Tag Archive for ‘Home Screens Series’

Home Screens to Begin 2023

I haven’t been sharing my home screens as regularly as I’d prefer, so I thought I’d just publish screenshots from each of my current devices at the beginning of the year and plan to do the same each year going forward.

iPhone 13 Pro

iPad Pro, 11-inch

MacBook Air with M2

Apple TV 4K

Retroid Pocket 3

Apple Watch Series 5

iPad Home Screen

iPad Home Screen

Since iPadOS 15, I’ve been struggling to find an iPad Home Screen layout that I actually like. I still haven’t found one, but this is the least offensive I’ve been able to come up with.

The biggest problem for me is that Apple decided to crunch the vertical spacing between icons when you don’t have a widget present. And no matter how hard I try, I can’t find a good use for widgets on my Home Screen. I’m just too accustomed to having them hidden in the Today View (or whatever it’s called now).

Hopefully Apple will give us a bit more control over the layout of our app icons in iPadOS 16. But until then, I guess I’ll just try to focus on the apps that are on my Home Screen instead of how they are organized.

The Apps

Messages — My friends and family still predominantly use iMessage and text messages work just fine for those who don’t.

Battery Widget — The only reason I have a widget on my Home Screen is because it’s the only way to get sane spacing on my app icons. The battery widget is one of the least obtrusive available and provides me with reasonably useful information (but I’d still rather keep it hidden in the Today View).

Fantastical — The best calendar app by far.

Automattic — A shortcut that displays a list of work-related apps and launches the one I select. I could use a folder for it, but I like having a nice clean icon without any notification badges.

Code Editor — It’s no longer available unfortunately. There doesn’t seem to be another app on the platform that offers the same functionality with even close to the same polish.

Plex — I maintain a large Plex library with all of the DVDs, Blu-rays, and iTunes content we own. Almost everything we watch as a family lives in Plex.

Screens — A great VNC client for managing my home server and for helping with some family tech support.

Broadcasts — I’ve been getting into radio a bit lately — it’s distributed and most stations are regionally owned, two things I absolutely love. Broadcasts let’s me setup collections and have quick access to the streams for my favorite local stations.

Odysee — I’ve been trying to reduce my usage of YouTube lately. To help with that effort, I’ve been trying to go to Odysee first in those instances when I just want to watch some random videos. Since the Odysee app doesn’t support the iPad, this is just the web app saved to my Home Screen.

Kiwix — A nifty little app that can be used for accessing archived websites offline. I have Wikipedia and Wikitionary saved locally, so this primarily fills the role of my dictionary app.

Day One — I started journaling more seriously before my son was born and I continue to this day. There’s less writing in each of my entries now, but a lot more photos.

1Password — My favorite password manager.

Pixelfed — An open source, federated photo sharing service. I manage my own instance and you can follow me on your favorite ActivityPub-compatible service (including other Pixelfed instances) — @mike@libertynode.cam.

Photos — Apple doesn’t let you set another app as the system photo library, so here we are.

Balance — Like Automattic, a shortcut that let’s me launch all of my finance-related apps.

⌘ Folder — This folder houses all of the other apps I have installed on my iPad.

Files — For managing files, obviously.

Prism — I maintain a music library in Plex and use Prism for playback. It reminds me a lot of the iPod app from the early days of the iPhone.

Unread – The best RSS app, which I have synced with FreshRSS.

Mastodon — It’s missing some features when compared to apps like Metatext, but the official client is rock solid and there’s been steady development since it launched — including the addition of iPad support.

Wallabag — A read it later service that I self-host. This is the web app that I simply saved to my Home Screen from Safari.

Spark — I recently tested just about every email app available on the platform. None of them are perfect, but Spark comes the closest.

Safari — I wish there was a healthier browser market on iOS, but Apple really hinders what third-party developers are able to do. Until they correct the error of their ways, we’re stuck with Safari.

Things — The first to do list app that really clicked for me.

Ulysses — Where I write everything that’s published on Initial Charge.

SimplenoteI’m likely biased, but I appreciate the simple nature of this app for note taking.

Calcbot — You need a calculator app and Calcbot is a great option with a lot of character.

