State of the Apps 2024

A list of the tools and services in my “tech stack” from productivity to creativity to entertainment.

illustration of a head and butterflies around the scalp and inside the brain

My parents used to say I’ve been tech-savvy since childhood, a claim given more weight when I ended up on the Multiply/Tumblr girl to web developer pipeline. Spiced with ADHD and the curiosity for underrated or shiny things, I’ve become a compulsive trier of new apps and programs.

In a way, that compulsion has scaled back, and most “new software” are now just names on a list that I swear I’ll get back to later. Still, I like talking about apps and tech especially from a user’s perspective.

As we tread into the new year, here are some of the tools and services I use regularly — with a shout out to a few that I’ve recently uninstalled. I’ll skip categories like banking, messaging and social media: anything that I use more out of “requirement” than appeal.

My Favorite Everyday Apps

Music: Spotify. Despite my issues with Spotify as a corporation, it’s overwhelming to even think about migrating. I’ve been with them for about as long as they’ve been available in my country, and I’ve been a premium user for over half of that. There’s a lot of data, history and habit I can’t seem to part with. My break-up with Spotify feels inevitable, but it also doesn’t feel soon.

Novel-writing: Scrivener. I bought the full version of Scrivener in 2021, after winning a 50% off discount code. It was only late last year that I began exploring and studying it more seriously, and now I’m fully in love. Scrivener carried me through Project Stardust’s first draft sprint last November, and it’s still my go-to for writing the second draft. I’m fully an advocate (I sound like a promoter or affiliate sometimes; I’m not) and I’m prepared for a much longer love affair with it.

Digital Journal and Second Brain: Obsidian. It’s embarrassing how much I love Obsidian. In fact, I’m so embarrassed that I plan to dedicate a few future posts to just talking about this program. I originally found it when looking for a wiki-like tool for novel-planning purposes, trying things like digital gardens and TiddlyWiki.

Been messing with Obsidian for two years now!

I do still use Obsidian for worldbuilding, but it has also evolved into a second brain/zettelkasten, a tool for daily journaling and habit tracking, and a digital notebook for brainstorming and saving reminders to myself. Case in point: Obsidian is where I keep the list of other programs I want to try out.

Apps For Special Uses

RSS Reader: Feedly. My history with Feedly is a long one, but not a deep one. After the death of Google Reader, I tried Bloglovin, which I eventually left for forgettable reasons. Feedly has been my RSS Reader ever since and has done the job just fine. I would enjoy it more if I simply read more. And if I do that, I might be able to convince myself to get a paid subscription someday. (Don’t go away anytime soon, Feedly.)

Read-it-Later: Pocket. A sort-of companion to Feedly, Pocket is my read-it-later app. It does the work well enough and their Add To Pocket integrations everywhere are easy and seamless — only it’s not very habit-building. I think I might still have articles I’ve been ignoring since 2018. I’ve done the free trial of Readwise (and Readwise Reader) which seems like it can replace Pocket very easily. Maybe someday when I actually have the reading habit to justify the investment.

Blogging: WordPress + Hostinger. What I pay annually for hosting and DNS is not small, so every now and then I think about more affordable alternatives. But I have a 13-year-old relationship with WordPress and I do enjoy the longevity of it, so I never consider others for long. Hostinger is a great host that’s given me no problems, and they do seem like they’re going to last a little longer. The competitor that’s made me reconsider my setup the hardest is, but I’m not quite there yet.

Honorable Mentions

Storage: Dropbox / Google Drive / Google Photos. For all my proclamations about being tech-savvy, I have a unique disgust and distrust for cloud storage. I don’t really know where the feeling comes from. I avoid saving things to these services unless I need the cross-device sync or sharing, but sometimes my fear of losing data is greater than my loathing of the cloud. My hope is to one day invest in proper hardware for offline backups, and minimize my cloud usage even further.

Astrology: The Pattern. Truthfully, I prefer the older version of Pattern, before the audio readings and the birth charts. Still, their astro-occasion readings and reminders are poignant and eloquent, and I use them as reflection guidance when I have a lot to think about (and when good ol’ psychology isn’t quite serving). I do have Mystic Mondays, Sanctuary, and Astrology Master on my phone, but I seldom open them now.

Health/Symptom Tracker: Flo. Okay, so that’s actually a period-tracking app. But it comes with just enough features that I also use it to log migraines, chronic pain, and the occasional unexplainable mood swing.

Online Shopping: Lazada. It felt a bit silly adding this here, and it also felt silly foregoing it. Lazada is the most sinful app on this list, but it’s been my family’s go-to for Christmas gifts, household supplies, and the occasional knickknack.

Dishonorable Mentions

(a.k.a. the Uninstall List)

  • Substack. I was truly enjoying this service last year, when I restarted my newsletter and made plans to write more often. But the fallout was an absolute deal-breaker and joining the exodus was a no-brainer.
  • BeautyMNL. Frankly, I haven’t used the BeautyMNL app for several years now, half from a lack of need and half from seeming inactivity at the company itself. It wasn’t until recently, when I learned about their issues regarding unpaid merchants, that I decided to uninstall the app completely.

Apps I’m Looking For

  • Password manager (Android and Web). I won’t mention the manager I’m currently using, for the simple reason of I’m planning to migrate as soon as I find an alternative.
  • File organizer (Android). Maybe there’s a better category for what I’m looking for here. But my phone storage is a dumping ground of screenshots, videos I’ll never look at, poorly-named image/document downloads, and the uncommon file duplicate caused by syncing or auto-saving reasons. I want something to help me manage that and digitally clean up.
  • Social media management tools (Android and Web). I’m trying to improve my social media game for content and self-promotion reasons, and I’m looking for tools that will make it less painful. I’m talking anything from aggregators like Flipboard to cross-publishers like Hootsuite or Buffer.

Freemium tiers take priority over free trials, and anything that plays nice with my existing apps is preferred.

Writing my State of the Apps was an interesting exercise. I actually have dozens of apps and services across all devices, and most of them didn’t cross my mind for this post. There are a lot of apps I keep “just in case,” and a few others that I keep because they do matter to me no matter how seldom I use them. It’s a curious reflection of what I consider to be important: the software, yes, but also the areas of my life they serve and which, in turn, I find worth sharing about.

If you wrote a State of the Apps, or similar tech stack post, I would love to read it!

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