My 2020 Must-Have Mac, iPhone, and iPad Apps

Each year towards the end of December I summarize in a post, on this site, the Mac, iPhone, and iPad apps that I will be using for the next year. This is always one of my most popular posts.

This year instead of a separate article for Mac apps and another for iPhone and iPad apps I’m putting them all in one article. I indicate in parenthesis under the app title where I’m using the app Mac, iPhone or iPad.

During 2019 I tried a lot of different apps. Some I liked and switched to and others I tried, didn’t like and stayed with what I’d been using. I hope you’ll discover a new app or two that will improve your workflow or make you more productive.

My setup:

  • MacBook Pro (early–2015 13”)
  • iPhone 7 Plus
  • iPad 5th Generation
  • Apple Watch 44 mm Series 4

Here’s my software and what I use it for:

Safari
(Mac, iPhone, and iPad)
Safari is my browser of choice. It just works best on macOS. I use Firefox when a site doesn’t play nice with it.

Enpass
(Mac, iPhone, and iPad)
Gotta have a password manager.

Fastmail
(Mac, iPhone, and iPad)
I’ve been using Fastmail for email for over 5 years. A few weeks ago I also started using it for calendar, and contacts. On my iPhone and iPad, I use the Fastmail app. Unfortunately, Fastmail doesn’t have a Mac app but with Unite I turned the Fastmail web client into a native Mac app. I’ve written about Fastmail here.

Fantastical 2
(Mac, iPhone, and iPad)
Fantastical is my calendar app. It integrates perfectly with my Fastmail calendar appointments and events.

Things 3
(Mac, iPhone, and iPad)
I use Things 3 for task management. I love the simplicity of how it works. I wrote about it here.

Due
(iPhone and iPad)
Due is where I keep all my reminders.

Drafts 5
(Mac, iPhone, and iPad)
I’ve been using Drafts for several years. It’s my multi-purpose writing and note-taking app. I often use it as the first stop for most everything I write and then use Drafts actions to send what I’ve written anywhere I want to. I’ve written about how I use Drafts here.

Bear
(Mac, iPhone, and iPad)
I’ve been a Bear pro user since the inception of the app. It’s where I keep all my notes and lists. For now, it’s also where I’m doing my writing. And for plain text I use iA Writer on my Mac and 1Writer on my iPhone and iPad.

Marked 2
(Mac)
Marked is the markdown previewer app I use side by side with my writing app.

Grammarly
(Mac and iPad)
I use Grammarly for proofreading my stories for grammar and punctuation.

Yoink
(Mac, iPhone, and iPad)
Yoink speeds and up my workflow by simplifying drag and drop. I’ve written about Yoink here.

Copied
(Mac, iPhone, and iPad)
Copied is my cross-platform clipboard history manager. I’ve written about it here.

Reeder
(Mac, iPhone, and iPad)
Reeder is what I use for my Feedly RSS feeds.

Pocket
(Mac, iPhone, and iPad)
I’m now using Pocket instead of Instapaper for reading later. I wrote about why I switched here.

Tweetbot
(iPhone and iPad)
Tweetbot is for Twitter.

Day One Journal
(iPhone and iPad)
Day One is where I keep a lifelog.

Alfred
(Mac)
Alfred is Spotlight on steroids. I’d be lost without it. I’ve written about it here.

Keyboard Maestro
(Mac)
Keyboard Maestro is another app that I couldn’t live without it. I use Keyboard Maestro keyboard shortcuts to launch apps, open files and folders and automating actions. It has a learning curve but once you start to get the hang of it you can do some amazing things. I’ve written about Keyboard Maestro here.

Dropbox
(Mac, iPhone, and iPad)
Dropbox is where I keep files that I want to have available on all my devices. It’s also where syncing happens for apps like Alfred, Keyboard Maestro, and Due.

PDFpen and Hazel are key apps for my paperless workflow. I’ve written about my paperless workflow here.

Scanner Pro
(iPhone and iPad)
Scanner Pro is also part of my paperless workflow. I use it to scan paper documents into PDFs with OCR that look clean and professional.

App Cleaner
(Mac)
AppCleaner is my app uninstaller. I use it because it deletes all the junk that gets left behind when you just drag the app icon to the trash.

Moom
(Mac)
I use Moom for window management on my Mac.

Witch
(Mac)
Witch is my Mac app switcher.

PopClip
(Mac)
I use PopClip to manage what I do with selected text. I’ve written about PopClip here.

Bartender 3
(Mac)
Bartender is the app I use to organize my menu bar. I’ve written about it here.

