Tag Archive for ‘Applications’

AlternativeTo, Crowdsourced Software Recommendations ➝

I’ve been using this service a lot lately to explore alternative software options and think it’s worthy of a shout-out. It offers filters for platform, features, and license. Interested in open source alternatives to Apple Notes?They have you covered. Or self-hosted alternatives to LastPass? They have that too.

And if you find something you enjoy, you can like/heart the app or service so others will find better results in the future.

➝ Source: alternativeto.net

iPhone Home Screen

It’s been a little while since I published my home screens. But after seeing my buddy Josh Ginter publish his, I thought I’d share what my current iPhone Home Screen is like these days. It’s undergone quite a lot of changes over the past month or two — at least by my standards.

iPhone Home Screen — February 2021

I’m using an iPhone 11 Pro with the linen wallpaper and the following apps on my Home Screen:

  • Messages
  • Fantastical — I’ve tried a lot of calendar apps, Fantastical is the best.
  • Jetpack — a shortcut that launches a modal view of site stats in the WordPress app.
  • Camera
  • Headspace — an excellent meditation and mindfulness app. Full disclosure, Automattic allows me to expense the costs of the subscription.
  • Ulysses — my favorite writing app on the platform. Everything I publish on Initial Charge starts in this app.
  • LookUp — I don’t think most people have a dictionary app on their Home Screen anymore — Siri does a lot of that work for many, I suspect. But I still prefer a dedicated app for looking up definitions and LookUp is the best one I’ve found.
  • Simplenote — I do support for Simplenote at Automattic and I may or may not be running a beta version with a different icon. I use this to store all of my work-related notes.
  • Things — there’s no to do list application that has ever clicked for me like Things has.
  • Reeder — I use this app to follow a single RSS feed — the one generated by Shaarli. I have it configured to only mark items as read manually. It syncs read status over iCloud and acts as an excellent read later client.
  • Day One — the best journaling app on the market. I use it to save thoughts, long term storage of my bests photos — with context — and to generally document my life.
  • P2s — this is a custom icon for ReadKit, setup through Launch Center Pro. I use it to read P2s, the internal weblogs that we use at Automattic for company-, team-, and division-wide communication and documentation.
  • Edit — a simple, in a good way, text editor by Kyle Dreger.
  • Photos
  • Balance — a shortcut that combines all of my finance-related apps into a single launcher. Like a folder, but with a nifty icon.
  • Bear — my personal notes app. I’m actively looking for alternatives at the moment — ideally, I’ll find something that’s self-hosted or works with markdown files on an FTP server.
  • Clock
  • Calzy — I go back and forth between this and Calcbot. I’m in a Calzy-type of mood at the moment.
  • Spark — I’ve spent far too much time switching between email clients. None of them do everything I want in exactly the way I want it to. But Spark comes the closest.
  • Prism — I’m not much for streaming audio services. I like owning my audio files. Prism, combined with Plex is the perfect setup for me.
  • Unread — my favorite RSS application. It’s the best for reading feeds. I use Tiny Tiny RSS as the backend service with the Fever API.
  • Icro — with my newfound adoration for Micro.blog, it’s only natural for me to have a client app in my dock. I’m cycling through the options now to see what one is the best.
  • Safari
  • Overcast — I’ve been getting the itch to try out other podcast clients lately. But I sort-of expect I’ll come back to Overcast when I’m done. It’s solid.
  • Pandora — I use the service for their excellent customized radio stations. I have a 90s Alternative station that has been meticulously tuned for years.
  • Maps
  • 1Password — the best password manager available.
  • iTunes Store — I default to purchasing CDs, but when I buy digital, I use iTunes. I also launch the app regularly to look up artists and albums for the previews.
  • Screens — I use this to manage our Mac Mini home server and to help out my mother-in-law with tech support.
  • TestFlight
  • Find My
  • Code Editor — I wrote Initial Charge’s WordPress theme on my iPhone and iPad, all in Code Editor. It’s also invaluable for managing files on my web server over FTP.
  • Shortcuts
  • Airport — a nifty app that allows you to discover joinable TestFlight betas.
  • App Store
  • WordPress — another app that I do support for at Automattic. I use it for work as well as publishing on a few private family sites.
  • Prologue — from the developer of Prism, Prologue is an audiobook app that syncs with Plex.
  • Settings

I’m hoping to start publishing these more regularly again. I really enjoy sharing my home screens and reading about others’ too. Perhaps doing one device at a time is the best way to lower the barrier to entry.

