40 mobile apps and online tools for a more productive life


40 mobile apps web tools productivityIn the world of “there’s an app for that!” how many do we actually use on a regular basis? And how many actually make us more productive?

Working in communications, I find it very important to be able to work on the go and to keep information readily accessible. Same can be said for most farmers and ranchers, especially during busy seasons of the year. Between writing stories for regular publications, managing several social media feeds, keeping up to date on the latest headlines, and making sure that information is passed along to those who need it, things can get piled up quickly. I could easily extend my work hours well beyond the normal work week.

I’m probably your typical Millennial, in that I rarely pick up a pen and paper outside of the occasional pad for quick notes. Most all of my information is accessed digitally. In fact, I have a hard time even filling the lone filing cabinet at the office. If it’s on paper, it gets scanned and stored on the virtual drive.

I’m also on the go quite a bit and Montana isn’t exactly a state with great cell service or mobile internet access, so I definitely depend on apps that store information that can be accessed without cell service. That actually comes in pretty handy when typing notes or recording audio at a field day or on a range tour.

One huge requirement for most any useful app is that it will synchronize information/bookmarks across multiple desktop or mobile devices. I’m an Android user and Google faithful – Samsung Galaxy S4 (favorite; business line) and LG Spectrum 2 (personal). None of that Apple or iOS in my hands. Other than my 5-year-old iPod nano that stays connected to the SYNC system in my F-150.

Below is a list of mobile and web applications that I use most frequently, most to help make my days more efficient and productive. It may seem counterproductive to have so many apps, but they don’t all get used at once or every day. Be sure to let me know about some of your favorite apps in the comments section below.

Audio

Music gets me through the day/night and depending on the mood, I may depend on audio apps that synch on mobile and desktop platforms.

  • Spotify – (Android) Most folks are big on Pandora, and it’s great for discovering new music or listening to a themed station. Spotify is probably my favorite though because it allows me more control of the music I listen to. I can listen to a specific artist/album, create my playlist or those others have created, or any radio playlist based on a list I created or specific artist.
  • Audible – (Android) My favorite audio book platform for when I want to get some reading done but don’t have the time for a paperback. Connected to my Amazon account.
  • TuneIn Radio – (Android) My favorite radio streaming app that allows me to stream several radio stations from across the country on web and mobile devices. This comes in very handy during sporting events since I don’t have cable/satellite television.
  • Podcast Republic – (Android) A default podcast app on my LG phone, but has worked perfectly fine for me. I’d probably recommend finding any podcast app (I could probably find a better one with more effort, but this one works) that works for your device or iTunes. Podcasts are a great way to pass the time on the wide open Montana highways.

Google

As mentioned earlier, I’m a Google faithful. I have a job where I travel, use multiple laptops and mobile devices and have co-workers working remotely (which I often find myself doing). Google’s never-ending portfolio of tools and applications keeps me synchronized across devices, makes collaborating on projects awesome, and keeps my information accessible.

  • Chrome browser – (Android) Absolutely addictive and I’ll use no other web browser. My bookmarks, history, and open tabs are accessible on every desktop and mobile device. Plus, the Chrome Extensions are plentiful and it synchronizes with so many Google tools very easily.
  • Calendar – (Android) I’ve used these in so many ways, I don’t know where to start on how important this tool is. Everything from collaboration in the office and on planning committees, to embedding in my website to keep my customers informed. Plus, it synchs with my Outlook and mobile devices easily.
  • Drive – (Android) This entire folder sharing is so important – Word Docs, Spreadsheets, Powerpoints, Forms, and Drawings. One of the most beneficial uses is allowing collaboration on documents for planning committees or when multiple people need to edit something from several locations.
  • Hangouts – (Android) If my need is either chat or video, Hangouts is my go to. Synchronized on my mobile and laptops, this makes communicating remotely, awesome. Plus, I’ve used Hangouts On Air to live stream presentations at meetings, record them on my YouTube, and use the broadcast later.
  • Google mobile – (Android) The Android OS comes with integration for Google Search. This automatically pulls up information on my phone for sports updates, weather, commute/traffic alerts, breaking news, and updates from my most visited blogs. Removes the need for so many extra apps.

