• My Favourite iPhone Apps 2021

    After sharing my favourite Mac apps of 2021, I thought I’d continue and share my favourite iPhone apps from this year. In truth, they’re quite similar to my favourite apps for the last five years or so.

    I haven’t included iPad apps and while some would repeat, there would definitely be some differences.

    Similar to last time, and again stolen from Ali Abdaal, I’m using the categories create, consume, connect, coordinate.


    These are the apps I use to make things, whether that is text, images, or physical activities.


    drafts app icon hand drawn

    Drafts is the marmite app of Apple nerds. Either you love it and it’s essential or you just don’t get it.
    For me, drafts is a text scratch pad; a place where I can put something down without worrying where it will go. OR, where I can write something with more control than trying to type in a tiny website text input box.

    The features of drafts that suit this are.

    Drafts opens in a fresh note

    I set a couple of minutes as my refresh time so I can go back and forth to webpages without losing a note, but when inspiration strikes as I walk, it’s a blank canvas.

    Drafts actions help me get text where it needs to go.

    The actions in drafts make it easy to transform text into todo actions, emails, references notes practically anything. This has become more important for me as the Obsidian mobile app still isn’t out so I rely on drafts to capture an idea and save it.

    iA Writer

    iA Writer

    a hand drawn version of the ia writer icon

    iA Writer is my long form writing application and is also connected to my Obsidian vault. So I can draft and outline for an article while commuting or write a whole piece if I really want.
    As I don’t have Obsidian on the phone yet, iA Writer also lets me find, edit and update notes in my “second brain” or whatever you want to call it.


    a hand drawn camera icon

    The camera is one of my most used apps. Whether it’s a quick photo or a little video of my family doing something cute, the camera app is easy to use, always there and does a good enough job 90% of the time.

    Filmic pro

    a hand drawn version of the filmic pro app icon

    I started making videos using just my iPhone and iPad (In fact, my whole 30 days of sketch noting course used those two devices). Filmic pro really helped raise the quality of videos that I could create with these devices.
    Recently, it added support for the DJI Osmo Mobile 3 which has been great for me as an owner.
    Admittedly, I shoot less with filmic pro since I got my Nikon z50 but it’s good to have as an option.


    This is a stupid little press-up counter (I know, press-ups in create? But it doesn’t fit any other categories). I love it because it just counts and tracks the number of pushups you do. While this isn’t the worlds greatest exercise routine, it’s such a small activity that It’s the perfect break during the work day.

    Oh and you can get it for free.


    This selection of apps are for taking in content, from audio, video, and text. There is one bonus item that is almost a connector.

    Pocket casts

    a hand drawn version of the pocket casts icon

    Podcasts means pockets casts to me.
    I’ve tried other apps like overcast but I’ve used pocket casts since I was an android user many years ago.
    The desktop app is a real bonus.


    I don’t often use the YouTube app on my phone and when I do, I usually what the screen off but listen to a video lecture (thank you YouTube premium).

    YouTube music

    a hand drawn version of the YouTube music icon

    YouTube premium means I get YouTube music too. While not the best music service, it is good enough. And if you like jazz, the live performances and covers are actually a positive thing.


    hand drawn scribd icon

    Scribd is like Netflix for books (and audiobooks). I love this app and it’s helped me read 3x more books last year.
    Use my referral code to get a 60 day trial (instead of the usual 30 days) and give me some free days too.


    hand drawn kindle icon

    Not every book is on scribd but there is kindle. I know the iBooks app might be better, but I’m in the kindle ecosystem after buying ebooks years ago for it (plus my Apple account is set to Poland and that is…tricky).


    hand drawn Instapaper icon

    Saving articles to Instapaper is a core part of my effective online reading strategy. While there are many options, Instapaper works well for me and has some nice design choices.


    hand drawn readwise icon

    Readwise turns my highlights (from kindle, Instapaper and other sources) into a reviewable and sharable stream. I love the daily review, graphics it create and it saves all my highlights into Evernote to review later.

    (p.s. the link below gives us both a free month)


    hand drawn logos icon

    Logos is a premium Bible app and Christian resource centre. You can access dictionaries, commentaries, devotionals, maps, courses, as well as create notes.
    Really it’s part of the whole logos ecosystem which is what makes it so powerful. It’s great for both reading a morning scripture and preparing sermons.