CARROT Weather 5 ➝

A pretty big update to my primary weather app. I have had time to dig into it yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

➝ Source: macstories.net

Replacicon, a Replacement App Icon Manager ➝

From the site:

Replacicon makes it easy to find and replace app icons on the Mac. It scans online sources containing thousands of replacement app icons for each of your installed macOS apps. In just a click, you can change your app icons so they better match the rest of the system, or your own tastes. […]

Replacicon even watches for app updates in the background so your customized icons are not lost across app updates.

It only works on Big Sur and I don’t have any machines that have been updated to it yet. But I still bought this app. It seems like a great piece of software.

➝ Source: replacicon.app

I Don’t Like It When Apps Change Their Tab Bar Items ➝

I completely agree with Chris on this, changing the tab bar of an application should happen almost never. But I would go even further and advocate that developer’s allow users to edit the contents of their app’s tab bar. That used to be far more common than it is today — at least in my experience — and I think the trend is bad for users. Not everyone uses an app in exactly the same way and users should be empowered to customize the interface to reflect their usage habits.

➝ Source: chrishannah.me

iPhone Home Screen and Watch Faces

With iOS 14 bringing widgets to the home screen, I suspect my iPhone setup will go through a substantial transformation this fall. So this will likely be my last iPhone home screen update under the current iteration of Springboard. Although, to be fair, I thought similarly during the beta period in which iPadOS gained widgets on the home screen and that didn’t turn out as I initially thought.

The difference this time around, though, is that adding widgets to the iPhone home screen doesn’t force you to shrink the size of the rest of your app icons or push all of your app icons to one side for no good reason. Even considering how widgets on the iPad home screen played out, I’m far more hopeful that I’ll actually use widgets on my iPhone home screen.


iPhone Home Screen — August 2020

  • Fantastical: The best calendar app for iOS.
  • Instagram: a little shortcut I put together that launches the Instagram app on iPhone and opens the Instagram website on iPad.
  • Headspace: An excellent meditation app, highly recommended by The Sweet Setup, and something that I can expense at Automattic.
  • Ulysses: My favorite writing app — everything I publish on Initial Charge is written in Ulysses.
  • Define: A simple shortcut that asks for input and then searches for the definition of the given term in Terminology.
  • Simplenote: An application that I occasionally do support for at Automattic and all of my work-related notes and weekly updates I share with my team.
  • Things: The first and only to do list application that ever clicked for me. I’ve stuck with it for years and I have no interest in even attempting an alternative — at least not in their current iteration.
  • Reeder: My Instapaper client of choice. It gives me the ability to sort my saved links by domain and makes it much easier to load the original web page.
  • Day One: This has become more and more important in my life with Josh around. I do my best to journal all the most important moments and it has become my repository for all of the bests photos I take of family and friends.
  • Apollo: I probably spend more time on Reddit than I should, but Apollo makes it so darn enjoyable.
  • Edit: A simple scratchpad/note taking app. I use it for drafting email, composing tweets, and taking notes that I don’t intend to keep long-term.
  • Balance: a shortcut that displays a menu listing all of my finance-related applications and launches the chosen app. It’s a simple way to keep my home screen tidy while still giving me quick and easy access to these types of apps.
  • Bear: For all of my non-ephemeral, non-work-related note taking.
  • Calzy:My favorite calculator app for iOS.
  • Prism: I maintain a music library in Plex and this is my preferred method of playback. It’s more akin to the simple, straightforward Music app for iOS that existed before the introduction of their streaming music service.
  • Unread: A gorgeous RSS reading application with native support for sharing to read later services.
  • Tweetbot: The best Twitter app ever.
  • Overcast: I’ve tried just about every podcast client on the platform, Overcast is the best. It offers all of the most useful features — strip-silence, voice boost, the ability to subscribe to password protected feeds — and can has iPad support.
  • Pandora: With my Plus account, I can pick a station and listen to ad-free music that I’ve curated over the course of nearly fifteen years with their thumbs up/down system.
  • Dark Noise: I just recently switched to Dark Noise from Noisli when I discovered at the app had the ability to create custom mixes. I’ve been enjoying the custom icon options.
  • 1Password: My favorite password manager on any platform.
  • Screens: I use this to manage our home media server and help out when my mother-in-law runs into trouble on her iMac.
  • Wegmans: Given the state of things, we’ve been ordering groceries for delivery more frequently. Wegmans our favorite store in general and by far the best grocery store in our area.
  • last.fm: A shortcut that opens the last.fm website so I can check the services recommendations.
  • WordPress: Another app that I do support for at Automattic, but I also use this to manage a few websites alongside a few family members.
  • Google Photos: My wife and I use the service for backing up our photos to the cloud. We prefer it over iCloud because of its ability to automatically share our photos with one another.
  • Slack: For work-related communication.
  • YouTube: For watching videos on politics, board games, video games, comedy, and more.
  • Blink: The app is no longer available on the App Store, but it’s still the best way to quickly grab links to applications that I can share here on Initial Charge or on Twitter.

