App Segmentation

In my previous article I talked about how I have begun to use my iPad increasingly often as a device to not only consume content, but also to generate it. I mentioned that I read almost every article in Instapaper and that I use Simplenote to write, but I did not delve any deeper into my iPad setup, nor did I go into too much detail in explaining the toolset I employ increasingly infrequently on my computer in the colophon. Taking after John Gruber and Shawn Blanc, these are the tools I use. First, on my iOS devices, as these are the computers I use most often these days. Not necessarily in any particular order,

  • Instapaper - For all my reading and article archival needs, I turn to Marco Arment’s excellent cross-platform app.
  • Simplenote - I recently moved all my writing to this app. With instantaneous syncing across all my devices as well as the web, Simplenote allows me to write anywhere with nearly any device.
  • Feedler - My go-to RSS reader since I bought my first iOS device, Feedler works on both my iPhone and iPad and integrates well with Instapaper and Chrome for iOS.
  • Tweetbot - Far superior to twitter’s own iOS client, I use Tweetbot as my primary twitter app. Tweetbot also syncs my timeline position across devices, allowing me to read part of my timeline on one device, then switch over and scroll through the rest on another.
  • Chrome - I prefer Google’s browser as opposed to Mobile Safari primarily for its speed and also because it syncs my open tabs across all my devices.
  • Instacast - Although this is not a writing app, podcasts are often the source of inspiration behind many of my articles and thus this list would not be complete without mentioning what I consider to be the best iOS podcast manager. As with many of the other apps I have mentioned, Instacast syncs current playback position, subscriptions, and unplayed episodes across all my iOS devices.
  • Dropbox - I store all my personal documents, with the exception of pictures and videos, in Dropbox, providing me access to all of my files virtually anywhere.
  • Nocs - An excellent app for viewing and editing any text-based file stored in Dropbox, and the app I used to write in prior to Simplenote.
  • Byword - Prior to Nocs, Byword was my go-to writing app. Supporting Markdown and several extended functions, Byword is an excellent writing app.

As this list demonstrates, syncing across devices and across platforms is a headlining feature for me: it not only provides data security as my work is not stored on any one device, but also allows me to start a podcast on my iPhone as I read an article in Instapaper and jot down some notes in Simplenote, and then transition to my iPad where I can resume playing that podcast, finish reading that article, and expand those notes into a full-fledged blog post.

I choose my desktop apps based on their ability to integrate with my iOS devices. Unfortunately, on a PC this does not leave me with very many options, and even fewer good options. These are the tools I have found to be superior for accomplishing their core competency on the PC.

  • Chrome - Chrome is easily the most used program on my computer: not only does it sync open tabs with my iOS devices, I also use it to read Instapaper articles on the rare occasion that I read on my computer rather than my iPad. I can also write in Chrome as a last resort thanks to both Simplenote and Dropbox’s web-syncing counterparts.
  • Sublime Text - My favorite text editor, I use Sublime Text to write blog article as well as program. I hope to write about Sublime Text in the near future, so I will forgo any sort of in-depth explanation at this point. I will, however, say this: of all the text editors I have ever tried and especially amongst those available for the PC, Sublime Text is by far the superior program not only in speed, but also in functionality and ease of use.
  • ResophNotes - An excellent Simplenote app for Windows, ResophNotes allows me to pick up where I left off writing should I feel the need to finish on my computer. With excellent cross-platform syncing capabilities and support for Markdown, ResophNotes is by far the best desktop Simplenote app on the market.
  • Dropbox - Again, I sync all my personal documents in Dropbox. In addition to granting access to all my files across all my devices, Dropbox also provides an excellent backup solution as well as versioning.

The length of these two lists brings up an interesting point resulting from the fact that I use more apps to accomplish arguably the same tasks on my iOS devices as compared to the number of programs I employ on my desktop machine, a point that the iPad’s detractors often use against it: due to the very nature of the iPad, on average a greater number of apps are required in order to accomplish the same task than on traditional computers. I don’t see this as a an unfortunate result of an overbearing system though, but rather the fortunate cause behind a number of the great apps both geeks and “the normals”, as Marco said on the second episode of Build & Analyze, enjoy the use of today: while the App Store does not prevent developers from building the multi-purpose catch-all programs popular on the PC and, although to a lesser extent, the Mac, it does encourage app makers to focus on their core competency, resulting in more apps that are better at solving smaller sets of problems rather than fewer apps that possess the ability to solve a greater range of problems in a lesser manner.