Communicate with ease, tame your schedule, and get things done with these great tools.
You’re running a million miles an hour, trying to hold down a tight schedule full of tight deadlines on a tight ship. From messages to meetings to managing meddlesome minutiae, these 50 apps can help you work wonders with your otherwise limited time.
Email And Communications
Unify Your Inboxes
If you’re like most people, you’ve signed up for at least a handful of email services. CloudMagic (Android, iOS) does an impeccable job of tying popular email offerings together into one powerful, feature-filled app. It’ll handle your corporate mail with ease, along with Gmail, Yahoo, iCloud, and a host of others, and you can save messages to big-name note taking, list making, and CRM services.
Keep In Touch With Your Team
Instead of relying on a mish-mash of email, instant messaging, text messaging, and phone calls, Slack (Android, iOS, web) does a good job of streamlining things down into a real-time communications tool that can hook into a heaping helping of popular third-party services. You and your team discuss topics in different virtual channels full of updates, images, files, tweets, and links that are open for all to see, which can help keep everyone on the same page. The free offering lets you set up an unlimited number of users, archives 10,000 past messages, and can integrate with up to 10 services (here’s the full services list).
Procrastinate Smarter, Not Harder
Boomerang (web) lets you temporarily clear messages out of your inbox to return at a time and date you specify. It’s a dead-simple way to turn messages into individual reminders. You can also use it to prewrite messages and schedule them to be sent later as well. Want that client to think you’re working hard on their big, important project? Schedule an email to send out at 3:30 a.m., even though you’re writing it at 2 p.m. They’ll think you’re burning the midnight oil, even though you’re really burning a grilled cheese before a Netflix binge. The free version lets you play God with 10 messages each month.
Never Stop To Answer, “Where Are You?” Again
Glympse (Android, iOS, Windows Phone) is a simple but powerful way to share your location with people for up to four hours at a time—perfect for keeping your team informed about your whereabouts without having to constantly update them manually. Your invitees get a text message or email with a link they can use to track you, and they don’t need to have the Glympse app installed themselves, which is a big selling point.
Snag A Temporary Phone Number
Use Burner (Android, iOS) to set up a disposable phone number while you’re interviewing candidates or collecting bids on projects—especially those posted on publicly accessible sites. You get a free number to start with, which forwards to your main number but can have its own separate voicemail greeting. You can return calls using your virtual number so you don’t reveal your personal number, and once your project has wrapped up, you can torch your burner number to avoid being inundated with phone calls.
Talk Like You’re Texting
Cord (Android, iOS) blends the straightforwardness of text messaging with the expressiveness of phone calls. The app lets you bandy 12-second voice messages back and forth between your colleagues, either individually or in a group. The home screen shows little round bubbles with each of your fellow Cord users’ faces, along with how many messages you have from each. Tap each person to listen to their messages and then hold down to reply.
Make And Take Calls As Though You’re At Your Desk
If you work for a large-ish company, chances are you’ve got a fancy Avaya phone on your desk. If you do, you might be able to use the Avaya one-X Mobile (Android, BlackBerry, iOS) app to route calls to and from your smartphone while your clients are none the wiser. You can look up colleagues via your business’s phone directory and deal with your voicemail while on the go as well.
Create Quick Groups
Should you find yourself working on project after project, each time with different people, check out GroupMe (Android, iOS, web, Windows Phone). Assuming everyone knows how text-message works (right? right??), you’ll be able to quickly cobble together a private chat room where you can meet with coworkers, contractors, vendors, and clients. Once you’ve wrapped up one project, eighty-six the room and start over with your next group.
Harness Your Inner Nextel
Relieve the glory days of push-to-talk service. Voxer (Android, iOS) turns your phone into a walkie-talkie, letting you and your work buddies instantly bandy intel to and fro. If you’re at an event, for instance, you can add text, photos, and location information for some additional color, and if nobody’s home on the other end, you can leave old-school voice messages for them to listen to later.
Send Self-Destructing Notes
Privnote (web) helps you send messages electronically without leaving a paper trail. Simply write a note in the site’s Post-It-like interface and you’ll be provided with a unique URL. Send the URL to your recipient via email, text message, or any other method, and once they click the link, they’ll have access to the note, but the link and its message will get killed off for anyone who tries to access it in the future.
Scheduling And Meetings
Get Your Day Together Before Even Getting Out Of Bed
Load up Sunrise Calendar (Android, iOS, Mac App Store, web). It makes keeping a calendar . . . fun? Maybe not fun, but it definitely makes it not awful. Sunrise plays nicely with Google, iCloud, and Exchange calendars, connecting to your various accounts—Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, LinkedIn, and a host of others—to automatically pull in pertinent info for you. You’ll get birthday reminders, travel updates, weather forecasts, and maps to route you to your next appointment. Adding entries is a snap, too: just type in plain English (“Bike ride tomorrow at noon in Boston”) and the app will parse your meaning.
