Hello again, and welcome back to my monthly best iOS apps and macOS apps series. It’s May – Mother’s Day, at the time of writing – which means it’s time to bring more exciting apps to your devices.
If you’re new here, this is a monthly series where I bring you the best-hidden gems on iOS and macOS. These are apps that will entertain you, improve your life, and turn you into a power user. I do my best to seek out apps you haven’t heard of before, to both support smaller developers and to bring you something special.
I’m excited about the apps I’ve collected over the last month, and I hope you love them as much as I do!
- The best iOS apps of May 2021
- The best macOS apps of May 2021
- Come back next month for more of the best iOS apps and macOS apps!
The best iOS apps of May 2021
1. Digital Time Complication: For those who hate reading analog watch faces
If you’re like me (and most people born during the last forty years) you probably prefer reading the time from digital watch faces rather than analog faces. If you don’t know the difference, an analog watch face uses hands to tell the time and a digital face just uses plain numbers.
The drawback of digital watch faces, however, is that they have nowhere near the level of elegance and class that an analog watch face has. This creates a dilemma for me where I end up using a plain digital watch face on my Apple Watch while wishing I had the patience for reading one of the sleeker analog faces.
It’s this dilemma that brings us to the first item on our best iOS apps for May: Digital Time Complication.
This app is super simple. All it does is add a complication to your Apple Watch that displays the current time in digital form. That means you can use an analog watch face on Apple Watch while still keeping a digital (albeit visually small) version of the time visible. It’s convenient, straightforward, and best of all, free. Give it a try!
2. Smart Bird ID: Identify birds with a supportive community
I’m a big fan of apps that help you relax, unwind, and get in touch with nature. Smart Bird ID is an app that brings all of these things together at once. It’s pretty straightforward. You take a photo of a bird and the app helps you identify it.
Once identified, you can share the photo you took of the bird and the log you created for it with other members on the app. You can also take quizzes to test and improve your knowledge of different species of birds.
This app keeps track of when and where you spotted specific birds, making it a great store for memories, too. If you like going for walks, hikes, hanging around parks, or simply admiring the nature in your backyard, Smart Bird ID can be a fun and relaxing addition to your journeys.
3. Discover – Curate Your Life: Never ask “What should we do tonight?” again
It’s an experience common to all of us. We have so many things we want to try and do, places we want to visit, the food we want to eat. And yet, when we have a day or event to do these things, our minds blank and we can’t think of anything to do at all. So we just go by the same diner or game room again and regret it after.
Discover is an app that aims to change that. It helps you and others in your local community share unique activities. These can be as simple as listening to music with a stranger or as special as trying out an underground eatery in a foreign location.
Similar to Pinterest, you curate ideas and experiences that interest you. You then share these with others, who in turn share more ideas with you. Then, when you’re ready to do something fun, you just open the app and pick something from your list. It’s a great way to mix more exciting events into your off-time.
4. One By One: Math practice for middle school and high school students
For the majority of students at all levels, the hardest subject to master is math. It’s complex, abstract, encompasses a broad variety of studies, and can make or break many education paths. The challenges, pressures, and stigmas associated with math can trip up even the most astute students.
That’s where One By One comes in on our list of the best iOS apps. It’s a simple app designed by math teachers to help students get some extra practice in their math classes. It’s aimed at middle and high schoolers, and covers four vital areas of mathematics studies:
- Arithmetic: Simple multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.
- Algebra: The area that catches most students by surprise, where variables are added to arithmetic.
- Trigonometry: The beginning of advanced math, involving complex subjects like the unit circle.
- Calculus Derivatives: Calculus derivatives are the introduction to college-level math for most high school students. This is the beginning of the math journey for STEM students.
One By One gives users randomly-generated practice in all of these areas. Students can practice on their iPhones at any time. This can help them improve their grades, deepen their understanding, and prepare for college with a pleasant, easy-to-use app.
The best macOS apps of May 2021
1. EasyFind: For when Spotlight just doesn’t cut it
When I first moved from Windows to Mac, one of my absolute favorite features to experience was Spotlight. The search functions built into Windows were virtually useless, so having this all-seeing eye that could instantly find whatever app or file I wanted was super helpful.
But the longer you use Spotlight, the more time you have to notice its slight faults. While Spotlight seems like a search tool on the surface, it’s more of a basic retrieval tool for bringing up apps, folders, or Safari searches quickly. But if you’re in a situation where you can’t find a missing file that’s buried in a drive, Spotlight is going to be hit or miss.
