Returning to familiar (simpler) apps

I’ve been on a journey the last year or so with app-switching and not being able to settle on an app (this is particularly noticeable with workhorse productivity apps like notes, to-do, email etc).

Recently, I realised that I’ve become more productive with apps that are familiar to me, or ones that I abandoned for newer apps with promises of more features and increased productivity. Those promises never held (for me). There is something about a familiar app that I have used and loved for years that feels like a warm blanket.

Here’s my experience:

Raycast to Alfred

Raycast is slick and there’s no denying that its extensions are much better than the workflows in Alfred. I experimented with Raycast more than once and after about 3 to 6 months, returned to Alfred. I think I now understand why. Alfred is fast and lightweight. Raycast uses 386 mb of space compared to Alfred’s 34 mb (I didn’t test memory but my guess is that Raycast would use more). I can’t tell if it’s just me, but Raycast takes just fraction of a second longer to launch every time. Alfred is instant. What I do know for sure is that file searching is still better in Alfred. I don’t know which algorithms each app uses, but Alfred more often displays the results I want/need to see. Searching Apple Notes is better in Alfred too — Raycast only searches the note title whereas Alfred searches the note content.

Secrets to 1Password

This experiment didn’t last long. I tried Secrets to eliminate another subscription but I’ve come back to 1Password after a couple of months. It’s no contest for me. I know my way around 1Password, the autofill is more reliable, and it handles a variety of “secrets” better than other password managers I’ve tried. I also feel more secure when using it and I’m not sure why (perhaps the use of the password and secret key).

Craft / Obsidian to Apple Notes

My notes needs aren’t complicated. There’s something about AN that keeps me returning every time. I end up not creating many new notes in other apps because of the friction. AN has grown up a lot recently (while maintaining speed and simplicity) and with the macOS integration and upcoming linking in Sonoma, I can’t see much benefit in anything else. The integration adds some additional niceties.

I’ve also (finally!) landed on a better system for notes vs files, which has frustrated me for years. All files, including pdfs, spreadsheets, presentations, docs, assets etc go into the file system. Notes, weblinks, screenshots, annotations and some temporary or transient files go into Notes app. Both are searchable with Spotlight/Alfred.

Spark and Fastmail to Mail and iCloud+

This was hard because I loved Spark (before the update) and Fastmail. But my mail needs aren’t complex and I already have the iCloud+ subscription, so I transferred my domains and set up with Apple Mail. I don’t love Mail, but it’s familiar and customisable enough.

Dropbox to iCloud

I returned to Dropbox in 2021 because of syncing issues with iCloud. However, with the recent changes to Dropbox and macOS (and not wanting another subscription), I moved back to iCloud a few months ago. Night and day from the last time I used it (knock on wood). Fast, reliable, no issues.

We’ll see how this familiarity goes for the next few months, but my initial reflections are very positive. It feels like a weight has been lifted.

Any others who have returned to what’s known and familiar to them?


This resonates with me. I’ve tried a lot of different apps but have (mostly) settled on built-in apps or simpler apps for most of my workflow. They might only do 80% but I find it’s usually “good enough”. I still use Dropbox but plan to migrate off that this coming year (having used it for over a decade, I’ve got some workflows that will take time to migrate). I’m not settled on iCloud Drive though as I find the syncing and local copy unreliable. Maybe set up my own syncing with syncthing or Dropbox has become bloated and syncing is slow and not reliable.

The biggest transition for me was moving from Evernotes to Notes. I have been using Evernote since ~2007 but over the last several years it’s really degraded and recent news portends that perhaps its days are numbered. I used the excellent free open-source tool evernote-backup to export all my notes to .enex files (the app used to be able to do this but recent versions can only export 50 notes at a time). I then imported these into Apple Notes (one folder worth at a time). I wanted to be able to write notes in Apple notes in Markdown and also work with Notes from the Terminal so I built my own open source command line tool, macnotesapp, to allow me to write (but not yet edit) notes in Markdown. I’ll eventually add the ability to edit and also to export and import notes. This works well enough for me. Now that iOS 17 and Sonoma will add linking for Notes it should make Notes much more useable for organizing data.

Though there are issues with the Apple built in apps, they are ubiquitous and it’s easy to share content with other users who have Apple devices. I find it more convenient to have my notes “just work” on all my devices than it is to mess with more complex solutions like Obsidian. (When I was migrating from Evernote, I tried them all!)


That’s a fun list. My theory is Alfred’s file search has had more hand tuning and Raycast’s is a more pure reflection of the Spotlight index. Downloads is one example. find Downloads will always put ~/Downloads, then and iCloud Drive/Downloads at the top. Raycast will not, and it will sometimes throw junk like /Applications/App Store up top or put a file there, but if you wait 30 seconds and search again, the junk results will be pushed down a few ranks.


I agree with everyone except for move to Apple Notes. I hope one day I will be able to as well, but AN is not ready yet.

I am using UpNote w/ encrypted WinRAR archives (64 char high entropy passwords) for high security needs.

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I’m sticking with FastMail … email still important to me and they have great reliability and great support when needed (hardly ever).

For reasons I can’t remember, I lost (or forgot?!) the password on my Apple iCloud account and it took a long time (2 weeks as I recall), with many hoops to jump thru, to get access back. I can’t be dependant on that given that so many services now for login and contact purposes use email addresses. I use the Apple Mail app on all devices and not seeking anything beyond that.

And while I use Apple iCloud syncing for those apps that require it, all those uses are relatively simple and low amounts of data are moved. I rely on Dropbox Sync for syncing the big stuff, and it does work reliably unlike iCloud for for that. And Dropbox Backup is working well after using it for a few months. Might drop my Backblaze account.

