Field Guide for Picking Apps and Sticking With Them

We always talk about new apps and cool apps and switching apps and how to get more out of such and such app.

What about how to pick apps and build workflows that we want to stick with?

Anyone have any good thoughts here? (I sure don’t)

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I stopped installing new apps for years now. Keep using what works for you. Don’t switch to a new app unless there is a need for that. Here is a quick test, adopt new apps for:

  1. Functionality you are looking for, and missing on your existing workflow.
  2. Cost Minimization, benefits maximization. In other words, switch to an app that costs less or costs the same but offers me.

There is a cost associated with adopting new apps, and I am not sure how people sometimes overlook that.


I think it starts with reading all of the documentation. And continues with stretching existing features to do new things with them.


I go with the built in apps. They have all the APIs built in from day one. And shortcuts workflows have replaced apps for me. It’s my new development playground. Not the App Store.


I have the opposite problem: I want to stick with apps (e.g., old Autocads, QuarkXpress, Aperture) that have long been depreciated.

Even though I feel young so often I don’t want to learn new tricks.

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I tend to search for new apps when I find I’m avoiding the work for some reason. What helps is trying to do the best I can with what I have first. I might have ideas for apps I’d like to research in the meantime. When I do, I toss those ideas in the Inbox and continue working on the project with my current suite of tools. If, when I’m done with that session of work, I go through the Inbox and still want to look up that app, then I’ll do so. However, more often than not, I just delete the task realizing I don’t need it.

Now, if I could only maintain the same practice with my ever growing games library, …


I tend to bounce around. Could be because of the work. Could be because someone who I respect mentioned that they switched. With Omnifocus, it’s usually when I get frustrated with the iPad version…it makes Things look very nice.

My personal rule: if I’m trying a new app, I’ll try to master as much of the functionality as possible for 30 days before moving on to try something else, depending on app complexity.

Apps like those from Omni require significant investment and discovery, so it pays to put in the time for those 30 days to see if the problems I’m experiencing are just me or if the software truly doesn’t work for my specific needs.


I guess it’s a matter of balancing…
I like fiddling around with new apps (I own a ton of writing app, tried some task manager an so on… you know what I mean) but have a lot of “established” workflow: I stuck with OmniFocus after trying (and liking) Things and others, thanks to @MacSparky field guide (that clarified a lot of advanced concepts) and the automations and muscular memories developed over the years, that I cannot replicate (with ease) in other task managers.

I try to not change just for the sake of changing (even if sometimes it’s a strong compulsion - cough NVUltra :eyes: ), but still try to explore new things.


I use and recommend . It helps extract value from the apps I have. I still get sucked into buying new apps though. (taot?)

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It always seems like there is something brighter and shinier just over the horizon … right?


The app is always greener on the other side


I like it. Would love to get there. Out of curiosity, what are your main drivers of notes and tasks and such?

Some good thoughts have been shared on what you can do, or should try to do, to make the most of what you already have. @bowline has lately been recommending Take Control Books in a few other conversations on this board, and I think that recommendation applies here as well. I’ve also found Linkedin Learning/ to be invaluable.

Here’s another way to look at this issue: Think about how you manage the influences that tempt you to try something new.

In particular I’m thinking about the podcasters, bloggers, etc. who are trying all the new things and reporting back to us about how, and whether, to use them.

It’s easy to underestimate the difference between your own needs and the needs of people who are making a living, or part of their living, attracting an audience of tech enthusiasts like us who like to know about what’s new, especially if it might make us even better at what we do.

For example: About 10 years ago I started doing some freelance writing for Macworld magazine, and I had every intention of trying to turn that experience into a full-time gig, because I was sure I’d really enjoy doing that for a living. What I learned pretty quickly, though, was that I just didn’t have the stomach for all of the churn in my normal tools and routines that being a really good tech writer (or pundit or whatever you want to call it) requires.