    The iPhone was primarily designed as a communications device and so it’s no surprise there are a good number of apps to contact people.

    Messeges and FaceTime

    FaceTime icon hand drawn

    Living abroad means video calls are a big deal for us. For the people who have it, messages and FaceTime are the best way to connect.

    I also use WhatsApp and Facebook messenger but I don’t really like using either.


    a hand drawn base camp icon

    Chad Moore and I use Basecamp for side project sprints. I don’t tend to use the iPhone app but I do sometimes. The main feature I find useful with the phone app is sending some causal messages back and forth as well as occasionally ticking off a task.


    a censored slack icon

    I’m part of a few fun slacks. Again, I don’t tend to use it on my phone but it’s a nice option especially for sharing pictures of Sketchnotes to the sketchnote army slack.

    Microblog + Sunlit

    hand drawn microblog icon

    Microblog was in my list of favourite Mac apps too and for good reason. The easy publishing and social network are fantastic for personal blogging. Sunlit provides a photo focused option for browsing and publishing images.


    I should hate Twitter, but I love it (while having moments of hate). I’ve left before but then come back for some reason and find myself sinking time in.
    Although I’m sure I ought to like an app like tweetbot, the official app caught me with its support for polls and threads.


    The key criteria in my first smart phone was a digital calendar. I wanted to address my natural poor organisation and so it’s no surprise that this category is still crucial to me.


    hand drawn streaks icon

    I track a string of habits in streaks, currently;

    1. Reading the Bible
    2. Walking 10,000 a day
    3. Reading for at least 10 mins
    4. Journal
    5. Brushing my teeth for 3 mins twice a day
    6. Doing at least 10 press-ups

    I occasionally add a new habit to try and make it stick and start with the lowest activation energy I need.
    I love the new widget.


    hand drawn todoist icon

    I don’t really like Todoist, but I’m happy enough with it and it works everywhere. This was a bigger deal when I was using a PC for work but since moving back to a Mac, I’m looking at moving all over to OmniFocus again.
    Still, Todoist keeps me organised and the karma aspect is a great little gamification. While it may not be perfect, it hits a good simplexity balance for me, where I can make it more or less complex depending on my needs.

    (If you sign up with the link below, I get two months of pro for free)


    I’ve really come to rely on Trello recently. I manage my works content calendar in Trello and being able to respond to comments on the go can be really handy in our flexi-work situation.

    And my personal status board in Trello helps me stay on top of work and life.
    The mobile app is really fantastic and Trello does a great job of making it simple to move cards around even on the phone.


    a hand drawn fantastical icon

    Fantastical is one of the first apps I bought due to its natural language input and great display. I’ve not paid for the subscription but have lock in to some of the premium features due to past payments.
    I really like how it looks and the controls it offers.

    Apps I don’t like, but have to use

    At some point during writing I started to include apps that I use a lot and then realised I don’t like them! So I created a new section.


    We use Skype a lot for work.
    I do not like Skype.
    Although the iOS app is better than the desktop one.

    Facebook (& business suite)

    My church uses Facebook a lot, so I use Facebook. That’s basically it. The business app is great for sharing updates or sending a message to a potential visitor.

    Notable absences

    Both apps that I don’t have, or don’t really use.

    No mail

    I frequently delete email apps from my phone to avoid the curse of the pings and temptation to dive into them. I’ve done the same with social networking sites, using the web versions when necessary.
    I just checked and technically I do have mail on my phone, but it’s with an email account that gets no email but lets me send stuff IF I need.


    I still have instagram but…meh, it’s there. Sometimes I find myself scrolling through it but it’s really not my social network.

    What are your favourite iPhone apps?

    I’d love to know any iPhone apps that you are crazy about which aren’t on my list.

  • My Favourite Mac Apps 2021

    I recently got hold of a new MacBook Air with M1 chip. It’s been a fantastic purchase and eliminated my daily frustrations with my work issued PC as well as provided a personal device for creating on. While setting my new computer up, I decided to review some of the tools I use and investigate some of the great apps I hadn’t had time to try. I thought I’d share my favourite Mac apps for 2021 that have made their way to my new M1 MacBook Air.

    I’m stealing the structure of Ali Abdaal with categories for Create, connect, consume, and coordinate.

    Table of Contents


      Safari + Firefox

      Most of my work takes place in a web browser. Whether that is writing on this site, coordinating over Google docs or some other web app. Web apps are increasingly the main tools for much creation and it’s good to acknowledge that.

