Figure Out How Many Apps You Have Installed On Your iOS Device (And Get Rid Of The Ones You Don’t Use)

I recently got a new iPhone and just like every other time, I wanted to start with a clean slate and install apps as I discovered I needed them. The only thing preventing me from setting up my new iPhone without restoring from a backup was the fact that I would lose my Messages and Health history. So now I have a new iPhone that has a lot of apps, many of which I probably don’t use, but I haven’t been able to discover an easy way to see a list of all the apps I have installed so I can figure out which ones to keep and which ones to delete.

This task has been on my Someday list in Things for a while. It has been one of those unimportant tasks that I’ve just grown tired of seeing and even recently considered deleting it all together. I’ve been sick the few days and haven’t had the energy to do work work, but I’ve been itching to do something. Today would be the day I would figure it all out. Somehow I was going to end up with a list (ideally a CSV) of all the apps installed on my iPhone so I could quickly and easily decide which ones to keep and which ones to delete.

I opened DuckDuckGo and started searching. It became immediately apparent I was not the only one that wanted to figure this out. After trying a few different search strings and hitting a bunch of dead ends, I landed on a Stack Exchange thread with the the answer – an app called Configurator, made by Apple no less. I wasn’t aware of it, but Apple obviously made the app for people that manage and configure lots of iOS devices. I downloaded the app on my MacBook Pro, fired it up and clicked on the Apps item in the left column. It looks something like this:

Once you’re looking at that list, you can choose Actions from the menu options and navigate to Export > Info, check Device Information, choose Installed Apps (and anything else you’d like in the resulting file) and click Export. In a matter of a few seconds or less, you’ll have a CSV you can open in your spreadsheet app of choice.

According to the resulting CSV, I have just short of 200 apps installed on my iPhone (198 to be exact) which is completely insane, but not entirely surprising. I most definitely do not use nearly 200 apps. This list wasn’t going to help me figure out which apps I use the most, but there were a few somewhat interesting insights. The four “oldest” apps, based on release date (July 11, 2008) were eBay (almost never use), NYTimes, Shazam and Yelp (do not like using). This makes sense given the iPhone App Store opened for business on July 10, 2008 and on July 11, the iPhone 3G was released and was the first iPhone that came pre-loaded with the App Store. So those four apps were some of the first apps that launched with the App Store. There were seven other apps installed on my iPhone that were released later that year – LinkedIn, Instapaper, Deliveries, Sonos, OpenTable, Amazon and Chase. The newest app I have installed is Knowable, a cool app with audio courses from experts, authors and academics that’s worth checking out.

I have a list, but it’s going to be more helpful to check my Screen Time stats. Last week I used 79 apps for at least 1 second, 56 apps more than 1 minute and only 9 apps were used for about an hour or more. I really wish I could export Screen Time data as easily as I could export the list of apps I have installed, but alas Apple has not made an API available. If I were feeling more inspired, I might do it manually, at least for the last few months, but alas…

Looking over the last several weeks, the apps I use the most didn’t change much and when they did it was due to traveling. Most weeks Firefox, Google Maps, Gmail, Messages, Tweetbot, Apollo, Spotify, Slack, Pocket Casts, YouTube and Drafts are the most used apps in terms of the amount of time those apps are actively on my screen. Other apps like Stocks, Fantastical, AirVisual, Oura, Nest, 1Password, Halide, Lyft, Waking Up and others are used regularly, but are referenced for minutes or seconds, which meant they weren’t ranking high in the context of screen time. Interesting, but not as helpful as I wanted it to be. I went back to the CSV, created a new column and simply typed yes, no or maybe next to each app, filtered and sorted. I identified 104 apps for deletion.

One bonus Configurator feature I discovered was that I could delete the apps much faster and easier in Configurator than I could on my iPhone. Just click on the Actions menu, select Remove > Apps, change to the list view, hold down the command key, select the apps you want to delete, press the Remove Apps button and you’re good to go. 💥

Keeping Track of New Music Releases With Some Help From MacStories

Federico had a nice post this week about how he keeps track of new music, which centers around the MusicHarbor app for iOS. Discovering new music is something I’ve really struggled with since music blogs largely went away. The streaming services simply are not optimizing for new music discovery, especially not the way I would like. While the tool is focused on Apple Music and has an integration with the service, I simply search for the releases in Spotify, which is my current streaming service of choice.

