iPhones and iPads are limited in the media file formats they can play. You can listen to MP3 and AAC music files, as well as Apple Lossless (ALAC), AIFF and WAV, and you can watch MP4 and M4V video files. But you can’t play FLAC or MKV, APE, or AVI. Plenty of third-party apps will let you play these files, but first you have to manually sync your files, either using the file sharing feature in iTunes, or over a network.
The $30 Mac app Waltr takes a different approach. Relieving you of the hassle of converting files, Waltr does it for you, and copies the files to your iOS devices. Drag files onto Waltr’s window, and it will convert and copy files in most any media format. There are no settings and no preferences, just a window onto which you drag items.
Markdown editors come in all shapes and sizes. Typed, the newest entry from Realmac, is a decidedly small one. You won’t find a sidebar of documents or a bevy of exporting options. It doesn’t crowd you with drop-down menus or overload you with formatting options. Everything about the experience is designed to help you stay focused on what you’re writing, no matter how long you’re going to be doing it.
Of course, Typed isn’t the first writing app with an ultra-minimal interface, but there’s an understated and meticulous elegance that sets it apart from others I’ve used. Each time you open a new blank template you’re met with an inspirational quote about the writing process, a trademark Realmac touch that makes even more sense here than in the company’s Clear app. There’s nothing in the window to draw your eye—turn off the word count option and there’s barely an interface at all—and even the font and theme menus are cleverly hidden on the left side of the document window. There are only five fonts to choose from, but each was carefully chosen for its weight and spacing.
Meghan Trainor might be all about that bass (’bout that bass, no treble) but frankly, we’re already sick of her ode to her own butt. But if you spend any time listening to Spotify, Rdio, or iTunes, it’s easy to grow tired of the latest pop earworm. That’s where Denied comes in. With a few clicks, you can banish your least-favorite songs or bands from earshot for good.
Denied installs a menubar icon in the shape of a palm-up hand. Click on it, and you’re presented with a list of filters you’ve created, and the option to build new ones. Type in the name of your least-favorite band (the developers have their own vendetta against Nickelback)—or the title of that awful song your ex used to sing all the time—and Denied will spare you the indignity of ever having to hear it again.
Tapbot's apps carry a distinctive aesthetic, looking like they were fused together from sheets of metal. You will find this design at work in Tweetbot, a popular Twitter app on OS X and iOS, and in the $2 iOS calculator Calcbot.
Calcbot joins Tweetbot in leaping to the desktop. It's a tougher sell on OS X than iOS, as Apple's Calculator app, built in to OS X, is already full-featured. Just like Apple's stock option, Calcbot does RPN, has a scientific mode, converts units of measurements, and saves the displays the calculation history in a pop-out tape.
Obsessively tracking packages is something we can all relate to. Yet no matter how often we click Refresh, there’s nothing we can do to speed up the delivery planes, trains, and trucks scurrying around the globe. To give yourself a break, you can let an app manage your tracking numbers, alerting you when the status of a package has changed.
Deliveries is a new package-tracking app for OS X that launched alongside OS X Yosemite. Developer Junecloud is no stranger to managing your tracking numbers, having offered an iOS app and OS X Dashboard widget for several years. The combination of iOS app and widget was more than sufficient for my use—that is, up until the Mac app launched and made everything better.
No matter how many features OS X borrows from iOS, one big difference Mac and iOS users is that we want to know what’s going on under the hood of our computers. Where you might be content to quit a wonky app or restart an iPad, on your Mac you want to investigate the problem up close and personal, even tracking page outs and diving into crash logs.
Apple offers such tools as Activity Monitor and Console for monitoring system performance, but Bjango has always understood that this information is most useful when it’s instantly at your disposal, not tucked away in the Utilities folder. With the fifth version of its popular iStat Menus app, the company has improved on nearly every aspect of the multitasking menu bar monitor, bringing the interface in line with Mavericks and Yosemite, and putting a greater emphasis on which apps are slowing you down.
Whether you’re a longtime iStat fan or a first-time user, you’ll immediately be struck by its modern look. From the settings to the dropdown graphs, no pixel has been left unturned, and a modern, minimal elegance pervades every element. iStat’s wealth of information has been thoughtfully calibrated and organized, and all of your data is even easier to see at a glance. And if you’re running Yosemite (and its accompanying dark menu bar and Dock feature), iStat will blend right in. The classic white background is still available, but once you see how vibrant the various graphs look using the black theme, you’ll have a hard time switching back.
For anyone who reaches for a pen and paper to take notes, reaching for an iPad app like Notability is already an adjustment, let alone a Mac, which of course doesn't even have a touchscreen.
On iOS, Notability is a popular and elegant note-taking app with an ink-first mentality. Now it's on the Mac, promising to bring that same design sense to the desktop and sync up all your notes with iCloud—and it largely succeeds. Though with free, note-taking powerhouses like Evernote and OneNote out there, is Notability worth your $10?