Apple Watch

Apple Watch Face — August 2020

Pride Digital


My strategy for watch faces has changed since Josh was born. I use my Watch more as a status and information screen instead of using it to actually perform actions — like marking items off my to do list, logging my weight, or starting meditations. Josh has a tendency to play with the Watch’s screen while I hold him and this altered complication setup mitigates his ability to perform actions that I’d prefer he didn’t.

iPad Pro Home Screen

I’ve already published my review of the new iPad Pro, but I thought I should also share my current home screen and widgets. The interesting thing for me is that the way I interact with my iPad hasn’t really changed at all since I’ve upgraded from the iPad Air 2. I had dabbled with the newer settings in iPadOS to allow for more icons on my home screens and pinning widgets there as well, but it never took. I thought it had something to do with the smaller, 9.7-inch screen of the iPad Air 2, but that isn’t the case.

iPad home screens just look a bit too cluttered with these settings enabled. I’ve tried limiting the number of icons to a smaller number of lines, I’ve tried many different numbers of widgets, and in every combination you can think of. But I can’t find a way to configure it to my liking and always end up reverting to the tried and true standard sized icons without the pinned widget section.

I’ve even been browsing through r/iOSsetups, hoping that someone has been able to find a solution to this. But alas, I wasn’t able to find any nice looking iPad home screens there either. I suspect I’ll revisit these options in the future, but for now, I’ll keep it as is.

iPad Pro Home Screen

Here’s a rundown of each of the apps on my home screen:

