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The best Mac and iOS apps I used in 2010

Following up on my article about the best Mac apps I used in 2010, here are some of the best hybrid "Mac and iOS apps" I used in 2010. This wasn't an attempt to come up with a specific number, just the results of some careful reflection.

You may wonder why some apps appear on this list instead of the Mac list. For example, Dropbox has an iOS app, why not add it here? Because my primary use of Dropbox is on the Mac. Yes I use it with iOS, but it's usually through another app that is syncing back to my Mac. On the other hand, using OmniFocus for iPad (our review) led to me using OmniFocus for Mac more, so I put OmniFocus on this list.

All that is to say, these are my distinctions, and you are free to disagree with them.

1) myPhoneDesktop (or MPD) is a little-known gem of the iOS world. The US$5 universal iOS app pairs with desktop software on your Mac, Windows or Linux PC, and it allows you to send text, phone numbers and even images to your iOS device. While there are lots of pasteboard sharing apps (like Pastebot) that allow two-way sharing of pasteboard data, I find myself using MPD much more often because it is simpler and easier to use.

If I am on my Mac and want to download a new app on my iPad, I select the URL from Safari and press command (⌘) + C + C (just like regular "copy" except you press "C" twice). Instantly, I get a push notification from MPD on my iPad, which opens the link, hands it off to the App Store app, and I purchase and download the app right from my iPad.

Since I first reviewed it, MPD has been continually improved and updated, including support for iCab Mobile on iOS devices as well as GoodReader and even GV Connect, which means that you can place a call through Google Voice on your iPhone from a message sent from your computer!

Read on for more...

2) 2010 saw the arrival of a Windows version of 1Password. While I don't use Windows, my wife has to use it for school, so I was very glad it was available. Like Dropbox, so much has been said about 1Password that I fear saturation will set in, so I will keep my comments on it brief (we've talked about it much more here).

1Password on the Mac and iOS remains a crucial part of my computing experience and online security. How else would I manage almost 700 logins? Thanks to 1Password, each of my passwords is highly complex, secure and most importantly unique, which helped keep my information safe even after the Gawker security debacle. The ability to sync to Dropbox without having to go through a computer is superb, and despite the fact that iOS doesn't allow 1Password to integrate with Safari like Mac OS X does, with multitasking in iOS 4, the copy/login process is fairly painless and quick. (Pricing: $60 for Windows and Mac bundle; $40 for Mac; $30 for Windows (beta); $10 for iPhone or iPad, or $15 for a universal app.)

3) TextExpander for the Mac ($35) and TextExpander touch for iOS ($5) makes my Mac and iPad experience much richer. There are several similar macro/text expansion programs on the Mac, but none as popular or well supported as TextExpander. This becomes especially apparent when you move over to iOS. Due to the limitations of iOS, there is no way for an app to do global macro expansion in any app unless support is specifically coded into the app. Unfortunately, this means you can't use TextExpander in Mail on iOS.

However, Smile Software released an SDK for TextExpander touch, and many apps have included it. You can sync your "snippets" from your Mac to your iOS device (sadly TextExpander requires that you be on the same Wi-Fi network, unlike 1Password, which can sync directly from Dropbox whenever a network connection is present). I won't even consider an iPad text editor if it doesn't support TextExpander.

(Note to any iOS developer looking for a great app idea: an iOS mail client that integrates TextExpander touch and makes Gmail/Google Apps easier to use might be a big hit.)

4) Simplenote is pretty close to magic. A simple idea: text notes that sync anywhere, are automatically backed up and versioned, easily searched and optionally tagged. A $12/year premium service increases the number of versions that are backed up, unlimited third-party API access, premium support, an RSS feed, ad-free experience and (this is the big one) the ability to create notes via email. When combined with the free iOS app and a desktop app like nvALT (see previous), your text notes are suddenly synced and accessible everywhere. I just renewed my premium subscription, and it was the easiest decision I've made in ages. Even the free version is superb, though.

5) Instapaper gives you a place to store those long articles that you want to read but can't right now. Save them on your Mac and read them on your iPad. Save them on your iPad and read them on your Mac. Save them on your iPhone and read them on your iPad. Or save them on your PC, Mac, iPad and iPhone then read them (very nicely formatted) on your Kindle. You can add articles via a browser bookmarklet or a metric bunchload of third-party iOS apps. There's a list here, but you can basically use any decent app on iOS that involves reading.

The differences between the $5 and free iOS apps are listed here. 2010 marked the year that Marco Arment quit his day job to develop Instapaper. It is, quite simply, irreplaceable for me.

6) I've owned OmniFocus on the Mac since it was released. I've owned OmniFocus on the iPhone ($20) since it was released. But it wasn't until OmniFocus on the iPad ($40) that I really started using OmniFocus. Once I started using it on the iPad, I started using it more on the Mac. It's expensive, but if you're serious about getting organized, especially if you're trying to implement GTD, OmniFocus is the tool to help you get it done.

For the final installment of this threesome, I'll take a look at the best iOS apps I used in 2010.

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