Edinburgh Web Development

Web developers mobile kit-bag

Essential apps for your phone

by Iain Wilson

20 March 2013
mobile devices - photo by HLundgaard from Wikimedia Commons

The process of switching phones the other day made me go though all the apps I use on my phone and tablet.

The results were interesting and the good news for me was that 99% of the apps I use are available on both iPhone and Android, so it doesn't really matter which type I choose, app-wise (I've gone down the Android route, by the way).

So have a look - you might find something useful for yourself and I'd be very interested if you have recommendations of things that you use.

Web Tools

The first thing to point out is that mobile and table is really not where I do much web development work at all!  I like to develop on a desktop with enough power and two screens.  That way I can have open all the software I need including the Adobe Suite and browser(s), debug consoles etc to see what's going on.  

Sketching

On mobile and tablet, the apps I use are typically for testing, checking things and for productivity.  The main thing I use that does fall into the development/design area is the sketching app, Skitch (a sister product of Evernote).  Skitch lets you quickly knock out a design idea using shapes, lines, images and text.  And you can use photographs, images and maps as backgrounds.  It's integrated to Evernote so once you've got a sketch done, it is stored in the Evernote database where it can be quickly retrieved.  You can also share it by email or social media too.  Invaluable for documenting ideas quickly.

Web page testing

For testing I just connect mobiles and tablets to my development network which runs a development web server.  I can then check webpages on those devices using mobile versions of Safari, Chrome and Firefox.

HTML tools

A mismash of different tools. HTML Viewer to look at source code, Validate to occassionaly validate the HTML on a page.  I had a great iPhone app called BaseConvert which was great for UTF-8 conversions, but it doesn't seem work anymore.

FTPOnTheGo for emergency website repairs with FTP on the iPhone, and DroidEdit Pro on Android.

For documentation, I've got apps for the Web Developer Bible, O'Reilly's PHP pocket reference, RegEx cheatsheet and a Javascript cheatsheet app.  

Domain tools

I've got a varied bunch apps on iPhone to do Whois lookups and domain record information displays - DomainTools, theEmailLaundry, Nettica.  Never found one that did everything quite the way I like it.

Analytics

To access Google Analytics on mobile, I use gAnalytics on Android.  Nice and easy to navigate.

Productivity

Where I get most app value on mobile and tablet is in the productivity area in terms of keeping on top of things.  I want everything synched together so whatever I'm using is up to date.

Email & Calendar

Pretty standard here.  A long time ago I started using Gmail to consolidate and sync my mail and calendar across the different devices I use, even though all my mail is actually sent through a different SMTP service.  The iPhone allows it to integrate with its email and calendar and things only get better on Android.  I love the new iPhone Mailbox app but am going to have to say goodbye to it on Android.

Task management

I've tried an awful lot of these but my absolute favourite is TeuxDeux.  I like this because it is nice and simple and it rolls on your task list to the next day if the items are not finished.  You can schedule things and store more strategic stuff if you want too, but for a dynamic task list it's great.  It works on PC, iPhone and there is a 3rd Party Android app, although the developers say they may develop one themselves.  Downside is that it is about to become chargeable.  But in my view, it's worth it.

Note taking

Things are always coming up, and with a memory like mine it's impossible to remember everything so I need a way of noting things.  I use Evernote all the time for this.  Article ideas, design ideas, sketches (see later), nice sites, good articles, audio, video, photos - Evernote is great for capturing the moment, and its searching facility make it easy to find the thing you 'know you put somewhere'.  It's available on all the platforms and they will sync, so take a note on your phone and it will be available on your PC and tablet when they sync.

I've also started using Workflowy to take really quick notes and lists, especially for development tasks down.  It's got a great interface that makes it easy to get something noted and it's available on the three platforms.

Reading webpages later

I used to use Instapaper for this all the time, but its lack of a search facility became too much of a drag, so I tend to capture pages in Evernote for further reading now.

News feed

I've been using Feedly for quite a while, linked up to my Google Reader account. It means I can get all the industry news I want in one place, in a format that I like.  It does have one or two annoying functionality features in its browser, but its easy to read the articles and also share selected ones on social media.  Now that Google Reader has been end-of-life'd, I guess I'll be even more reliant on Feedly.  Available on iPhone, Android and desktop.

Cloud Storage

Don't do much of this, but when I do I use Dropbox.  Have also used Google Drive and may well start to use it more.

Social media

All the devices I use have the native apps for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google but I tend to use Hootsuite to be able to post quickly and selectively to multiple platforms.  Only problem is that it doesn't support Google , but I'm not sure if any of these aggregators do (not sure that Google have opened up the API wholly yet).

I also use dlvr.it to post blog articles automatically to social media for both myself and clients.  It monitors your RSS feed and posts new items when they become available.

So there you have it - a run down on the apps that I get most value from.  What do you use?  Drop me a line and let me know!

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