ScreenFloat
(Mac)
ScreenFloat is my app for taking screenshots and storing them.

TunnelBear VPN
(Mac, iPhone, and iPad)
TunnelBear is my VPN for security on public WiFi and web browsing privacy.

PCalc
(Mac, iPhone, and iPad)
PCalc is my stock calculator replacement. I use it for its additional features and customization.

Apple Activity app
I use the Activity app with my Apple Watch to track all my daily activities.

Update – Alfred or Keyboard Maestro or both

This is an update to my Alfred or Keyboard Maestro or both article that I wrote the other day.

I’m back using both Alfred and Keyboard Maestro. After using just Alfred for a few days I discovered a couple of Keyboard Maestro macros that I use that I wasn’t able to replicate in Alfred. So since I need Keyboard Maestro for them I switched back to Keyboard Maestro for all my automation.

I like the way Keyboard Maestro macros work better than Alfred workflows and as a side note, they execute much faster. I also prefer the way web searches are executed using Keyboard Maestro. It’s several keystrokes quicker.

I’ll be upgrading to version 9 very soon.

Alfred or Keyboard Maestro or both

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know that I’m a huge fan of Alfred and Keyboard Maestro.

Alfred was one of the first apps that I discovered after moving from a PC to a Mac. I use its features many times every day.

I discovered Keyboard Maestro a little later on. Since Alfred was already ingrained in the way I used my Mac there were a lot of its features that I didn’t use. There’s a lot of feature overlap between Alfred and Keyboard Maestro. Over time I created or accumulated a couple of dozen Keyboard Maestro macros some that I used often and others that I rarely used.

When Alfred 4 came out in June I immediately upgraded without a thought. I think the cost was around $15. Today I received an email from the developer of Keyboard Maestro letting me know that version 9 is now available with lots of new features and an upgrade price of $25. But, I’m having trouble justifying the upgrade. After reviewing what’s new I’m not sure I’ll use any of the new features or actions.

So that leads me to question whether I even needed Keyboard Maestro. I figured if I could recreate my KM macros as Alfred workflows I wouldn’t need Keyboard Maestro any longer. So that’s what I did. To my surprise, I was able to create Alfred workflows that would do the same thing that my KM macros did. To be fair to Keyboard Maestro I love the app but don’t need to apps that will do the same thing. Also, my macros were just scratching the surface of what Keyboard Maestro can do.

For now I’ve stopped using Keyboard Maestro and I’m using Alfred for 100% of my automation. Folks, this is what works for me but may not be what works for you.

I wrote an update to this article. You can find it here.

 

Apple listening

I love the Mac. It’s my preferred computing device. What makes the Mac great are all the apps that increase productivity. I’m thinking about Alfred, Keyboard Maestro, PopClip, Moom, and Hazel to name a few. You won’t find these in iOS or iPadOS

So, my Mac’s are getting old. Up to today, I have been concerned with what I would replace them when the time comes?

If you care about the Mac as I do you’ll want to read Marco Arment’s article Apple is Listening. After WWDC and reading Marco’s article I’m encouraged about the future of the Mac and that I will be able to continue to enjoy the Mac and the apps that I love using.

But there has clearly been a major shift in direction for the better since early 2017, and they couldn’t be more clear now:

Apple is listening again, they’ve still got it, and the Mac is back.

Alfred 4 Is Here

My Mac launcher app has gotten an update.

Although I didn’t see much reason to upgrade from version 3 I did so anyway. I want to support the developer so I also upgraded my Powerpack license.

Alfred is an indispensable part of the daily use of my Macs. I use it at least 20 to 30 times every day. You can find all the articles that I’ve written about Alfred here.

 

Interact with Things 3 using Alfred

I wanted to share this cool Alfred Workflow, Things for Alfred, with you since I know a lot of you have moved to Things 3 since its launch. Here’s what it does.

Using the keyword todo

  • Use the keyword todo to show Things lists and action any of them for displaying the corresponding to-dos.
  • Action a to-do to display it in the Things UI.
  • Try the modifier keys either in lists or in to-dos for more actions.

File Quick View with Alfred

If you have been following my blog for a while you know that I’m a big fan of Alfred. I use it all the time for finding and opening files. One thing I didn’t know though is that when searching files you can do a Quick View. In the past, I’ve always opened the file in the appropriate app to view it. With Alfred Quick View I can press ⇧ or ⌘Y to bring up a quick view of the file. This is a nice time saver.

Credit to Lee Garrett: Quick View with Alfred