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Apps and services for the holidays

The holidays are once again upon us. As is our annual tradition, we like to select a handful of apps and services to help you get through the season with your sanity intact. You might even manage to feel relaxed and productive along the way! (We can dream, right?)


  1. Bear — If there’s one thing we know about the holidays, it’s that lists are everything. There are gift idea/wish lists, to-do lists, travel itineraries, thoughts to jot down…you get the idea. Bear is the best note-taking app for you to capture all that stuff in.
  2. AnyList — When it comes to making shopping lists — whether it’s for groceries, recipe ingredients, household items, IKEA trips, etc. — you may prefer a more specialized tool. AnyList is our favorite grocery shopping app because it offers a ton of easy functionality and thoughtful design.
  3. Paprika — While AnyList has recipe management features and is a perfectly suitable option if you’re already using it for grocery lists, we prefer to leave this particular job to Paprika. These two apps represent a sort of yin and yang: Paprika’s better at the recipe stuff, and AnyList is better at the shopping stuff.

    (Editor’s note: The Paprika links above are for the newly released version 3, which is a paid upgrade we have not yet tested, though we are confident it’s still awesome since the core functionality hasn’t changed. We would link the old one from our review, but it’s no longer available on the App Store. Until we can update our review, purchase at your own risk.)

  4. Deliveries — Our favorite deliveries tracker continues to be…well, Deliveries. It’s the easiest way to keep track of packages as they ship from online retailers, with support for every shipping company under the sun.

Entertainment / Games

  1. Apple Music — We recently selected Apple Music as the best music streaming service, and recommend using it to build a list of your favorite holiday tunes.
  2. Overcast — If podcasts are more your thing, Overcast is the best way to manage and listen to them.
  3. Games — Here are a few iOS titles to help you unwind after all that holiday prep and spending time with extended family:
    1. Monument Valley and Monument Valley 2
    2. Alto’s Adventure
    3. Zach Gage’s Typeshift and FlipFlop Solitaire
    4. Flower

Capturing Memories

  1. Day One — Day One has long been our favorite way to journal. We even wrote a book about it. In short, it’s a flexible and powerful system that allows you to save text entries and embellish them with photos, activity data, location, weather information, and more.
  2. Darkroom — There are countless photo editing apps for the iPhone, but Darkroom is our favorite. It comes packed with a ton of great-looking filters, but also has powerful tools like a curves editor, hue adjustment tool, and more.


  1. Oak Meditation App — Oak is a new app by Kevin Rose and Taylor Robinson that offers guided meditations and breathing exercises born directly from the data and feedback gathered from thousands of beta testers. As you progress in your meditation exercises, Oak displays a seedling that grows into a fully grown oak tree.
  2. Thunderspace — There’s white noise, and then there’s Thunderspace. This app lets you listen to unbelievably real-sounding thunderstorms, wind, and rain, all recorded by ecologist and self-dubbed “sound tracker” Gordon Hempton.
  3. Instapaper — Instapaper is the best way to save things to read for later. You can add links to stories, videos, and more from Twitter, Facebook, RSS, and other sources, and Instapaper will have them all ready for you when you get a chance to sit down with your iPad or iPhone to read. Best enjoyed with a fresh cup of coffee.