News Monitoring

Along with the many roles of a job in communications, I need to monitor news for important stories. Sometimes it’s just to stay abreast on the latest issues, but I also send out a weekly news roundup email with the most important headlines.

  • Local Papers – Since part of my job is news monitoring, I read several local papers. Many of them have mobile apps for easy access to news and breaking information, which goes great for when I have a few seconds over coffee or if I end up waiting in line somewhere on the go.
  • National News – For national news updates, I keep CNN and USA Today mobile apps handy. Pretty much all of the major news networks have handy apps.
  • Feedly / IFTTT – (Android – Feedly; IFTTT) I go through hundreds of news headlines every week, manage several Facebook and Twitter automated feeds, and need to keep things accessible. I use a few tools to make this mountain into a mole hill. First, load any RSS feed on to Feedly lists. New posts will pop up here and I can browse as I get a chance. I use If This Then That (IFTTT) to send those feeds to a customized spreadsheet in Google Drive. There’s multiple other uses, including Facebook and Twitter automated feeds, I just haven’t explored all the possibilities.
  • Talkwalker – This is the newer alternative to Google Alerts. I put in key terms or phases, define a few parameters, and Talkwalker sends me an email with the news headlines daily/weekly with the headlines on subjects I need to monitor. Beats the heck out of monitoring all sources or doing a daily web search. A great social search function as well.

Organizational

With a job that can have so many tasks going at once, and much time on the road, it’s critical that I’m able to keep material, notes, records organized.

  • EmailDoh! It can be a pain in the rear to keep these cleaned up!
    • Folders – I set rules on my inbox to sort messages into various folders, allowing me to set priorities for certain emails and put off others for when I have more time.
    • Forwarding – With multiple email accounts, for multiple purposes, it’s critical that I’m able to consolidate this information coming at me. Forwarding less-used accounts into one makes things simpler, while still allowing different accounts for necessary roles.
    • Automatic Replies – When I’m on the road in Montana, I often don’t have internet phone service (we’re still excited to get 3G in many places), but emails don’t always wait. Knowing how to utilize automatic replies in my email systems is critical to be able to forward my email to certain groups, while allowing others to know I won’t be able to get back to them in a timely manner.
  • Sunrise Calendar – (Android) Keeping several calendars straight and synchronized was an absolute pain in the rear, until I found this app. This app synchs Google, mobile and social media calendars all into one place and has handy settings for reminder alerts. No more forgetting to add dates in multiple places. Plus, it’s useful on the desktop version.
  • Evernote – (Android) Absolutely my best friend in taking notes, keeping them organized, and being able to find them later. When I’m in the field, with no service, I can still take text, audio and photo notes, save them, and my phone synchs once I return to cell service. Then when I get to my desktop, all my notes are waiting on me. Also, this makes taking notes at meetings on my Kindle Fire very accessible.

Personal

Sometimes you have to make time for personal business and enjoyment. There’s apps for that too.

  • Amazon PriceCheck – (AndroidiOS) No more overpaying for everyday items just because I live in a place where everything costs more to ship in, or just because I live in an area with limited access to shopping. This app scans bar codes, or searches by photo/name for listings on Amazon. Since I’m subscribe to Prime, shipping costs nothing. I’ll scan items in the store or at home. If they’re reasonably cheaper online, I’ll add them to my cart and when I’m ready to purchase, they’re on my doorstep in two days.
  • Ibotta – (Android) I hate coupons, but I live on a budget. This handy app allows me to purchase the things I need in-store and when I get home, I scan the items, scan the receipt and I get a rebate on items I’m buying that can be redeemed through PayPal or an iTunes or Starbucks gift card. The app lists several stores and many necessity items (milk, bread, eggs, pork, beef) aren’t brand specific. I’ve earned $20 in rebates in the first month.
  • Chromecast – (Android) YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime – all great video services, but not always great to watch on a small screen. Chromecast allows me to stream any video from my Chrome browser to the television over wi-fi. Much better sound and picture quality than on my smartphone.
  • Endomondo – (Android) Sometimes I need reminders to take care of me. Running is one way I clear my head and stay in shape. There is a multitude of fitness apps out there. I started on a Blackberry with Endomondo a few years back and have stuck with it. GPS tracking, manual entry, desktop synch, and a premium service with a training plan (and reminders) makes this app handy for me.

