Hello, readers and Apple users! How have you been enjoying the macOS Monterey update? iOS 15? Want to spice things up a bit with some more of the best iOS apps and the best macOS apps?
Admittedly, I waited all day in excitement for the macOS Monterey update to drop, and despite having read and written about it since its announcement, I found myself pretty underwhelmed by it. I guess I thought I was waiting for macOS 12 when what I was really waiting for is Universal Control.
It’s that time of the month again! No, not that one – it’s time for us to explore some of the best new apps for iOS and macOS.
For those of you that are new here, this is a monthly series I do where I deep dive into the latest apps, mostly from indie developers, and find the best ones. Then, I share them here for you to check out for yourself!
As always, I am not sponsored by any of these apps or developers, and these are not affiliate links. These are my honest thoughts on these apps, and I’ve vetted each one to make sure they’re safe to use.
- A brief word on paying for apps
- The best iOS apps of October 2021
- The best macOS apps of October 2021
- Become a pro user with the best iOS apps and best macOS apps
A brief word on paying for apps
This time, while searching for these apps, I couldn’t help but notice that a lot of people seem bothered by the idea of paying for an app. I saw complaints in forums and reviews from users saying they could “get similar apps for free” or “would never pay X for Y”.
I understand where this sentiment comes from. In an era where everything is a subscription and where apps, which used to always be free, now cost anywhere from $5 to $30 as if that’s suddenly normal, users may be feeling wallet fatigue.
It’s important to remember, though, that developers are not charities! You don’t walk into a restaurant, art gallery, or convenience store expecting to be handed free stuff. And arguably, many of the apps are more valuable than that stuff in 2021 anyway. After all, you probably spend the greatest percentage of your day using apps.
If anything, $30 is a steal! Work has value, workers have value, and that includes software developers. Plus, if you’re paying them for an app, then you can rest easy knowing they aren’t selling you ads or stealing your data to make a buck off of you.
Anyway, that’s the end of my pulpit! I think the majority of us have, understandably, become a bit spoiled when it comes to free apps thanks to large developers price-gouging indie folks. If you feel like you spend a lot of money on apps, though, remember that those apps get a lot of use, too!
Onto the apps!
The best iOS apps of October 2021
1. Rekt: No more “Use our app!” notifications when you’re on the web
Lately, I’ve noticed that whenever I visit Reddit, I get a specific notification that interrupts-
“This page looks better in the app!”
The same thing happens across a variety of websites. Whenever you’re on your iPhone, every website is trying to convince you to download their app.
Another annoying thing that happens in Safari all the time is that, when you use Google, webpages will load through AMP rather than loading the real version of the site. AMP used to be a benefit back in the day because it’s so fast. But now, everything is so fast that the benefit is minimal. And AMP can make certain sites less than fun to visit.
Thankfully, Rest is here to save the day! It “wrecks” both of these issues with one simple app. It plugs into Safari and removes “Use our app!” notifications from major social media sites. That includes Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, Imgur, and Facebook.
Rekt also redirects AMP links. So you can use Google Search without constantly having to work around AMP’s limitations and annoyances.
And you get all of this for just $0.99! Rekt is privacy-focused, so none of your data leaves your devices while using it. This is something I always consider when adding an app to my list of the best iOS apps.
In my opinion, apps like Rekt are the best kind. You install them, and they improve your daily iPhone usage without you ever remembering they exist. They do their job and stay out of the way. Give this one a look!
Next on our list of the best iOS apps is Simply NFC. Those who have been keeping up with my series on the Shortcuts app have heard me extolling NFCs. For those that don’t know, NFC tags are little white plastic discs that can passively connect to your iPhone. This is how Apple Pay, App Clips, and even Amiibos on Nintendo Switch work.
If you didn’t know that, then you probably also didn’t know that you can buy these tags for yourself. The Shortcuts app on iPhone (not Apple Watch, even though it has an NFC reader) can scan NFC tags. So you can buy them, stick them around your home, and then hold your iPhone up to them to trigger automations.
Well, with Simply NFC, you can also program your NFC tags! Just install the app, write your code or choose a built-in function (like opening a URL), and stick the NFC wherever you want! You can use it, or you can have your friends and family use it. They won’t need to program anything on their phone to make it work, unlike when you set up the NFC tag with Shortcuts.