Pocket Casts — It was acquired by my employer last year and I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s so nice to have a well-designed podcast app that also supports video podcasts.

iPhone Home Screen

It’s been a while since I last published my iPhone Home Screen and quite a bit has changed. I’ve swapped out a lot of apps, started using a new social networking solution, and have made efforts to minimize the prominence of work-related apps.

iPhone Home Screens

I’m not going to get into the tedium of my second Home Screen, mostly because it’s comprised of apps that I use significantly less than the ones on my first Home Screen. If you have any questions about the apps, feel free to get in touch.

Messages — My friends and family still predominantly use iMessage and text messages work just fine for those who don’t.

Fantastical — The best calendar app by far.

Automattic — A shortcut that displays a list of work-related apps and launches the one I select. I could use a folder for it, but I like having a nice clean icon without any notification badges.

Camera — I have a two-year-old, so I take a lot of photos.

Screens — For managing our home server and assisting with the occasional issue on my mother-in-law’s iMac.

Ulysses — Where I write everything that’s published on Initial Charge.

LookUp — A great dictionary app with some well-designed icon options.

Plex — I maintain a large Plex library with all of the DVDs, Blu-rays, and iTunes content we own. Almost everything we watch as a family lives in Plex.

Things — The first to do list app that really clicked for me.

Wallabag — A read it later service that I self-host. This is the web app that I simply saved to my Home Screen from Safari.

Day One — I started journaling more seriously before my son was born and I continue to this day. There’s less writing in each of my entries now, but a lot more photos.

1Password — My favorite password manager.

Edit — A minimal, single sheet text editor that I use for quick, disposable notes.

Photos — Apple doesn’t let you set another app as the system photo library, so here we are.

Balance — Like Automattic, a shortcut that let’s me launch all of my finance-related apps.

Simplenote — I’ve tried a number of note taking apps, most recently Bear, but I can’t help but appreciate the simple nature of Simplenote.

Clock — For setting alarms and time zone referencing, which is especially handy now that my new team at work spans many more time zones than my previous team.

Calcbot — You need a calculator app and Calcbot is a great option with a lot of character.

Spark — I think I’ve tried every email app available on the platform. None of them are perfect, but Spark comes the closest.

Prism — I maintain a music library in Plex and use Prism for playback. It reminds me a lot of the iPod app from the early days of the iPhone.

Unread — The best RSS app, which I have synced with FreshRSS.

Mastodon — It’s missing some features when compared to apps like Metatext, but the official client is rock solid and there’s been steady development since it launched earlier this year.

Safari — I spent most of this year using Firefox as my default browser, but with the introduction of extensions in iOS 15 and the removal of 1Password’s share sheet extension, I’ve moved back to Safari for now.

Pocket Casts — It was acquired by my employer earlier this year and I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s so nice to have a well-designed podcast app that also supports video podcasts.

Not included in the image is my Today View, which I use frequently throughout the day. It’s a great place to glance at data and launch shortcuts from. I currently have the following widgets:

I have smart rotate enabled on both of the Smart Stacks. The first of which simply shows me featured photos and entries from Day One. The second Smart Stack generally shows me Initial Charge’s stats unless I have deliveries that I’m tracking.

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.

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.

iPhone Setup

Throughout 2018, I shared updates to my iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Apple TV setups each month — you can find a full history of my home screen updates in the archive. While I’m not returning to a monthly schedule this year, I thought the beginning of a new decade was the perfect time to share my iPhone setup again.

iPhone Home Screen, January 2020

I’m still using my linen wallpaper and don’t expect it to change anytime soon. It serves as an excellent backdrop to my application icons — not causing any readability issues with the app names while still offering a bit of texture to keep things interesting. I’ve published the wallpaper in a number of resolutions, so if you’re interested, it’s almost certainly available for your device.

The overall structure of my home screen layout strategy is also unchanged. I still keep everything on two pages and in two folders. I keep an empty row on the first page and two empty rows on the second. I’ve experimented with different layouts over the past year, but always return to this setup. It’s just too hard to retrain the muscle memory I’ve built up over the past several years.

I still keep each of my two folders with no more than six icons per page. The folder on the left, currently titled ★, is only one page deep. Of the apps in folders, I keep my most-used on the first page. But I used to meticulously rank every app within the subsequent pages of the  folder based on how frequently I use them. That’s proven to be too time consuming. Now, I only do that for the first page, the rest of the folder’s apps are simply in alphabetical order.

