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My favorite behind-the-scenes iOS utilities

I rely on a handful of iOS utilities—things that help me or other apps get things done. I think they all deserve a lot more attention, so here’s my shot at that.

GIFWrapped

GIFWrapped for iPhone and iPad is a simple, useful app for collecting GIFs. An app extension can pull them from webpages, tweets, and elsewhere. Dropbox sync has you covered. A search tool and clipboard sniffer make it easy to expand.

Terminology

Terminology for iPhone and iPad is an excellent dictionary and thesaurus with a lot of smart features. My favorite is the app extension, which makes it easy to define words while reading and use a thesaurus while writing. Synonyms and antonyms are all linked, making it easy to explore for the right word.

Annotable

Annotable for iPhone and iPad is a damn useful image annotation and basic editing tool. It’s easy to highlight areas, zoom in on something, and blur elements for privacy. If you need more than Apple’s built-in Markup tools, Annotable is where it’s at.

Zinc

Zinc for iPhone and Apple TV is like Instapaper or Pocket for video. Use its app extension to save videos from Vimeo, YouTube, web pages, tweets, and elsewhere, then watch them later all in one place. By far, I watch videos the most on the Apple TV app. It could use some polish, but it works.

Opener

Opener for iPhone and iPad is a clever utility for opening links in the apps of your choice. For example: use its share extension on a Twitter link to open it in Tweetbot instead of Twitter’s official app or a Safari tab. I think it also works on email links so you can draft your message in Airmail, Spark, or other Apple Mail alternatives.

Copied

Copied for iPhone and iPad (and Mac) is a multi-clipboard utility. It has two app extensions and a custom keyboard to make copying stuff and pasting elsewhere a breeze.

My two favorite tips: 1) The main app extension has great tools for reformatting the text you copy. For example: you can select text on a Safari page, then use the extension to copy it, plus the webpage URL, plus the title of the page or article, then reformat it all as a linked Markdown quote—all with one tap. I know, right? Hot.

And 2) On an iPad, if you open Copied in Split View alongside another app, Copied can scoop up everything you copy in that app. Once you have Copied in an easily accessible place and you get in the habit, it’s a decent alternative to not being able to let it run constantly in the background.

Launch Center Pro

Launch Center Pro for iPhone and iPad is a great app for simplifying many of your common, repetitive, everyday tasks. Let’s say you often snap a photo, then iMessage it to a specific friend. You could create a one-tap Launch Center Pro action that creates a new message to this friend and grabs your latest photo. All you need to do is tap Send.

LCP can do much more powerful things than this. But I have 3D Touch and widget shortcuts for all sorts of things, like sharing my ETA via Chicago transit, searching 1Password and many other specific apps or services, and messaging certain people.

Drafts

Drafts for iPhone and iPad is an unassumingly powerful app for capturing, manipulating, and sharing text to all kinds of apps and services. It supports scripting, appending and prepending text, and sharing custom actions with other users.

One of my main Drafts workflows: I use the Apple Watch complication to instantly dictate new ideas for stories and tweets, which are then saved to Drafts on iPhone. Later, I can move that text into my other apps for writing, sharing, creating lists, and more.

Blink

Blink for iPhone and iPad is a great app for creating iTunes and App Store affiliate links for, say, articles like this. You can add multiple affiliate tokens (accounts), and create multiple campaign tokens to help track click-through from various sources. There’s an app extension for quickly creating links, and a good amount of customizability, including Markdown formatting of links and content names.

That’s enough for now

I certainly have more apps, but what do you use? And how? I love hearing and sharing new ideas for doing more with apps, so let me know on Tumblr at @finertech and @chartier, or on Twitter @finertech and @chartier, or right here.

Moom can automatically organize your windows, move them when you connect a second display

Moom from Many Tricks is one of my favorite, unsung Mac utilities for reducing tedious busywork. It’s a menubar app that can move and resize one or all your open apps and windows just to your liking. Once you have all the typical apps and windows open for a typical workflow, you can save that layout as a “Snapshot” and recall it from the menubar or a keyboard shortcut to stop wasting all that time repeatedly moving and resizing windows.
To double-explode your mind, now that I own a second display (Apple’s Thunderbolt Display), I discovered Moom can work its magic automatically when you connect one or more external displays.

Moom layout snapshot configuration

Once you set the windows of your open apps just how you like, use Moom’s menu to choose “Save Window Layout Snapshot.” This opens Moom’s Custom preferences setting where you can tweak your new snapshot, name it, and give it a keyboard shortcut. If you want Moom to use this snapshot when you connect an external display, enable the “Trigger automatically when” option, then choose “switching to 2 displays”, or however many displays you have.

Tally turns your whole screen into a simple, customizable counter


Tally is a clever, single-serving iPhone app designed for one specific purpose: making it dead-simple to count (up or down).

Open the app and your entire display becomes a button—tap anywhere, that’s one. Tap again, two. You can’t miss, but if you want, you can control a little bit of how this works. Swipe to the left to name the current tally (you can keep separate tallies for whatever you need), adjust the number that Tally increments with each tap (one tap = 2, or 20, etc.), and specify whether Tally counts up or down.

Check out Tally, it’s a great app that just got an iOS 7 update.

DaisyDisk’s icon animates as it scans your drive

While scanning your drive with DaisyDisk, a fantastic utility that helps you clean up your drive and reclaim free space, its Dock icon subtly animates a progress bar.

Export your Evernote items to MacJournal with this AppleScript

If you’re considering an alternative to Evernote for keeping a journal or even a blogging client, MacJournal from Dan Schimpf is probably the best place to start. It’s a seasoned, more Mac-like app with a polished, unique feature set and excellent handling of media. This export AppleScript, built by Justin Lancy who isn’t affiliated with any of these companies, should help make the transition go smoothly.

Metadata like tags, location, and creation date should make the trip, but it isn’t a blanket “export all my Evernote notebooks into separate MacJournal, erm, journals” tool. But doing one notebook at a time probably wouldn’t be too tough: select all in an Evernote notebook, export, import into a new MacJournal journal. Rinse, repeat.

Bonus tip: one of my favorite tricks in MacJournal, and a feature I’m amazed more rich-text-friendly apps don’t offer, is the Edit > Copy as HTML option. This means you can write in rich text, not juggle preview modes or windows, and take advantage of all the great rich text editing features built into OS X (like Cmd-K to add a link to selected text), but then Select All and copy your piece to the clipboard for pasting into a web-based CMS.

Breevy

onethingwell:

Breevy is a text expander for Windows that helps you type faster and more accurately by allowing you to abbreviate long words and phrases.

It’s compatible with TextExpander for the Mac and iOS, including snippet synchronisation.

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Finer Things in Web:

The website for Fantastical, a smart menu bar calendar utility for the Mac, uses some clever animation to draw your attention to its interface and features.

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The menu bar utility for CloudApp, a simple service for sharing links, photos, and other files with short URLs, displays a list of the most recent items you’ve shared. You can click any item to visit it in a browser, but you can also mouse over the icon on the left (highlighted in the image) to copy its short URL to the clipboard, even if you use CloudApp Pro’s custom domain option.