How I’m Using Twitter Now

Last night I decided to start tweeting again.

While I never really left Twitter completely, I largely took a break from it for the last 8 months. Last year I started being much more conscious of how I use technology and as part of that, unfollowed nearly everyone and stopped actively engaging with people on the platform. Having the distance gave me the space to think about if and how I might start using it again. So of course I made a list of rules for myself.

  1. Don’t open Twitter because you’re bored. As far as I’m concerned, the same goes for any social media app (or any other app) you open when you’re bored.
  2. Don’t keep Twitter open in a browser tab. This is like keeping Twitter on the home screen of your phone.
  3. Use Tweetbot on your iPhone and don’t place it on the home screen. Tweetbot is the best designed Twitter app you will find (for iOS), it has a chronological feed and is a pleasure to use.
  4. Tweet with positive purpose. Pretty self-explanatory. Don’t be a dick.
  5. Don’t overthink your tweets. Twitter was and is, at least to me, a platform well-suited for ephemera. I use TweetDelete.net to automatically delete my tweets after several days. I’ve seen tweets become a liability. True intent loses to perceived intent. No Thanks.
  6. Be open. Be Accessible. Leave your DMs open and respond to people, unless it’s the stalker salesperson that already emailed me and hit me up on LinkedIn.
  7. Don’t retweet often and never retweet without your own perspective or context. It’s easy to retweet and that’s by design. Use it sparingly. Use your own voice.
  8. Don’t follow a lot of people, especially people that retweet more than they tweet. Caveat: if someone is both interesting and is a habitual retweeter, turn off their retweets. I currently follow 137 people. That’s quite a few people and I should probably follow even fewer.
  9. Don’t follow people that talk a lot about themselves, news or politics. The exception here is when big, important news events are happening. I don’t need daily commentary on the news. I will go to trusted news publications for that if and when I want it.
  10. Use lists for people, topics or industries that you might want to read sometimes, but don’t want to show up in your main feed. The List feature is such a wonderful and under-utilized feature (because it’s hidden). Most of my lists are private, but I have many.

Special thanks to Patrick for a good, early morning exchange about Twitter in the Sonos office this morning. It helped me get more clear about some of my rules.

My Favorite Albums of 2018

I started with a list of nearly fifty albums and after spending too much time trying to put it all in some order that ultimately won’t mean all that much to most people, I settled on my top ten.

  1. Jon Hopkins – Singularity
  2. Pusha T – Daytona
  3. Nils Frahm – All Melody
  4. Parquet Courts – Wide Awake!
  5. Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs
  6. Tim Hecker – Konoyo
  7. Aphex Twin – Collapse EP
  8. Young Fathers – Cocoa Sugar
  9. Daniel Avery – Song for Alpha
  10. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks – Sparkle Hard

What’s a list without some music? I created a mix called Melody and Distortion. You can find it on Spotify and Apple Music. It is best enjoyed as it is sequenced.

After More Than A Decade, I’m Done With Evernote

This week I finally was able to check a todo item off my list that I had been procrastinating for over a month. I migrated tens of thousands of mostly PDF documents out of Evernote and overhauled my personal information management system. If you’re curious how I used to do things, I wrote that up a few years back. I had so much stuff in Evernote and had been using it for well over a decade, but it was time to revisit how I was storing and using digital stuff. It’s worth mentioning, that I didn’t take many actual notes in Evernote and as time went on I couldn’t stand using it for that purpose. The app had really become bloated and I didn’t enjoy writing in it. The kicker, at least for me, was also that it didn’t natively support Markdown. The other thing I used it for was to archiving everything I posted and favorited online. This was all done through a service called IFTTT (If This Then That), about which I could (and probably should) write something up as well. Another time, but I’ll touch on what I did with all those notes a little further down.

