Journl, a personal assistant service app.

Ten apps to help you be more productive

Whether you’re naturally super organised or live life under a pile of Post-its there is now a plethora of apps to help you become more efficient and productive.

iDoneThis.com

If you’re working in a team, say, on a research project or revving up a new business, this tool is a dream. It’s a device crossover (so as well as your iPhone it also works on your computer and integrates with Google Chrome, GitHub, Zapier etc) and basically acts as a PA that takes minutes of your daily progress.

At the end of each day it will send each team member a “What'd you get done today?” email to which you all reply. In the morning everyone receives a concise progress list. If you log on via the Internet it will show your work history from a week to up to a year before – which is good news when you have to knock up end of term reports or answer to big cheeses.

Obviously as it’s email-based each team member can chip in comments – which also nixes the need for endless meetings. It’s pretty cheap too - $5 (around £3.20) a month and comes with a 30-day free trial.

Mindjet Tasks

Where previously task management apps for mobile devices have largely focused on individual productivity, this one, designed for iPhone and Android, is specifically for team communication and project management.

Mindjet realised that the easier an app is to figure out the more likely team members are to actually use it – hence the nifty interface design. On the editable task details screen you can see which project the task is a part of, who’s working on it, when its due and percentage complete. Below the task data, you can add comments, attachments – and followers – in case they have some expertise you need or you just want show off.

Mindjet Tasks also harnesses the voice capabilities of Apple iOS and the Android operating system so you can dictate comments verbally into the app – which then translates your spoken words into text and inserts it into Mindjet Tasks. And it’s free.

LastPass

How often have you tried to log into a system and realised you’ve forgotten your password or username? And what about the time you waste looking around for that elusive piece of paper containing all your magic codes?

LastPass nixes all the faffing as it fills in all the details for you – all you need is a master password (and to give it all your details – obviously). You can use it across all your devices – PC, Mac and pretty much every mobile platform there is. The mobile app is one of the few LastPass features requiring the  ‘premium’ account – but at only $1 (about 60p) per month, it’s a steal. Your top-secret information is encrypted locally so it’s secure and in addition to accessing all your account data its built-in browser can automatically log in – so sensitive stuff, like bank accounts, is not saved in your default browser history.

And if you’ve run out of whacky ideas for passwords LastPass will even generate ‘strong’ one for you and store it in your computer.

Another tedious time suck is form filling – but guess what, LastPass has this function too. All you do is set up specific profiles on your computer and when you go to a site LastPass will automatically check if there’s a form to fill, ask you which profile you want to use and do it all for you.

Quick Voice

If you’re sick of not being able to read your own scrawl after lectures this free app for iPhone and iPad will come in very handy.

Possibly the easiest to use of all the recording tools out there, the pause feature, so you can stop and start whenever, is also excellent for those droning off-subject moments. If you’re really bored it’ll let you record while flipping between other apps and it also lets you copy your recordings direct to your computer.

Interestingly you can also convert a recording into an iPhone ringtone - for free. The Pro version QuickVoice2TextEmail (£1.99) also lets you send your recordings as text emails – so you can help those skivers who didn’t quite make it out of bed.

Parallels Access

More and more people are supplementing their desktop computers with mobile devices – in particular the iPad. Cue this brand new app that “applifies” Windows and Mac applications, letting you remotely access them as if they were specifically made for iPad.

So basically you can start and run any desktop application - and swap between them using the iPad ‘tap, swipe and pinch’ motions from anywhere – even in rubbish bandwidth connections. You can copy from your desktop and paste between iPad apps, or even from desktop to desktop. In addition to increasing productivity it also means you can muck about playing games or streaming videos on your iPad directly from your Mac or PC.

It’s less than a month old so inevitably there are still one or two small glitches (like the click controls can occasionally be a bit sticky) but they should be ironed out fairly quickly. And if you’re a student the current price (£54.99 annual subscription for each computer being accessed) may be a bit scary – but shouldn’t be too prohibitive for small businesses. That said the PC version, still in beta stage, is currently available at no charge.

Journl

If you’re one of those people that relies on not-so failsafe devices like Post-its or daubings on the back of your hand to keep organised you might want to check out Journl.

It’s a personal assistant service that runs via a web browser so you can securely store organisational gubbins like calendars, to-do lists, notes, documents and photographs in one place – and access it with any online device. It’s also specifically designed to be dead easy to use. A monthly subscription costs £4.99 – but you can get a month’s free trial at www.journl.com.

SkyDrive

USB sticks are brilliant. Except when you lose them. Which is where cloud storage comes into play. One of the better products around is Microsoft’s SkyDrive – a great big hard drive in the sky on which you can store anything and access from anywhere on any device that runs Windows.

It will sync everything too – so if you’ve been working in your dorm and you’ve uploaded your stuff to SkyDrive – it will automatically save everything so you can pick up where you left off in class. And it’s free.

AltaMail

The downside of emails, aside from the constant pinging of your smartphone, is being able to manage the sheer volume of your inbox. AltaMail (currently available for £2.99) manages them for you.

It will automatically file emails in smart folders, auto reply either immediately or at a later specific time, and brilliantly, get rid of those annoying Viagra spams. It can also send emails with an attachment from cloud storage without having to download first. It supports pretty much any email system in existence from Exchange, Hotmail and Gmail to any IMAP or POP account, Yahoo, AOL, and Big Daddy.

The only thing you have to do is set up the instructions – which may take a bit of time initially – but will amount to a lot less than you’ll spend constantly rummaging through reams of messages.

Buffer

Student union types would do well to download this little freebie for organising events via social networking sites. When have something to share, you just add the blurb to your Buffer queue and it will schedule Facebook posts, LinkedIn updates, Twitter tweets and recently added Google+ at intervals throughout the day.
Operating best with Android phones it also sends you feedback – giving you Twitter and Facebook analytics – how many retweets likes, comments etc. so you can monitor how successful your event is likely to be.

Bardowl

As a student, finding time to read actual books in between studying and hanging out at the student union bar can be a nightmare. One solution to this conundrum is the audiobook. Hitherto the primary way of accessing audiobooks has been via your computer – which means paying and downloading individually from a restricted library.

Enter Bardowl ‘the world’s first’ subscription-based audiobook app for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, which lets you stream audiobooks rather than having to download them. At £9.99 per month it might seem a bit steep until you consider that you get unlimited listening – to as many titles as you wish – from a humungous, unrestricted library of fiction and non-fiction titles.

The app also uses local caching to store up to three hours of audio on the iPhone for offline use. If you’re not convinced - Bardowl gives you an hour’s free listening time to test it out.

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