Schedule Meetings When People Can Actually Meet
Meekan (Android, iOS) not only hooks into the most popular calendar services, it’ll pinpoint everyone’s open time slots in order to schedule meetings when it’s most convenient. Setting meetings up entails little more than entering invitee email addresses, it takes time zones into account, and there’s a natural-language component that lets you enter things like “breakfast with John on Tuesday morning.”
Set Up Dead-Simple Conference Calls
Take a look at UberConference (Android, iOS, web). You can host an unlimited number of conference calls with up to 10 callers at a time, and there’s built-in call recording so you can play the calls back later. Guests can call in the old-fashioned way or connect to the conference via the web or mobile apps, which sport some additional features such as higher-quality audio. And the conference organizer has access to a nice web-based dashboard, with the ability to mute individual guests or text with each one privately. Not too shabby for zero dollars.
Get The Low-Down On Attendees
If you find yourself walking into a meeting with people you’ve never met, give Charlie (iOS, Web) a try. A few minutes before your meeting is supposed to start, the app will surface relevant info about attendees, pulling data in from hundreds of available sources—social apps, news articles, and more. Consider it a system for automated one-pagers that you can use to your advantage.
Make Presentations Pop
Prezi (Android, iOS, web) helps you create engaging, cloud-synched presentations that you can access from all sorts of devices. Companion mobile apps let you practice your presentations while you’re on your way to your meeting and control your presentations on the big screen once you’re there. You can even stream your presentations to remote attendees who can’t make meetings in person. The free version lets you create publicly viewable presentations, so you make sure you’re not outing any sensitive company info.
Tag-Team Your Docs And Spreadsheets
Quip (Android, iOS) injects a human element into an otherwise boring pasttime. It’s a relatively fully featured document and spreadsheet app that lets you and your cohorts work on things at the same time, tied together by a real-time chat system used to keep in touch alongside your documents. Files can be pulled in from popular cloud storage services and exported to Word, PDF, and Excel formats when they’re finished.
Quit Repeating The Same Tasks
Check to see if they can be automated with If (Android, iOS, web). The app works like a digital Rube Goldberg machine, connecting popular online services with one another. Let’s say your boss wants you to add every tweet you send out to a spreadsheet. Bo-ring! Formerly known as IFTTT—which stands for If This, Then That—the app can do that for you automatically so you don’t have to copy and paste tweets all day. And let’s say the same boss wants to get an email from you every time you add a new event to the company calendar. Yep: that can be automated too. It’s great for dealing with old-schoolers who always want to be “kept in the loop” without requiring a whole lot of effort on your part.
The tried-and-true CCleaner (Android, Kindle Fire, Mac, PC) scours your computers and mobile devices for excess crud—temporary files, cookies, old apps, and more—to clean out the cobwebs and, in turn, speed things up. Free versions of the app treat you to as-needed cleanups, which are plenty effective; paid versions offer real-time monitoring, automatic updates, lost file recovery, and premium support features.
Microsoft’s free OneNote app (Android, iOS, Windows Phone) is a note-taker on steroids that lets you type, handwrite, audio-record, snap photos, and more. Notes are saved and synched across devices, with different formats available—checklists, research, meetings, lectures—based on what you’re looking to do.
Fabricate A Form, Fast
Forget paper. If you need to whip up a form on the go, Canvas (Android, iOS) is worth a look. The app lets you cobble together custom forms—invoices, expense reports, checklists, work orders, and more—and sports additional features such as signature capturing and cloud synchronization. There are more than 5,000 prebuilt forms for you to finesse as you see fit.
Install A Ton Of Windows Apps At Once
Visit Ninite (Windows) for a great click-and-pick selection of popular Windows apps. Whether you’re setting up a new computer or want to update a bunch of your apps to their latest versions, the site will build you a customized one-time installer that packages up the programs you want and installs them all in one fell swoop: No need to go from site to site, sit through download after download, or weather installation after installation.
Get To Know Your Phone Better
Chances are, you probably haven’t fully tapped into all your phone’s features. Drippler (Android, iOS) provides Android- and Apple-specific versions that run down notable features, recent updates, and provide how-to articles that you can use to really get into the nitty-gritty of that handheld computer that’s always in your pocket.
Beef Up Your Brand
Like most businesses, it’s completely reasonable to think that much of your marketing strategy relies heavily upon popular social networks. Try Postfity (web) to manage your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus accounts. You can blast an update out to multiple accounts at the same time, or use the handy scheduling tool to dole your musings out at predetermined times. The free version lets you connect up to five accounts and schedule up to 10 updates.
