10 Productivity Apps 2013

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about productivity tools. With all of the (continued) seismic changes in technology, it seems like a good time to update the list.

As always, my desire for tech is that it as transparent as possible so that productivity is accelerated.

To this end, here’s what I’m using:

1. I cannot stress enough that if you have a pre-Flash based MacBook, you should immediately, swap out your old Solid State hard disk for a Flash drive. It sounds hard, but it’s not, and this hack alone will boost your productivity by leaps and bounds. I detail the process here: Weekend Project: New Mac for ~$200 — Upgrade from HDD to SSD

2. Alfred. I still do miss my beloved Quicksilver, but it’s really gone unsupported in any meaningful way for so long now that (for me at least), it’s just not stable. Alfred fills the void nicely (if not freely when you add the sort-of-necessary Power Pack), and allows you to customize its functionality fairly well (the new Workflows in the Beta version show a lot of promise). Even if you don’t ever customize it to any degree, having an app launcher, calculator, iTunes controller, etc. all at your fingertips does save time.

3. 1Password. We’re bogged down with passwords. Wired recently ran a story about how we need to kill the password, and I couldn’t agree more. Until we get there, however, we’re stuck with the boogers. Therefore, having a great app that not only stores your passwords (across your devices), but also generates random passwords when you have to create new ones, comes in super handy. I use 1Password every day, and it saves me time and stress.

4. Google Drive. Sort of crazy to me that I have to even mention this, but I run into enough people who still aren’t familiar with how great and efficient this tool is that it merits inclusion. Google’s play at dethroning MSFT is at its most articulated in their apps. As companies move from an Outlook-based email solution to a Gmail solution, it stands to reason that the bloated, unreliable MSFT apps are next to fall, and the Google apps are ready to fill the void nicely. Combine the web-based Google apps with the Google drive on your phone/tablet, and you’re pretty well set in terms of content creation/sharing.

5. Speaking of content creation, as we move to more tablet-based content creation, having the right case/input method is crucial. As for me and my iPad, we’ll stick with the Touchtype iPad case (which I reviewed in detail for Paste) and an Apple bluetooth keyboard. Increasingly, I leave the laptop at home.

6. Cobook. With respect to software, Apple seems to be going the way of Microsoft. Apple’s Mail app sucks (replace it, of course, with gmail both on your desktop/laptop and your mobile devices), and so too does their Contacts/Address Book. Unusable, unreliable. Nightmare. Cobook is the first innovation in contacts since…ever. It pulls your social contacts in as well as your contacts from Google, Apple’s iCloud, etc. Their iPhone app is great, too.

7. Tweetbot. One of the biggest issues we face in a world of many screens is synchronization. Viewing Twitter on your home device, and then having to scroll through a bunch of tweets you’ve already seen when you check on your mobile device is a waste. Tweetbot, in addition to its many other great features, keeps your Twitter feed in synch irrespective of whatever screen you happen to be on at any given time.

8. Evernote. Everyone knows and loves Evernote, but it just gets better and better. You MUST install the Chrome Extension in order to really enjoy its full power. Clipping images, web articles, etc., pretty much eliminates the need for bookmarking. Of course, its mobile apps are killer too. Its Skitch integration was a bit rough at first, but the two now seem to play nicely, which makes grabbing and notating screen grabs (with Skitch) as easy as archiving them (with Evernote).

9. Reeder. I still enjoy RSS feeds, though, admittedly, my usage has gone down. In terms of best of breed, there’s no single choice for both laptop/desktop and mobile. While people love Flipbook, it’s never done it for me. On my iPad I use Mr. Reader, on my MacBook I use Reeder, and on my phone, I use the Google RSS reader. I’m hopeful that a more unified solution will emerge (Reeder does have mobile apps, but I haven’t felt compelled to switch). In the mean time, this solution works in so far as that – like Tweetbot – each does synchronize with your Google Reader streams, and therefore marks items as read universally.

10. Notational Velocity and Simplenote. Notational Velocity is, hands down, the simplest, fastest way to take quick notes, and keep them easily organized on the desktop/laptop. It synchs (relatively) seemlessly with the Simplenote app for mobile. I use them both multiple times a day.

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