If Evernote was the center of my digital life, my trusty Fujitsu ScanSnap was the key that enabled it. I just purchased a new one this year after the original one I bought back in 2010 stopped working. I cannot recommend it enough. I scan everything – mail, receipts, bills, warranties, documentation, but not photos. I use the scanner for the vast majority of it but also use Scanbot Pro on my iPhone or iPad. For what its worth, I use Scan Cafe to scan my physical photos.

One of the main reasons I started using Evernote to begin with was for its incredible optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities, which is no longer a unique feature. Today, if you want to search through indexed PDFs, Google Drive and macOS both have this feature, which in my experience works just as well, if not better. What OCR allows me to do is search the text inside a PDF document. For example, if I want to gather all of my doctor bills to review , I simply search for my doctor’s name (or some other unique identifier that appears on all of his bills) and in a matter of a second, they’re gathered and ready for review. I cannot overstate what a tremendous timesaver being completely paperless is. It takes up no space, is completely affordable and allows you to be a digital hoarder with no shame whatsoever.

Evernote can export notes in their native format (.enex) or in HTML. Thankfully many note-taking apps can easily import Evernote files. You can do it one-by-one by simply dragging a note from Evernote to a folder on your computer (I did this all on my MacBook Pro, not on my iPad) or select multiple notes and drag them together. You can also select a single or multiple notes and export just the file attachments. This was particularly helpful to me since, again, most of what I had in Evernote were PDFs. I already pay for G Suite so I settled on using Google Drive to store PDFs. G Suite is Google’s paid service (I pay $5/month) and differs form their free services you probably use. The great thing about G Suite, aside from being able to use my own domain, is the lack of advertising and data collection by Google. They have no plans to change this in the future, which is great. According to them, they do not collect, scan or use data in G Suite Core Services for advertising purposes. While I don’t feel awesome about Google from a privacy standpoint, but I’m willing to give a little to get the convenience and interoperability with devices and other services I use. Once I moved all of my documents to Google Drive, I created a single folder on my iCloud Drive and dropped them all in there for redundancy. I also plan to back them up on a physical drive.

As I exported the documents, I deleted them from Evernote, which left me with my notes and backups of my posts and favorites from social networks. In Evernote I had a few notebooks that were shared with Laura, so I needed to put the notes somewhere I could continue doing this, so I migrated those notes to Apple Notes. For all other notes, I migrated them to my current note-taking app of choice, Bear. In both cases, the notes were easily migrated by simply selecting them and dragging them to a folder on my desktop. Each app has an importing function that handles Evernote files.

As I mentioned earlier, I used a service called IFTTT with Evernote. The service allows you to easily create if-then statements that move digital things around from one service to another. It does a bunch of other cool stuff, but I used it to gather tweets I posted and favorited on Twitter, photos I posted on Instagram, posts on tumblr (I haven’t used it in a long time), favorite articles and highlights from Instapaper and Pinboard bookmarks. I decided to delete all of this stuff and not migrate it. I’m no longer active on Twitter and I moved all my tumblr posts to my WordPress blog. Everything else, I can easily export whenever I want, which I do periodically and no longer feel the need to have it all contained in a single app or service. When I export stuff, I just throw it in a folder on Google Drive and back it up to a physical backup drive as well.

If you’re thinking about going paperless (you should!), get yourself a Fujitsu ScanSnap and keep your documents local on your Mac or put them on Google Drive where you can easily search them from any device. You could also store each document as a in individual note in Apple Notes, which I did consider, but the hassle of having to create a title for every note (I’m OCD like that and rarely took the time to do this in Evernote) and then attach the PDF to the note just felt like too much effort, especially considering the number of documents I was migrating. If I was starting over from scratch, I might consider it more seriously. Using Apple Notes for this purpose as well as taking notes has the added advantage of consolidating everything in one app. If only I weren’t so fussy and fickle with note-taking apps…

If you’ve been procrastinating migrating away from Evernote, I’m here to tell you it’s a pretty painless process. And in my case, since I was paying for Premium, it’ll save me $70 per year.