Welcome back to another edition of AppleToolBox’s Best Apps! In this article, we’re going to be covering the best iOS apps and the best macOS apps. This is a monthly series here, where I uncover some of the best apps to come out over the last month, usually with a focus on indie apps.
Given that December is a holiday month where we’re all (hopefully) staying warm, close to loved ones, and snuggled up with a warm drink and a book, show, or game at our fingertips. Unless you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, of course, in which case I hope you’re sprawled out on a lawn with a cool drink, sunscreen, and your entertainment medium of choice.
I’m pretty excited about this month’s app recommendations! The iOS apps in this edition are going to be more niche than usual, while the Mac apps will be a bit broader. Regardless, I’m sure there’ll be something in here for everyone!
And as always, I am not affiliated with any of these apps or their developers. These are my honest opinions and recommendations.
Alright, let’s get into it!
Side Note: If you’re looking for some of the best games on iOS and macOS, check out the Apple Arcade review I just covered. I play-tested the most popular games on Apple Arcade and gave in-depth thoughts on each of them, so give it a look!
- The best iOS apps of December 2021
- 1. TechniCalc Calculator: An advanced, intuitive upgrade from the iOS Calculator
- 2. Anime Karma List: Keep up with the most popular shows in Anime using one of the best iOS apps
- 3. MusicMatch: Open music streaming links in your music app of choice
- 4. Plant The World: Plant digital trees in your area to plant real trees around the world
- The best macOS apps of December 2021
- 1. KeyCue: Memorize your keyboard shortcuts, quickly access emojis, and more
- 2. Book Track: Keep track of all of the books you’re reading or want to read with one app
- 3. Wdgts 2: Widgets for your Mac desktop with one of the best macOS apps
- 4. Pareto Security: Keep your Mac secure with regular security checks
- Start using the best iOS apps and the best macOS apps today
The best iOS apps of December 2021
1. TechniCalc Calculator: An advanced, intuitive upgrade from the iOS Calculator
iOS has come with a free calculator since it first launched in 2008. And yet, there have been third-party calculator apps for iPhone nearly as long as this calculator has been available.
That’s because the built-in calculator is extremely limited, not offering anything that you can’t find in a calculator at your local dollar store. As someone who was briefly in engineering courses, I can confirm that it’s useless for advanced math.
Fortunately, we have the best iOS apps to fill in the gaps! TechniCalc Calculator is a great third-party calculator for iPhone. Not only is the design simple and pleasant, but it supports more complex match functions like equations, series sums, matrices, vectors, and more.
Inputting these advanced formulas is no more difficult than a basic calculation. Just tap the buttons that correspond to the symbols/functions you need and you’re good to go! You can also add variables, sync your history with iCloud, and store constants.
TechniCalc Calculator is also available on iPad and Mac, with a slimmer Apple Watch app companion, too. That’s a pretty big deal for devices like iPad, which have never shipped with a built-in calculator.
I’ve used other calculator apps like PC Calc, and have to say that TechniCalc Calculator brings plenty of depth and modern appeal to make it a great choice. It is $7.99 at the time of writing, but that one-time purchase makes the app available on all of your Apple devices. And when you compare it to the cost of a traditional scientific calculator, the price is laughably affordable.
2. Anime Karma List: Keep up with the most popular shows in Anime using one of the best iOS apps
Admittedly, I’m not much of an anime fan, but there’s no denying that it’s one of the most popular forms of entertainment available right now. If you’re someone who’s always trying to keep up with the latest anime shows, then Anime Karma List is for you.
It’s a super simple app. All it does is pull the top anime shows that are trending in anime communities on Reddit. Anime Karma List then organizes these shows into a list and checks for the newest episodes of these shows.
If you’re someone who uses Reddit to regularly look up your favorite anime, then this app does this for you. And even if you’ve never touched Reddit, using it as a way to track the top anime shows (especially in Western countries) is smart. The app also uses in-app data to rank anime shows, so if a bunch of people using the Anime Karma List search for a particular show, its ranking will increase.
You’ll also find streaming links, genres, scores, discussions, and more in Anime Karma List. It’s a perfect contender for this month’s best iOS apps. Check it out and never worry about missing an episode again!
In last month’s best iOS apps, we covered an app called Mapper. Mapper is a Safari extension for iOS that automatically opens Google Maps links in Apple Maps. It seems small, but it’s one of those solutions that solve a problem you run into multiple times a day.
MusicMatch is a very similar sort of app. It allows you to open all streaming links, regardless of which service they’re affiliated with, in your preferred music streaming app.