It should be noted that there are a few bugs in this app. For instance, the most exciting feature, being able to scan an NFC tag to connect to a WiFi network, doesn’t currently work unless you have Simply NFC downloaded. However, the developers know this is an issue and will be patching it soon.
Also, if you’re going to stick your NFC tag on a metal or glass surface, make sure you buy one that is made for putting on glass and metal! I didn’t realize when I purchased mine that the average NFC tag will be foiled by these surfaces.
That said, this is a great app with active developers working to make your NFC tags more functional. Just in the time that I’ve been using this app functionality has been added so that you can scan an NFC tag to open an app on your iPhone instantly. If this is something you want to experiment with, check it out!
3. Pile: Pinterest for your bookmarks, files, and notes
The third app on this month’s list of best iOS apps is Pile. Pile is one of those uniquely creative apps on the App Store that rivals the aesthetics Apple puts into its apps. It’s a beautiful app.
But what does it do?
Pile works a lot like Pinterest but without all of the kitsch and social media aspects. It allows you to create visual boards and grids for a variety of content. You can add photos, notes, URLs, lists, PDFs, Word docs, files, and more.
The content you add to Pile can be organized however you like. And when you need to find something, it’s only ever a search away! You can save content for offline reading/viewing, too. It’s one big, semi-organized digital collage of whatever you like.
If you’re someone who’s constantly savings links, writing in your Notes, saving photos for later, and looking to combine various media, then Pile is for you. It’s just $1.99, and the users who have already added to their iPhone have been getting great use out of it. Give it a shot!
4. Paiva: Easily keep track of your online subscriptions with one of the best iOS apps
Last up on our list of the best iOS apps is Paiva. As I mentioned at the start of this article, a lot of us are fatigued by the overwhelming number of apps and services that have adopted a subscription model. Even just five years ago, subscriptions seemed like such a handy and great deal.
In 2021, though, it’s hard not to get grumpy remembering the old days where you could actually own things.
One of the main reasons subscriptions give us stress is that, frequently, we forget we have them! They fade from our memory and continue to quietly suck money from our bank accounts each month.
That’s where Paiva comes in. It keeps track of all of your subscriptions for you, giving you a central hub where you can view all of these subscriptions at once.
Paiva has more than 200 subscription services built-in. So if you’re using basic subscriptions like Amazon Prime or Netflix, you can add it to this app in just a few seconds. Of course, if you have a subscription to a service that isn’t listed in this app, you can add it manually.
To be clear, Paiva doesn’t integrate with any of these services. It just allows you to create a list of your subscriptions with the prices and recurring payments. Whenever you get a new subscription, just add it to Paiva. And whenever you want to quickly see what you’re subscribed to, again, just check it in Paiva!
If you’re someone who has a hard time remembering all of their subscriptions and is prone to forgetting to cancel them (*cough* everyone *cough*), then you’ll find Paiva helpful.
Paiva is just £1.79 (or $2.46 USD), so you don’t need to subscribe to use it!
The best macOS apps of October 2021
1. Shortcuts: It’s finally on Mac!
Kicking things off on the best macOS apps for this October is an app from Apple itself: Shortcuts. I’m sure most of you already know what the Shortcuts app is. For those that don’t, it’s Apple’s own digital automation tool. You can read more about digital automation apps and Shortcuts on Mac here.
In short, Shortcuts allows you to create automatic actions on your Mac. Nearly anything that you do on your Mac that’s repetitive can be automated with Shortcuts. It’s been a popular app on iPhone since it launched in 2018, and now, it’s available on Mac.
It’s debatably the best feature of macOS Monterey (second only to Universal Control). If you’ve never messed around with this app, definitely give it a shot! There are entire communities across the internet dedicated to creating smart Shortcuts. For instance, some copy your Spotify playlists to Apple Music, while others allow you to scan a barcode and instantly pull up that item in Amazon.
For those that are already automation pros, then you don’t need me to tell you why this is a big deal. If you’ve already been using Automator on Mac for years, fret not! You can easily import your Automator workflows to Shortcuts. Just be aware that there may be some compatibility issues. Also, be aware that Apple is planning on phasing Automator out of macOS. Eventually, Shortcuts will be the only option. So the sooner you migrate, the better!
