Essential apps and services

I am commonly asked which iPhone apps and tools I use for various functions in my businesses (as well as for personal enjoyment). Given that I enumerated the hardware which I use in my portable office, it seems appropriate that I incorporate the softer side of things here. In formulating the list of applications which I rely on daily, I realized that in addition to native programs running on my iPhone and Mac, there are a significant number of services (what is hiply called “the cloud” these days) which I have been using for years and have included below, as well.

To the talented visionaries and meticulous implementers who have made possible all of these services and products: you have my appreciation, gratitude, and loyal patronage. Thank you for enabling such a deliciously seamless and omnipresent access to data, media, and overall connectivity which I had dreamed about in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Such access makes doing business (and life) easier, more efficient, and ironically more “untethered” than ever.


Each of these services enable synchronization of data and files between multiple Macs and iOS devices (e.g. iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches). They are what ultimately enable a unified computing environment where data is accessible regardless of the hardware used to access it (iMac at home, iMac at office, MacBook Air laptop, Mac Mini connected to entertainment center, iPhone, iPad, etc.):

  • MobileMe – IMAP email and synchronization of contacts, calendar, and more
  • Dropbox – seamless, simple, and very efficient file synchronization
  • Remember The Milk – task and project management for items unrelated to CRM
  • Salesforce – CRM database extraordinaire
  • WordPress – hosted version of fantastic, reliable, open-source (FREE) web publishing software
  • Simplenote – as implied by its name, this simple text/note synchronizing service enables iOS device and Mac note synchronization in a particularly elegant way, providing a bridge between a native iOS application and plain text file editing on the Mac via Notational Velocity; especially powerful when coupled with Dropbox
  • Instapaper – provides caching of the text-based substance of a web page; cleans up “noisy” formatting when reading blogs and web sites and provides for a particularly elegant means of reading numerous articles offline, once synchronized, with iOS apps
  • Various Google services: Voice, Reader, Calendar, Contacts, Checkout, Maps, Picasa (for photos)
  • Google Voice – unification of multiple phone numbers, including web-based SMS, voicemail, and voicemail transcription
  • SpanningSync – synchronizes iCal and Address Book to Google’s calendar and contacts; particularly useful for Google Voice and embedding Google Calendar widgets into dashboards, such as a customized version in
  • YouMail – convenient replacement of standard voice mail of cell phone carrier with visual voice mail app; nearly redundant with use of Google Voice, except for capturing direct calls to original numbers (non-Google Voice); best feature: sends email whenever a call is missed, and includes an attached MP3 file of message whenever voicemail is left
  • Sirius XM Internet radio – coupled with my satellite-based subscription
  • AmazonPrime – great discount on shipping and a tremendous time and money saver, as well as being highly convenient
  • TripIt – “freemium” service which automatically populates details of one’s trip itinerary simply by forwarding confirmation emails to; supremely easy way to organize flight information, hotel and rental car information, and other travel details

OS X applications (for Mac computers)

  • Butler – highly efficient way to launch applications, documents, bookmarks, and media from a hotkey stroke
  • BetterTouchTool – amazing utility to better make use of multitouch gestures (including taps, clics, and swipes) for both the Magic Mouse and a laptop’s touchpad… gestures the way Apple should have made them available natively
  • Radium – simple, elegant access to Internet radio feeds, including SiriusXM
  • Caffeine – a handy toggle to prevent display sleep or screen saver from initiating according to normal Energy Saver settings; great when used on a laptop for which presentations are given
  • Growl – elegant notification service supported by numerous applications
  • TextExpander – handy utility which supports inline expansion of predefined text “snippets”; very useful for inserting time/date stamps, formatted text, etc.
  • NetNewsWire – RSS feed reader, synchronizes with Google Reader
  • Tweetie and Tweetdeck – preferred Twitter clients
  • Notational Velocity – simple, searchable text file aggregator which synchronizes to the Simplenote service
  • MarsEdit – fantastic client to edit posts (and now pages, as well!) for blogs
  • Voice Mac – extremely handy interface to Google Voice, allowing for dialing from Address Book and sending or receiving SMS directly from one’s computer, complete with access to the service’s history of communications
  • Adium – preferred text-only IM client
  • Transmit – high-performance file transfer client (including FTP and WebDAV protocols, among others); now includes slick integration into Finder
  • PhoneValet – for a desktop connected to a fixed landline telephone, it enables direct-dial and call recording application, coupled with a small USB-based piece of hardware which connects to the phone line in use
  • Google Chrome – namely for Google Voice extension allowing click-to-dial of phone links, great for
  • Quicken from Intuit – likely to be replaced in my arsenal by iBank soon, given Intuit’s lack of updating the moribund Quicken for Mac product
  • Keynote (from Apple’s iWork) – great presentation tool with superior usability and elegance of transitions compared to PowerPoint
  • Pages (from Apple’s iWork) – preferred for simple graphic layout software which capably embeds vector artwork (e.g. postscript format)
  • Microsoft Excel (from Microsoft’s Office) – remains the gold standard spreadsheet application for usability and functionality
  • Microsoft Word (from Microsoft’s Office) – still the universal word processor, though possibly soon to be overshadowed by Pages or OpenOffice products
  • Hulu desktop client – fantastic access to Hulu web content in a native application