This has certainly cut down on the amount of time required to reorganize my home screens, but it also better serves how I actually launch these apps. More often than not, if an app is buried in a folder, I just launch it with a Spotlight search. And when I don’t, at least having them in alphabetical order makes it a bit easier to quickly swipe through the pages to find what I’m looking for.

I’ve started saving more shortcuts on my home screens. At the moment, I have Jetpack, Define, Balance, Stream, and Instagram.

Jetpack is a simple launcher that opens the WordPress app, deep linking to the modal view of Initial Charge’s stats. I explained a bit more about how the shortcut works in the piece where I shared it. But you can also find the shortcut in The Toolkit.

Define is a launcher for Terminology, which is my preferred dictionary app. The shortcut asks for input and then searches Terminology for the provided word’s definition. Using a shortcut instead of the app itself gives me a couple of benefits. For one, it streamlines the process of searching for a word. And secondly, it lets me hide Terminology’s icon in a folder — I’m not too fond of it.

Balance and Stream are similar shortcuts. Balance displays a menu listing all of my banking and financial apps while Stream displays a list of apps I use for media playback — Infuse, TV, Channels, and so on. I can select which app I want to use and the shortcut opens it for me. This let’s me condense all of my banking apps and all of my video apps into a single home screen icon for each. I could use folders, but I like seeing a nice, simple icon instead.

And then there’s Instagram. I could use the actual app instead, but the shortcut I use allows me to have the same icon on my iPhone and my iPad. You see, the shortcut I use checks to see what type of device you’re launching it on. Then, it opens the Instagram app on an iPhone or, if you’re using an iPad, displays Instagram’s website within the Shortcuts app.

For each of these shortcuts, a custom icon was at least partially the draw for me. I like having a nice clean home screen and although Shortcuts has a great selection of glyphs built-in, I’m using icons from MacStories’ collection. When the offering was initially announced, I sort-of scoffed at the idea of buying an icon pack that’s designed for such a narrow use-case.

I ended up buying them on a whim, though, and I’m glad I did. Each icon has a subtle shadow that adds a bit of polish when compared to Shortcuts’ built-in glyphs. Whenever I add a shortcut to my home screen now, I use a MacStories icon.

You might notice that I don’t keep a weather app on my home screen. That category has been a staple on my home screen since my first days with an iPhone. But since I work from home, the weather isn’t something I keep track of as closely as I used to. I do have a weather app installed, though, it’s tucked deep within the  folder. But I primarily interact with it on the widget screen.

I’m using Hello Weather at the moment. I’ve tried more weather apps than I can count and Hello Weather is my current favorite. I love how it lays out the forecast information and it has the best weather widget by far — with large text for the current temperature and an easily glanceable current conditions graphic.

Today View Widgets Screen

Hello Weather sits at the top of my widget screen alongside Shortcuts, Notes, Deliveries, AutoSleep, and Batteries.

I use the Shortcuts widget to launch some work-related shortcuts, which help smooth out the rough edges for creating the next day’s to do list, adding my weekend work days into my calendar, and adding my template to Simplenote where I log the tasks I complete each week — which I share with the rest of my team. The rest are for personal use:

  • “Launch Ulysses” opens a new sheet in Ulysses with my writing template — you can find the latest version in The Toolkit.
  • “Take-Out” opens a list of local restaurants that I can choose from. When I select one it either initiates a phone call, opens the restaurant’s website, or their app so I can order.
  • “Daily Journal” opens a new entry in Day One using my journaling template.
  • “Feedings” helps me log Josh’s bottle feedings into a note.
  • Focus Time” enables Do Not Disturb for the next 30 minutes.

I keep the Notes widget collapsed so it only shows me the most recently edited note. That is typically the “Josh Tracker” note, which is where the shortcut mentioned above logs its data. But my wife and I occasionally have a shared note for grocery shopping, to dos, or some other random thing that we are organizing. In those instances, the widget keeps that specific note easily accessible.

Deliveries is another obvious one. I enter packages using the share sheet extension and then I can track their progress from the widget.

AutoSleep has come and gone over the last few months. It’s not data I need to be glanceable, but I found that when I removed the widget, the app wasn’t consistently pulling sleep information from my watch. This meant I had several days with no sleep tracked in the app. I could open the app to force a sync, but adding the widget means I don’t have to do that. Which is nice since I only look at my sleep habits every month or two.

And then there is iOS’ built-in batteries widget, which I think everyone should use. Especially if they have an Apple Watch, AirPods, or other Bluetooth device that offers information for the widget.