      I use two web browsers so I have a clear division between day job work and personal use of the computer. Both Firefox and Safari are memory friendly, unlike chrome, which I think is trying to destroy computers at all times.


      My new favourite app. I tried a few of the modern note taking apps like Notion and Evernote, but Obsidian has been the one that stuck with me. I really like how it use plain text markdown files, works on any desktop, can sync using my iCloud storage (and works with dropbox et al) and has a flexible interface.

      It’s not as user-friendly as something like Craft, which seems like a less fiddly and more attractive alternative to Notion; Nor is it as customisable or power user focused as some other alternatives, but it hits the mark for me. And If I do choose to change, it will be easier thanks to the markdown support.

      iA Writer

      A second markdown editor!?! Yes.

      iA Writer is my app for writing, Obsidian is for notes and ideas. But both use the same files storage.

      iA Writer has a few extra features that make it a great choice for writing in

      • publishing tools
      • different preview options
      • syntax highlighting

      As someone who does a lot of writing in one form or another, these features are really useful.

      Final Cut Pro

      I’ve been making more videos recently, including some for an upcoming Sketchnote course. Final Cut Pro allows me to make better looking images and is fast. With the new M1 MacBook Air, video render times are a fraction compared to my old 2013 MacBook Pro (although I’m not sure they are as fast as my 2017 iPad Pro using lumafusion pro. They might be about equal. Which is a testament to both machines).


      Writing online almost requires graphics, and Canva is one of the quickest ways to create custom graphics. It doesn’t have all the power features you might want but it is helps get a good result fast.

      Canva is free to use but the pro version gives you automatic resizing of graphics (i.e. make one design for a blog, then quickly create a Pinterest pin, twitter image and Facebook image). You may also pay for premium add ons.


      Drafts is the place where text starts. While I mostly make use of Drafts on my Phone, having access to it on my Mac means I can both make quick notes and easily access notes I took on my phone. Drafts is great as it’s easy to start a note and then you can decide what to do with the text later.

      A couple of common uses on the phone include

      • writing a message or input here instead of using a buggy website interface.
      • Starting a task/note, then working out what it is and where it should go
      • Writing a quick note which I expand later and save to obsidian.
      • Taking down details from a phone call and then working out what to do.

      This is basically my inbox before data get’s sent to where it’s needed. I could probably replace iA Writer or obsidian but drafts stores data in a strange way and I like having a different location for storage.

      So yes. I use three markdown editors…My list of six create apps includes three markdown editors. There’s nothing strange about this at all.


      Pocketcasts desktop

      I’ve used a tone of different podcast apps and they all have advantages and downsides. For the longest time, pocket casts was the only app that had a desktop and mobile version (great for the office).
      Now, there is the overcast mobile app on the Mac thanks to catalyst. Still, I have long term loyalty to pocketcasts and have a lifetime Pocketcasts Plus account. I’m glad there are other options, but pocketcasts works for me.

      YouTube Music

      Because I pay for YouTube Premium (I hate those ads, but want people to get paid), I get YouTube music. While there are probably better music services, YT music is good enough for me. And if you like jazz, you can get some great alternative versions of songs.



      Chad Moore and I have been using Basecamp for side project sprints. It’s fantastic. I love how it encourages more asynchronous communication but also has chat facilities. It’s been the perfect solution for what we’re doing.


      I’m still on a few slacks. Slack is the standard, but perhaps not the best anymore. Still, there’s nothing really wrong with it. In truth, it is the communities like the Sketchnote Army Slack which make it.


      MicroBlog is the friendliest place on the internet. It’s a great place to learn, communicate and share. I find that people generally start from a position of trust rather than suspicion which contributes to this attitude.



      Todoist is a task management app. I’ve found myself on Todoist as it was one of the best cross platform tools. Now I can use a Mac for work, I might be able to switch to a task management app which I prefer like Omnifocus or things.

      Still, all my tasks are currently in Todoist and the literal cost of switching is holding me back. For now.


      Trello is a great project management if you like the Kanban system. Luckily, I do.

      Trello let’s me generate ideas and keep track of what is done, waiting for others, in projects etc. Here is my project status board which I’ve just started using. It provides a high-level view of what I’m working on.

      While I could use Todoist for this, I use Trello mostly for collaborating with other people and it’s easier to do with Trello than Todoist.

