Why these apps are on my iPhone: Screen #1

If your app is going to make it onto one of the home screens of my iPhone, you’d better be good. Here’s what’s on my first screen — and why.

If it seems like I’m pretty enthusiastic about this first set of apps, that’s no coincidence: this set has to be unusually awesome to make it (and remain) on my iPhone’s first screen.

Safari, Mail, Contacts, Calendar — Notes coming.

reQall is an app that integrates with a free service that transcribes your voice notes, helps you organize them, and lets you send them to others (as, for instance, a to-do list for your spouse). Voice transcription for things I want to remember makes it a whole lot safer for me as I walk down the street or keep my eyes on the road. An option to create an item by typing is also available for when you don’t want to say “buy more anti-fungal cream” out loud. (Reqall is free, with paid upgrade options.)

Evernote is another note-taking and -organizing service that also syncs with a web interface, but unlike reQall, it integrates with a desktop application (available for both Mac and Windows), too. Where reQall shines for little tidbits, Evernote is a better choice for long-form notes (like a whole set of ideas while you’re developing that seminar for next month). It also does a great trick on images: they run OCR routines on any snapshot or screen grab you enter, making them searchable for any legible word in the image without any extra tagging by you. (Free, with paid upgrade options.)

OmniFocus is the top-shelf task-management app, and (along with all the other apps from the Omni Group) it’s just one more reason you should give in and get a Mac. These apps aren’t cheap, but if you want an industrial-strength Getting Things Done-style project manager, this is the one — and the options to integrate your desktop and iPhone apps with all your projects, to-dos, and contexts can’t be beat.

Instapaper is yet another app that syncs with a web service, but this one lets you build a stack of web pages to read later (even offline). See a page online that you don’t want to read this moment? That happens to me all the time, but I just hit a little bookmarklet to “Read Later,” and Instapaper saves all the body text of the page in my account, ready for syncing to this app. It’s dead simple, and even its powerful additional options (to flag, share, or revisit anything) are easy to use. There’s a free edition, but I recommend the modestly priced paid version.

Dropbox is a glorious, unbelievably elegant syncing cloud-storage service that you won’t understand how you lived without. Even the free account gives you a couple GB of storage, accessible through a simple folder on your Mac, Windows, or Linux desktop computer or through a web interface — not to mention, obviously, on your iPhone — for storing and syncing anything you want accessible anywhere. Please consider signing up with Dropbox using this referral link, and it’s good for both of us: we’ll each get an extra 250MB storage for free.

Further notes later.

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