Good Apps

Good Apps - Agenda

For a while I used Obsidian to contain all kinds of notes I take: timeless notes, project notes and journal notes. Now that I have discovered Agenda I keep my project and journal notes there instead.

Agenda is great for notes, that are transitory in nature. I am a person who needs a writing surface to think and Agenda makes it easy to keep a somewhat ordered writing environment. One thing I really like about it: It makes it very easy to keep periodic notes, without me having to maintain a custom system.

EDIT: I’m back with Obsidian for my journal notes.

Good Apps - Paletro

My current editor for coding is VS Code. Before that it was Sublime Text. Both of them have a lovely feature: The Command Palette.

By pressing a shortcut (cmd + shift + p by default), you get a search bar to search for any command the app offers. Sounds simple - and it is, but it is also very powerful. The most recently used commands bubble up to the top, it shows the location of the command in the menu and also the command's shortcut which helps to learn the actual way of triggering it via the keyboard.

Paletro brings all this power to any app on your Mac. 

You could have a downgraded version of Paletro for free by using the built-in search found in the help menu (cmd + shift + /), but this doesn't work in many apps anymore and it isn't as convenient or quick to use, in my experience.

Good Apps - Obsidian

Obsidian is a personal knowledge base and note taking app with a lot of flexibility and extensions that make it very powerful. If you like to take notes and be in control of your data, then Obsidian might be the right fit.

What makes Obsidian so valuable for me is that it allows me to consolidate a lot of things into one app. Like information about a project and its tasks. Reference materials about sociology and solutions to programming problems. Everything can be made to fit into Obsidian and thanks to its extensibility and configurability, the app can be adapted to my evolving needs over time.

Most people point out that Obsidian is an app for people who like to link their notes together. If you rename a note in Obsidian, all the links to it will be renamed, too. Linking notes, so that they become chains and/or trees of notes unlocks emergent qualities that you wouldn’t be able to access without linking them.[1] It is also available as an iPhone app, that can do almost all the things that the Mac app can do. So you can take all your stuff with you as well.

Obsidian might not be for you, because it might just be a little bit too much. But it might also just be the tool you were looking for. If you happen to have a tendency to react skeptically to overly hyped apps like this one: Ignore the knowledge graph visualization stuff[2] and also the personal knowledge base singularity talk and just try it out. Obsidian is great. Don’t let the sometimes overly boastful rhetoric in this space keep you from at least trying it.

  1. For example: You will find notes that, taken together, inspire a new creative thought. You might also rediscover an old solution to a problem you currently have. Or you might notice a pattern in otherwise disparate information.  ↩

  2. I think that visualizing one’s notes could at some point be helpful for maintaining and refactoring, but we are not there, yet.  ↩

Good Apps - Due

Due is a wonderful reminders and timers app for the Mac and iPhone/iPad that syncs via iCloud. Due has been around for ages (maybe a decade?) and it is still a great app that gives me a lot of functionality.

What makes Due so special is twofold: Firstly if a reminder is due in Due it is annoyingly persistent. This means that you won’t ignore the reminder ever which is great. Secondly Due has a great snooze system which allows you to quickly postpone a Due reminder to a later time. Taken together these two features mean, that you won’t mark reminders completed that aren’t really completed and you won’t ignore the nudge that an overdue reminder gives you. It narrows down your options to: “I’m going to do this now!” or “I’m going to this later. I imagine I will do it at this time.”

Due is great for things that wouldn’t fit well on a calendar or would clog it up. It’s great for repeating tasks that need to be done on a specific time but don’t have a clear duration (feeding the dog at specific times a day, for example). It’s great for one-offs as well, where you want to or need to do something later but might forget about it. Due has some natural language parsing built-in so creating new reminders or snoozing them is easy and fast. Due has shortcuts integration, too. It’s a surprisingly versatile app.

One other thing I love is its subscription model. Before you throw your hands up, read these paragraphs:

When your year of free feature upgrades is up, you get to keep every feature that you already have access to, and you’ll continue to receive free app updates for as long as I’m in business.

You’ll also start seeing features that you have no access to. If you want these features, you can subscribe to the Due Upgrade Pass, which gives you another year of paid feature upgrades.

And like those you have unlocked earlier, you get to keep everything you have unlocked during your subscription period—permanently—even after the subscription expires, even if you choose to unsubscribe right after subscribing. —Due Blog - The Future of Paid Upgrades

Due is one of my greatest productivity boons. One of my absolute faves. Please give it a try if you haven’t already. And if you had done so in the past: maybe give it another try. Due has only gotten better over the years.

Good Apps - Daytum

Daytum is a simple web app to track all the little things in your life. Think of it as an app that lets you create counters that can be named, categorized and - if you are a plus member - specified by using attributes. Finally they can be displayed in a variety of ways. An example: I track my dog’s pees and poops in Daytum. The items are called pees and poops respectively. The category for both of them is dog in this case. And each have an entry attribute - to be filled - every time you add an entry, called: where, which has two options (inside and outside). Here is a couple of example displays for the last day:

The plus membership is dirt cheap: Only USD18 a year. The best thing is that Daytum also has a full-featured iPhone app, which makes entering new data super easy.