Productivity

Multi-tasking, deadlines, new ideas – It’s important to stay on track, keep information handy, and eliminate distractions.

  • Facebook Nanny – (Chrome) This creates a love-hate relationship. This Chrome Extension allows me to check Facebook when I have notifications, but when I’m done or there’s nothing new, Nanny kicks me off and reminds me to go back to work.
  • Pocket – (Android) I go through hundreds of news headlines each week, but not every headline needs to be read right away. Pocket allows me to bookmark the page, keeps me from having a million tabs open, and lets me go back to read the stories, when I have time, from any device.
  • AdBlock Plus – (Chrome) No more ads! No more annoying Facebook promos or anything. This Chrome Extension eliminates all those annoyances and to date has blocked 25,000 ads on my browser.
  • Self Control – (Android) This mobile app on Android locks my phone when I should be shutting down. I can set multiple periods throughout the day/week when my phone won’t let me access applications. I can customize which apps are always accessible (phone, text, email), but it helps me to shut down at night or keeps me from checking messages from bed each morning. Basically forces me to begin and end each day on a much more relaxed note without the distraction of my phones.

Social Media

Managing my time on these addicting communication tools.

  • Facebook – (Android) Learn how to create lists to avoid the dreaded/dead news feed and customize who sees your posts, utilize scheduled posts on pages, and know how to turn off notifications for groups/posts. The mobile messenger app is also a godsend for keeping in touch. (See Facebook Nanny above)
  • Facebook Pages – (Android) Learn how to utilize schedule and targeted posts. The mobile app allows me to post status updates, links, photos, and respond to messages on the go.
  • Twitter – (Android) My main news source. Learn how to utilize lists to curtail the number of people you follow which crowds your home feed. I often catch myself checking Twitter for updates in the smallest of time slots – restaurants, checkout lines, gas station pumps.
  • Hootsuite – (Android) My favorite third-party app for Twitter. The lists that I create on Twitter, synch with Hootsuite mobile and desktop and allows me to keep an eye on several more conversations, topics, mentions, or keywords from multiple Twitter accounts. This platform also allows me to tweet out stories/links/updates using an auto-scheduler. This allows me to schedule several posts at once, when I have

Travel

  • Delta (or your favorite airline carrier) – (Android) These mobile apps are awesome for booking/changing flights, checking in prior to arriving at the airport (mobile boarding pass), checking for updates during travel, finding my next gate, paying for bags early (and avoiding an overweight fee if I happen to be a few pounds over). I also love that the Delta app adds the flights to my mobile calendars with the click of a button. I also utilize apps for Southwest (Android), Alaska (Android), and United (Android).
  • Banking – Monitoring bank accounts, loans, automatic deposits/payments, and credit cards has never been easier. Many institutions now allow mobile deposit for a small fee. It’s also a huge help in keeping my spending balanced and in check with set reminders. I actually selected a bank when I moved to Montana based on its access via mobile and have been very pleased with not having to actually go to the bank building to get my banking business accomplished. No more, “OH crap, I forgot to pay that bill!”
  • Kayak – (Android) I’ve found myself several times in new towns without a hotel reservation. I quick search on Kayak tells me which hotel has the best rate and rating. I don’t always book through Kayak, but I do use it to get a competitive rate at the front desk. Also, super handy on desktop and for comparing rates for flights.
  • Google Flights – A better web alternative to finding flights across all airlines and locations. Allows you to search for the cheapest flights between dates, locations, airlines and books straight from the airlines website.

The marketplace for mobile and web apps is ever-changing and there’s always something new on the horizon. All of these apps are listed with the Android mobile link, but most are also available on iOS. I’m sure I’ve missed some stand-by favorites of your own, so be sure to let me know what needs to be added to my list. Be sure to include a link.

What mobile/web apps get you through the day and help you to be a more productive person?

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