For instance, if you exclusively use Apple Music like me, then you can set it as your default in MusicMatch. From then on, whenever someone sends you a non-Apple-Music music link, copy it, paste it into MusicMatch, and MusicMatch will open that same music in Apple Music for you.
MusicMatch also comes with a Safari extension. This extension allows you to get the same functionality right in Safari. So if you tap a Spotify link in Safari, the music will instead open in Apple Music (or whichever music app you configure it to work with).
I also imagine that you can use Shortcuts to automate the copying/pasting process, though I don’t think MusicMatch supports Shortcuts natively yet. Hopefully, it gets this feature in the future!
It’s worth noting as well that MusicMatch currently only works with Spotify and Apple Music. Support is being added for YouTube Music, Pandora, and Tidal in the future, though, so it’s worth waiting for that! It’s a free app so there’s nearly no reason not to get it unless you’re lucky enough that all of your friends use the same music app as you.
4. Plant The World: Plant digital trees in your area to plant real trees around the world
Last up on this month’s list of the best iOS apps is Plant The World. This is one of the most inventive iOS games I’ve seen in a while – it’s a very cool idea.
In short, Plant The World is a GPS-locked metaverse game. That might sound complicated, especially to “older” gamers. But all it means is that Plant The World works a lot like Pokémon Go. The world is shared by everyone else playing the game, and the part of the world that you spawn in is dependent on where you’re located. If you live in Chicago, you’ll play with other people in Chicago, and so on.
The objective of the game is to conquer the map by planting trees. As you plant trees, you collect materials and food, allowing you to build and plant more. And again, you’re working with your local community as you do this!
This means that if you’re the only person nearby playing this game, you’ll be the founder of your town. And if you’re somewhere where a lot of people are playing this game, then you’ll be working together to advance the game.
Currently, the developers are using a portion of their profits (50%) to plant real-world trees. So just by playing the game, you’ll be improving the global ecosystem. A very cool touch!
The developers are also very involved in the community. I think they may be more involved than any other app I’ve ever reviewed in this series, which is great to see.
Please give this app a look! The idea is so inventive, it’s for a good cause, and it’s one of the few games of its kind. You can watch the trailer for the game here.
The best macOS apps of December 2021
1. KeyCue: Memorize your keyboard shortcuts, quickly access emojis, and more
If you’ve been following the previous two months of my best iOS apps and best macOS apps series, then you’ve noticed that I’ve mentioned keyboard shortcuts apps for macOS in both of them.
Today marks the last installment in this trend!
Like the other apps I’ve previously mentioned in this vein, KeyCue allows you to quickly pull up the keyboard shortcuts for whichever app you’re using. It has a few extra touches, however, that might make it the preferred keyboard shortcut aggregator for you.
First, KeyCue allows you to click a shortcut to run it. You don’t have to press the combination on the keyboard itself. This can be convenient if you’re feeling lazy or a lifesaver if your keyboard is damaged. It’s such an obvious feature that I’m not sure how other apps like it overlooked this.
Second, KeyCue allows you to search through the keyboard shortcuts that pop up. If you’ve used any apps like this before, you already know how useful this is. When you bring up the KeyCue screen, you could be looking at a list of 50+ keyboard shortcuts. If you already know which one you want, then reading through all of these can be kind of annoying.
With KeyCue, you don’t have to! Just mouse over the list and a search bar will appear at the bottom. You can then type the name of the shortcut you want to use (“Word Count”) and it’ll instantly show you the shortcut for that command.
And thirdly, KeyCue also makes it easy to type emojis! I’ll bet a large number of you didn’t even know that you could use emojis on Mac outside of apps like Messages. Well, you can! At any time on your Mac, in nearly any application, you have the option to type emojis. Don’t know how? Honestly, I can’t remember either off the top of my head.
KeyCue makes this easy. The same command that brings up the KeyCue sheet also allows you to search through an insert emojis. You can also store URLs in this app, which means you can open your favorite links just as easily.
This app is $20, but it’s a one-time purchase. And if these are features that you know you’re going to use every day, then definitely give it a shot. If you aren’t sure if KeyCue is right for you, then I recommend trying CheatSheet for a few days and seeing how you like it. KeyCue is basically an upgraded version of that free app, so it’s a good way to test drive it.
2. Book Track: Keep track of all of the books you’re reading or want to read with one app
I have a bad habit. I double-purchase books. There’s a local book store where I like to grab new books to read. However, I also read books on Apple Books whenever I can’t find them in person. And whenever I finish a physical book, I buy a digital copy of it in Apple Books so that I can keep track of when I read it. The result is that I tend to spend $20 per book rather than $8.