iOS apps

Business and Productivity

  • Week Calendar – the calendar app which iOS should have included natively
  • Remember The Milk – superior task and project management app, well aligned with the David Allen Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology; synchronizes with the service with a Pro account for a small annual fee
  • Salesforce – great native application which synchronizes with the service
  • Simplenote – simple, clean note taking application with great searching capability; integrates with Simplenote service
  • Dropbox – allows access to files and folders synchronized with the service; in iOS 4.0, it supports opening of files in preferred applications
  • GoodReader – fantastic document viewer, with remarkable performance for large file sizes
  • iTeleport – amazingly well implemented VNC (Virtual Network Computing) application for controlling a computer remotely; works blazingly fast over one’s LAN and remarkably well over the WAN when coupled with a simple authentication established through iTeleport Connect
  • Air Mouse Pro – fantastic remote trackpad and keyboard for controlling a Mac over the LAN (via MobileMouse Server) complete with dedicated, programmable function softkeys for specific applications
  • Dragon Dictation – Voice-to-text transcription for copying to clipboard
  • TextExpander – synchronizes text snippets with any Mac on its LAN, and is one of the few iOS apps which plays well with others (particularly great when coupled with Simplenote)
  • Navigon MobileNavigator – great turn-by-turn navigation with voice-to-text speech for street names, clear user interface, and integrated Google search for point-of-interest (POI) navigation
  • Google Maps (bundled with iOS) – fantastic integration with mass transit or directions for pedestrians; essential when traveling
  • Instapaper – aesthetically clean and easy way to access articles cached within the Instapaper service
  • Reeder – my preferred iPhone RSS feed reader, which synchronizes with Google Reader
  • iPicasso – great utility to batch import multiple photos and videos to one’s [Google] Picasa account
  • WordPress – direct access to editing all of my web sites, including easy comment regulation
  • RedLaser – scans UPC codes and searches for online as well as nearby vendors for easy price comparison while shopping
  • Facebook – easiest way to access the popular service on the iPhone
  • Twitter – formerly named Tweetie, it has become the standard iPhone app owned by the Twitter service


  • RedEye – universal control of all infrared devices by way of a unit which translates commands over one’s wireless network into an infrared blast stream
  • IMDB – essential trivia-locating application to research actors in TV and movies
  • iRentMovie – great for managing one’s Netflix queue
  • YouTube web app – superior performance compared to the native YouTube app, particularly involving predictive search
  • EyeTV – requires hardware and software purchase for Mac to enable both DVR and live TV streaming to one’s iPhone over WiFi or 3G data connections
  • Zinio – never buy a printed magazine again
  • Kindle and iBooks (bundled in iOS 4+) – never buy a printed book again

The iPad-optimized experience

In my last post, I described the iPad as being “an experiment, at best” in its present incarnation due to shortcomings in the hardware features. Being a natural experimentalist, of course, I ultimately had to cave and participate in the experiment, myself.

While in all specification comparison it is truly and oversized iPod Touch, the physics of the display and larger touch surface do ultimately change the user experience in a way which cannot be properly understood by examining specifications, alone. As with the iPhone, what makes the iPad “magical” is the change in how the user experiences and engages with content, both visually and kinesthetically:

  • iTeleport – VNC control with iPad-sized form factor; perhaps one of the best reasons to own an iPad?
  • MobileMouse – form factor of the iPad allows for simultaneous use of the iPad’s soft keyboard, touch mouse, and dedicated function/media keys as defined per application; truly a game-changing remote control experience when used with a Mac Mini as part of one’s home entertainment center
  • Reeder – a kinesthetically and visually stimulating RSS feed reader which synchronizes to Google Reader
  • EyeTV – iPad-sized screen viewing live or recorded TV at will, and all subscription-free. Media FLO/FLO TV never had a chance, even at its inception (who watches live TV, anyway?), and the iPad’s beauty and form factor seals the coffin shut compared to other FLO TV viewing devices
  • Netflix – great interface and quality live streaming from Netflix’s limited library in this format; hopefully this grows soon to be a viable competitor to Hulu Plus
  • Zinio – as great as the iPhone version is, the iPad experience is drop-dead amazing
  • Kindle and iBooks (bundled in iOS 4+) – ditto for Zinio on iPad, only relating to books

6 thoughts on “Essential apps and services

  1. Traci Schaible

    Awesome summary! You just had to get a jab at FLO TV and, by extension, Qualcomm in there, didn’t you 😉

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