If I could slap one disclaimer over every Lifehacker article, it’d be this: Not every hack, tip, or app is for everyone. In that spirit, here are the Lifehacker-approved apps that I’ve stopped using. I didn’t install them on my new laptop, and I’m curious how many of you have abandoned them too.
Bear and Simplenote
I feel a sort of normie shame when I actually like Apple’s default apps. But while several of my Lifehacker colleagues use third-party note apps like Bear and Simplenote, I’m happy with Notes. It syncs easily through iCloud, it’s searchable, it uses folders. I’ve even gotten used to the bad, unchangeable default font. Because crucially, Notes supports basic text formatting.
Every otherwise decent Notes competitor is text-only or Markdown. I really don’t understand this! All the old-style text editors have WYSIWYG formatting: Word, Google Docs, TextEdit, Notepad. Hell, Mac’s Stickies app supports text formatting. Why can’t the “bundle of notes” apps handle this without resorting to pseudo-code solutions like Markdown? Why is it so hard to use bold and italics? I don’t want to resort to a heavy, subscription-based app like Evernote. Speaking of which:
I’m probably just using Evernote wrong. But now I’m not using it at all. I used to file away interesting bits of “inspiration” into this scrapbook app, saving images, ideas, web pages that might get deleted. But when I hit the limits of the free version (two devices per user, with no offline mobile access), I realised I could easily get by with simpler apps, rather than pay $9.99/month for Evernote Premium.
The vast majority of my notes are text, so I’m fine with Notes (and occasionally Wunderlist for list-based notes). If I’m working on a visual project, I sometimes save things to a private Tumblr (free). If you need to combine both, you could use OneNote or Google Keep. Or if you’re like me, you don’t really need an everything bucket.
I love Flexibits’s calendar app Fantastical, so I wanted to love their newest app too. Cardhop was supposed to reinvent how I interact with my contacts. Instead of hunting through different communication channels, I could start every interaction from the Cardhop app, using it as a command line, kind of like Spotlight or the Chrome address bar.
Mac: Flexibits, creators of Lifehacker's favourite calendar app Fantastical, has released its command-line approach to contacts with Cardhop. This new contacts app is oriented around actions rather than your contacts database; you mainly use it by writing commands, kind of like talking to Siri. It's a potentially compelling interface — if you can remember to use it.
But as I wrote at the time, the hardest thing about Cardhop is remembering to use it. I can’t break the habit of using the default Contacts app, as inferior as it is, or beginning conversations in various apps, even if I later find myself hunting around for old messages—did I send Cole that link over Google Hangouts, Twitter DM, or text?
After a couple of weeks, I didn’t use my free review copy of Cardhop. So I can’t recommend paying over $20 for it. It’s hard enough for me to figure out which tasks are faster or slower with Siri. I don’t have the mental room for another command line.
Maybe you really should switch to the browser that prioritises privacy instead of hooking you into Google’s services. Firefox caught up to Chrome in speed and features. But during the years that it lagged behind, I grew reliant on a lot of Chrome extensions, and I’m not dying to hunt for, and calibrate, their Firefox equivalents.
Since its debut, Chrome has grown in popularity, though its once-stellar reputation has taken a bit of a hit as of late. Examples of Chrome-only sites are more and more common, reminiscent of the days when Microsoft's Internet Explorer dominated the web browser market. It's been shown to be a massive memory hog as well, slowing down machines as users create more and more tabs.
OmmBits by OmmWriter
Is there a secret government grant for everyone who invents a new writing app with “no distractions” mode? When I have a writing project that doesn’t involve online research, adding in links, or any other app-switching tasks, then I try to write in a physical notebook. So I stopped experimenting with these fullscreen, “locked down” apps like OmmWriter and OmmBits that supposedly force you to write.
If you want a cheap app for temporarily hiding your lesser-used menu bar items, you might choose Vanilla over the more mature app Bartender. But in the long run, Vanilla’s minimalist interface felt too minimalist, so I switched back.
Keyboard Maestro is a sophisticated control center for triggering functions with keyboard shortcuts, gestures, or even by plugging in your headphones. It can manage multiple clipboard entries, position your windows, record macros to auto-complete, or configure custom notifications for events. It’s like a localised IFTTT. But if you, like me, were just using it as an overpriced text replacement tool, then you—like me—can get by with your Mac’s built-in text replacement features.
I used to delete apps to free up hard drive space, but these days I can clear up a lot more space by de-syncing my giant folders full of videos, or local downloads of my bloated streaming music collection. AppZapper’s main function seems to be freeing up a tiny bit more hard drive space—and the “clutter” of buried configuration files I was never going to see anyway. But these days I don’t delete many apps in the first place.
I think something fundamental changed. Years ago, when I switched to a new computer, I had to copy my applications over with my other files, or reinstall them from a CD. Now I buy all my apps online, so it’s easier to download the latest version and find the licence key in my email. (For years, the last holdover was all my pirated Adobe apps, but now I pay for Creative Cloud.)
I might keep a computer for four or five years, not long enough for the apps to pile up too high. Then when I get a new machine, if I haven’t used an app in a long time, I just don’t bring it over. I’ve never gotten burned by this system.
I asked Lifehacker tech editor David Murphy about ditching AppZapper. He personally thinks that if you already paid for it, you might as well keep using it. But he recommends the free alternative AppCleaner.
And so on
There are plenty of other apps I didn’t port to my new computer: specialised media players like Cog and Miniplay; the free audio editor Audacity; abortive experiments like the YouTube downloader VideoDuke and the menu bar to-do app ThoughtTrain. Moving to a new computer is like moving to a new home; you get rid of a lot of clutter to avoid the hassle of carrying it over. What apps did you leave behind with your last old computer?