The best iPhone apps we've used in 2019

The best office and writing apps for iPhone

Our favorite iPhone apps for file management, video memos, writing, email, spreadsheets, notes, presentations and calculations.

FE File Explorer Pro

  • $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99

FE File Explorer Pro deals with one of the major shortcomings of Apple’s Files app – the inability to get at documents and folders that aren’t stored on your iPad or in iCloud. To that end, it lets you quickly connect to Windows or Mac computers, network servers, and a range of online storage solutions, including FTP, Dropbox, and OneDrive.

The interface is clean and simple, making it a breeze to navigate anything you connect to. Documents that are readily supported can be previewed; anything can be downloaded and then sent to another installed app.

What propels this app into must-have territory is its seamless integration with Files itself. This means that once you’ve set up your sources, FE File Explorer Pro supercharges Apple’s app, plugging a major hole in your iPhone’s connectivity – and for a bargain price.

Memento: Modern Reminders

  • $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.99

Memento: Modern Reminders is a modern take on reminders, and feels a lot like the app Apple should have made itself. The interface is clean, with bold headings, and is peppered with tools to speed up creating and editing reminders.

A smart keyboard row makes it a cinch to add a time or location alert. The former have friendly options like ‘tomorrow morning’, and these presets can be edited and added to. Notifications are similarly powerful, with snooze and move options.

Browsing is superior to Apple’s app, too. There are views to zoom through all your reminders (grouped by list), or just ones with time alerts attached. Add in dark mode and Apple Watch support, and you’ve got a superb replacement for a tired stock app.

Cardhop

  • $3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99

Cardhop is designed to effectively replace Contacts on your iPhone. It uses the same iCloud information (so you can switch back to Apple’s app at any point), but presents it in a far more usable manner.

Individual contact cards are more clearly laid out. Tapping on a phone number or email doesn’t trigger a call or open Mail – instead, you get options regarding what you want to do with that data. The notes field usefully remains anchored to the foot of the screen, so it’s always available.

Back in the main view, there’s a dynamic search field that uses natural language, so you can input phrases to get at information, or to add new contacts. In all, this is an essential app for anyone who regularly dips into Contacts, but wants something better.

Timeview

  • Free + $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99

Timeview gives you alternate interpretations of and insight into your calendar data. Instead of events plastered across a day, week, or month view, this app is all about statistics, and presenting them as easy-to-scan cards.

The app delves into your existing iOS Calendar data, and the cards are based around user-defined rule-sets. That might sound complex, but it really isn’t. You can, for example, quickly create cards to outline calendar events that include the word ‘meeting’, those from specific calendars, recurring events, and so on.

For light users of Apple’s Calendar, this won’t be especially thrilling. But we imagine if your calendar is a mess of entries, all fighting for attention, the means to make sense of the chaos with Timeview’s straightforward, very readable interface will be very appealing.

1Password

  • $3.99/£3.49/AU$5.99 per month

1Password, like iCloud Keychain, is used to store website logins and payment information. But this app then goes further, being able to house details for servers, app license details, notes and identities.

The other big advantage is 1Password being a standalone app. Launch it and use Face ID or Touch ID and you’ll quickly be browsing your logins and data, which can be further refined through the use of favorites and tags. A first-rate password creator is bundled, too, for when you need a new or replacement website password.

The core app is free to try for 30 days, after which point a subscription is required. However, this unlocks the app across a range of supported platforms, including macOS, Android and Windows – something iCloud Keychain cannot compete with.

Noted

  • Free or $0.99/79p/AU$1.49 per month

Noted is a rich-text notepad and voice memos app combined. This isn’t a new concept on the iPhone – other apps do much the same. But Noted differentiates itself by enabling you to mark important moments within the recording.

This is achieved using #TimeTags. As you type up notes while recording, tapping a button places a tag inline. When you subsequently tap a tag, your recording instantly starts playing from the relevant moment. This means you can take basic notes during a meeting or lecture, and then flesh everything out later, without having to constantly scrub through a recording to find the relevant parts.

You’ll need a subscription to make the most of the app – not least to record more than a handful of notes – but for many people, #TimeTags alone will be worth the outlay.

PCalc

  • $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99

PCalc is a traditional calculator – like the super-powered equivalent of something you might find sitting on a desk. If you want something more conventional than the calculator meets sort-of spreadsheet Soulver, PCalc is simply the best there is on iPhone.

For a start, the app’s almost absurdly feature-packed. There’s multiline and RPN, a paper tape, and multiple undo. Need conversions and constants? Done. Engineering and scientific notation? Sure. You can even edit the individual buttons, if you for some reason want the 6 key to be massive.

The app has a slightly odd sense of humor, too. Head into the Help section in its Settings and fire up the ARKit About PCalc screen, and lob anti-gravity bananas about the place. This is a calculator with leaderboards and achievements, and – we say again – anti-gravity bananas. Buy it.

Just Press Record

  • $4.99/£4.99/AU$7.99

Just Press Record is a highly usable audio recorder and transcription tool. It’s also an excellent example of how to take an app that’s extremely simple and add new features without drowning it in complexity.