      P.s. this link is a referral link so I can get Trello gold.


      Meetingbar puts zoom, google meet etc meeting links in your menu bar. As someone who has daily zoom meetings and is fed up with having to, open the calendar event, find the zoom link, and click on the zoom link (while getting messages asking if I’m joining), this is God send.

      And it’s free.


      Speaking of the Menubar, Bartender cleans up your Mac menu bar, allowing you to disable and hide items including showing active items. I haven’t really felt the need for it on my new Mac, but my old MacBook’s menu bar looked terrible, so I’m taking pre-emptive action.


      Alfred is a spotlight replacement. It let’s you type to find apps and files rather than click through the GUI. The reason I like Alfred is the clipboard manager. My use of windows for the last year and a half has shown me just how useful clipboard managers can be!

      More to come?

      I’m sure there are a few items missing from my list. I’m also sure that I’ll discover more great apps throughout the year — I’m even testing a couple right now that may make the list!

      So I’ll continue to update the article as I discover more magnificent mac apps.

      In the meantime, I’d love to know any recommendations you have.

    • Although analogue sketchnoting tools like pen and paper are great, you’ll probably want to use some digital sketchnoting tools at some point, especially if you are thinking of using what you or your students create online or in a digital medium.

      As such, you’ll need some digital sketchnoting tools. There are two broad groups, those where you make an analogue version and then digitize it so you can use it digitally, or those tools where you make a digital version of a sketchnote from the start. I’ll look at both starting with scanning tools which you can then adapt.

      Scanning tools

      Although you could use a flat-bed scanner or a DSLR camera to scan sketchnotes, the easiest tool for most people is their smartphone. It’s something that is so widespread that most people have them where ever they are. Plus the fact that they are a mini computer with an internet connection lets you get your scan where it needs to quickly. There are a lot of different scanning apps that you can use but I’d recommend checking out

      • Scanbot (for sending scans to different locations and the ability to turn scans into PDFs)
      • Adobe scan (you can send this to a graphics editing program as a vector or a picture. This is more useful for editing.)


      There are lots of different hardware options for making sketchnotes but there are two options that stand above the rest in my opinion

      Wacom tablet

      These plug into a laptop or desktop computer and allow you to use a pen as your input style. They come in a wide range of sizes and styles with different features. If you want to write and draw directly into your computer, this is probably the best option.

      iPad Pro and Apple Pencil

      Personally, I use an iPad Pro for everything I do, not just drawing but it is exceptionally good at helping to make sketchnotes and doodles. The Apple Pencil is an incredibly accurate stylus and the portability of the device makes it great to use at a desk, at home on the sofa or on the go.

      Of course, there are some android tablets (and windows ones) which also have styli. Some of which are apparently very good but seeing as I’ve never used them, I can’t vouch for them.

      iPad Sketching Apps

      I’ve tried a few different sketching apps on the iPad and I honestly don’t think there is a best app, there are just apps which are better at different things than others. Some of these are more expensive than others and they can all help. Here are some options

      • Paper by WeTransfer (simple, few options and fun. The pen tool works well. Plus it’s free. If you have a non “pro” ipad, you can buy their stylus)
      • Linea Sketch (Slightly more complex than the Paper app, there are useful built in templates and layers)
      • Concepts (free with an in app purchase. It uses vectors letting you adjust afterwards, not a wide range of brushes)
      • Procreate (multiple layers, beautiful brushes, lots of options, can record videos. My personal favourite)
      • Adobe sketch (one that I don’t really use but apparently it is good and support Adobe’s creative cloud apps)
      • Affinity Designer (an vector based app that has a mac app to go along with it. Really powerful)

      Personally, my favorites are Linea Sketch and Procreate. I use Linea for quick sketches and unimportant items, and Procreate when I want to make something really special.

      Icons to use in graphics

      If you really “can’t draw” then you can steal icons that other people have made and use them in your own work. There are a few services and sites out there which offer this service but the best is the noun project. They have a wide range of icons which you can pay to use royalty free, or give attribution and use for free. A great way if you really can’t do a good drawing of something tough. It’s also a great source of ideas for nouns (both concrete and abstract) which you can then adapt.

      Check out these great digital sketchnoting tools!

      These aren’t the only tools but they are a great start that will help you get ahead.

      Do you know of any great digital sketchnoting tools?