That’s where a real, tried-and-true search tool like EasyFind will save the day. EasyFind is a free app that performs a thorough search for whatever you want, wherever you want, using whichever parameters you want. It’ll search your iCloud account, your Mac, any drives you have connected to your Mac, etc. And it’ll search everything – everything – it comes across to help you find what you’re looking for.
This app isn’t as pretty or fluid as Spotlight, and it’s not meant to be. EasyFind is a super lean app. It’s there to help you quickly find files, and that’s all. But when that’s all you need, EasyFind is a lifesaver, and that’s why it’s first on this month’s best macOS apps list.
2. Ejectify: Never forget to unmount your connected drives again
Another feature of macOS that I’m a big proponent of is Time Machine. Hardly an article goes by where I don’t bring up how important it is to every Mac user.
However, I do have a bone to pick with Time Machine. And that bone is that I constantly get notifications telling me that I disconnected my Time Machine drive without ejecting it first. That’s because I use a MacBook, which I’m constantly unplugging to carry around the house.
Removing a drive without first ejecting it not only gives you an annoying notification on macOS, but it can also damage the data on that drive. This is especially concerning with Time Machine, as it exists solely to protect your data.
Enter Ejectify. Ejectify is a super simple app that sits in your Menu Bar. Whenever your Mac goes to sleep, starts playing a screensaver, locks your display, or turns your display off, it’ll automatically eject all connected drives. This means you can unplug your Time Machine drive as soon as you close your MacBook or even log out of your current session.
Whenever you bring your Mac back to life, Ejectify will automatically re-mount all of your connected drives. In other words, it’s an app that’ll prevent you from ever needing to remember to eject or reconnect your drives. An easy placement on this month’s best macOS apps list.
3. BetterTouchTool: Take your Trackpad and Magic Mouse customization to the next level
There’s little debate that Apple makes the best trackpads in the game. The Magic Mouse is a bit less popular, though I still love it and use it as my daily mouse.
Part of what makes these Mac accessories so great is the gestures they come with. You can scroll, pinch to zoom, swipe between apps and pages, change your view, and more with just a few intuitive gestures.
The keyword, however, is “few”. By default, Apple gives you a fixed amount of options and gestures to work with.
The team behind BetterTouchTool sees things differently. They wanted to enable users to take full control of the touchpad on Apple’s trackpads and Magic Mouse. That’s why they created an app that adds features like five-finger gestures, unique gestures for Magic Mouse, and Touch Bar customization.
Additionally, BetterTouchTool allows you to attach gestures to all kinds of actions, not just the default gestures offered in your System Preferences. This allows you to perform advanced and personalized actions with a flick of your fingers.
This app also comes with an iOS app that allows you to perform remote actions on your Mac. You can take screenshots, move windows around, and more using your iPhone.
It’s $8 to get two years of updates for BetterTouchTool, or $20 for a lifetime license. The $8 license will still let you use the app for a lifetime, you just won’t receive any new updates.
This is one of those apps that you’ll end up using every day while forgetting it’s there. A shoo-in for our list of the best macOS apps of May.
4. Little Snitch: Know who is transmitting your data without your permission, and put a stop to it
Little Snitch might just be the most expensive app I’ve suggested, with the individual license costing $45. But it’s also one of the most valuable I’ve suggested, too.
Put simply, Little Snitch is an app that monitors the apps on your Mac and lets you know when one of these apps is transmitting your data over the internet. Nearly all of your apps send data from your Mac through the internet, but almost none of them tell you when or why (and sometimes even if) they’re doing it.
Little Snitch notifies you every time this happens. Sometimes, you want this to happen, as when sending an email through Apple Mail. But if that solitaire game your downloaded last week is sending information to Norway, well, you probably want to put a stop to it.
This app will help you do just that. It notifies you that data is being transmitted and allows you to easily stop that transmission with the flip of a switch. Perfect for maintaining your privacy in a world where that’s becoming increasingly difficult.
One of the other great perks of Little Snitch is that it shows you a map of where your data is being sent to. It even includes animations so that the least tech-savvy person can still understand what’s happening to their data after it’s transmitted.
Give this app a look if you have the budget!
Come back next month for more of the best iOS apps and macOS apps!
And that’s it for this month’s list! As always, this list contains some of my favorite apps around. I especially love Smart Bird ID, Ejectify, and Little Snitch in this best iOS apps and macOS apps list.
I’ll be covering more apps next month, so be sure to come back and see which makes the cut!
Until then, be sure to check out the rest of the resources here on the AppleToolBox blog.