  • Messages: My preferred means of communication with close friends and family.
  • Fantastical: The best calendar app.
  • Xserve: A shortcut for launching directly into a VNC session with my home server within Screens — using the app’s URL scheme.
  • Simplenote: This is where all of my work-related notes live — mostly lists of what I’ve accomplished each week to share with the team in our weekly updates.
  • YouTube: This is slowly becoming my favorite online streaming service. It regularly sits at the top of my list in Screen Time with more time spent in it than any other app on my device.
  • Pandora: When I need a change of pace with music, I reach for Pandora. On regular rotation are my “90s Alternative”, “Ska Radio”, “90s Country”, and “Soft Rock Radio” stations.
  • Instagram: My shortcut for launching the Instagram website within the Shortcuts app. Because they still haven’t released an update to their app with iPad support.
  • Define: A simple shortcut that asks for input and then searches Terminology for the given term.
  • Day One: This has become a much more important app for me now that my wife and I have Josh in our lives. I started using it more frequently around the end of April last year and I’m excited to start seeing some interesting entries in “On This Day” soon.
  • 1Password: You can’t find a better password manager than 1Password. Trust me, I’ve tried.
  • Bear: This is for my personal notes. Lately I’ve been using the app to curate a list of movies and TV shows I’d like to see and creating a prioritized list of projects/purchases for around the house.
  • Photos: The iPad Pro’s display is fantastic and I love looking at photos that my family and I share with each other.
  • Balance: This is a shortcut I put together that displays a menu listing all of the finance-related apps and websites I interact with. I choose from the list and it either opens the app or shows the web page. It helps to cut down on the home screen clutter.
  • Infuse: The app I use to playback movies and TV shows in our Plex library. I like its simple, focused design when compared to the actual Plex app.
  • Prism: In addition to movies and TV shows, my wife and I also house our music library within Plex. But again, the Plex app itself doesn’t offer a particularly great interface for music playback. So we use Prism, which is an excellent little app that’s simplicity harkens back to the early days of the Music app on iOS.
  • Tweetbot: No ads, no algorithmic timeline, no funky new features. Just a simple, clean Twitter client.
  • Unread: My favorite RSS reading app, made even better with its recent update simplifying the process of sharing to Instapaper and other read later services.
  • Reeder: I don’t use this for reading RSS feeds. It’s primarily my Instapaper client — I like that it gives me the option to see my saved articles by domain. But I also maintain an on-iPad RSS account that I use for subscribing to all of the feeds on #OpenWeb. The app makes it easy to test new feeds for the site and export the lot in an OPML file, which is offered on #OpenWeb’s Sources page.
  • Things: The first task management app that actually clicked for me. And I’ve stuck with it ever since.
  • Ulysses: I’ve never used a more delightful writing application. It’s such a joy to use that I would consider it to be on my short list of best apps ever.
  • Safari: For browsing the web.
  • Mail: I’ve used almost every email app on the platform — certainly every major contender. But every single one of them has something that doesn’t quite work the way that I want it to. Now that they’ve fixed the bottom toolbar in iOS 13.4, this is the least offensive option.
  • Apollo: An excellent Reddit client.
  • Edit: I love this app. Having a scratchpad that I can use to jot down ephemeral notes or lists while I work on projects and tasks is surprisingly handy.
  • Calzy: I think this app has the best interface of all the calculator apps on iPad. It doesn’t display all of those advanced functions that I never use and only serve to clutter the interface. Instead, it keeps it simple and displays a history of your calculations along the right.
  • Overcast: The best podcast client at least partially because its the only good one that also offers an iPad app.

iPad Pro Widget View

As for the widgets I have enabled on my iPad, Hello Weather is at the top of the list. It has become my favorite weather app for iPad and iPhone because it has the best widget in this category by far. And that has become my preferred way to check the weather. More often than not, I just want to get a quick glance to see what the temperature is. If I want hourly data, I can expand the widget, and if I want to go even further I can tap to launch the full app.

Shortcuts is fairly obvious, it gives me quick access to some of my more frequently used shortcuts. And then I have Deliveries to track items I order, the WordPress app’s “This Week” widget, and Batteries.

The WordPress widget is a new addition for me — just within the last week or two. Previously I was using a nifty shortcut I put together to launch the WordPress app directly into Initial Charge’s stats, but this is even better. The vast majority of the time, I was only looking to see the number of views I had for the day and this widget gives me quick access to that information. And when I want to go a bit deeper, I can see a full week of stats in the expanded view.

On Subscription Apps ➝

Josh Ginter:

The fact is that there is a finite appetite to pay for apps (it’s called a “market”). Each person will have a threshold for what they’re willing to pay for apps and services in a given year. Each app and service is vying for a larger piece of that pie. And subscriptions eat into that threshold much, much quicker than one-off $4.99 purchase prices.

Said another way, we’re testing the boundaries of app price elasticity here.

Developers are experimenting with subscription pricing because it seems like a good way to bring some predictability to their revenue. And it gives them an opportunity to try and earn a bit more from each individual customer. The problem for users is that many of these subscriptions are priced much higher than what we’ve become accustomed to.

But those low, single transaction prices were not sustainable for developers. If you want these types of well-designed apps to continue, a few dollars for life just isn’t going to cut it. Perhaps the new pricing is too high, but it will take a few years of experimentation before everyone settles in on what the market can bear. In the meantime, if you feel the need to complain, at least be kind about it. Developers get a lot of flack when they change pricing models and there’s no reason to pile on.

➝ Source: thenewsprint.co