Tools of Choice

Tools of Choice

A little while back, Matt Birchler shared a post – BirchTree”) about the apps and services he uses to do his work. I also noticed similar information on his about page. I thought this was a really good idea. My goal is to keep this as up-to-date as possible for my usage.

So here are the tools I’m using as of December 2018.


  • 2018 Space Gray 12.9” iPad Pro - My primary computing device. I use it with Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio and Apple Pencil.
  • Space Gray iPhone X
  • Space Gray Aluminum Apple Watch Series 3 with Cellular


This list will encompass everything from my job as a teacher, blogging, podcasting, and personal use. Since some apps are used for all 4, I have broken them up into categories based on type of tool instead of domain.


Last year I wrote a post about my switch from Airmail to Apple Mail as my email client of choice. This has remained my choice, but I’ve heard from several people lately that Airmail is much more reliable than it was in the past. I’m getting tempted to try it again.

At the beginning of 2018 I started using SaneBox to help me stay on top of my email. I love its SaneLater folders and snoozing capabilities.

Task Management

When I first discovered GTD, I started using OmniFocus to handle my tasks. I then spent some time in 2Do as well but for almost a year using Todoist.

I’ve been using Things (iPhone iPad) for over a year now, and am really happy with it. It’s got a beautiful design, and is the right balance of simple and powerful for me. I’ve written a longer post about the change here.

I tested out OmniFocus 3 when it released, but it didn’t take me long to return to Things.

File Storage

I went all in with iCloud in 2011 when it first launched thanks to its promise of my iWork documents syncing between multiple Macs and iOS devices. In 2014, iCloud documents turned into iCloud Drive, and was given priority status on iOS. Though 3rd party provider integration drastically improved when iOS 11 introduced the Files app in 2017, I still choose to keep my personal files in iCloud Drive.

When I began working as a teacher, I discovered my school district gave teachers 1 TB of free storage in OneDrive. I now use this at work so I can easily share Office documents with teammates. Now that OneDrive’s iOS app works with iOS 11’s Drag and Drop and the Files app, it’s even better to use.

I’m experimenting with the app Keep It for storing reference materials. If I decide to continue using it, I will share more on the blog or podcast.


I use several apps as tools for teaching, and only for teaching.

  • GoodNotes - I pair GoodNotes with an Apple Pencil and Apple TV to model writing on the board for students.
  • Bear - Along with being my main notes app, I keep lesson plans and student notes here as well.


Drafts 5 has become my writing environment of choice thanks to its powerful actions and modularity. I can quickly switch writing contexts from work to blogging to podcast show notes with a quick keyboard command and have all of my powerful automation available at a glance.

When writing, I will often make mind maps in MindNode to help brainstorm and plan. It helps my visual brain to frame my posts. Even this page was originally laid out in MindNode.


While podcasting from iOS is not the easiest thing to do, I’ve managed to make it work for The Class Nerd Podcast.

I have to use multiple iOS devices during recording, but I make it work. I set my iPad up with Ferrite Recording Studio and Apple Notes (where Robby and I write our outlines) in split view. I have a Blue Snowball microphone plugged into the iPad. I also keep Drafts in slide over to manage show notes as we record.

My iPhone runs Skype and my conversation with Robby. If I’m editing the episode, I do it all in Ferrite.

Password Management

I have been a 1Password user for almost 4 years, and my wife and I use a family plan. I never have to worry about remembering a password or how secure my passwords are. It keeps my family’s information private as well as my students’ data.

Note Taking

After diving into Drafts 5 this spring, I knew I wanted a note taking app that could more easily be integrated with Drafts’s automation. Though there are some things I miss about Apple Notes, I have moved all of my notes over to Bear

Photo Management

Since I already had storage purchased in iCloud, using iCloud Photo Library made sense. I haven’t tried Google Photos, so I don’t know what I’m missing in terms of machine learning in organizing photos. However, I’ve been really happy with how well my iOS devices manage my photos, especially since face syncing was introduced in iOS 11.


Again, sticking with the Apple bandwagon, I’ve used Apple Maps since they debuted in iOS 6. They always get me where I want to go, and having them tied into the system makes them an easy choice for me.

Fun Stuff

My twitter client has been Tweetbot for a good 5 years now. I’m apparently one of the few people who likes his purchased and streaming music in one place, so Apple Music works perfectly for me. I listen to podcasts in Overcast (as of this writing, Smart Speed has saved me 139 hours). I get my weather on all devices from the snarky Carrot Weather.


I host both my personal website and The Class Nerd on Manton Reese’s service, and use the iOS app, Drafts 5, or Icro to post.

Craig McClellan @craigmcclellan