I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that, if you’re a nerd with a smartphone, there are likely a number of apps on your device that are there because they’re more cool or trendy than they are useful. Perhaps they’re purely aspirational–you’ll use them one day when you’re a better person.
I’ve been thinking about this lately while examining a few of my habits and trying out some simplified approaches to how I use my devices. I quickly discovered that I don’t need a complicated text editor, an RSS reader, or a dedicated read-later service on my iPhone.
As part of this self-examination, I’ve started to back away from social services like Twitter, and I’ve cut back on how much news I read. This led me to remove most of my RSS subscriptions from my Feed Wrangler account.
In the end, I had so few subscriptions that keeping my smart streams (which is Feed Wrangler parlance for folders) made no sense. Everything fit into one bucket.
Around this time, my friend Sam mentioned he had been giving Safari’s Shared Links a try. I had forgotten all about this feature. It can pull in links from Twitter and from RSS feeds. I moved my RSS subscriptions into Shared Links, and it’s working fantastically for me as a replacement for Feed Wrangler and Unread.
Score: -1 service, -1 app
Once I started using Shared Links, it made sense to give Reading List a try as a replacement for Instapaper. Having everything in Safari is really pleasant.
I lost some functionality in the switch. I used to have Pinboard auto-bookmark anything I added to Instapaper. I also had IFTTT sending all of the blog posts from a couple of sites I really like directly to Instapaper; I didn’t want to miss any of their posts. These things don’t work with Reading List.
After almost a month, I still don’t care. Haven’t missed it once. If I need to bookmark something, I use the share sheet provided by Pushpin. And now that I’m subscribed to fewer RSS feeds, I no longer accidentally overlook posts from my favorite sites.
Score: -2 services, -2 apps
Editorial, while a stunning achievement in iOS development and a wonderful text editor, is overkill for all but a handful of people. Byword, iA Writer, and Drafts are perfectly serviceable. Actually, most people would find Pages more familiar and comfortable.
I settled on Drafts for writing blog posts because it has a few shortcuts I really like and allows for quick jotting of ephemeral notes. I don’t have to care about syncing or tags or Dropbox or a Mac counterpart with Handoff built in or long-term management of text files. Just write some words and send them somewhere with an action or a share sheet. Very simple. Plus, it just feels lighter and less fiddly than Editorial.
If I need a note back on my Mac, there’s always email. Yes, it’s unsexy and not a nerdy solution, but it works and doesn’t require more software that could break or turn into abandonware.
I’m actually surprised that I don’t miss the functionality from Editorial. I had customized the app to such a degree that I thought I wouldn’t be able to live without it.
I’m planning a follow-up post that details how I use Drafts to write this blog.
Score: -2 services, -3 apps
Bonus: Two-Factor Auth
I’ve been a user and a fan of 1Password for years. It was recently updated with the ability to generate “one-time passwords,” which is what apps like Google Authenticator and Authy do. I had been using Authy, but now 1Password handles all my two-factor auth needs, and I have one less app on my phone.
Score: -2 services, -4 apps
The take-away here is that, despite how you self-identify (prosumer, power user, etc.), you might find that stock apps or simpler solutions can work just as well as (or better than) the fiddly, nerd-friendly alternatives. Choosing the simpler setup usually means introducing fewer potential points of failure in your day to day work. That stability could save you more time than any fancy workflow.