iOS Life On the Edge

September 08, 2017 by Gabe | [mmd] |

I feel uncomfortable relying on one technology that has no alternative. This discomfort might come from the fact that I don't have a lot of time to solve the same problems again. But, maybe there's more to it. I simply don't enjoy reinventing the wheel just because the wheel didn't have a stable revenue model. I felt even more passionate about this when TextTool was withdrawn from the App Store recently.

I question a lot of my decisions because, well, I'm wrong a lot.1 A few comments on the MPU podcasts about the Workflow app have me reconsidering my aversion to that technology. While I'm still using workflows I previously developed, I refuse to develop new workflows for an app that is not likely to live very long.2 Here's my thinking: Apple would have highlighted this amazing new workflow rebirth if it was going to happen and they've already shown that automation on the Mac is not a priority. So, I've expected Workflow to receive minor updates but nothing more until it's discontinued.

I still believe that Workflow is a dead man walking but I've changed my opinion about using it until then. David Sparks is a very upbeat kind of guy and loves to cheerlead for the underdogs. That's why I like him so much. I usually take his exuberance with some salt but in this case I think he has a good point. He's bullish on the Workflow team doing something great at Apple, which is probably realistic. Until then, I have a perfectly good app sitting on my devices that still syncs, still gets patched, and most importantly, still works. I'm going to put aside my stubborn cynicism and use it while I can. Using the Workflow app does not keep me from learning my Python or developing an alternative solution. But it does give me back some of my time I can use more wisely.

So, I started to think about other iOS apps that feel high-risk. I weighed the risk vs. the value and here's what I decided.

Editorial

Man, I love this text editor. It's so good I wanted it on my Mac. The stuff that can be done with it is mind bending. The dark-side is the lack of development in recent years. It rarely gets updated to leverage new iOS features. My big fear is that all of my custom code will be useless once it breaks for good. No other comparable text editor can use the Python scripts I've built for Editorial.

I decided to switch over to 1Writer a while back, simply because several text editors support JavaScript automation. If 1Writer dies or fails to advance with iOS, I can take my scripts with me. I already share some of the functions with the Drafts

1Writer Script

Pinswift

Pinswift is my preferred app for Pinboard bookmarks. I like the extension, support for content search, and the reading options. It doesn't receive many updates. If it dies I'd switch to my second favorite app Pushpin for Pinboard. Until then, there's little investment at risk continuing to use Pinswift.

Pinswift

Transmit

There's nothing like Transmit. Sure, there are other FTP clients but none of them have the power and elegance of Transmit. Life would be less fun on iOS without it but I could survive. If it goes away, I'd lose all of my shortcuts but that's not much of a stake. I continue to use and love Transmit even though Panic has clearly stated what a financial flop it has been. The same thing goes for Coda and Prompt 2 but I use them much less.

Transmit

Copied

Copied is my favorite clipboard manager for iOS. It's very good and syncs with my Mac. I really like that I can have different permanent groups of clipboard items. It doesn't get updated very much and I fear it is not long for the world of iOS 11. I don't want to give it up but if I had to it wouldn't be too dramatic. Until then I'll keep using it.

Copied Lists

Calca

I'm not surprised by the number of calculator apps I own and actually use. I still consider my old HP to be my first computer. Calca is one of the apps I return to all the time. It's like a text editor that does math. That's really powerful when I'm trying to work through a complex problem.

Calca

If Calca gives up the ghost, I'd be fine. Soulver recently got some update love and it's a really close second place. All of my Calca documents are basically text files on iCloud so there's no risk of losing anything. If both apps died then I'd still have PCalc - The Best Calculator which is basically updated constantly. I think at this point it will outlive me.

Soulver

Launch Center Pro

LCP was the launcher that launched a thousand launchers. Unfortunately it doesn't get updated very often. I didn't want to build any more URL launchers with it when I have Workflow and Launcher Pro which both have split screen support on my iPad.

Launcher Pro

The "launcher" category is much less useful to me now with Siri and Spotlight. If all of them went away tomorrow, I wouldn't feel a squeeze on my daily work. I'd miss them occasionally but I'd keep going just fine.

The iOS App Store is not the fertile garden it once was. Apps are dying off or falling fallow because it's just not profitable to make good productivity tools. It's hard for me to consider any new amazing productivity app without the slightest twinge of what might come. For now, I'm trying to use what I can to get more work done with iOS but if Apple can't find a way to keep the platform healthy, I don't know how excited I'll be in the coming years with my investments of time and energy.


  1. That's kind of the human condition. We're basically wrong 99% of the time but that 1% can be pretty amazing. 

  2. Even if it lives for a few more years, the lack of new connectors and additional utility components will make it feel dead. Apple has continued to provide bug fixes since acquiring Workflow.