Which Should You Use—a Mac, iPhone or iPad, or Web App?

Apps are everywhere these days, but it can be hard to remember that many exist in multiple versions. You can often run the same app on a Mac, an iPhone or iPad, and in a Web browser, each of which has benefits.

Generally speaking, Mac apps:

  • Have better-designed, more obvious interfaces that improve the user experience
  • Are easily switched to and managed among many other apps
  • Lend themselves to automation through Shortcuts, AppleScript, and Keyboard Maestro
  • Work best for processor-intensive, text-heavy, and large-screen tasks

iPhone and iPad apps:

  • Give you quick access to functionality away from your desk and on the go
  • Offer small-screen touch interfaces that can be superior for some tasks

Web apps:

  • Are accessible from any computer and many smartphones
  • Can be linked to other Web apps using services like IFTTT and Zapier
  • Can be used in any Web browser instantly without having to download anything

The key takeaway is that there’s no either/or situation here. For any app you depend on, it’s usually best to use the native Mac app on your Mac, the native iOS app on your iPhone or iPad, and the Web app whenever the native Mac or iOS app doesn’t fit the bill. Web apps are particularly welcome when you’re away from your Mac and need a full-fledged interface with a keyboard such that an iPhone version won’t suffice. Web apps can also be lifesavers when you need to get something done but are having trouble with the native versions.

Here is a list of apps that run natively on your Apple devices and are accessible in any standard Web browser. It’s far from comprehensive but should give you a feel for what apps you can use in different forms, often with almost no loss of functionality or access to stored data. Note that you’ll almost always need to log in to use a Web app, so make sure you have access to your stored credentials in a password manager.

Before we get into the list, we want to call out two special categories:

  • Email: Most IMAP-based email services that you can use in Apple’s Mail or another email client also provide access to your stored mail through a Web app.
  • iCloud: Many of the apps that Apple bundles with macOS, iOS, and iPadOS are also available as Web apps at iCloud.com. That list includes Calendar, Contacts, Find My, iCloud Drive, Mail, Notes, Photos, and Reminders.
App Native Apps Web App
1Password Mac, iOS 1password.com
Airtable Mac, iOS airtable.com
Asana Mac, iOS app.asana.com
Basecamp Mac, iOS basecamp.com
Box Mac, iOS app.box.com
Canva Mac, iOS www.canva.com
ClickUp Mac, iOS app.clickup.com
Dialpad Mac, iOS dialpad.com
Dropbox Mac, iOS dropbox.com
Evernote Mac, iOS www.evernote.com
Figma Mac, iOS figma.com
Gmail iOS gmail.com
Google Docs iOS docs.google.com/document/
Google Drive Mac, iOS drive.google.com
Google Sheets iOS docs.google.com/spreadsheets/
Hive Mac, iOS app.hive.com
Keynote Mac, iOS www.icloud.com/keynote/
Microsoft Excel Mac, iOS www.microsoft365.com/launch/excel
Microsoft OneDrive Mac, iOS onedrive.live.com
Microsoft PowerPoint Mac, iOS www.microsoft365.com/launch/powerpoint
Microsoft Teams Mac, iOS teams.live.com
Microsoft Word Mac, iOS www.microsoft365.com/launch/word
Monday.com Mac, iOS monday.com
Notion Mac, iOS www.notion.so
Numbers Mac, iOS www.icloud.com/numbers/
OneNote Mac, iOS www.onenote.com
Outlook Mac, iOS outlook.live.com
Pages Mac, iOS www.icloud.com/pages/
Skype Mac, iOS web.skype.com
Slack Mac, iOS slack.com
Todoist Mac, iOS todoist.com
Trello Mac, iOS trello.com
Wrike Mac, iOS www.wrike.com
Zoom Mac, iOS zoom.us

Again, this list is by no means comprehensive, but you can use it as a starting point for thinking about the apps you use. If you’ve been relying solely on a Web app, some quick searches should reveal whether it has a native Mac or iOS version that might be faster and smoother. It’s also equally worth investigating if one of your native apps has a Web version that you could turn to in a pinch.

(Featured image by iStock.com/Rudzhan Nagiev)