"If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can't it get us out?" Will Rogers
Question #92337 posted on 06/13/2019 8:47 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I recently went from having a very old phone to a very new phone and I'm hoping to put it to good use. What apps have you found that make life better or more enjoyable?

-My Name Here

A:

Dear TARDIS,

I've provided links to the Google Play store, since I've got an Android.

Flo: I like this for tracking my period. To each her own.

Baby Daybook: LOVE this for tracking Lil' M.'s baby stats.

CareZone: Great for tracking physical health and general medications.

Board Game Stats: If you're a bit of a board game geek, this is wonderful for tracking how often you play and how much you win.

Bring!: I personally love this for groceries. We tried a Google Keep note, but this worked much easier for the two of us.

Daylio: Really wonderful for tracking mental health. I've been doing it for a year and a half now, and I love it.

Eat This Much: Meal planner, grocery shopper, super amazing, check it out. Available as a web app, too. Use my referral code.

Skip Checkout: Really, skip the checkout line. And the self checkout line. Check out AS YOU'RE SHOPPING.

Google Keep: After trying dozens of list/note apps, this is my preferred. I don't think Google's gonna kill it any time soon (crossing fingers), and they just got dark mode.

Libby: The new-ish version of the Overdrive app. Great for reading e-books from your library. And audiobooks.

Hopper: Track airline prices, and it'll tell you when to buy your tickets.

Pocket: Save articles to read for later.

LibraryThing: Keep track of the books you own, books you want to read, and books you've read.

McDonald's: If you're paying more than a dollar for large fries, you're overpaying.

PetDesk: Make vet appointments, take care of general pet stuff, the whole shebang.

-Tally M.

A:

Dear reader,

iNaturalist is a worldwide decade-old crowdsource project dedicated to identifying and cataloging wildlife. In my experience, there's a bias towards vertebrates - the bird pictures I upload get classified immediately, but I've got some three-year-old pictures of spiders that still haven't been touched - but technically you can submit any living thing (plant, animal, or fungus) as long as it was spotted in the wild. You can also browse a map of nearby uploads to see what's in the area or search by species if there's something in particular you're curious about. This has done absolute wonders for my familiarity with local birds.

-yayfulness

A:

Dear friend,

Congrats on the new phone! Like Tally M, I highly recommend Libby as well as the following four apps:

  • Habitica: Gamifies good habits, tasks, and goals to improve productivity. The more you complete on your to-do list, the more your little avatar levels up and gets quest achievements
  • Youper: Emotional health app that talks you through anxious or stressful moments and helps you monitor your mood over time
  • Insight Timer: Tons of free meditations along with a timer, if you're more of a silent meditator. At the end of each meditation session, it tells you how many people you were meditating along with in the world, which I think is kind of cool
  • Fortune City: Similar to Habitica but for budgeting. As you log how much you earn and spend, you can grow and take care of a tiny city

-Van Goff

A:

Dear Cygnet,

I'll put in another vote for Habitica. I use Google Keep a TON: a shopping list shareable with my husband; packing lists; favorite quotes; book recommendations; taking pictures of flyers, recipes, etc...I suppose any note-taking app can do this, but I like the color-coding and labeling of Google Keep. I'm a fan of apps that can block other apps from time to time, too; I'm currently using Stay Focused.

There are a couple of baby-specific apps I like as well: Glow Baby for tracking the early weeks of nursing and diapers; Tinybeans and Qeepsake for recording memories; Dormi for mobile baby monitoring; and White Noise Baby Sleep Sounds for mobile white noise.

-Owlet

A:

Dear My ~

Day One, a journaling app. (Currently only available to Apple users, but they're working on a web version.) I absolutely adore the On This Day memories feature. I've been importing old physical and digital journals, and it's been incredibly nostalgic. 

YNAB, a budgeting app. See my evangelizing about it in Board Question #92352.

Marco Polo, a social media app. It's like messaging, but with video. I know it's not for everyone, but I 100% credit that app for my great friendship with Olympus. We've always been friends, since we met on the Board, but it's been a casual friendship. I would send her pictures of unique bookcases. She would tell me about her Wheel of Time dreams. But then Marco Polo came along and out of the blue BAM! A deep friendship emerged. It's been incredible. 

