Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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2021 Favorites: iOS Apps

Here are six iOS apps that stood out for us this year, but weren’t part of the old standbys list. They’re not all new, but they’re ones we used a lot more this year.

Noir

I use Dark Mode in iOS all the time, especially on my iPad at night. And there’s not much more frustrating than tapping a hyperlink while reading in dim or no light and having my retinas blasted with a bright white webpage. Sure, conscientious sites (like this one) have updated their designs to support a dark-mode color scheme, but some sites refuse to get with the program!

Thanks to the $3 Noir, one of the new generation of Safari extensions that runs on iOS 15, my retinas are saved from blasting. Noir scans a site’s stylesheet, and if it doesn’t provide a dark mode, it creates one on the fly. You can set, on a per-site basis, whether to enable or disable Noir, and even give it the option of overriding a site’s own dark mode with a Noir version.—Jason Snell

NetNewsWire

I rediscovered NetNewsWire because of newsletters. I was getting a lot of newsletters in my email inbox, which is not actually where I wanted to read them. I wanted a dedicated reading app—and my RSS feed service, FeedBin, offers an email-to-FeedBin gateway.

To use as my reader, I chose NetNewsWire, the venerable open-source RSS reader that arrived on iOS a couple of years ago. It’s a solid, simple feed reader that works the way I want it to.

I started reading my newsletters in NetNewsWire every day. And of course, once you’ve got an RSS reader in your life, you start to add RSS feeds, and one thing leads to another, and now reading newsletters and RSS feeds in the morning has become part of my daily routine.

NetNewsWire even works well for sites I subscribe to that don’t offer full-content RSS feeds; the app’s Reader view can load some page content directly into view, but for subscriber-only sites, one tap opens the story in a web view within NetNewsWire. My only complaint is that some of the sites that I subscribe to don’t offer RSS versions of their content. (Looking at you, San Francisco Chronicle.)—J.S.

Streaks


If there was a theme for me this year, it was about trying to motivate myself to be more consistent with some of my habits, and Streaks ($5) has been a big part of that. It’s a simple, highly customizable app that lets you create lists for all those things you mean to do every day (or every week, or every few days). I use it for everything from making sure I keep my crossword streak alive to ensuring that I’ve done my physical therapy exercises. I particularly appreciate its integration with other iOS features, such as the Health app (more on which in my next entry), and the fact that it comes with lots of built-in options for common habits. While I’ve been happy with the degree I’ve set it up, I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface of its capabilities.—Dan Moren

Taio

Taio is a promising iOS Markdown text editor. I’m always on the lookout for those, and this one’s impressive, with its own clipboard manager and Shortcuts-style actions system, plus JavaScript-based scripting support. I’m not quite ready to switch to it yet from 1Writer and Drafts, but I’m keeping an eye on it and its rapid development.—J.S.

WaterMinder

Like I said, I’ve been trying to improve some of my habits this year, and one of them is making sure I drink enough water. For that I’ve turned to WaterMinder ($5), which lets you set a goal for hydration each day and log your progress as you go. I like that WaterMinder lets me keep track of different things that I drink (water, tea, seltzer and, yes, the occasional beer) and that it integrates with the Health app and, through that, my hydration goal in Streaks. There’s also an excellent Apple Watch app with a nice complication that lets you quickly log a drink even if you’re nowhere near your phone. If I have one wish for improvement, it’s that WaterMinder reform its notification system to be a little smarter: there’s nothing more annoying than getting a reminder to drink more water after I’ve just downed a full pint glass.—D.M.

Pushover

Not all apps are beautiful. The $5 Pushover is not much to look at, but it solved a very specific problem for me. I wanted a push notification, on my phone and my Apple Watch, every time someone uploaded a podcast file for me via my Dropbox File Request.

Pushover is an app that essentially lets you create your own push notifications for whatever you want, either via Pushover’s API or via an email gateway. That’s the path I chose. I created a filter in Gmail that forwards the email Dropbox sends to me every time someone uploads a file to my Pushover email address.

And that’s all it took. Now my watch buzzes when that upload has finally arrived, signalling that it’s time for me to get to editing.-J.S.

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