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15 Really Popular Productivity Apps for the iPhone

15 Really Popular Productivity Apps for the iPhone

    Most iPhone apps are terrible: they don’t do much at all and what they do actually do, is usually the duplicate functionality of a hundred other apps that already exist. Most of them barely even do that very well. I may be a little harsh: while some people I know have maxed out their home screens and filled each and every one up with apps, I only use about eight apps.

    And even some of those, I barely use. I might pop into BOMRadar if the clouds look darker than normal, or Band because I’m utterly bored and don’t have time to get through a chunk of one of the books I read using BookShelf (BookShelf is perhaps the most used app on my phone).

    But my point is that I don’t even have enough apps installed on my iPhone to fill up a “15 Productivity Apps for the iPhone” article. One might find that my recommendations are a little too picky and I bypass apps that do the job well enough for most people. Which is why I’ve decided to take a look at the sort of productivity apps that other people are using. And it’s true: I am just an overly picky, cynical Scrooge who doesn’t like Christmas trees nor filling iPhone developers’ stockings by purchasing every app I see. Here are the productivity apps that the masses like.

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    AirSharing

    AirSharing is an application that, in a nutshell, allows you to mount your iPhone on your computer via wifi and transfer files to the iPhone, or vice-versa. AirSharing then allows you to view a myriad of file types that are not supported by the iPhone itself. It’s no wonder AirSharing is popular; it’s always been difficult to get your files onto the iPhone, and even if you did you’d have a hard time viewing the files. AirSharing solves all of that.

    Zenbe Lists

    Zenbe Lists does one thing and it does it well, and if you hadn’t figured it out already, that thing is creating lists. You can view or edit your lists from the phone (not to mention from the web if you accidentally leave the phone at home), and share your lists between iPhones and via email. It has a few other minor features but that’s about as complicated as a good list program could or should get. While I don’t use Zenbe at this point, my wife uses it to keep a running list of things we need to grab on our next shopping trip.

    Things

    Things is actually a piece of software I regularly use, both on the desktop and the iPhone. Things is a task management application based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done system, and uses panels representing familiar GTD concepts such as the inbox, today list, next actions list, projects and roles, and so on. If you want GTD task management software that works great both on your iPhone and your Mac, I recommend Things. If you don’t have a Mac I probably wouldn’t, though, since you want to be able to sync your tasks.

    Todo

    We’ve already looked at Zenbe Lists and Things, both apps that can handle task management from each end of the complexity spectrum. The reason I mention Todo — and probably the reason it’s a frequently downloaded, popular application — is that it can sync with a whole bunch of online services such as Toodledo and Remember The Milk. If your system is deeply embedded in one of those services, you can’t get away with Zenbe or Things. You need an app like Todo.

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    OmniFocus

    Initially one of the iPhone’s most popular applications, in the few months since the 3G and App Store launch OmniFocus has been surpassed by Things and by the looks of things, is very slowly climbing further down into the pages of the store. That doesn’t mean it’s bad software, though, and it still does remain quite popular among a wide variety of people. When I tried it, I liked it, and the only reason I stopped using it was because Things became my app of choice on the desktop. One of the coolest things about OmniFocus is the way it handles tasks in a location-aware fashion.

    eWallet

    eWallet is the App Store’s most popular password manager. Not only does it provide you with secure, encrypted storage for your account credentials, but it also has a cool visual method of storing and displaying credit card and bank info. That’s something I’d probably find infinitely useful, as I’m frequently trying to use my bank’s iPhone website to transfer money to my bank card for lunch and going hungry when I can’t remember the account number! Why I don’t just leave the money on the card beforehand is a dilemma for another time…

    SmartTime

    SmartTime is an intriguing looking app that uses an interesting interface to organize your tasks in a more calendar/schedule-driven way — at least, that’s what I gather from the screenshots. I don’t fully understand it and I don’t intend to purchase it, but SmartTime’s a popular app and there must be a reason why. The screenshots do seem to indicate a task management style that would be popular for a whole lot of people.

    iSilo

    iSilo is a document reader for iSilo, Palm Doc, and plain text formats. Aside from the Mobipocket format, these are some of the most popular formats for reading ebooks on phones today (and let’s not even pretend that anybody uses those Microsoft LIT files). You can also view a bunch of image types, PDFs, HTML files, and Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and Powerpoint) files — including Office 2007 files.

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    HanDBase Database Manager

    One thing I don’t get is how HanDBase became a popular iPhone application. It could be the best application in the world, but with an absolute crapper of a name like that, I wouldn’t buy it unless someone I trusted gave me the rave review of a lifetime (my apologies if the app’s namer is reading this!). This application allows you to create a relational database for visualizing, sorting and filtering your information, for everything from home inventory to task and shopping lists.

    iBlueSky

    It has been a while since I’ve been tempted to whip out the credit card for an iPhone application, but iBlueSky tempts me, if not for the curiousity of seeing how a mind map works. Frankly, I think that paper makes a mind map, a real mind map. I’ve never considered software alternatives to provide the same end result, because there’s something about the tangible effort of drawing a mind map that slows you down and allows the ideas to come out. Nevertheless, you can’t always have a big sheet of paper to dream on and iBlueSky has been filling in the gap for a bunch of people.

    iMExchange

    Exchange users who grabbed an iPhone when Exchange support was announced only to feel disappointed when their tasks and notes weren’t synced can breath a sigh of relief. At least I assume they can, because judging by the number of people using iMExchange, it works quite well. I couldn’t test iMExchange even if someone paid me too because I don’t have a spare random Exchange server sitting around, but if you need your Outlook tasks with you wherever you go, look into this app.

    WeDict Pro

    WeDict Pro is a dictionary. These things probably come in handy on the move much more frequently than you’d imagine at first, but in any given day there’s probably a few instances where you need to look up a word’s meaning, and we all know That Guy who you end up getting into a word definition argument with. Solve these problems with WeDict Pro. And learn Chinese while you’re at it thanks to the seemingly random English-Chinese dictionary that was thrown in.

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    Equivalence

    Equivalence is a conversion tool. On the Mac, my most frequently used Dashboard widget is the conversion tool so I can see how this app became so popular — heck, once I’m done here I might just go and grab it myself. Conversion is something I know I have to do every day — US to Australian currency, pounds and feet to kilograms and meters, and so on. You’re probably in the same boat. Equivalence is a bit pricey for a conversion tool, so you use your discretion.

    OneDisk

    OneDisk provides you with access to a variety of cloud storage services, including MobileMe’s iDisk, MyDisk.se and Box.net. Potentially, OneDisk is even better than AirSharing because you can continue to access your files outside of the home. OneDisk also comes with a built-in viewer for Office, iWork, PDF, TXT and HTML files.

    jfControl

    I love Apple’s Remote application, mostly because it works with not just iTunes but the Apple TV too. However, if you’re just using Remote to control your iTunes library on your Mac, here’s a replacement app you may want to consider. jfControl can control iTunes, Front Row, whatever is in your DVD drive, the Finder, QuickTime, and Keynote for those big presentations. Perhaps someone left steroids in Remote’s feeding cage?

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    Last Updated on August 16, 2018

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    The power of habit

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to make a reminder works for you

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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