Heading back to my home screen, there are a handful of other notable apps that I wanted to discuss — Headspace, Spark, Prism, last.fm, and Google Photos.

When I last wrote about my home screens, I was still using Oak as my go-to meditation app. It was free and was an excellent option for getting started in the world of meditation and mindfulness. But as I’ve built the habit into my life, I wanted something a bit more robust, with a larger collection of sessions.

Headspace comes highly recommended by Mike Schmitz, in his review of meditation apps for The Sweet Setup, which is what lead me to it initially. I’ve been very happy with the app since I started using it a handful of months ago, the options for meditations is vast and most allow you to choose how long you want the session to last and what voice you’d prefer. To be clear, this is a subscription I’m able to expense for work, but even if I couldn’t expense it, I’d still be using it.

As for email apps, I’ve tried just about every one on the platform. Most of them are passable, but have their own annoyances that kept me coming back to Apple Mail. But the changes Apple introduced in iOS 13 finally made me run away from my old stand-by. When viewing a message, they moved so many useful actions inside of a junk drawer button. And that button looks a bit too much like a reply icon. I don’t know what they were thinking, the change is nonsensical.

Meanwhile, Spark was updated with a new, sleek user interface. The old card interface was one of the reasons I always stepped away from it in the past. With it gone, it’s become my favorite email app.

Prism is another new addition over the past year. It’s an excellent music player app that I’m using to stream my Plex music library. I wrote a review of it in April of last year, but in short, I love this app. It’s a simple, clean audio app that is reminiscent of what Apple’s Music app was like before they introduced their streaming service. Back when the app was good.

The last.fm icon is actually a shortcut that opens the service’s website. For some reason, the last.fm app doesn’t display any of the site’s recommendations, it only displays your listening history. That’s neat and all, but the only reason I use last.fm is for its recommendations. I’ve linked my account through Plex and everything I listen to is automatically scrobbled to the service.

Music recommendations are table stakes on streaming services, but aren’t as readily available when you maintain a library of audio files. With last.fm, I don’t have to work to find new music. I can listen to the music that’s already in my library with Prism and Plex will send that listening data to last.fm. Then the service will generate recommendations based on my listening history. Once a month or so, I can simply take a look and sample some of the music it surfaces for me. If there’s anything I like, I can purchase it in iTunes and add it to my Plex library.

Google Photos has been on my iPhone for a long while, but last month, I went all-in. It’s now the cloud service we use to backup our photos, in full resolution, and every photo I take is automatically shared with my wife and vice-versa. I still use Apple Photos for sharing with family and I prefer its editing tools, but Google Photos is the best cloud backup service for photos and video.

That’s all of what I would consider to be the most notable applications and trends in regards to my home screen. But if there are any questions you have about why or how I use a specific app, please reach out. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you have about my setup.

December Home Screens Update

First, on a sort-of programming note, I failed to publish a home screens update in November and am quite a bit late for this month. The future of this series is a bit in flux at the moment. I’d certainly like to continue doing them, but my time has been at a premium lately.

Between my new job — where I’m having a blast — and social engagements around the holidays, I haven’t had much time for writing. While this is something I plan on spending more time on in the new year, I’m not sure what form it will take exactly. My highest priority is to start publishing link posts and feature articles more regularly again while additional projects like the home screens updates are quite a bit lower on my list.

That doesn’t mean that these are going away entirely, I just need to make sure everything else that I have on my plate is going smoothly before I jump back on these sorts of projects. My hope is that this temporary hiatus will be short, but I think it’s also worth considering whether these updates are something that continue to add value to my life and yours. If you have any feedback regarding this — good or bad — I would very much appreciate you dropping a note in my Twitter mentions to share your thoughts.

December 2018

iPhone Home Screen

Notable Changes:

Three changes to my main home screen layout is quite a bit for me, especially when combined with some changes to my second home screen as well. It feels like I have an entirely different iPhone compared to what I was using just a couple months ago.

I’ve installed the meditation and deep breathing application Oak, which bumped Screens to my second home screen. I find myself needing to perform tasks on my Mac far less frequently, so the safety valve of Screens isn’t quite as important as it had been in the past. And the addition of regular meditation and deep breathing into my life has been invaluable as I’ve been adjusting my life around my new job at Automattic.