Sleep Cycle, a sleep tracking app. It uses the accelerometer in your phone (this might be iPhone only; I'm not sure) to measure your sleep movement and thus your sleep cycles. You can use it as an alarm, too. You give it a time range and it will wake you up during your lightest sleep in that range with a nice melody. No more rude awakenings from a deep sleep by an unforgiving, harsh beep. And to snooze, you just have to tap the phone. You don't even have to look at a screen. It will only let you snooze until the end of your time range, so you might get a lot of snooze time, you might get none. But either way, you'll be done at a time you set as the latest time to wake up.

~ Dragon Lady

A:

Dear werf,

I'm just going to say that anyone who doesn't have the Wikipedia app doesn't know how to have a good time. Also, the PBS Kids app is great for watching Daniel Tiger.

-El-ahrairah

A:

Dear,

For general utility, I like Round (medication reminders & log of when you took what, which helps me know if I'm allowed to re-up on pain meds again yet), Clue (period tracker), Forest (not free, but you get to collect plants!)/Focus Keeper (free & w/ timed breaks included, but not as cute) for the Pomodoro method (which is most helpful when my sister agrees to do some with me to get me going on an overwhelming task, even if she's actually lying about doing any herself and is just checking in 25 minutes later to see how I did, gosh). I have Touch Pal to let me type by swiping rather than tapping, which is mostly fine except when it suggests names of people I no longer care about or one-time deliberate misspellings. Habitica (gamified to-do lists) used to be really helpful for me, but it stopped helping, so I ditched it. Google Keep is a good list/notes keeper for me, at least until Google kills it like they've killed other programs I liked (and several I didn't, but I don't mourn those ones). 

For sometimes options, I also like using the apps for my smart-home devices to control them when my mouth isn't working right (curse you, autoimmune disorder!), and I generally have several meditation/exercise apps that I don't end up actually using much, but mean to use. I have a handful of time-wasting games of various types which I should get rid of, but don't. The types are "cute animal collecting" (oh gosh I've got like 5 of these, I didn't realize, but I can't delete them and lose my collections!), a multi-person fighting strategy game that I mostly farm in and level up my city, one of those match-3 games, and some sudoku/tetrissy type "make everything fit just right" games.

In personally-specific apps, IMDB sees a lot of use from me, because I frequently want to know who's voicing a character or if I'm remembering correctly that a minor character from one thing was also in another thing that I've seen.

[For a painful example of my brain's looping tangents and eventual reversions to the original topic after everyone's forgotten what it was, read on!  In re. the IMDB app, just a few hours ago, I double-checked my (correct!) hunch that that non-speaking vampire in the clip I saw a moment earlier from the What We Do in the Shadows tv show is indeed the guy (his name is Matt Berry, but I never remember that) from IT Crowd and Garth Merenghi's Darkplace -- GM'sD frequently pushes jokes a bit further than I'm comfortable with so I don't recommend that with the same love I recommend the rest of this nonsense with -- (both of which coincidentally star Richard Ayoade, who I've watched in a bunch of British quiz shows--definitely Big Fat Quiz of the Year, (current events celebrity trivia, where he is often paired with Noel Fielding {who I referenced indirectly in the music video question and who is probably more-frequently paired with Russell Brand, and who (Fielding) is probably now best known for being one of the new sets of hosts of Great British Bake-Off with Sandi Toksvig -- who runs the more-academic quiz show Q.I., previously hosted by Stephen Fry, who I know best from Jeeves and Wooster --, and (fun fact), despite his (Fielding's) flamboyant style is happily in a relationship with a woman, while Toksvig, despite ner non-flamboyance, is also happily in a relationship with a woman, and also also Fielding is in IT Crowd, too}) and [Ayoade now, keep up! who is also] probably in Would I Lie to You? (2 truths & a lie variants--please especially enjoy the one w/ Miranda Hart and the Cuddle Jumper, Greg Davies "Vegetables!" and "the Hoot-Owl Death Sign," and of course Bob Mortimer--especially the ones about doing his own dentistry, "Theft and Shrubbery," and the Hand-Lion, and the ones where David Mitchell laughs like a maniac --probs the Cuddle Jumper, actually--and the one where he gives his personal fashion philosophy, which is something along the lines of "be as nondescript as possible, but not so nondescript it becomes noticeable) and 8 out of 10 Cats does Countdown (a celebrity version of an existing not-usually celebrity math & word puzzles game show -- think celebrity Jeopardy, but unscripted, and where the actual celebrity comedians are generally trying to win as long as they can also crack jokes along the way--, whose words expert was a guest star on a podcast I thought about adding to a list but didn't, but it's called The Allusionist, if you're into word trivia and which I also nearly mentioned because of its comic song about how to microwave an egg sandwich on a recipes question, but I think I talked about that on a previous Alumni week, so I exercised restraint that I'm not exercising now. I've been working on this answer for hours because it amuses me) and who [still Ayoade] I saw most recently last night in an episode of Travel Man with Eddie Izzard as guest star, and also please look up the one where the guy from Mad Men which I haven't seen and Baby Driver which I have {and which unfortunately, like Moon, includes Kevin Spacey who taints my love of both movies a little}, what's his name? back to IMDB--John Hamm, of course! look up the one where Hamm is a guest star and is so good-natured and kind and wholesome I am proud to have seen him in things), and who (back to Berry now) I also recently discovered is one of the corporate guys in the video feed in Moon, which is the only place I can remember ever seeing him play someone other than a comedically self-absorbed creep. Welcome to my mind on movies/tv! Though British quiz shows were an especially bad link to make, because those tend to pick from a fairly standard set of comedians. Also Mock the Week is a good one, too.] (Also I'm not sure about the linguistic legality of putting different kinds of parenthetical punctuation next to each other where the end of one aside is also the end of another, but it's nearly 3am and I've come back to tack on additions twice now and what am I doing? Just stop, Uffish!) 