Grab Screenshots In Seconds
FireShot (web) is a slick, lightweight screenshot tool that works with just about every browser to quickly grab whatever’s in your browser window. You can save the visible section of the page, the entire page, or a selection of your choosing, all with a single click. Once you’ve got what you need, you can download it as an image file, as a PDF file, or print it out.
Keep All Those Passwords Straight
If you use the same password for everything (don’t do it!), check out Dashlane (Android, iOS, web). It’s a password manager for mobile devices and desktops that keeps track of all your logins, automatically entering your credentials as you surf. The app will automatically generate new, super-strong passwords for you and can lock itself down if you lose your phone. The free version is limited to one device at a time.
Protect Your Email Address
Stop trading your email address for free stuff! MailDrop (web) lets you create a onetime address that disappears after you’re done with it—perfect for those quick-hit deals, downloads, and promotions. There’s no signup or passwords involved—by MailDrop’s admission, it should not be used for sensitive email—and you can store up to 10 messages should you need to engage in a bit of back and forth with your recipient. Leave your temporary mailbox untouched for 24 hours, and it’ll vanish forever.
Convert Videos With Your Eyes Closed
With several competing video formats out there, it’s hard to please everyone. Thankfully, Any Video Converter (Mac, Windows) makes it easy to convert a video from one format to another—or several videos from one format to another. Drag your videos into the app, and select from more than 150 possible output formats, all thoughtfully categorized for specific devices, web formats, and offline formats. Then hit the Convert Now button, grab a cup of coffee, and . . . well, that’s about it.
Let Your Phone Type For You
You’ve never really had a way with words, and scratching out screeds on a smartphone can be maddening. Try SwiftKey (Android, iOS) as a keyboard replacement. The more you use it, the more it learns about how you type, including the ability to pull data from popular cloud-connected services you use in order to return incredibly personalized predictions. Just type your first word and the app will suggest the next one right above the keyboard.
The popular Betternet (Android, iOS, Mac, Windows) service provides a free, unlimited (albeit ad-supported) VPN connection that you can use to sidestep blocked sites and surf anonymously. There’s no signup required, making this one of the easiest—if not the easiest—VPN tools around.
Sync Your Stuff
There’s no shortage of file-shuttling solutions, but Daemon Sync (Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, PC) is worth a look, thanks to its sheer simplicity. Load the app up on your phone and install the agent on your PC or Mac, and every time your devices are on the same wireless network, your phone’s photos, videos, and other files you specify will seamlessly synch with the computer and get passed along to other mobile devices you have.
Troubleshoot Your Connection
Slow Internet? Maybe it’s actually slow, or maybe your device is acting up. Rule one of them out with Speedtest (Android, iOS, web). The service will connect you to a nearby test server so you can double-check your upload speeds, download speeds, and ping, with data relayed to you via a cool-looking speedometer.
Save Your Data
Few things sting more than a nice American data overage. In that spirit, Onavo (Android, iOS) works to preserve your precious data allotment. Tell the app how much you’ve got to work with each month, and it’ll compress various image files while you’re connected to your mobile network with smart tricks such as not loading images in your web browser unless you scroll down to the point that they’re in view.
Scratch Out Some Designs
If you’re not ready to tackle complicated prototyping and wireframing software, POP (Android, iOS) might be right up your alley. Short for Prototyping on Paper, you sketch your idea out on paper, snap a photo of it, and then trace around the elements on your phone to quickly create a digitized version of your design that you can manipulate as though it’s a live interface.
Edit Images Without Breaking The Bank
Photoshop may be powerful, but it’s also expensive. Paint.net (Windows) is free and features a lot of the same functionality, including a clean, straightforward interface and built-in effects along with the ability to use layers. There’s a vibrant user community as well, which offers up helpful tutorials and plugins to extend the program’s functionality.
Like it or not, your website is probably going to crash once in a while. Montastic (web) can keep an eye on your site around the clock, sending you an email if your site goes down, and sending another one once it’s back up. The free plan lets you monitor up to three URLs at a time, and checks in every 30 minutes, while inexpensive paid plans shorten the check-in time to five minutes.
Get Your Ducks In A Row
When it comes to keeping track of life’s many, many tasks, Any.do (Android, iOS, web) offers plenty of options without being overly complicated. You can even forward an email message to turn it into a task—the 21st-century equivalent of stuffing Post-It notes all over your desk. And all your notes, tasks, and to-dos synchronize with the web-based version of Any.do so you can access them from just about anywhere.
Put Paper In Its Place
TinyScan (Android, iOS) helps you digitize the mountain of paperwork, receipts, and takeout menus threatening to split your desk in half. This very simple but effective scanner app lets you capture images as PDFs that you can email to yourself or save to Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, Box, and other popular cloud storage services. You can save documents in black and white or color, and you can string several snaps into single documents if you’re working with multiple items that belong together.
