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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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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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