Shortcuts comes pre-installed with macOS Monterey. So after you update, just look for it in your Applications folder.
2. Forehead: Don’t want a notch on your new MacBook Pro? Well…
Next on our list of the best macOS apps is one that is also fairly prescient. It’s a solution for yet another controversial decision from Apple over the last few weeks.
If you watched Apple’s Unleashed keynote, then you already know that the new MacBook Pros are shipping with a notch. Yes, this is the same notch that you’re used to seeing on the iPhone.
Now, admittedly, I like the notch on iPhone. And, though it pains me to be right, I did call back in 2017 that, eventually, the notch that was introduced on the iPhone X would become a branding symbol. It would be a way for you to look at a screen and instantly know that it was an iPhone. It’s Apple – they don’t make decisions like this carelessly.
Lo and behold, the notch has made its way to the MacBook Pro lineup, and I have a feeling that it will be joining future MacBooks as well. This time, though, I’m with the masses – the notch does not look good on a MacBook.
Fortunately for you and me, Forehead was whipped up overnight and is a great solution to this problem. The creator of this app (who has admitted to liking the MacBook Pro notch – yuck) made Forehead as a way to hide the notch on the new MacBook Pros.
It’s super easy to use and takes an instant to hide your notch. It works by adding a black stripe to the top of your wallpaper (non-destructively, of course). Since the Menu Bar is transparent, the black stripe turns the whole Menu Bar black, effectively hiding the notch. Clever, quick, and only €3.00 (or $3.48 USD).
3. Exothermic: A worthy rival to Illustrator and one of the best macOS apps
A fact I rarely share is that my first foray into a creative field was graphic design. I had a grand total of one job request and was quickly ghosted after I asked to be compensated for my work.
Before I abandoned that career path in favor of writing, I was working daily with vector graphics and had been for a few years. While in school, I learned how to use Illustrator, like most people, but ended up using Inkscape at home. Not only was it free, but I preferred the interface to the bloated, clunky Illustrator.
Adobe’s products have only grown in complexity and cost over the years. Their subscription model is a sham. Adobe has a monopoly on the market and intentionally uses that position to force customers into a subscription service.
Luckily, affordable alternatives have been popping up over the years, and each year they get even better. One of those alternatives has landed on this month’s list of the best macOS apps: Exothermic.
Exothermic is a free vector program that has all of the core functionality you’ll find in any other app. It’s also far sleeker than most free alternatives and has a robust suite of animation features.
This app was built by someone who typically works in 3D modeling, and Blender users are likely to notice the similarities. You can read about the developer’s creative process here.
Creative apps like Exothermic are highly personal. I don’t expect this to be everyone’s cup of tea, nor is it a certain Illustrator obliterator. But I imagine there is a healthy chunk of graphic designers reading this post who will find a lot of value in this app. Give it a try and see if it’s right for you!
4. Shortcut Keeper: Never forget a keyboard shortcut again
Last but not least on our list of the best macOS apps, we have Shortcut Keeper. Though it bears no connection to the new Shortcuts app, it will certainly save you time and headaches.
Shortcut Keeper is an app that stores keyboard shortcuts for you. If you’re someone who forgets keyboard shortcuts often, this is for you. I’ve found that I especially have a hard time remembering shortcuts for apps I don’t use every day. I know every text editing shortcut under the sun but forget the Mail shortcuts as soon as I read them.
This app solves this problem. Whenever you find a shortcut that you want to remember, you can store it in this app. Then, just open this app, find the app whose shortcut you want to remember, and it’ll be right where you left it.
Although there are other apps out there that help you remember keyboard shortcuts for certain apps, Shortcut Keeper is unique in that it allows you to create your own. This makes it easy to hone in on the shortcuts you care about and organize them in a way that works for you.
This app is just $3.99 and is something that all of us could use on the daily. Give it a look!
Become a pro user with the best iOS apps and best macOS apps
And that’s it for October! I had a lot of fun putting this list together, especially after being on a particularly intense indie app kick for the last month. Try these apps out! Simply NFC, Rekt, Pile, and Shortcut Keeper have been quick favorites.
I hope everyone has a spooky week and enjoys the coming fall. It’s a great time to cozy up with a cider, chocolates, and your Mac!
For more lists of the best iOS apps and the best macOS apps, check out the rest of the AppleToolBox.
See you next time!