Take No-Fuss Notes
Simplenote (Android, iOS) focuses on letting you take quick notes without worrying too much about organization. All your notes are searchable and synch to other devices, with a built-in to-do list to help you stay on track if you need to get certain tasks done. If you’re not naturally super organized, this can be a good first step towards a slightly less messy lifestyle.
Group Your Google Tools
Handle (Chrome, iOS) pulls your Gmail, Google Calendar, and to-do list together into one handy dashboard. It turns your email messages into actionable items and serves them up in the middle column of a distraction-free interface, flanked on either side by your projects and your calendar. The iOS app lets you add new tasks via Siri as well.
Finally, a way to experience the white-knuckled thrill of a . . . well, it’s still whiteboarding. Even if you’re not in the same room as your colleagues, you can share a real-time virtual whiteboard with SyncSpace (Android, iOS). Add text and doodles as a group, and when you’ve finally gotten all your ideas down, your whiteboard can be emailed around as a set of images or even edited later if you need to make some changes.
Running Your Business
Get Your Site Up And Running
Go with Weebly (Android, iOS, web). The freebie account sports a slick drag-and-drop interface with plenty of starter templates, free hosting, and the ability to sell up to five e-commerce products (Weebly takes a 3% cut of each sale). The mobile apps make updating your site with new content and sharing it on social networks a breeze as well. You can even build your site entirely from your phone if you’re feeling adventurous. Weebly is a good option for people who know they need some sort of web presence but don’t want to put too much time and effort into dealing with one.
Find An Office On Demand
Breather (Android, iOS) helps you forgo the expense of a fixed office, offering up “spaces” that can be rented out around the city for a half hour at a time. Meet with a client, respond to email while you’ve got some time between appointments, or just get off your feet for a bit. Spaces can be unlocked with your phone and sport Wi-Fi, power plugs, and charging docks. The service is currently available in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Montreal, and Ottawa, with additional cities on the way.
Make Your Mark
You don’t have to read a stack of books or sit through grad school to make sure your marketing’s on point. Primer (Android, iOS) is a handy Google-built app that dishes up easily digestible lessons and tips that you can peruse whenever you have a few minutes to spare. Topics include advertising, content, design, marketing, and more.
Don’t Get Delayed By Deliveries
Use Slice (Android, iOS) to track your packages from big-name retailers Amazon, Best Buy, Nordstrom, Walmart, and several others. The app automatically plucks your purchase info from your email account and serves up a trackable map of your item as it makes its way to your house. Best of all, after you’ve bought something, Slice will alert you to price drops that fall within the retailer’s adjustment window, making it easy to save on stuff after the fact.
Seal The Deal
If you need to make sure your legal bases are covered, use Shake (Android, iOS). This app helps you whip up contracts that you and another party can sign on the spot. There are preselectable templates available that you can customize to your liking. Contracts can be signed and then sent electronically for signatures as well.
Get Your Clients To Pony Up
Load up Zoho Invoice and Time Tracker (Android, iOS, web, Windows Phone). Easy-to-create invoices get top billing here, but Zoho adds some nice extras like time- and expense-tracking, recurring bills, and connections with online payment processors. The mobile app handles just about everything that the web-based version does, with a straightforward layout and similarly robust feature set. You can bill up to five clients using the free version.
Estimate Your Windfall
When tax season draws near, get an idea of how much moola you’re getting back or—gulp—how much you’re going to owe. TaxCaster (Android, iOS), from popular tax preparation provider TurboTax, asks you for some basic info and then estimates the final tally. Just enter your filing status, your income, and any tax breaks you’re expecting, and watch the dial at the top of the app (hopefully) move from red to green to indicate that a refund is headed your way.
Keep Your Finances In Order
The easy-to-use Mint (Android, iOS) app helps you corral all your financial accounts—banking, credit cards, loans, and more—to present you with a nice overview of how much money you have. As far as taxes go, the app does a good job of breaking all your purchases down by category so that you can find various deductions without combing through statement after statement from each of your financial institutions.
(Re)cover Your Tracks
Business mileage can be a big write-off, so a good tracker like MileIQ (Android, iOS) is a must. The app can auto-log miles for you by using your phone’s GPS, or you can manually add entries for past trips. It’ll show you how much of a deduction you’ll get—rates are currently 57.5 cents per mile—and entries are stored in IRS-friendly formats. The app lets you log 40 drives for free every month; monthly fees start at $6 thereafter.
Make A Plan To Expand
Try Centro Business Planning Tool (Android, iOS) if you’re looking for some guidance when cobbling together a new business plan. The app steps you through a series of questions that cover finances, operations, your value proposition, target markets and more. The app is structured as a string of activities; once you complete them all, you’ll have yourself a nice little business plan to work with.