There's an app for that

It's 2021, and whatever apple computer you spend your work and leisure time working on, there seems to be an app for almost every human endeavour. Many great smaller apps that I regularly use don't have 'recommends' on the app store - the 'review' section often has a tumbleweed blowing through it. Truth is, most people whether they're disinclined, or just plain busy, don't leave reviews. That's where real world recommends come in.

How many times have you downloaded an app that just doesn't work? Or an app that is barely functional until you empty your wallet into the in-app purchases? Or an app that isn't supported through OS updates (my record is three days from iPhone download to unsupported after an update)?

I get it - third party software development is hard work. Also, Apple don't warn third party developers about upcoming software updates, so everyone is always caught on the hop. Still, as end users, we all want rock solid, especially when we come to rely on certain apps. Here's some rock solid recommendations for December 2021.

TechniCalc - one calculator to rule them all

Platform - iOS/MacOS

Price - £6.99

Download - app store

Your built in OS calculator is quite a basic affair, pretty much limited to the common + - x / and % functions. Undoubtedly useful, and free, I'm not knocking it, but I always want apps that do everything. Enter TechniCalc.

The GUI is simple and elegant, easy to use and navigate. It supports complex functions such as equations, matrices, vectors, series sums, square and cubic roots and much more. In addition, it has a unit converter, something that I use all the time. I just can't ever remember how many tablespoons half a US cup is, or oz to ml. The list goes on.

This little beauty means that I can replace at least 3 other apps on my phone, always a bonus. The developers state that this is the 'only calculator you'll ever need'. Not quite. Hours minutes and seconds function? BPM to MS? Not everything, but a lot of bang for your 7 bucks.

MusicMatch - open music streaming links in your app of choice

Platform - iOS

Price - free

Download - app store

In another life, I'd probably have been a librarian. I'm constantly grouping apps on my phone so I can find them, and this one went straight into my 'music listening' folder. Or should it go in the 'utilities' folder? A librarian's sleepless night....

Put simply, when you receive a link, you copy it and open MusicMatch, which will then open it in your preferred app. It only supports Apple Music and Spotify at the moment, but Pandora, YouTube music and Tidal are coming soon. I emailed the developer and requested BandCamp, so hopefully that too will be added.

It doesn't sound like much, but it's free and saves a lot of faffing about. Thank you MusicMatch.

Plant The World - digital and real world tree planting

Platform - iOS

Price - free with in-app purchases

Download - app store

This is a curved ball - I'm no great gamer myself, but this one caught my eye, and my younger kids love it. It's one of the most inventive games I've seen in years.

The developers describe this as a 'metaverse on a map the size of the earth' - meaning that it's a GPS locked multiplayer adventure that takes place in your part of the world with fellow players. The object of the game is to conquer the world map by planting trees, collecting materials and food as you go to allow you to plant more trees - all the while working with, rather than against your local community as you go along. The developers use 50% of their profits to plant real trees in the real world - a nice touch.

If this all sounds a little familiar...remember Pokémon Go? Scores of kids wandering round, eyes glued to screens bumping into things? Maybe this isPokémon Go for a climate changing world, but I reckon it's a good message and a healthy game mindset.

Maybe my kids will end up planting real trees too. Or at least do the washing up.

Keka - is there anything it can't unstuff?

Platform - MacOS

Price - £3.49

Download - app store

My last two offerings may seem a little unexciting, but I can't recommend them enough.

Keka a fully featured file archiver - and of course extractor, supporting a long list of file types. My MacBook Pro can, of course, compress and extract ZIP files seamlessly, but when it comes to RAR, TAR, 7Z (etc.) files, I've always ended up using several different apps. Until I discovered Keka. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, I still haven't found anything it can't deal with. It lives in my doc and I just drop onto it, and done. One app has replaced four.

OneSwitch - a place for everything

Platform - MacOS

Price - £3.49

Download -

 I love this utility. Very simple to use, get used to using and set up. It sits in the menu bar and provides quick on/off access to hide desktop icons, show/ hide invisible items, sleep, AirPod connection, do not disturb, dark/light mode, display settings and much more. The developers are frequently adding new features, and it's replacing Control Center for many people - me included. Nice.

The best things in life aren't always free

The boys and girls that do all the dev for us need paying. End of. Would you slave away all day (and night) for free? Pay for your apps, support developers and they'll support you. Donate if suggested, and please don't pirated software. Be part of the solution, not the problem.


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