My favourite apps (part one)

We’re in a golden age when it comes to technology. There are so many applications that do so much that are available literally at our fingertips. However, finding those life-changing apps can be difficult. I’ve sifted through the hundreds I have across multiple platforms to determine the ones that have really made an impact on my life. Hopefully, you’ll find them useful as well.

Evernote iPad sign-up page (screenshot via Evernote)

Evernote’s iPad sign-up page (screenshot via Evernote—iOS 8.0.2)

1. Evernote (iOSAndroidWindows PhoneBlackberry, Web OS, Windows (Modern UIDesktop), OS X)

I tend to write drafts in Evernote so I can continue writing wherever inspiration strikes (Shown above: Evernote running on iOS 7.1)

I tend to write drafts in Evernote so I can continue writing where ever inspiration strikes (screenshot via Evernote—iOS 7.1)

I’ve had an Evernote account since high school, but initially, I couldn’t find much use for it. It was only when I relied on the iPad for note taking in university when I really found a use for it. Now I can’t imagine my life without Evernote and I probably use their apps every day.

I particularly like how Evernote allows me to write something on one platform and pick it up on another without much fuss. (There have been times where it has messed up, leaving me with lost work or conflicting files, but they are rare.) Evernote is also fantastic for clipping stuff you found online for future reference. It can even take snapshots of things like books or record audio notes (which was handy for university lectures). It also has this particularly incredible feature where text from pictures will show up in search results and other great ones that would take me some time to get through, such as Atlas, where you can see where you took your notes on a map.

Evernote isn’t perfect, however. The Windows 8 Modern UI version lacks many features. Comparatively, Evernote isn’t nearly as bad on iOS and Android, but those versions are still missing features like the ability to create hyperlinks and change the font size. Evernote on the desktop also lacks zoom functionality, meaning if you want to use the app to make the text bigger on screen, the only option is to enlarge the font size.

It certainly isn’t all bad news. Evernote has many accessories to help you make use of it. I recently sprung for a Moleskine Evernote notebook so I could take handwritten notes during things like interviews and sync them up to Evernote. The Moleskine is not a necessity to share handwritten notes to Evernote, but it comes with three months of Evernote Premium, which allows you to upload more content to Evernote if you hit the limit (I rarely hit the limit, only in university when I was uploading audio recordings/lectures alongside my notes) and enables a few more features like editing PDF documents. It also comes with Smart Stickers, which helps Evernote spot and file notes in the correct notebook with the tag of your choosing. The paper also has tiny dots, which supposedly make things easier for Evernote to recognize notes, which I really doubt made much of a difference, but considering the retail price of three months of Evernote Premium and a comparable Moleskine notebook, as well as the sale price I picked it up at, it seemed reasonable.

Zite splash screen

Zite splash screen (screenshot via Zite—iOS 8.0.2)

2. Zite (iOSAndroidWindows Phone)

Zite builds a solid personalized magazine (screenshot via Zite)

Zite builds a solid personalized magazine (screenshot via Zite—iOS 8.0.2)

If you follow me on Twitter, or just take a look at my tweets on my blog, you may notice that many of my tweets come from Zite. Truth is I’m hooked on Zite. It makes finding interesting stories almost effortless.

Just tell it what topics you’re into and Zite will make a customized magazine for you. If you spot something you don’t like, give it a thumbs down; if you want to see more of that content instead, give it a thumbs up. It also allows you to block the source entirely.

Some articles even appear without comments, ads and other junk, however, if you want to see that, enable web view and you’re good to go. Zite also provides you with many sharing options, including Twitter, Facebook and Pocket, so you can read them later or post them to social media.

Unfortunately, since Flipboard bought Zite, Zite will eventually shutter in the future, so soak in all the goodness while you can.

feedly's splash page (screenshot via feedly)

feedly’s splash screen (screenshot via feedly—iOS 8.0.2)

3. feedly (iOSAndroidOS X)

feedly makes it easy to tear through a lot of news at once (screenshot via feedly)

feedly makes it easy to tear through a lot of news at once (screenshot via feedly—iOS 8.0.2)

feedly took a while to grow on me. I mainly hated the layout, but after Google Reader was put out to pasture, feedly revamped itself to include layout options that were very reminiscent of Google Reader.

Then it became my go-to RSS reader. However, I haven’t been as active on RSS as I have been, which I suspect is in part due to Zite and Twitter, but it is still good to have.

I suspect a few of you aren’t familiar with RSS: It is essentially a subscription to a website. By adding a site to feedly, you’ll typically get all the articles posted on the website or a section of a site. Some outlets are generous and will allow you to read the entire article through an RSS reader, stripped down to the essentials; however, for most you’ll have to click a link to read the whole story on their website. It’s an easy way to tear through a lot of news without hopping from website to website.

Film On splash page (screenshot via Film On)

FilmOn splash screen (screenshot via FilmOn—iOS 8.0.2)

4. FilmOn (iOSAndroid, Windows (Modern UIDesktop), OS X)

You can watch a bunch of channels on FilmOn including the UK's Channel 4 (screenshot via FilmOn)

You can watch a bunch of channels on FilmOn including the UK’s Channel 4 (screenshot via FilmOn—iOS 8.0.2)

FilmOn is a curious thing, which allows you to watch several channels from all over the world. FilmOn has been around for a while and seemed to disappear or stop functioning then it came back.

While some channels it offers are quite obscure, others are huge. You can find CTV, Disney Junior, ABC (Australia) as well as British channels including many of the arms of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and UKTV.

FilmOn even allows you to “record,” some programs to watch later. I really doubt you’re recording the shows, it seems as if you’re just requesting to be able to stream in a recording they have on their end of a specific show for later, with the ads left intact.

Enjoy this while it lasts because I doubt the major TV networks would be too happy to know their channels are accessible from outside their home country.

Ginger Page's splash page (screenshot via Ginger Page)

Ginger Page’s splash screen (screenshot via Ginger Page—iOS 8.0.2)

5. Ginger Page (iOSAndroid)

Ginger Page is a great for editing your own work (screenshot via Ginger Page)

Ginger Page is a great for editing your own work (screenshot via Ginger Page—iOS 8.0.2)

A few weeks ago I covered how I edit my own work, which included editing on iOS devices. Somehow I only came across this app after that, but I’ve been using it in addition to some other resources I use when editing my work.

Ginger Page not only corrects grammar and spelling, but also gives you alternate ways to say what you already wrote. It’s a neat way to mix things up with your writing.

Like many other spelling and grammar checkers, Ginger Page isn’t perfect, but it’s always great to have as another pair of eyes to go over whatever you wrote if you have no one else available.

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