Essential Software

As a long-time nerd, I’ve used a lot of apps and have formed some very strong opinions about them. In 2021, these are my most essential apps for macOS, iOS, and iPadOS.


I’ve always been a note-taker, and this app has been a revelation. I used to fill up notebooks and yellow pads, and eventually I graduated to taking notes digitally on my laptop and my iPad. I’ve had affairs with most major note apps — Evernote, Apple Notes, Bear, plain text. This year I was turned onto Craft, and I’m not sure what could make me leave it. Craft covers all of my requirements. My notes are portable: I can export them, or store them locally, or keep them in their cloud service for syncing across devices. I can insert virtually any kind of file, and append with notes. It supports iPad Pencil drawings. I can share notes with others. It easily imported my Bear and plain text notes (and even retained creation/modification dates!) This app does it all. Mac/iOS/iPadOS


Honestly, I only know one password — the password to my 1Password app. I don’t know the password to my email, bank accounts, blog, streaming services, etc. Everything is randomly generated, stored in 1Password, and synced across my devices. If a login is compromised and shows up on the dark web, 1Password alerts me and I can change the password. It supports virtually every login type from web, server, software license, credit card numbers, you name it. I’ve been using it for over a decade and it is irreplacable. Mac/iOS/iPadOS


Things is my other brain. Every reminder, project, or recurring task starts and ends in Things. The interface is beautifully designed and easy to use. Mac/iOS/iPadOS


There are many calculator apps, but none like this one. It’s a little bit like a standard calculator had a baby with a spreadsheet and a plain text document. This has probably been the most useful app in my professional life of the past decade. Mac/iOS/iPadOS


This is an especially nerdy entry, and maybe not for everyone, but I consider Alfred an essential part of my Mac workflow. Most Mac users are probably familiar with Spotlight search: by default it’s the little magnifying glass button that lives in your menu bar (you can also hit command-spacebar to trigger it). It just brings up a simple search box that you can use to find (and launch) anything on your Mac. Alfred is a super-charged version of that. Alfred (like Spotlight) can be used to launch application by typing their name, or opening documents, but you can also use it to launch various workflows. I use Alfred (I launch it by typing option-space) to start web searches, and to add new tasks to Things. It has an integration with my favorite calculator app, so that I can perform calculations on the fly without opening another app. I can use it to create new calendar appointments, contacts, or even create new notes. It also has built-in support for Snippets, which is a massive time saver. As of this writing, per Alfred’s built-in statistics, since May 19, 2016, Alfred has been used 19,627 times on my Mac. It’s pretty essential. macOS only.