Next-day update. Today I watched the first half of the new Good Omens Show and did it again. The Doctor and The Master from Doctor Who together again as enemies who kind of love each other, obvs, but also Jack Whitehall (super-rich comes-off-as-a-spoiled-but-lovable-fathead in the British quiz shows as the witch hunter (both ancient and modern) is doing a surprisingly good job of playing a poorish slightly insecure dude, which is delightful. John Hamm's back again here, playing the sort of guy you love to hate but also kind of admire his stylishness and confidence again, and my personal favorite of the evening is that the baldish kind of portly nondescript angel also plays Maria (say it Mar-eye-uh) in my newest favorite adaptation of Twelfth Night, which features an all-male cast in either the Globe or a replica thereof, and this dude steals. the. show. So good. That one's also got Stephen Fry as the dude you love to hate but then feel bad about hating (and I love Stephen Fry, but he doesn't hold a candle to Paul Chahidi in this. And he's not in this but I feel bad for not mentioning James Acaster yesterday in the British quiz shows bit because it took me a while to get past his very-effective-and-consistent persona, but he is brilliant and comes back around to things you thought were throwaway gimicks in oddly profound ways and then just blunders back through them again and makes you think maybe it was a fluke and he's just a fool after all. Please watch some of his stuff. There's the good one about the cabbage on WILtY?, but also probably his Netflix special. Jack Whitehall's Netflix series Travels with My Father is good in a different way, though still enjoyable. You'll want to attack both because they're such entitled jerks and they're so rude to and about each other, and then it will slay you with a little heart-rendingly sentimental bit of rusty affection for each other, and then they go back to their usual defenses-up facades, and auuuugh! I feel like there's more I wanted to say, but I tangented myself over to another whole question and lost the thread and won't care again for another day or dozen hours, and then it will be too late. So I guess that's the end of my next-day-but-inter-earlier-day postscript. Hope I don't kick myself for omitted connections or typos caused by trying to transcribe my looping thoughts before they evaporated forever. (I bet I will kick myself. It's fine.)

