We cover a lot of apps at Lifehacker, and always feels like we’re behind—that’s how much new stuff arrives (or gets updated) on a weekly basis.
From iOS, to Android, to Mac, to Windows, we’ve played around with a lot of fun software this year. And this is our time to reflect on that which we’ve loved. You, too, because it’s not just about what we encourage you to check out; this roundup is going to cover the big apps you’ve been interested in this year, too.
The mighty Lifehacker app packs
I spent way, way, way too much time this year updating our famous Lifehacker app packs, and I highly encourage you to check them out. Even if you’re already familiar with some of the apps in the pack, I’m willing to bet that you haven’t heard about at least a handful of apps—and these might become your new favourites, you never know.
(Don’t forget to leave me comments for anything you’d like to see us consider next year!)
There are so many Windows apps out there, that picking a list of the very best, most must-install software for your desktop or laptop feels daunting. We've pored over pages of recommendations, countless forum posts, and lots of comments to come up with this year's Lifehacker Pack for Windows, a list of software champions across four categories: productivity, internet/communications, music/photos/video and utilities.
Trying to find the perfect iOS apps can be tough, and we’re willing to bet that your iPhone or iPad is full of pages and pages of apps. There’s just so much out there, it’s hard to come up with a short list of favourites. We understand. Allow us to help you with our freshly updated Lifehacker Pack for iOS.
Which Android app is worth a spot on your new smartphone or tablet? Trying to find the very best of the best is a challenging process, because there are millions of apps to pick from on the Google Play Store. Even if you just scan Google’s “top free” or “top paid” list on a daily basis, you’ll miss out on a lot of digital gems. Allow us to help you out with our freshly updated Lifehacker Pack for Android.
Software and apps you really liked this year
In no particular order, here’s a roundup of some of the top software-themed posts on Lifehacker this year.
Even though Chrome still has the market share, Mozilla has done some really interesting things with Firefox this year. I keep on meaning to switch my insane amount of tabs over to Mozilla’s browser to see how much better Firefox is at managing memory than Chrome—perhaps that’ll slip to a 2019 resolution. Beyond that, Mozilla has pushed hard on privacy and security this year in its browser and browser add-ons, and with the entire world (OK, Edge) switching to Chromium, it’s time to toss some love Firefox’s way more than ever before. A one-rendering-engine world.
Confession: I stopped playing The Sims Mobile a while ago. I never hacked it, but maybe I should have, given that all these kinds of games tend to have a finite lifespan for most players. (My poor sim will never be a world-class doctor.)
That said, The Sims Mobile was actually one of the more tolerable “send a person on a mission for hours” kinds of freemium titles I played this year, mostly for how much fun it was to (very slowly) trick out my SimHouse.
This is an oldie, but clearly still a goodie, because a lot of people wanted to learn about the magic of Symlinks this year. I totally get it, though. Even though Steam Mover hasn’t been updated since 2010, it’s an app I use on a weekly basis. It’s just that convenient when you store most of your Steam games on a boring mechanical drive, but want some to benefit from a (much smaller) SSD whenever possible.
Simple. Easy. That’s Google Tasks, in a nutshell. It’s a great, no-fuss way to keep track of your commitments (or shopping list), and you can use it on either Android or iOS. (You can also edit your task list directly from Gmail.)
Obnoxious advertising is never fun. If you’re a Samsung device owner—anything running Android 5.0 or later—you should check out this ad-blocking app from NeedleGames on the XDA forums. Installing it is a slightly arduous process, but it’s worth the hassle for a little more peace on your smartphone.
Even though the App Store for iMessage is a complete mess, Google’s extension actually adds a lot of useful features to Apple’s native app. As I wrote earlier this year:
“Tap it, and you can now drop all sorts of Google-curated information into your chats: the current weather; weather predictions for the next six days; ratings, hours, addresses, and phone numbers for nearby restaurants or interesting landmarks; trending news or YouTube videos; and GIFs. Power overwhelming.”
When you need to clone the contents of one hard drive to another—especially if you’re upgrading from a slow and boring HDD to a new and speedy SSD—you’ll want to pick up the free version of Macrium Reflect. (You’ll also want to follow this guide, if you’ve never done this before.)
I’m still using Hiya (Android, iOS) to cut down on annoying robocalls. It’s not perfect, but it beats having my smartphone ringing all the time. Also, thanks to a new update, you can now block numbers that share the first six digits of your number—in other words, annoying “neighbour” spam calls.
YouTube ads are annoying, especially on your smartphone. If you have an Android device, the handy app Newpipe will give you all the videos you want... and none of the advertising you’re normally forced to watch before them.
We’ll get a native Android (or Windows) iMessage app someday, right?
I took so much grief for this one, it’s not even funny. Well. It’s sort-of funny. As it turns out, getting picture-perfect comparisons between the iOS augmented reality measuring app and the Android augmented reality measuring app is a Sisyphean task. If my editors let me revisit this, I might measure more things in 2019—now that each developer has had a chance to work out the kinks in their apps.
No matter how you check your internet speeds, you should be regularly making sure that you’re getting as much performance from your ISP as you’re paying for. And if you’re not, it’s time to troubleshoot—whether that’s a device issue, a router problem, a cable or DSL modem inconsistency, or something else that’s causing your data to chug when you’re expecting it to fly.
Sure, you’ll have to jailbreak your older iPhone, but it would be a great holiday gift to turn your otherwise complicate device into a much easier-to-use remote (of-sorts) for a friend or loved one.
Never leave your router (or an extra pair of undies) at home. That, and check out some my top tips and apps suggestions for battling the horror that is a typical hotel’s wifi connection. Hey, it’s almost time for 5G, right?
I freakin’ love the Snapdrop web app, because it makes it easy to transfer files between your systems (Mac or Windows), as well as your smartphones (iOS and Android). If that’s not for you, this article also tells you how to set up network shares the old-fashioned way.
I covered a number of useful apps for keeping Windows clean and tidy in this article. My favourite? MiniBin. It’s just so cute.