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My TOP 5 go-to productive apps

My days are spent surrounded by Macs – here are the apps I couldn’t get by without

productive apps
image courtesy of author

Groundhog Day

Some apps I have and rarely use. Others, I could not get through a day without. Does that sound familiar?

I guess, to some extent, we are creatures of habit, and will always revert to what we know best. Familiarity actually makes for a more productive workflow. As much as I love learning new methods of working, when the odds are stacked against you, you need to be able to sit down, open up your Mac and just work.

I’m sure you have your favourite apps, but today, I will run through my essential five apps – mostly productive ones, but also a couple that just do their bit, to get me through the day.

It all starts on the way to the studio, in the car…


Back at the WWDC event in March, my interest piqued when I heard Apple mention that a new version of CarPlay would be rolling out in the next year or so.

I guess I started using CarPlay a few years back now, and from the get-go, I just loved how easy and intuitive it is. If you’ve not had a chance to use it, it sort of brings your home screen to the car’s main display. Or better put, CarPlay places the most pertinent and synergistic apps directly in-front of you.

Maps are great. You can enter your destination on your phone before setting off, launch CarPlay, and the map and directions are loaded for you. As you’d expect, the car reads out a live update of what you’d need to do as well. iMessage is another winner, as Siri reads the messages to you, and lets you dictate your responses. Simple and safe.

The suggested update looks as if the integration of CarPlay is set to go to the next level. It may take some time for car manufacturers to catch-up, but eventually, you’ll be able to add widgets to any one of several in-car displays, and even the climate control and essential operating temperatures will be seen through CarPlay. Sad as it is, I would not buy a car that did not run CarPlay. I know Android has its version, but, hey, I’m an Apple boy!

For now, all I’d love is a wireless connection to CarPlay, but besides that, CarPlay is a great app.

So, with the day started, let’s get creative.


This might be an app that you’ve not heard of, but if you are a writer, then I suggest you get familiar with it. In fact, it is the app I am writing this blog-post in now.

It’s a powerful, simple to use writing app, that offers a distraction-free environment. That is not to say it’s not laden with useful features, but they are all integrated, rather than having endless menus and distracting ribbons at the top of the page. In short, Ulysses helps writers focus on their writing by keeping the bells and whistles of its interface to a minimum, without skimping on features.

One of its strengths, is that it is a Markdown workflow. What’s that? Markdown applies basic formatting to text without the need to look for menus or buttons. Have you ever used underscores to put something in italics or asterisks in to make text bold? If so, you’ve used Markdown.

One of Ulysses other undoubted triumphs, is the manner in which it exports. You merely write in Ulysses, and then export to your chosen platforms. The last things I do in the Ulysses app, is to add tags, an image and a slug-line. I send it first to my website. From there, I grab the post’s URL and paste in Medium. A quick bit of re-formatting, and that’s it done – ready for you to read.


As you know, I am an Apple boy through-and-through. Guilty as charged, but, going hand-in-glove with my Mac’s is Creative Cloud and the suite of Adobe apps.

I know all about the raging argument over subscriptions, but I happen to think that for around £45 a month, having access to all the creative apps Adobe have, represents pretty good value.

I have grown up with Adobe over the years, and the synergy between their apps, and the similarity of how they work is part of the appeal. Most days will see me using Audition, Premiere Pro, Indesign…and the undisputed king…Photoshop.

It is one of those apps, that once you start to use it, it becomes addictive. There is so much to it, and the results are creative, and fun. Even the images at the top of these posts each day finds its way through Photoshop first. I wouldn’t dream of posting an image without doing some kind of correction work to it first.

Of course, another reason that I use the app, is for my YouTube thumbnails. Creators vary greatly on how, or when, they create the thumbnail for their videos. Recently, I have changed my workflow. Once I have decided on the theme for the video it, I will story-board it, think of a title and search for tags. I will then write the description, and make the thumbnail. Simple as they look, they will often take me a few hours to create.

I will take my first rough shot, then dump in Photoshop to see how it frames up, and then make all the tweaks to the set. Without Photoshop, I’d be lost.

Staying with Creative Cloud

Premiere Pro

I know already…being a Mac boy, I really should be on Final Cut Pro. As much as a tiny part of me wishes I was, there is no valid point I can make for the switch.

Like I mentioned earlier on, familiarity makes for a productive working day. If I had to spend time re-learning FCP, I’d waste so much time. Anyway, at the end of the day, in essence, they both do the same thing – cut and chop video ready to export.

Audition and Premiere work brilliantly together, and you can edit audio in Audition, and bounce it back to Premiere in the blink of an eye. Premiere is highly flexible in its file formats you can import, and the timeline is super simple to assemble. Adding third-party graphics and effects is a dream, and there are any number of quick export options.

Is it better than Final Cut? I don’t know, but I do know Premiere is powerful and pretty intuitive. Indeed, as soon as this is written and posted, that is the app I will be heading over to.

And lastly to soundtrack for my day at the studio…

Apple Music

Now, I’ll give it to you, purely for the algorithm, Spotify wins. But for me, Apple Music has a couple of unique selling points that will always grab me.

I guess, as a hangover from radio days, I have a massive library of music. Whilst much of that is vinyl, I also have a ton in digital format – either CD or downloads. I find the libraries of Spotify & Apple Music are pretty similar, certainly for my tastes. But where Apple Music scores for me, is that I can listen to my library.

Although not downloaded to my Mac, I can listen via iTunes Match, and simply stream it. The other area that the Apple Music app wins-out, is with Dolby Atmos, Spatial & Lossless Audio.

I wear my AirPods Pro 2 pretty much all day. The noise-cancelling eliminates most unwanted, or distracting sounds, that would take my attention away from writing. Apart from the ANC, though, AirPods come in to their own with Spatial Audio.

Listening to a track correctly mastered for Spatial is shockingly real. With head-tracking enabled, it is almost as if the band are living inside your head! And if I have the extra few moments, I’ll grab a pair of my BeyerDynamic, studio headphones, hook them up to a DAC and listen to Lossless, for a genuine, immersive audio experience.

By the way, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but beneath all my posts, I leave a link to the album I have been listening to that day, as I write. Thought it might bring you in to my world…you lucky soles!

Wrapping up

There you go then, my five essential, creative, recreational & productive apps that I turn to every day. Let me know what keeps you busy on your Mac or iPad during your days.

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Get in the vibe and listen along to today’s chosen soundtrack. I wrote this whilst listening to get in the vibe and listen along to today’s chosen soundtrack. I wrote this whilst listening tohttps://music.apple.com/gb/album/chocolate-milk-expanded-edition/836005426

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