Always keep in mind that those people are in the business of trying new things. They are typically better than the average person at adapting to the kind of disruption that comes with staying up to date on the latest and greatest. I would guess that most of them enjoy that disruption and thrive on it. That’s what makes them good at what they do.

That doesn’t mean that they aren’t sincere in their recommendations. But if they don’t have something new to share with you, they don’t have a purpose.

Did they have a deadline to meet, or do they really think your life will be better with whatever they’re describing to you today? It’s rarely that simple, of course, but what I mean is that it’s important to consider the source and to do the extra work of making your own honest assessment of just how invested that person is in the thing they’re recommending before you sink many hours of your own time and energy into adding that thing to your life.


After traversing the world of apps, I’ve finally settled down on a workflow involving Todoist to run my home/work life to get things done & Fantastical to schedule time for everything.

For notes, Agenda is for meetings, Bear for daily logs & quick writeups and Ulysses for deep long-form business-related writing.

Day One for journaling and Evernote for archiving everything else of interest.

I’m completely off the new app merry-go-round.

I’ve settled on my tools:

Things 3 for tasks, even though I have “big boy projects” as David likes to say (I’m a consultant with a gazillion projects. Think that qualifies as “big boy projects”, ahem), I manage them just fine in Things 3.

Drafts 5 for quick notes

Evernote for more involved notes

Notion for a dashboard

and GCal in Fantastical on the Mac and pretty soon iOS again.

That’s it.

I feel like there’s nothing novel about this stuff anymore and the cost of switching is greater than my need to try the new and shiny.


My rule is to pick the highest end app in any given class at the beginning. Then I’m not running off the end of the capabilities just about the time I finally learn the darned thing. My current suite of apps is:

General Office Work
Apple Mail
Apple Calendar
DEVONThink Pro Office Still using this for the 3Pane view features
DEVONThink 3 moving to this but need workarounds for 3PV
Banktivity 7
Grassroots for Sheep Registry
Google Drive

Firefox (old rev, for the SQL tools I use in LambTracker)

Libre Office
Aeon Timeline
Text Edit

Entertainment, Hobbies, Education and Reference
Calibre to de DRM all my kindle books
Google Earth Pro
Silhouette Studio for running my die cut machine
Type Fu
Bookpedia These are in work being tested for use as catalogs of all my book, CDs and DVDs

Image Manipulations
Photoshop CC
Lightroom Classic CC
Epson Scanner SW new version for color printer/scanner
VueScan SW
Brother scanner SW
SlideSnap Pro Auto Cropper
A Better Finder Rename 10
A Better finder Attributes 6

Backup and System Maintenance
Carbon Copy Cloner
Clean my Mac

Android Studio
SQLiteManager Plugin in Firefox
SQLiteManager App
DB Browser for SQLite App

Testing Things I may add to the stable of apps
TimeTable 3
Canopeo on iOS
PowerOne Calculator on iOS

iOS only Apps
Paper - may go away in favor of Procreate
SkyView Lite
Story Skel

Gosh that seems like a lot of apps once I actually list them! But each one does something specific that I don’t get in any other app.


You might not think you have fans. But I might be your biggest.

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FWIW I find your app breakdown list interesting. Might make sense for others to also share their workhorse (perhaps as opposed to aspirational) list. Thanks.

I have spent more time switching todo/task apps than using them I think. I was big Todoist user as I would switch platforms a lot and having that on Windows/Android was always a nice pull. I am all iOS/Mac now and since iOS13/Catalina I have been moving everything over to Reminders/Notes. At least for me they are doing everything I need. I use Fantastical as my calendar as I like having reminders show on my cal view and that makes it easy. My personal mail is on Fastmail (own domain), work is on exchange so is pretty much all I need. I also have Outlook installed without notifications for some work stuff around scheduling.

One thing I have been trying out recently is Ulysses for some blog writing. So far so good, outside of no markdown table support which is tad annoying.