To start, you still tap a big, red button, and then record whatever you want to say. Saved recordings head to iCloud, meaning they can be accessed on any device. On your iPhone, they’re found in the Recents and Browse tabs, the latter listing them by date.

There’s also a Search tool – which might seem redundant until you realize every recording is automatically transcribed. Naturally, this doesn’t always nail context – during testing, it mixed up ‘synced’ and ‘sinked’ – and you have to manually say punctuation (such as ‘comma’).

Still, this means that you can share text rather than just audio files, and that every utterance you make can potentially be found by keyword, instead of you scrabbling through a huge list of recordings. It’s really smart stuff.

Pennies

  • $3.99/£3.99/AU$5.99

Pennies is all about managing your money. But whereas finance trackers have a tendency to be dry and complicated, Pennies goes for a much friendlier approach. Using the app’s colorful, straightforward interface, you can quickly and easily define new budgets around any kind of topic, and add or remove money from them.

Much of the app’s effectiveness lies in the way it encourages you to categorize your spending. Want to cut down on coffee? Create a ‘coffee’ category and get a monthly and daily budget, along with a visible reminder of when you can next spend.

Your entire history always remains available in an ongoing scrolling list, and because Pennies syncs across devices, your figures are readily available on iPad and Apple Watch too. In short, it’s the budget tracker for the rest of us.

Untitled

  • $9.99/£9.99/AU$14.99

Untitled rethinks screenwriting. Rather than you having to remember how to format your next Hollywood blockbuster, Untitled prioritizes you getting ideas down, through providing a helping hand regarding how your script should look.

This works by way of simple-to-remember shorthand, such as placing dialogue underneath a character’s name, or ‘>’ before a transition. The app’s also intelligent enough to reformat scene headers (intro/location/time) from plain English into the correct style.

On iPad, Untitled is a friendly screenwriting tool, but its relaxed, note-taking approach really feels at home on iPhone. It’s not a tool you’d likely use to fine-tune a fully polished screenplay, but it’s excellent for starting one – wherever and whenever inspiration strikes.

Carbo

  • $7.99/£7.99/AU$12.99

You can of course use a wide range of apps for storing real-world scribbles – photograph a journal page and you can fling it at the likes of Evernote, say. But Carbo tries something more ambitious. Your sketches and notes are cleaned up, and converted to vectors, while preserving your original stroke.

What this means is that images within Carbo retain the character of your penmanship, but are also editable in a manner standard photographs are not – you can select and move specific elements that Carbo intelligently groups, adjust line thicknesses throughout the entire image, add annotations and tags, and export the result to various formats.

It's a friendly, intuitive app to work with, and efficient, too – a typical Carbo note requires only a tenth of the storage as the same image saved as a standard JPEG photo.

Scrivener

  • $19.99/£19.99/AU$30.99

On the desktop, Scrivener is popular with writers crafting long-form text. On iPad, the app is - amazingly - barely altered from the PC and Mac release; but Scrivener on iPhone is a slightly different prospect.

That's not to say this isn't a feature-rich and highly capable product. You still get a solid rich-text editing environment and a 'binder' to house and arrange documents and research, before compiling a manuscript for export.

What you lose on the smaller screen is those features that require more space: a two-up research/writing view; the corkboard for virtual index cards.

But Scrivener is still worth buying - although you're unlikely to write an entire screenplay or novel on an iPhone, you can use the app to take notes, make edits, and peruse your existing work, wherever you happen to be.

Soulver

  • $2.99/£2.99/AU$4.49

Traditional calculator apps are fine, but even if they come with digital tape, you don't get figures in context. By contrast, a spreadsheet is overkill for most adding-up tasks. Soulver is a neatly conceived half-way house — like scribbling sums on the back of an envelope, but a magic envelope that tots everything up.

You get two columns. On the left, you type everything out, integrating words as you see fit. On the right, totals are smartly extracted. So if you type 'Hotel: 3 nights at $125', Soulver will automatically display $375 in the totals column.

Line totals can be integrated into subsequent sums, ensuring your entire multi-line calculation remains dynamic — handy should you later need to make adjustments to any part.

Given the relative complexity of what Soulver's doing, it all feels surprisingly intuitive from the get-go. There are multiple keyboards (including advanced functions and currency conversion), you can save calculations and sync them via iCloud or Dropbox, and it's even possible to output HTML formatted emails of your work.

Scanbot

  • Free + $7.99/£7.99/AU$12.99 IAP

There are two flavors of Scanbot, each of which is impressive in its own right. For free, you get a superb iPhone scanner with cloud storage integration, QR code support, and the means to detect edges for any paper document you want to digitise. Upgrade to Scanbot Pro and things get more interesting. You can add pages to existing scans, quickly name files using a clever smart-naming system, and search/extract text from previous scans.

There's also an automated actions feature, where the app finds the likes of phone numbers and email addresses within your scans, turning them into single-tap buttons within each item's actions menu. It's not quite accurate enough to be witchcraft, but we nonetheless happily leave important scans within Scanbot these days, rather than immediately deleting after export.