I’ve only had Oak installed for a week or so, but it’s been great so far. It’s entirely free, well designed, and offers everything you need to get started with meditation and deep breathing. If you’re looking to add this sort of activity to your daily routine, I highly recommend starting with Oak.

After a few years with Bear and Vesper, I’ve reinstalled Simplenote on my iPhone, which bumped Day One to my second home screen. I haven’t carved out as much time in recent months for writing in Day One, but it’s certainly something I’d like to return to. I expect the app will only increase in value the more I use it, so this is something I’d like to invest more time into in the new year.

As for Simplenote, this has become my go-to note-taking app for work. I use it to keep track of the tasks that I do throughout the week, jot down notes during meetings, and store various thoughts and ideas that that I’d like to explore in the future. The app is owned and developed by Automattic so there’s certainly some element of dog-fooding regarding my decision to use it over other options, but I’ve been very happy with it’s interface and feature-set. It was a rock-solid app when it initially launched in the early days of the App Store and that continues to be true today.

The last addition to my first home screen is a Shortcut I’ve created called “Balance”. It’s basically just a launcher for my banking apps, but I absolutely love it. It uses a “Choose from Menu” action to list all of my banking and financial apps and then utilizes the “Open App” action to open the corresponding application. It’s such a simple little Shortcut, but makes my life so much easier.

On my second home screen, I’ve introduced the WordPress app and started using Noizio as my white noise app of choice. I’ve been using the WordPress app to publish entries to a private weblog that I setup as a Christmas wishlist for sharing with my family, which has worked out very well. I’ve received more than one comment about how easy I was to shop for this year and it’s entirely due to setting up this site. But in addition to managing my wishlist site, the app also allows me to keep track of internal communication within Automattic from the Reader tab.

I haven’t spent too much time with Noizio, but my first impressions have been positive. It has a nice clean interface and a great collection of sounds built-in that you can mix to your liking. You can save presets, set timers, and I think the application icon is top-notch.

Apple Watch Faces

Notable Changes:

Every once and a while I tinker a bit more with my Apple Watch faces. Since my last update, I’ve switched my everyday, non-working watch face from the Breathe face to Utility. With the same set of complications — sunrise/sunset, WaterMinder, and Carrot. The biggest change is that this face also allows me to see the current date in the center complication, which I missed in my previous setup.

On my watch face that I use most often — Modular — I’ve swapped Cardiogram for Carrot. This let’s me keep an eye on the weather throughout the work day so I’ll know if it’s warm enough for a walk around the block on my breaks.

My workout watch face — Activity Digital — has remained largely unchanged. I’ve added Cardiogram in place of Overcast because I haven’t found myself using my watch for podcast playback as much as I initially expected. Perhaps this will change when the weather gets a bit warmer this spring, but for now, I’d rather have a quick way to glance at my latest heart rate reading than a shortcut to an application that I rarely launch on this device.

iPad Home Screen

Notable Changes:

Much of the changes I’ve made to my iPad over the past couple of months have been a reflection of what I’ve done on my iPhone. I’ve removed some lesser-used applications like Coda, TV, 1Password, and Files and replaced them with applications that I’ve covered in the iPhone section above — Oak, WordPress, the Balance shortcut, and Simplenote.

I’ve changed the icon associated with my Instagram shortcut, but the underlying actions remain the same — it gives me a home screen icon, which launched the Instagram website within a Safari View Controller. I haven’t been checking the service as frequently as I had in the past, but I imagine there will be plenty of great photographs to browse throughout the holidays this year.

I have moved Terminology back out of my folder and onto the main home screen. This isn’t exactly due to a change in habits, but more of an aspirational change. I’d like to write more frequently in the new year and having more applications on my home screen dedicated to that task might serve as some additional motivation for me.

Apple TV Home Screen

Notable Changes:

I haven’t made any changes to my Apple TV over the past couple of months, but it’s certainly due for some updates. I purchased a Nintendo Switch a little bit ago and since then, I haven’t spent any time playing games on my Apple TV. At some point in the next few weeks I’ll have to reorganize my app icons around that new reality.

I’ve also put my YogaGlo subscription on hold for now. With the new job and all of the social engagements around the holidays, I haven’t had time for working out. I expect I’ll pick it back up sometime in the new year, but until then, I don’t really need that icon to be so prominent on my home screen. And who knows, maybe I’ll try out another yoga app when I get back into it again.