And (back to personally-specific phone apps, so also back to just my regular overuse of parentheticals, now) the first free dictionary app I found, because I like words and often want to either verify my personal definition or learn a word I've just come across, and Susie Dent from Countdown isn't at my beck and call (HAHA JUST KIDDING BACK TO THE ALLUSIONIST, OOPS). I've also got Blue Apron (enjoy that buzz marketing! -- that's a Judge John Hodgman tie-in, for another Board answer and podcast bit of obscure cultural referencing--I can't stop now! send help!) for convenient menu selection/skipping; Libby, the generic iPhone podcast app, and Audible to fill my ear-holes with constant noise (YouTube for specific songs, if I'd rather have music and amn't [sic] near my Alexas); Walgreens to renew prescriptions because I now take so many pills a day I got one of those old-lady pill organizers and I love it, Bumble for dating when I can be bothered, and a few social media apps that I rarely actually open anymore unless I'm waiting in a public place where I'm embarrassed to play my games and it would be rude to break out my audio without headphones.

Well, gosh. That got every type of off-task. I'ma [sic] go back now and bold my actual phone apps because I'm sorry, but not sorry enough to delete this hot mess (stay sexy and don't get murdered). 

-Uffish Thought

A:

Dear Caller Number 92337,

Here are some apps I use on a regular basis that I find useful and/or greatly enjoy. I'm gonna borrow Uffish Thought's convention of bolding the app name for readability's sake. Disclaimer: since I use an iPhone, these are all in the iOS ecosystem. Some may also be available for Android, but many likely aren't (though I've never really checked).

GoTasks and gTasks Pro. Both of these are apps that let me use Google Tasks in app form. They both have elegant list interfaces that make simple and nested to-do lists easy to manage. I switched to the latter app when the former declared that it was no longer going to be updated, but recently the developer resurrected it, so it's sticking around after all--which is good, because I really like it! GoTasks has a unique feature where you can tap and hold on the "+" button and then drag down into the middle of the list to create a new item at the spot of your choosing. (Normally you would just tap to add a task to the end of the list.) I mainly use Google Tasks for checklists these days (a morning bike commuting "pre-flight" checklist, for example, to make sure I don't forget something important, like lunch...or pants) and both apps make the process easy. The only feature I wish they had was an "un-check entire list" button to easily reset my checklists for the next morning! (Note: Google recently released their own Tasks app. I'm satisfied enough with these two that I haven't bothered to try it yet.)

Due. This variation on a to-do/reminder app lets you set a reminder to do something, and then when the appointed time/date arrives, it has the unique feature of reminding you of the task at periodic intervals of your choice (hourly, every 15 minutes, every 5 minutes, etc.). If you, like me, easily forget to do something if the reminder pops up only once, especially if it came while you were in the middle of something else, then the repeated reminders may be your salvation! I've avoided late fees on rent and bills multiple times thanks to its persistence.

Slopes. Great app for tracking your ski runs, lift time, etc. I had been using Trace Snow up until this season, but then I discovered Slopes, which is more open with recorded data and is more elegant to boot. Plus, the developer is clearly an enthusiast who cares about both the app and being out on those slopes! (One plus of Trace Snow, though, is that it still works with older hardware, so if you have an old phone kicking around that runs at least iOS 9, you can take advantage of its GPS chip and use that to record your fun without sacrificing the battery of your real phone.)

Knots 3D is a great knot database with high-quality 3D animations of how to tie them. I don't use it much, but it's a great resource to have handy when I need it! (I mainly use it for mountain rescue stuff.)

1Password, which is available on numerous platforms, is a daily necessity for me. I've got over 200 logins stored in my vault. With the touch of a finger, I can log into any one of them easily in both apps and websites, all while using unique and complex passwords for each one and easily changing any that might have been compromised. It would be virtually impossible to memorize all of that information. I mean, think of trying to memorize 200 passwords along the lines of "VZ$z9XV]32/JYXNrdMHv." If that's not enough, picture typing those nightmares in manually on your phone's keyboard! Your battery would probably die before you finish. The only other way to easily maintain that many strong and truly unique passwords is...well, there really is no other way. Whether it's this one or some other reputable password manager, get one! If you need justification, read this. Heck, read it anyway! I can't stress the importance of good password hygiene in this day and age enough. For me, 1Password transforms that best practice from a royal pain to an absolute delight.

