portrait shots, children, crowd shots, etc.
For example, enable the Fullscreen Trigger to take photos by tapping the screen rather than the home button. This could be useful when you’re taking lots of party or concert shots. If you want to preview shots before saving them, disable Auto Save, and you can reduce the amount of unwanted photos saved to your Camera Roll. ProCamera contains features found in pro DSLR cameras, including ISO and JPEG compression controls.
This is the type of app you want to read the manual so you can get the most out of it.
Timer (free) is one of the single-tap apps that I like to keep on the homepage of my iPhone. Unlike the default Clock app for the iPhone, you don’t have to dial in a time, you simply tap one of the 12+ pre-figured timers, and that’s it. Your time is set.
I’ve set up different times from 5 minutes to 2 hours, and I’ve used the app for timing cooking items, staying on tasks at meetings, and setting reminders for when I need to leave the house to get to an appointment.
On those occasions when I attend networking socials, I like to use Evernote Hello (free) to collect the names and emails of people I meet. What’s cool about Hello is that when you add a contact to the app, you can select to have it automatically send your pre-set contact information, including a photo of yourself, to the person you collect information from. This saves them from having to copy your information down.
Evernote Hello also records the address and/or the name of the place where you added the contact (unfortunately, you can’t edit the information that is incorrect). You can also take a photo of the contact person, but I find that a little weird especially for someone I hardly know; so I just skip that part. Plus, for some odd reason when you use the photo feature, it takes 4 photos of the person, and that too is a little awkward.
Evernote has been buggy in prior versions, but since its last update, it’s been working fine for me. But hey, Evernote Hello is free, so give it a try if you think you could use an app like this.
I did a full review of Launch ($4.99), so I won’t say much more about it here. But if you want an app launcher on your iPhone, this is the one to check out. It can save you several taps.
Reddit is not a site I visit everyday, but I credit Alien Blue (free) and Dave’s Reddit Manual for introducing to me how the news aggregate and forum site works. The web version of Reddit didn’t feel user-friendly to me, but Alien Blue is set up in three columns where you can quickly access, read, Like, and save your subscribed sub-Reddits and individual articles.
The app is even better on the iPad mini, though it’s also optimized for the iPhone and other iOS devices.
I’ve gone through several journal apps in the last two years, but Day One ($4.99: iPad version) is the one I use the most. In the last two major updates, this cross-platform iOS and OS X now includes features for adding photos and tags (for now, tags on the iOS versions only) into journal entries – both of which now make Day One a five star app.
The minimalist design of Day One is inspiring for writing, because it’s not cluttered with lots of buttons and features. However, you can use markup, and quickly add entries from your Mac menu bar without having to open the application. And if you want your journal private, you can set up a passcode. Day One is cross platform, with the Mac version costing ($9.99).
Rdio (free) is a music streaming service that cost $5-$10 per month to subscribe. I’ve been a member for almost two years now, but later this year I added Rdio to my iOS devices, and here’s why – it’s a lot cheaper than purchasing and downloading songs and albums I may only listen to less than ten times.
For $120 a year, I get access to a huge collection of music, particularly jazz, that I can listen to as much as I like. Unlike with the iTunes Music store, I don’t have to download songs to my devices, thus saving storage space. I don’t have to worry about backing up music, and I can basically listen to Rdio wherever I get a Wi-Fi or cellar connection. I can also sync songs to my mobile device to listen to while offline.
So for less than the cost of making one album purchase on iTunes per month, I get all the music I can listen to in a year’s time.
NewsRack was the RSS feed reader I favored last year, and this year I favor Instacast ($1.99) as the app for subscribing to and managing all the podcasts I listen to on a regular basis. With a simple swipe down gesture, I can refresh my podcast subscriptions whenever I have time to listen to a program or two.
Instacast also makes it easy to search and subscribe to podcasts, though I try to keep that list to under ten programs, for there is far more content than I have time to consume. I wish there was a Mac version of Instacast, for it would probably be easier to use than the podcast feature in iTunes.
There’s no shortage of to-do apps, but Clear ($1.99) is among my favorite. I don’t use it as a daily planner, but rather as an app of lists for the items I need when traveling or attending a special meeting or an event, and a few step-by-step reminders for gadgets I don’t use a regular basis.
Clear is beautifully designed, and it’s navigated by iPhone finger gestures – pinching, sliding, and scrolling. It takes a few minutes to learn how to use it, but once you’re set up, you’ll find it kind of fun. It’s definitely an app for us paperless users.
I’ve tried more than a few recipe manager apps, but when I stumbled upon Paprika Recipe Manager ($4.99: iPhone version) my search came to an end. This beautifully designed and easy-to-use app allows you to use its built-in browser to search dozens of food recipe sites.
It will filter from a webpage of a selected recipe, its ingredients, directions, and a photo of the dish, and then add that information to your collection. From there you can designate the custom food or meal category you want to save the recipe under. You can also create a grocery list from the items you need for one or more recipes.
Paprika is also cross platform, and it will sync all of your data between devices. You will find it easy to scroll down your collection and find something different to cook, or select a meal from your Favorites list. You can also plan out meals for the week.
Well that’s it for this year’s favorites. Let us and your favorite developers know which apps are your favorites.
Image Credit: Shutterstock
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