A Look At My Productivity Apps
1st September, 2019 - Blog
I’m a firm believer in technology to improve workflow, and the availability of apps on all devices has led to plenty of new permutations that I’ve been able to attempt to fit into my work/life balance.
I’ve had a few people ask about which apps I use on a daily basis, so I’ve put together this piece and may well make it into a video feature at some point in the future.
A quick note, as I work ENTIRELY on an iMac and an iPad Pro, all of these are Apple-focused.
Two parts of Apple’s suite of productivity apps which are free to download from the App Store on all devices, Pages and Numbers are analogous to Microsoft’s Word and Excel applications.
Both are arguably easier on the eyes than those alternatives, and while they are missing a lot of the formatting features of the much more established Microsoft Office suite of apps, the way they sync with iCloud is hugely important to me.
I use Pages to write up all of my content before I upload it to any CMS, and I can use it from the iCloud web app – perfect for sending amendments and second drafts to clients.
Numbers, on the other hand, is where I track my current slate of projects and each is colour-coded with regards to it’s status. It’s also where I keep all of my invoices, which I produce in Pages, and these are all stored across iCloud Drive.
Speaking of iCloud Drive, I use Apple’s cloud service as a secondary backup. If my iMac, iPad and iPhone were to all fall apart on the same day, I could still access all of my content (past and present) from any web browser – on Mac or PC.
I say secondary, as I still use an old (around ten years or so) network drive to run constant Time Machine backups of my Mac. When it’s your livelihood at stake, why take the risk?
Postbox 6 is the best Mac email app I’ve been able to test. It costs $40, but has every feature one could possibly ask for, alongside a clean design and power-user features such as linking to Slack and Trello (more on those later). My review can be found here.
Unfortunately, there’s no Postbox application for iOS, but Edison is a great alternative. It’s free and offers a much broader feature-set than the stock iOS Mail app. It can track deliveries and offers a handy “instant unsubscribe” option for those pesky newsletters. It’ll even keep bookings such as OpenTable reservations and cinema tickets handy for you.
As the name suggests, Fantastical is a fantastic calendar – get it? I use it on my iPhone, iPad, and Mac. It works with iCloud calendars, Google calendars, and any other service you can think of – and deals with them in a much clearer and easy to use way than Apple’s stock option.
Fantastical adds to your calendar by using natural language input – so “Dinner with Frankie at The Roslin, 7 pm” becomes an appointment with a location and a time slot. It works really well, as you can see from my review.
On iOS one of the key selling points is the app’s layout. The weekly view can be easily dragged down to reveal a monthly view, and all appointments and events are listed at the bottom.
My favourite part of the macOS version is that Fantastical offers a menu bar option which presents a monthly view at a glance with a single click. It’s a great way to calculate deadlines and see what’s coming up at a glance.
A to-do list like no other, Things 3 is the reason I’m as productive as I am. I set my tasks and diarise them, and then receive a little icon on the app (on both iOS and macOS) when the time comes to action them.
I track invoices, pitches, deadlines and all sorts in Things 3, and ticking each task off often feels like a reward in itself. It’s also fun to check back over the app’s “Logbook” of completed tasks to see how hard I’ve been working!
Helpfully, Things 3 integrates with calendars too – so if I’ve got an embargo to hit I can see what else I’m doing on that day and plan accordingly. Simply put, I can’t imagine being without it.
Check out my review here.
Definitely a more niche app, Cardhop is a contacts manager that groups together all of a person’s info in one place and acts as a launcher to be able to email/WhatsApp/Tweet them from one centralised hub.
That’s all very helpful, but my main use of Cardhop is (as with Fantastical – incidentally from the same developers) is quick access to my contacts from my macOS menu bar. Being able to have access to them from whichever screen I’m on is super helpful. My review can be found here if you’d like more information.
Slack has become the world’s premier workplace messaging service, and for good reason. Using multiple “Workspaces”, each with options for individual messaging or project-focused channels, Slack is the best way to keep in touch with my editors.
It’s how I’m sent a lot of the pieces I write for The Daily Star, for example, and also where I can chat with my colleagues about work or anything else.
Franz is lesser-known, but is essentially a central hub for various chat applications. Mine contains four different Slack workspaces, WhatsApp, and even Discord, while there are dozens of other services that can be linked too.
An app I use extensively for larger projects, Trello is a great tool for project management within a team. Tasks can be assigned, notes added, and it’s ideal for collaborative work.
I used it a lot when working on content for a website recently, and the band have used it to coordinate tasks as well.
There are so many streaming services for music out there, and each offers something the others don’t – it can be so difficult to make a choice.
I used Apple Music for a long time but found the app (and the way it was linked to iTunes) to be cumbersome at best. It may be getting a refresh with MacOS Catalina, but I’m now a firm believer in Spotify.
Spotify’s recent inclusion of podcasts (and way of shoehorning both music and podcast libraries together) aside, the app is well designed and snappier than Apple’s effort. On macOS, I like to see what my friends are listening to using the sidebar, and being able to stream through our Sky Q box is also great for when we have friends over.
The main reason I love Spotify (and it is a deep, deep love now that I’ve been using it for some time) is the way music is curated. On any given day I have multiple Daily Mix playlists – formed of music I like that works well together, as well as songs from new artists. I’ve discovered plenty of great music through it, and I’m sure I’ll find plenty more.
A reminder that you can find my music on Spotify here.
If the previous comments about Podcasts made you think I’m not into the medium as a whole, I can assure you that isn’t the case. I listen to more podcasts than I do music, and enjoy them more than TV for the most part – I just prefer to keep it separate from Spotify.
I use Pocket Casts for a few reasons. Firstly, the app is really efficient, with a really nice design. Secondly, it syncs across multiple devices and offers support for Google Home streaming – perfect for our kitchen speaker.
Finally, it offers a MacOS app – something other apps like Overcast don’t offer.
In fact, all I’m hoping for is native Apple Watch support, and with WatchOS 6 this could be a possibility. Podcast heaven!
Check out my review here.
It seems obvious, a web browser is a key part of any computer setup and everyone has their favourite. Mine was Safari for a long time, but Chrome’s ability to handle anything thrown at it content-wise, and the fact that it supports every CMS I use, make it the obvious choice.
Those CMS logins are tough to remember though, so I use LastPass. I have it as a Chrome Extension and as an app on my iPhone and iPad, and it syncs across all platforms. It allows me instant login across all sites – a massive timesaver.