Luckily, someone had the foresight to create Book Track, and now I’m bringing it to you in this list of the best macOS apps so that neither of us has to double-pay for a book again.
Book Track is a multi-platform app (i.e., it’s available on Mac, iPhone, and iPad) that helps you keep track of what you’ve read and what you want to read. It doesn’t matter whether you’re reading in Apple Books, Amazon, Audible, or a book your friend gave you to read. Just mark it in Book Track!
What’s cool about Book Track is that it pulls the info for the book from whichever site you add your books from. So the book cover, page length, author, genre, and more are all noted by Book Track. And you can sort books into your Library or your Wish List.
If you’re a book reader, then this is already a huge help. But another useful thing that Book Track does (or doesn’t do) is avoid the clutter of services like GoodReads. Again, readers will know that GoodReads already does a lot of this stuff. However, it’s also a social platform for people to discuss books, rate and quote them, etc.
Book Track doesn’t bother with any of this, which is appreciated for non-social readers.
You can buy Book Track for $11, which is a pretty fair price in my mind. My only complaint with this price is that you have to purchase it again on iOS. I’m not sure if this is a requirement of the App Store, but either way, it’s a bit lame.
Also, it doesn’t seem like there’s any way to batch digitize your library. So you can’t import a CSV of all of your books or sync it with Apple Books to instantly add your library to the app. You have to do each book by hand, which can be a bit tedious when you first start using the app.
3. Wdgts 2: Widgets for your Mac desktop with one of the best macOS apps
Widgets have been one of the most popular feature updates to the iPhone in a long time. I don’t know anyone in my family or friends circle who hasn’t plastered their Home Screen with these things. And now, finally, you can add widgets to another Apple device:
Yep, Apple recently added support for widgets in iPadOS 15. If you’re a Mac user, though, then you still don’t have widgets for your desktop. And the jury is out on whether or not Apple is ever going to add this functionality to Mac.
Fortunately, Wdgts 2 has come to the rescue! The Mac version of this app allows you to create widgets for your desktop just as you would for your iPhone or iPad Home Screen.
You can stick these widgets on your desktop and the Menu Bar, giving you ample flexibility. Apple does technically allow you to add widgets to the Notification Center on Mac, but we’re past that now!
The only drawback of Wdgts 2 is that you’re limited to the widgets it comes with. There’s no way around this, though, so until Apple adds similar support to macOS natively, Wdgts 2 is the workaround you’re looking for.
It’s $9.99 for a lifetime purchase or $6.99 for an annual purchase, which I think is a decent price. So long as the developer keeps expanding the app’s features, I think this is a great app for people who have been missing widgets on their Mac.
4. Pareto Security: Keep your Mac secure with regular security checks
It used to be the case that only tech-savvy people were concerned about their digital footprint and overall security. And even if you were concerned about these things, you probably didn’t know where to begin managing them.
Nowadays, this isn’t exactly the case. Most people are more than aware of the concerns presented by digital footprints, the issue of data tracking and privacy, and the dangers of malware.
However, the management aspect of these risks can still elude a lot of us (myself included). That’s why the next app on our list of the best macOS apps, Pareto Security, is so important.
Pareto Security is a security checker. It looks at your Mac’s security configuration (securely) and lets you know if anything seems off. It’s not quite the same as malware protection, which will directly stand in the way of malware.
Instead, Pareto Security just lets you know if there are vulnerabilities on your Mac. It checks your firewall, reminds you to update your security apps, checks if anything is accessing something it shouldn’t be, and walks you through the process of enabling built-in security features on your Mac.
In short, this app makes security hygiene simple. If you aren’t doing anything to keep your Mac secure but hate fiddling with useless apps like Norton, then Pareto Security is for you. It’s a real-time to-do list of the things you can do right now, for free, to improve your security.
A personal license for Pareto Security is just $15, which is an excellent price considering that most services like this are subscription-based. It’s also available on Setapp, so if that’s a service you use you can grab Pareto Security from there.
There is also an enterprise version of Pareto Security for workplaces. You can pay various monthly subscriptions to unlock Pareto Security on a large number of devices. This can make the cost as low as $1/month per device.
Start using the best iOS apps and the best macOS apps today
And that’s it! Those are my recommendations for the best iOS apps and the best macOS apps. I hope there were at least a few that you found useful! For me, Plant The World, Book Track, and Pareto Security are this month’s highlights.
Being a power user doesn’t have to be complicated! Keep checking in here each month and build up your arsenal of creative, powerful apps. And look through the previous editions in this series while you wait for the January 2022 edition!
For more insights, news, and guides on all things Apple, check out the rest of the AppleToolBox blog.
See you next time!