The Apps That Help Me The Most

From time to time people ask me about the apps I use to navigate my life. From writing, speaking, producing, and leading our media production and consulting company Cooke Pictures, I’m a bit of an experimenter. But I’m not a geek and keep going back to simple and easy. Where my brilliant friend Michael Hyatt uses five apps, I use one, so my list will be a lot shorter than his. I’ve tried a lot of things over the years, and here’s a list of some of the key apps that make my life work better:

1. Writing:  When I’m writing books, I use Scrivener. It’s fantastic because of the flexibility it gives you in writing. Scrivener can break up chapter sections, so you start work anywhere in the book. You can easily see the structure of the book, and you can see it in a variety of different ways. You can also add research right into your workflow, so you keep it handy. Then when you’re ready to print, you can export it to a number of different formats. It takes awhile to get the hang of it, but once you do, you’re hooked. If you’re a serious writer of long form material, then you can’t afford not to give it a shot.
As far as other writing, I use MS Word mostly because the rest of the world uses it. Apple’s Pages is easier for reports and presentations because it handles graphics and photos easily – and it’s just simpler to use.  For blogs, I use Notebooks, because it keeps all my posts in one place. I tend to jot down lists of potential titles in Notebooks and then fill them in when I have time later. It’s also a great way to access my posts in progress on my iPad or iPhone.  When it comes to screenwriting, I’ve always worked with Final Draft which has pretty much owned the professional market.  However a number of very good (and less expensive) competitors have emerged.  Here’s a good comparison chart.

2. Productivity:   I’ve tried everything here, but keep coming back to Things. I went with Omnifocus for a long time, but the truth is, it’s simply too complicated. I don’t need to spend my day tweaking my to-do list, I want to be accomplishing stuff. If you get excited about futzing around with your to-do list, the Omnifocus may be right for you. But I want it simple, so I can get to the doing. Things is elegant, simple, and does what I need it to do. It also syncs with all my devices. If I went to a 3rd option it would probably be Wunderlist, but for now, Things gets my vote.  Also – one HUGE productivity app I use is Captio on my iPhone.  All you do is pre-program it with your email address, and then use it to jot notes.  It automatically emails them to you so they’ll be in your email folder to act on.  Really simple, and powerful tool.

3. Calendars:  I’ve tried every calendar on the planet, but keep coming back to Google Calendar. My iPhone has at least 8 calendar apps on it, because I keep looking for the best one on that device (and still haven’t found it). Actually Calendars+ was fantastic for mobile devices until the recent overhaul. I refuse to upgrade because it doesn’t make any sense. Everyone in our company works off Google Calendar so it’s the best choice for what we do at Cooke Pictures. Now that the stupid fake leather trim is gone from iCal, I use that on my iPad, and sometimes as a backup on my Mac.

4. Twitter client:  Tweetbot. Easy and simple. One list on the left side of my screen. I use Tweetbot on all my devices.  For scheduling posts, I use Hootsuite.

5. Presentations:  Keynote. At least I did until the last Mavericks upgrade. I hate what they’ve done to it with a passion. Fortunately they allow you to keep the older version on your computer so you can keep using it. I can’t imagine any serious presenter or speaker using the new Mavericks version of Keynote, until they get the presenters screen more flexible (like previous versions).  So I’m desperately hoping Apple sees the light and adds back all the features it took away.

6 Email:  Mac Mail. Like Keynote, I hate, hate, hate the Mavericks version. So I’ve tried Airmail, Postbox, Unibox, Outlook, Sparrow, Inky, Mail Pilot and others. I keep coming back to Mail because of 2 reasons: I like the keyboard shortcuts, and it integrates well with Things. Outlook is WAY more muscle than 95% of people need. It’s like the Omnifocus of email. All the others are interesting in different ways, but I keep coming back to the admittedly crippled version of Mac Mail. But honestly, I’m not sure how long I can last.  Apple – are you listening?

7. Photos:  Lyn. I dumped iPhoto last year and am very happy. iPhoto puts all your photos into a single digital file, and if it gets corrupted you’re dead.  I prefer to store my original photos in folders, and Lyn reads them and you can view them like iPhoto. That keeps them original, easy to access, and much safer.

How about you?  Any brilliant apps you’d like to recommend?


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