My mother in law has a compact, efficient kitchen. Or almost efficient. My mother in law is a lover of the kitchen gadget. On her counter. ON the counter she has a toaster oven, a pop up toaster, a coffee maker, a coffee grinder, an electric can opener, a kitchen aid mixer, a deep fryer, a popcorn maker, a blender and some other things. The cluster of tools do a lot to make her surfaces unusable.

Amongst that collection I own only the coffee grinder, toaster oven, blender and mixer. And only the toaster oven is on my counter.

In her cabinets my mother in law stocks an ice cream maker, bread maker, hot dog heater (for real), waffle irons (in multiple shapes), griddles and many unitaskers.

I have a breadmaker. There was even a time when I used it.

For years I watched Alton Brown’s Good Eats. In addition to explaining the science behind cooking he lobbied strongly fiercely against the uni-tasker.  What is a uni-tasker? A stawberry huller, a poached egg maker, a hot dog warmer.I’m sure you can all come up with more ridiculous examples.

Things that do one thing, no matter how elegantly have no place in his kitchen.

What does this have to do with software development? It is navigating the line between a single function app and a multifunction app. For marketing sake, it is great to have a uni-tasker. What is it? What problem does it solve? Asked and answered.One great kids app that is a uni-tasker is the screen time app. Nicely designed. But so niche oriented that it can only do one job.

The app store is filled with unit taskers, sunrise calendars, mortgage calculators, burping frogs. Is this for the best? Is the iPhone itself the multitasker and the apps are each one of the 264 tools?

Designing Marble Jar we have stripped it down to keep it simple, but left enough room for customization so that it can do more than one thing. It can be a checklist, you can practice “character building” skills (someone please save me from that phrase), unlock privileges, and more. This does make it harder to market. (see above reference to character skills) but it clutters your counter less than some other apps.

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Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble,, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at

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