The best apps and services for doing work (for me)

It seems like everyone (including me!), has a fascination with what tools people use to get their work done. It’s been a while since I did one of these, so I figured I’d give it a go! Here is a relatively complete list of the apps and services I use to get my work done1.

Photo Storage

iCloud Photos is fantastic, and has only gotten better over the years. I love it for it’s native integration into my Apple devices, which means my photo library is very reliably synced between all my computers. In addition to easy syncing, I also like the “memories” feature that creates A.I.- generated videos of certain events. These are not always great, but I save a good number of them and share them with my family. The value these provide is invaluable. The facial recognition is also great and catches almost all photos and tags them appropriately.

I also keep my photos backed up to Google Photos as well, as I prefer their search ability. iCloud is good at finding people, but not good at finding things. Google is good at both, so I keep that library available for those times I need to search for something random.

As a side note, all the photos I take on my Nikon are run through Adobe Lightroom on my Mac, although I’ve taken to using the Lightroom app for iOS for shooting a lot of my “fancy” photos lately. The app lets you shoot in RAW and has processing controls almost in line with the desktop app.

Video Editing

Final Cut Pro X is my go to here. I love it, and it has totally broken me away from the traditional non-linear timeline. Considering my history in this territory (I went to school for this, my degree is in TV production) that’s a major accomplishment.

Audio Editing

Logic Pro X is overkill for what I do (mostly podcasts), but it means I am never limited by my editor. If you’re on a Mac, GarageBand is free and is a great alternative.

Graphics editing

This is a mix of Sketch and Photoshop for my still images. Most of what makes it onto BirchTree was created in Sketch, although Photoshop is excellent for my wallpapers and device mockups.

On the motion graphics side I use Apple Motion. After Effects would get the job done too, but considering how on-and-off I am with using this app, it was better to buy the one without a subscription plan.

Email

Newton is the best email app I have ever used. It’s $50/year, which makes it easily the most expensive email app I’ve seen, but the apps on iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows means I get the same email experience on every device in my life, so it’s worth it for me.

All my email runs through Gmail.

File Storage

I recently switched away from Dropbox to being all in on iCloud Drive. At $9.99/month for 2 TB of storage, the price can’t be beat. Additionally, the new Files app in iOS 11 made me love this service. Their web interface could use some work, but Apple has made this a very compelling option for those who are all in on the Apple ecosystem.

Maps

I use Apple Maps to navigate since I prefer it’s navigation interface far more than Google’s, but I sometimes use Google Maps to find more information about a place I’m going. No, I don’t want to argue about this one.

News Reading

Unread for iOS is my current favorite RSS reader. I have about 100 feeds I follow (most are low volume, don’t worry!), and I also use Apple News on iOS to get more general news. I love Apple News’s curated content and find it to be much better than similar services like Flipboard and Google Play Newsstand.

Task Management

Today, OmniFocus! Yesterday, Things. Before that, Todoist. Before even that, OmniFocus.

Basically I try everything and always end up back at OmniFocus.

Password Management

1Password has been great for years, and since they have added their families feature a year or two ago it has solidified its place here for me. My wife and I have our own vaults, and being able to hop into hers (and her into mine) in rare cases is hugely beneficial.

Writing

Every world I write is in Ulysses. I’ve said it many times before, but it bears repeating that Ulysses is my favorite app…full stop. It’s my favorite iOS app and it’s my favorite Mac app. It’s simple if you need it to be simple and it’s powerful if that’s what you need from it too.

Writing Code

I’ve recently fallen in love with Visual Studio Code, which is quite fast, has a bunch of great built in tools, and has a decent library of third party plugins. This is my favorite Microsoft product.

Notes

Apple Notes works really well for me. The syncing is solid, the shared notes feature is great, and it’s built into all my Apple devices.

FTP

Transmit is fantastic, and it was just updated for macOS with a beautiful new UI. The iOS version is also constantly updated and is a powerful way to access your remote files on the go.

For what it’s worth, most of my FTP servers are hosted at DigitalOcean, which has been very good to me over the years. The text you’re reading right now is from a DigitalOcean server! Their new Spaces service is a very good alternative to Amazon S3 if you were looking to try something else.


Let’s do a lightning round of fun stuff to close this out!

Castro is my current podcast app, although I love Pocket Casts and Overcast too. None really do everything I want, so I tend to bounce around.

Twitterrific is my Twitter app of choice, and their new Mac app is pretty darn good.

Pocket is my save-for-later service (Pinboard is good too, but Pocket is free and this is something I just got tired of paying for).

Safari is my favorite browser, although I have a soft spot in my heart for Vivaldi.

Apple Music is my music streaming service.

And of course, my weather app of choice is Today’s Forecast 🙂


  1. Note that this is for my “tech writer” job, not my day job. Those tools are more Windows-based and I’m more limited in what I can use, but I may do that list sometime as well.