Bear and Drafts are two great plaintext/Markdown notekeeping apps. Both are excellently designed and well maintained. They differ in their philosophy towards the text you put into them. Bear is best for taking and organizing notes or other text you'll keep in there a while. Drafts' tagline is "Where Text Starts." It's designed around the notion that you'll write something there (an idea, an e-mail, a group text, a blog post...) and then send it to another app to be used. When you've finished writing, you use "actions" (which can be customized as needed) to send your text along to fulfill its purpose in the other app (stored as a note in Evernote, pasted as a ready-to-send e-mail, etc.). Like a Swiss army knife for text, it has many uses, and it performs them all well! Both have desktop apps as well, and both sync their contents to your other devices. (Bear requires a $15/year subscription to enable syncing, but it's worth it.)

Editorial is another plaintext app I use from time to time. Among its strengths are (1) it interfaces with Dropbox to let me work with regular text files I've stored there; (2) it handles myriad text syntaxes, including Taskpaper and Markdown, the former being particularly nice because it turns the Taskpaper checkbox notation into actual checkboxes, which is handy for checklists; and (3) it is thoroughly extensible because you can download Python scripts (or write your own) that can carry out any operations on your text that you can come up with.

If you like mind maps, iThoughts is a great tool. There's a desktop version of it as well, so you can sync your maps in the cloud and move from one platform to the other, picking up where you left off. I haven't used it extensively, but one of these days I'll get around to using it more!

Another app in my not-used-much-but-really-should category is Tody. Tody is a specialized to-do list app for organizing household cleaning routines. You organize your tasks by room, set how often you'd like to complete each task, and see how often you actually have completed each task, among other things. You can even gamify the cleaning experience if that helps motivate you! Just writing about it makes me want to use it more! (My bedroom floor would thank me.)

Apollo is a great app for interacting with Reddit. I don't use Reddit much, but when I do, Apollo is the way to do it on a mobile device.

SunCalc.net. (Yes, that is the app's name.) It's a quirky little app that lets you see what the sun's direction is relative to a map, along with rise/set times and directions. That may sound random, but it can be handy for a variety of things. A photographer might want to plan out a sunrise or sunset shot. My main use? Well, I fly Southwest Airlines a lot, which lets you choose your own seat, so I sometimes use it to decide which side of the plane to sit on, whether to avoid sun in my eyes or catch a beautiful sunset from 35,000 feet up.

The app that brings me the most joy is...and yes, in saying this I am confirming beyond doubt that I'm a nerd...Avanti Weather. Listed in the App Store as "AWeather," this is basically the weather app I'd always dreamed of having. See, as a meteorology nerd, I want more than just the "Mostly sunny and 80 degrees!" quip. I want the gory details. Fortunately, AWeather pulls its data directly from the glorious National Weather Service, giving me ready access to radar/satellite imagery, hourly forecast projections, and--most importantly--the weather office's forecast discussion. That it includes the forecast discussion is the clincher. I often explain it to people as being "the story behind the forecast," and it elaborates on all of the meteorologists' assessments of weather model outputs, expected patterns over the forecast period, and often why they settled on the forecast they did. Beyond pure enjoyment of seeing the process at work, I'll often turn to this for a sense of how confident they are in what they have forecast, what caveats might be important, and how likely it is to change. AWeather puts this all in front of me in a nice, tidy, well-designed app (whereas I would otherwise have to go to Weather.gov to retrieve it) and--importantly, for those times when I'm going to be off the grid--downloads it for offline access. I waited years for a good app like this, and last year I finally found it!

Oh, and for more weather nerdery, RadarScope is a good complement to AWeather. Where AWeather specializes in forecast data, RadarScope specializes in, well, radar. Slice and dice radar data in all kinds of ways! See storm tracks! Read storm warning details! Export annotated images and animations to amaze and amuse your friends! In a similar vein is the less-cleverly-named MyRadar. While its radar data isn't quite as raw or customizable (at least without additional purchases), the myriad layers you can enable make up for it. My favorite is the aviation layer, which lets you plot SIGMETs and AIRMETs, see temporary flight restriction zones, and--best of all--show an FAA flight plan. So the next time you're about to board a flight, you can plot your planned course right in the app to see what kind of weather you'll be passing! (Pair that with SunCalc.net and you've got all the tools you need to pick the best window seat!)

I could keep going (Readdle Documents! 2do! Huemote! DEVONthink! Samsara!), but the above is probably more than enough to keep you and others exploring for a while. So with that, happy apping!

- The Detective