December 9th, 2019

The Favourite Apps of an iPad Based Web Developer

Today is a look at all the apps that I love on my iPad. In most cases, I feel handicapped by not having them when I have to use macOS.

The first app, which gets a category of it’s own is Shortcuts. I’m not crazy having hundreds of shortcuts like some people, but this is the biggest thing I miss when I head back to my Mac. I use Shortcuts multiple times a day to convert text into the formats I want, create task lists in Things, format content and files for my site, and many other things.

Shortcuts is the glue that holds many of my workflows together.

Development

Blink shell

I’ve been a Vim user for years, and Blink Shell lets you connect to a remote server and use your regular old Vim setup easily. This is the key app I need if I want to keep building websites for clients because without this the rest of the apps listed aren’t really needed since I wouldn’t be able to do my work on my iPad.

Inspect

Yes you can view any sites you want with the built in Safari web browser, there are no development tools to speak of. No viewing source, or inspecting the results of console output, just view the page and guess why something isn’t working.

This is where Inspect steps in to fill a gap. It provides you with competent developer tools for your projects. The only thing I fault it on is the CSS browsing if you’re using any type of processing system like SASS. Where desktop browsers will show you the source of a line of CSS in your files, Inspect only sends you to the rendered output file. Not a deal breaker, but room for improvement.

Dash

One thing I’ve learned after coding for 10 years is that in many ways experienced developers are simply better at asking Google questions and searching through documentation. Dash is what helps me look through documentation as it downloads local copies of the docs I want so I can reference them as needed, even without internet connection.

I do wish it had 2 features from it’s macOS counterpart. First, I wish I could store code snippets in it and that they’d be shared across platforms. This is a problem I have yet to find a good solution for on iPadOS.

Second, I wish I could have tabbed documentation browsing. One tab would be jQuery, another for PHPUnit, another for WordPress...Again this is something that the macOS version has, and is a feature I miss on iPadOS.

Working Copy

I don’t actually use Working Copy much for Git in my development workflow because I connect to a remote server and operate Git via the command line there, but its’ a developer tool so it’s grouped there. What I do use Working Copy for is interacting with my Statamic site. I have a Shortcut that pulls my content down, then asks me to pick a new file to post to the site and gets it up there for me.

I’m in Working Copy many times a week to deal with content, and it’s great.

Secure Shellfish

While I usually stick with command line tools to migrate files around, sometimes you just need to look at a file on a server. Secure Shellfish handles this for me, and handles it well. Open Secure Shellfish and enter your details to connect to a server. Then head over to the Files app and you can connect to your server just like any other file provider in iPadOS.

Video

Lumafusion

As I’ve pushed more towards videos over 2019 LumaFusion has been awesome. It’s got more than enough power for me, and when I want to go deeper there are great channels like RobHK where I can steal transitions and learn more to up my video editing skills.

I use LumaFusion many times a week and love it.

Brusfri

One of the things I’m not happy about with my current video setup is the hiss you can hear in the audio directly out of my 90d. But you’ll never hear it because my first step after recording is to export the audio track and then run it through Brusfri to kill any constant background noise.

Brusfri has cut my washing machine running, any hiss and hum I get through my electrical lines that bleed into my mic setup. It just works and I love it.

Photo and Thumbnail Prep

The final set of apps for video all have to deal with editing my photos and thumbnails for YouTube. I’ll start by taking a picture, usually in my garage, and then import a few options into Photos. There I’ll select the one or two I want to do more with and open up Darkroom to tweak the images.

Once I’ve got the image where I want it, I import it into Phonto to make the YouTube thumbnail. Yes you can use it for free, but about 2 minutes with the ads convinced me to just pay for it and remove them. The one thing that Phonto doesn’t do great is proper image manipulation which is where Affinity Photo comes in.

For my video on Automating Things 3 with Shortcuts I wanted to add the Shortcuts and Things 3 icons to the image. I opened the image that Phonto output in Affinity Photo and then used the layers and masks to get what I wanted for the end thumbnail.

Writing

1Writer

Most of my writing is done in Markdown inside 1Writer. It’s light weight and has a great search if you want to find a specific document. I have the last 5 years of writing in 1Writer and searching through over 900k words is effortless, in fact I’m more likely to find a reference to something I wrote previously in 1Writer then use an exact phrase to find a link to the right piece on my site.

1Writer is also the current place for my code snippets. I simply set up a second folder in Dropbox to sync with 1Writer. It works, but I want a better solution for code snippets than I’ve been able to find so far with iPadOS.

I have a few other small issues with 1Writer, but every writing app I’ve ever used has issues. This has the issues I can live with.

Scrivener

When I’m writing books, Scrivener is the best tool I’ve found. I wish it had better markdown support, and that you could do more with your compiling from your iPad, but you can’t.

Scrivener for iOS lets me store research related to my writing project and get words down with ease. To finish off a book I end up heading back to macOS for Vellum, but the rest of my writing work is done on my iPad.

DEVONthink To Go

This is probably the app I’m most ambivalent about on iPadOS, I keep it not because it’s the best long term research assistant for iPadOS because it’s not. Where it shines is when you have a macOS machine running somewhere to run it’s rules and automations. When I’m in a bigger writing project I will open up macOS and dig through DEVONthink 3 to find content that I want to add to my project.

That does mean I’m watching for other apps that may take the place of DEVONthink To Go if they don’t update it with some proper deep features in the next year. There is no good reason to let your iPad app lag behind your macOS app in features.

Productivity

Things 3

On the personal productivity front my go-to app is Things 3. Yes OmniFocus is great but it’s simply too much for my needs. Things has just enough organization that I use it, and don’t get lost in the weeds. OmniFocus feels like I spend as much time managing my tasks as doing them.

I also heavily use the Things 3 x-callback-url: structure and their Shortcuts integrations.

Trello

Trello is my go to tool for interfacing with my clients. I’m running 1 - 3 web development projects at a time and I couldn’t keep on top of it without one place to go to when it’s time to make forward progress on something for a customer.

Misc

The final category is all the apps that I use regularly but aren’t pivotal to getting work don on my iPad.

First up is Scanner Pro, which I use daily to scan receipts and file them. The automations mean I press a single button and the PDF file gets sent to every spot it needs to go without me needing to do a bunch of work.

For RSS I prefer Reeder still. I haven’t check back much with Unread since my comparison a few months back so maybe it’s time to do that again.

To manage my passwords I’m all in on 1Password. We have a family account and a few shared vaults now that the kids have iPad’s to use. They can’t access their passwords, but parents can when on their devices to help them set up whatever it is that they’re doing.

We all love getting new stuff, and I use Deliveries to keep track of what is coming into the house in a given week. It syncs across all my devices and just works.

While I don’t use Drafts for my regular writing, I use it for something a few times a week. Maybe it’s a quick blog post idea, or jotting down a number while I’m out planning a new building project. Sure I could use 1Writer for this, but Drafts is really meant to be the first spot for your text, and if you’re so inclined you can take it much further.

Finally, we all have to deal with email at some point, and that is where Spark comes in for me. It has robust support for keyboard commands and lets you snooze emails if you want. I don’t snooze anything that’s crucial (Things is for this) but a reminder that I’m a backer of a Kickstarter campaign is something I’ll snooze for later so that I remember to check in on it to see if there are updates.

Sure there are some other apps on my iPad, but those are the ones crucial to getting my work done as a writer, developer, video person. What are your must have apps?