Appgasm! My Big Happy List of Not Crappy Apps

All revved up for yet another scathingly bitter blog post, I realised I’m so bloody negative. I figured maybe that’s why commenters have called me a “cunt”, or criticised my “knowing superiority” saying “no-one is interested in my pile of shite” (it’s of course entirely possible that they say those things because they’re true)*.

With this in mind, I thought I’d mix it up a bit, drop the grump and share some of the things I encounter daily that aren’t shit (nor NSFW). So here, gorgeous reader, is my entirely affirmative inventory of incredible apps.

Awesomely ace apps

Scrivener (Mac)

With Scrivener, it’s less a question of ‘where have you been all my life?’, and more ‘how did I ever live without you?’ Working on a novel (what twat isn’t?), I was used to fussing over several docs, notebooks, bookmarks and scanned scribblings to keep my thoughts in order. This mess is alleviated by Scrivener’s most obvious feature: the ability to ‘project manage’ your writing via integrated notes, images and character and setting cards. The most useful feature for me, however, has been the ability to structure chapters and sections with synopses, allowing me to delineate my progress (which may not be the most productive approach, but certainly suits my style) without losing track. There are tonnes more professional-level functions I haven’t needed to use, but even at its most basic Scrivener has made the daunting task of producing a novel far less of a ball-ache.

Website | Mac App Store

Coda (Mac)

I’ve been through a few code editors over the years and few have struck the balance between lightness and functionality that has made Coda my current fave. There are few stand-out features, only a simplicity and slickness that makes writing HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP , etc. and editing FTP content pretty effortless. Saying that, I don’t think I’d be able to live without Clips: saved lines of code that can be quickly added to your files using shortcut terms. I do find myself wishing for code clean-up and a way to quickly select between tags, but the latter, at least, can added through the TEA for Coda plugin.

Website | Mac App Store

Google Chrome (Mac)

A similar story to Coda, there is little Chrome offers that other web browsers don’t – even the mighty omnibar (making the search and address bar one) is no longer unique. In fact, Chrome’s bookmarks sync doesn’t seem to work properly between my work Mac and home Macbook and there are still some add-ons that I have to turn to Firefox for. Despite all this, Chrome is still my first choice in browsers because it provides a streamlined, minimalised web experience.


Handbrake (Mac)

The free Handbrake has been my go-to video converter for yeeeeears. And I haven’t found anything that offers more without becoming needlessly complex. It’s perfect for ripping DVDs or converting videos into iTunes- and HTML5-friendly formats (note: it doesn’t do OGG) in the minimum amount of clicks.

Remember: pirating movies is wrong and evil!


ColorSchemer Studio (Mac)

I downloaded ColorSchemer Studio from the Mac App Store on a whim but now use it almost daily. If you want an instant, cohesive colour scheme for your design, ColorSchemer Studio makes it ridiculously easy. Less time fussing about colours means more time to experiment with other aspects of the design. Besides, it’s great simply having an app that saves the colour schemes of my designs for quick reference later.

Website | Mac App Store

Xcode (Mac)

There’s just no better way to create iOS applications. In fact, there’s no other way at all! Ok, so there’s no choice if you want to create apps for Apple devices, but I still find Xcode massively more intutitive, helpful and pleasant than any other IDE I’ve used.

Website | Mac App Store

Flipboard (iPad)

It’s inconceivable to me that any iPad owner would not already have Flipboard, which is, until the day they’re projected onto Kate Beckinsale’s butt, the sexiest way to browse RSS feeds. Flipboard comes preloaded with a selection of sources to browse and the ability to pull in from (and push out to) your Facebook and Twitter feeds, but I barely use these features. I prefer instead to sync it with my Google Reader account and find flicking through Flipboard’s gorgeously simple interface just a pleasant, seamless experience.

Website | App Store

Paper by FiftyThree (iPad)

‘Fucking awesome’, I think is the best way to describe Paper by FiftyThree. Coupled with a capacitive stylus, it’s an incredibly intuitive and addictive way to sketch and (to a lesser extent) take notes. While nowhere near as feature-rich as many of the (also great) drawing apps available for the iPad, its stripped-down nature and tailored palette makes it far more inviting to pick up and create. You’ll want this.

Website | App Store

Instapaper/Pocket (Web, iPad, iPhone, Mac)

There’s a certain amount of sentimental guilt attached to this one. Both Instapaper and Pocket (formerly Read it Later) allow you to save web content for offline reading. In fact, for my uses, there’s very little difference between them. I’ve long been attached to Instapaper, largely due to its gorgeous design. But then, Read it Later reinvented itself to become Pocket and release an equally gorgeous set of apps. Like a shameless hussy, I dumped Instapaper and jumped into bed with Pocket. Out of residual loyalty, I recommend both…

Instapaper: Website | App Store

Pocket: Website | App Store

Tube Deluxe & UK Train Times (iPhone)

I find this killer combo of apps essential. In one click, Tube Deluxe lets me know the status of all London underground tub lines, while my favourite feature for UK Train Times shows me the ‘next train home’ wherever I am. Brill.

Tube Deluxe App Store

UK Train Times App Store

Honourable mentions

iA Writer / Byword (Mac, iPad, iPhone)

I’ve only just started using the Markdown text-to-html conversion, but already I love it. If you blog using tags (H1, LI, EM and so on) I seriously recommend it. There are a fair few Markdown text editors to choose from; I’ve very briefly tried iA Writer and Byword (I’m writing this in Byword on the Mac, my post from earlier was started in iA Writer for Mac and finished in Byword for iPad), and early impressions are mixed. iA Writer for Mac looks incredible and functions brilliantly, but I found the iPad version to be limited. Byword for iPad, on the other hand, is fantastic (with some clever and useful keyboard additions), but I found the Mac version not as good as iA Writer. Unfortunately, with both offering their own kind of iCloud integration, you kind of have to stick to one (note: Byword also syncs with Dropbox).

At the moment, I’m tending towards Byword for its cool ‘copy as HTML’ feature, making blogging a snap.

iA Writer: Website | Mac App Store | App Store

Byword Website | Mac App Store | App Store

Pixelmator 2 (Mac)

I really want to love Pixelmator, and for basic image-editing (like wanky blog pics) it does the job. It’s got a great UI and feels light without lacking too much in features. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced too many crashes when working with PSDs (which the creators claim it’s able to handle), resizing layers takes ages, and I haven’t really pushed its potential in terms of web design, so I can’t really recommend it yet as I’m not sure if it suits my needs. I mention it because it may suit yours…

Website | Mac App Store

That’s it for now. There may be more to add in the future (I’ve just downloaded Photoshop Touch for iPad – I like it!). Until then, I’ll probably be back to my normal miserable self soon. Yay!

*For the record, most of the comments I’ve received have been extraordinarily kind.