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It’s taken a long time but it’s slowly getting there. What would need to change or be added to AN to make it ready for you?

In many cases I never ventured away from the default Apple Apps in the first place. I’ve always been satisfied with Mail, Calendar, and Reminders. And since I retired 7 years ago I haven’t used Word/Excel/PowerPoint over Pages/Numbers/Keynote. Notes has always been my notetaking app when I’ve needed to sync between my iPhone and Mac.

I briefly tried and abandoned Markdown. I have an old non-subscription TextExpander which I’ll just drop and use Alfred’s when it stops working. I briefly tried Keyboard Maestro. I also briefly looked at Obsidian.

I do use DropBox, but only for Quicken syncing. And I use Resilio Sync to have a private, local cloud. 1Password and Omnifocus have their own cloud services. Otherwise it is iCloud for sharing across computers.

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I hear you. I’ve tried almost everything on this list but nothing could quite live up to Evernote. I’ve used it on and off since 2010 but couldn’t get past v10 (and the acquisition) and had to give it up for good. AN is 90% there. What do you miss most about Evernote?

The features I miss most are inter-note links (coming in Notes in iOS 17/Sonoma), adding reminders to notes to remind me at a certain date/time of something, and the browser plug in which saved the whole page instead of just the URL.

If all goes well I should receive a new M2 MacMini. As I usually (well, the once every 5 or 6 years that I buy a new computer :wink: ) don’t transfer my stuff from the old to a new computer, this is a good moment to have a look at my apps again.

My needs are well defined and not that special. I do have a few requirements; I prefer open standards, and using self hosted backends. One area that I’m still undecided about is mail.

In all honesty, there really doesn’t seem to be a truly great mail application on MacOS. I’m a long time Postbox user. Which ticks quite a few boxes. But the UI is clumsy and unpolished and there still isn’t an Apple Silicon version available. As I don’t like subscriptions, only Apple Mail and Mailmate seem to be the viable contenders.

Apple Mail is missing a few much needed features, most importantly mail rules for sending and archiving messages. And Mailmate, well, I tried it before but it didn’t click. The fact that for Apple Silcon one should use a beta version doesn’t sound good to me. And overall support seems to be lacking (I mean, late wilth updates for newer MacOS versions).

With mail being such an important part of everyday life, it’s beyond me there aren’t more great mail clients available for MacOS.


My hypothesis: “cool kids” moving to Slack, WhatsApp, plain old Text Messaging, etc. No longer a huge market for email clients and corporate clients covered already with Outlook/Exchange. Profits to anyone but a very bespoke mail client probably are thought to be meagre.


This. Email has become basically a work tool, and in corporate environments most people just use their company issued email solution (Outlook, Google Workspace…) For personal use I would not justify a subscription for something that I can solve with the stock I currently am a paid Mimestream user but I’m not that sure that I will be renewing the subscription.

You can use Apple Reminders via the Share menu to remind you about Apple Notes… (maybe not as convenient as using Evernote - I can’t remember)

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That’s probably because, IMO, is “good enough” for both individual and (most) business users. It had been our default email app for nine years when I retired in 2018, and AFAIK they still use it.

The biggest problem I had with Mail was using plug-ins like MailTags. It seemed that every new version of Mail broke plug-ins and I had to wait for the developer to roll out a new version. Eventually I gave up and started using Thunderbird and/or Webmail.

That would be my guess too. Mail used to have some problems working with both MS Exchange and Gmail. But that appears to be mainly in the past.

I’ve preferred server based solutions since the pre-cloud days and have been a Gmail/GW user since '04. So I use Gmail in the browser on Mac and the Gmail app on iOS/iPadOS. It is rock solid and there are plenty of keyboard shortcuts on Mac to speed things along.

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I was about to answer that I do go back to default apps more and more as well. But having a quick look at my home screen proved me wrong. :sweat_smile:

I use Apple apps for shared things with my wife. But my own stuff is mostly in third-party apps. Obsidian and DEVONthink are probably the main complications over stock apps. Although the latter might be eliminated.

Edit: my policy is to use “as simple as possible apps, but not simpler” (for my needs) to paraphrase Einstein. Although I catch myself choosing more powerful apps then I need every now and then. :grimacing:


Oh wow, I hadn’t seen the Verge article. It’s actually really, really sad as I loved Evernote. Since moving to UpNote, I have no regrets and no lock-in. AN is fraught with syncing issues and can’t rely on it.

Yeah, I think I first started using Evernote when it required an invitation email to join the beta. It was revolutionary at the time. Sad to see what’s become of a once great app (but it’s been a long slow decline). I’ll take another look at UpNote! Though is pretty basic, I like that it’s easy to share with others (and even collaborate with other iOS users who don’t need to install another app). But Markdown and better web clipping would be nice!


I really like Apple Notes, but the dealbreaker for me is that there’s no built-in way to get my notes out. Notes are too important to not have a guaranteed export to some standard format (Markdown or HTML).

Exporter is pretty good (though last time there were a bunch of files and notes it couldn’t export), but no guarantees it’ll keep up with updates.

At the moment using UpNotes and it’s good enough.


You can get markdown in AN with an extension called ProNotes. It includes some other niceties (like a formatting bar) and has worked well for me.

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You are correct, there is no built-in function. I’ve solved this by using DEVONthink’s import Apple Notes function. I archive my Apple notes each month into my DT Apple Archive database as a form of “backup.” This way I get all of the advantages of Apple notes and can still get plain text copies of my notes, which can then be converted to other formats in DT if and as needed.