At this year’s Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that there are 900,000 apps in the App Store already. We can only speculate when the one millionth app will be released, but the number is still impressive nevertheless.
However, the term “app” is not reserved to iPhone or iPad only, so let’s take a broader look at the whole market of various mobile and online apps. And the apps featured here are not just an accidental set of 10 cool things. They really have the potential to introduce you to your more productive self, especially if you’re a freelancer or someone working on independent projects with various clients.
But let’s start with something general, an app that comes handy to all people who value productive work and easy access to data:
Available for: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile.
SugarSync was released as a competitor to Dropbox, which still is the most well-known solution for online data backup and synchronization. But as it turns out, SugarSync does stand apart in this niche by providing some great features. First of all, SugarSync apps are real. This means that each app allows you to do any standard operation on your files, and not just view them like in some Dropbox apps.
Secondly, you can synchronize any folder on your computer, not just one, and you can even synchronize stuff selectively. For example, some folders can be synchronized on both your desktop and your laptop, while others can stay laptop-exclusive.
Thirdly, it’s just as automatic and hands-free as Dropbox, so you don’t even notice it working in the background.
Mailbox, an app with very basic sounding name, is taking the market by storm. Every day, more and more people get excited about it, and not without a reason.
The main strength of Mailbox is that it makes email sensible again. Or in other words, it helps you be productive when working with email.
Mailbox connects to your Gmail account (they promise to enable other providers soon) and helps you manage your inbox by adding a whole range of cool features. Just to name a few: you can swipe messages to archive or trash them, scan an entire conversation with a chat-like interface, snooze emails, postpone them for later, and many more. In some ways, Mailbox is a user interface design masterpiece.
Bidsketch is a tool for any freelancer, agency, or consultant who wants to make their client proposals better, more functional and less hassle to tame.
The tool is web-based and lets you manage your proposals from anywhere. Plus, the easy-to-use proposal creator makes it possible to build a completely new proposal and send it out in less than an hour. Compare this to the traditional method of using a combination of Word and email. The team at Bidsketch actually knows a thing or two about freelancing productively.
Not only that, but Bidsketch also tracks every proposal and notifies you when the client views it. This is great for clients themselves too because they get to approve or decline your proposals right away, and even sign them electronically if needed.
Buffer started as a simple web app for buffering your tweets to be sent out throughout the day automatically.
The idea was that not every part of the day is perfect to tweet, and also that sending too many tweets one after another might put off your followers. Such things don’t sound scary for personal use, but if you’re tweeting on your company’s behalf then it’s a different story.
Buffer has grown a lot since then and now lets you manage your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, all at the same time. Plus, you get access to full analytics and click stats for every account. But the best part is that Buffer offers apps for iOS, Android, browser extensions and is even integrated into many other services across the web, like: Pocket, Feedly, Instapaper, and most recently Followerwonk.
In my opinion, it’s the best app for creating and managing your own personal “read later” list.
The way that Pocket functions is very straightforward on the user’s part. When you stumble upon something you want to read later, all you do is click a small Pocket button in your browser (or other device), which will save the article into your “read later” list. Then, whenever you have a moment, you can fire up the main Pocket list and go back to some of the articles you’ve saved.
The power of Pocket lies in the number of available apps and platforms. You can get it as a browser extension, an app for Mac, a mobile app for iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, WebOS and more.
In short, Basecamp is THE project management tool of today. Its main interface is web-based, but there is an additional iPhone app available, so you can have a look at things on the go too.
The power of Basecamp is that it offers a clear dashboard-like thing for any given project of yours. On this dashboard, you can view things like: discussions, to-do lists, files that have been attached to the project, text documents, and so on. The tool also features multiple user accounts for a single project/company, so you can collaborate with your colleagues to make your work more productive than ever.
Basecamp is premium. If you’d like a free alternative, check out Teambox.
7. Remember The Milk (RTM)
Official: Remember The Milk
If it’s just simple task management you’re after then RTM will provide you with all the functionality you’d need.
What’s great about it (apart from the name itself) is that the tool is available as a web based thing, but also through multiple mobile devices running iOS, Android, or BlackBerry’s operating system. Moreover, you can integrate it with various online services like: Gmail, Google Calendar, MS Outlook, Evernote, or even Twitter (yes, you can add tasks via Twitter).
When it comes to the user interface, there are a lot of keyboard shortcuts available, just to make your everyday work even faster.
8. Microsoft OneNote for iOS or Evernote
Both of these tools are meant to make note-taking easier, more accessible and functional. Microsoft’s thing is a new addition to the App Store, while Evernote has been with us for quite a while. I’m listing these tools together so you can make your own choice and pick the one that seems more suitable for your needs.
There are some differences between them but the core functionality is the same. You can take a note, any kind of note actually, and have it synced to the cloud automatically. Both tools support pictures, text, lists, quick notes, to-do lists and so on.
OneNote notes can be created on iPad and iPhone apps, as well as through the native desktop software – Microsoft OneNote. Evernote, on the other hand, offers apps for: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, BlackBerry and more, so in some cases it can be the more functional choice.
Actually, my opinion is kind of biased because I’ve been using Evernote for years and am quite used to it.
9. TopNotes for iOS
Various “visual” note taking apps are very trendy nowadays. The idea is that you can work with your iPad or iPhone just like with a piece of paper. This means that you can select various pens, pencils, colors and create a great looking note incorporating your own hand-made drawings, charts, diagrams, sketches, or whatever else.
The only problem with most apps like this that I’ve tested is that there are simply too many in-app purchases. Usually, you get just one pen and one color, and if you want to customize your note in any way, you have to pay (sometimes insane amounts of money). This is not the case with TopNotes and that’s why it’s made the list. It offers a number of brushes right off the bat and you don’t have to pay extra for the privilege to change the color. In short, the app just works, with no hassle.
10. AOL Reader or Digg Reader
Since Google Reader is now dead, it’s about time to find a replacement. Now, most people know about Feedly, but I want to guide your attention towards two other tools that are also in this game: AOL Reader and Digg Reader.
They have very similar interfaces and very similar functionality. More than that, the interfaces resemble the original Google Reader’s interface, which is surely an intentional ploy by their creators.
Both tools have their pros and cons though. Digg has an iOS app available, but AOL gives you a more functional interface with some fine-tuning possibilities. In the end, it’s up to you which tool you’ll end up using. I personally haven’t decided yet, and I’m constantly going back and forth between them.