Apps I’m Using 2023

Here’s a year-end list of my top apps from the last year.

As a Design Professional™ this is what we use now. I spend 8-10 hours a day staring at this app.
I use Slack all the time. It’s fine. The redesign is fine. You’ll get used to it.

I was recently convinced (shamed?) into switching to VS Code, finally leaving behind my beloved Sublime Text. It’s been a steep learning curve but I see why it’s popular. I still find myself dipping back into Sublime to do the basics like edit pesky .svg files.

This is the one and only task management app that has stuck with me. I’ve been a daily user for nearly a decade.
I’ve been using Vimcal for almost three years. It works seamlessly with Google calendars across my accounts, let’s me quickly create booking slots and allows me to see all my calendars in once place. The mobile app is nice too! Can’t say enough positive things.
I’ve been mourning the loss of Sparrow Mail ever since Google bought it and shut it down. I used Gmail in the browser, created site specific browsers and then used Shift for many years. I ditched all of that as soon as I got my hands on Mimestream. What a fantastic, essential piece of Mac software. I’m eagerly awaiting an iOS and iPadOS launch! If you like Gmail and great MacOS apps, you’ll like Mimestream.

This is the best screen capture tool I’ve ever used. It fully replaced Skitch and provided a host of functionality that I use daily. Screen capture with overlaid front-facing video to create Loom-like videos is fantastic!
I’m a heavy notion user across several teams. It’s great for documentation and light-weight project management. I’ve adopted it marginally for personal note-taking, but may seek a better solution (more on that below).

Have you ever wanted IFTTT but for which browser links open in? You want Choosy. I’ve been able to craft some cool flows that allow Google Meet links to open in Chrome even though I largely use Safari as my primary browser. It’s powerful!

Magnet •
This is my window manager of choice on MacOS. It’s simple and just works well for my brain.
I use Hazel to do simple things like sort and archive screenshots from my desktop, move certain kinds of downloaded items and organize scans captured with my Doxie. Fantastic all-round utility.

I used to track shows, movies and books in Things, but not any more. Sofa’s dedicated app and clever user interface gives me just the tools I need to organize and log what media I’m consuming. I also love the home screen widgets on iOS!

Ivory •
We all followed along with the slow downfall of the bird app. The community I cared about rebuilt itself on Mastodon, so I’m happy for such a robust and beautiful client across all Apple platforms.

Between the persistent browser tab and the frequency I open the iOS app, is this still a hobby? We’ll see.
This deserves a longer post at some point, but the Shaper3D iPadOS app has given me endless pleasure as I dive deeper into my 3D printing hobby. It’s a genius app that really has been thoughtfully designed for a touch interface.

What’s next

I didn’t mention it, but I also heavily use core Apple ecosystem apps like Mail, Reminders, Safari and Notes. I’m happy with most of these apps and use them both for personal and professional reasons. I’m eager to replace Mail with Mimestream but it’s not urgent.

I am looking to improve my notes experience and have started experimenting with Obsidian, Roam, and Reflect. We’ll see if anything sticks. Obsidian is promising, but the setup experience has me disappointed.

I haven’t used it yet, but I suspect I might end up using Linear at work in the next year. I’m excited to try it out.

Lastly, I’ve been keeping an eye on Raycast and might try that out as my default launcher on MacOS.

We’ll see if anything shifts in 2024!

Plex, Synology and Streaming Nostalgia

Kaylin is much more of a movie buff than I am—some of her most cherished movies include classics like Pete’s Dragon, the Back to the Future trilogy, Elf, The Secret of Nimh and then take a sharp turn towards the broad category of Christmas movies. Our DVD collection is… something interesting.

Shortly before the winter holidays I won the argument that our DVD player was taking up excess space and not getting used. I was granted permission to begin digitizing the whole collection.

I’ve had a Synology DS418 Play since December 2019. It’s just been acting as cold storage for files and I’ve been anxious to put it to use as a media server.

Luckily, this isn’t much of a how-to post. The documentation for Plex and Synology made the process incredibly easy so I’ll only outline the tips that I collected along the way.

The Setup

  • Synology DS418 Play
  • Plex Media Server installed from the Synology Package Center
  • Apple TV 4K running the Plex app
  • LG C9 television

Initially, it was unclear to me that the media I wanted Plex to reference should live a folder other than the default Plex folder that Synogloy creates during setup. Once I realized this, I quickly made a Media shared folder that contains only two folders, TV Shows and Movies.

In an update some time after I initially completed the installation, Plex added new text files in the root directory instructing that no media should be placed in the Plex folder. Helpful.

Scanning Media

I was aware that Casey Liss had well written article about his DVD ripping process which I followed exactly, including the compression scripts mentioned at the end of his article. I found MakeMKV to be simple and easy to use.

Unfortunately, I got ahead of myself and scanned quite a few DVDs and compressed them before previewing on my television. I found the compression far too agressive for my taste when viewing on the LG C9 so I ultimately re-ripped those files and simply moved the ~4-6gb .mkv files to the server.

File Names

The advice in the article to use The Movie Database to search for movie titles was perfect. Plex was able to index all my named files following the Movie Title (Date) format.

TV Shows

I struggled when scanning a few television show seasons. Renaming became tedious and I started writing a quick script to do the heavy lifting. Before I got too far down that path I did a search in the Mac App Store and landed upon TV Show Renamer Pro.

It’s far from a perfect app but it does what it says on the tin. I ran in to a bug (that turned out to be a bit of bad UX) and I received a response within hours when I emailed the developer for help.

I’ll continue to use the app any time I add TV shows to our collection.

Enjoying the Setup

Once the scanning, sorting, and naming were completed everything has been working without any issues. We’ve been able to watch our movie collection on our TV and other devices streamed directly from our personal cloud running in the basement.

It’s been great to have easier access to some of the nostalgic and classic movies. Plex places your own media on par with a Netflix or Hulu experience. It’s so great to be able to jump in to your own media with ease.