As a student, a professional, a business person, or a freelancer — you might want to remain productive all the time. And, as you probably know, there are a bunch of tools and apps on the web that can make you super-productive.
And I obviously haven’t tried all of them personally as my goal was to find and list the best of the best tools (in each category).
So today, I am sharing with you my favorite productivity tools and apparently they’re the tools that I can’t live without. And no, it doesn’t include any social networks, or instant messengers, or messaging apps, or even any paid tools.
Just ten free productivity tools — and it’s for anyone and everyone. That’s it!
And I’m calling it: “The Fantastic Ten”.
- Gmail #Email
- Sunrise #Calendar
- Evernote #Notes
- Wunderlist #Tasks
- Feedly #News
- Pocket #Save
- Dropbox #Cloud
- Trello #Planner
- IFTTT #Automate
- Chrome #Browser
- Day One #Journal
- Office 365 #Office
A quick word, none of the tools that I have listed here is a desktop-only or mobile-only app. All of them works perfectly on a computer, tablet, and a mobile device — and syncs magically.
And that exactly is the reason why the awesomest pomodoro timers, remote desktops, screen captures, and the like are missing here.
But you can always check out my Productivity Tools 101 for (almost) all things productivity.
Also, all the tools that I have listed here are free and it’s perfect for personal usage (but may not be the best choice for business users).
Gmail is my all time favorite. And I know what you are thinking right now. Well, you’re right! Gmail is, of course, the web’s favorite email service and is known to everyone. But I bet you must be missing many of its incredible features.
I have already shared over over 71 Gmail tips and tricks and I’m sure that you will never use Gmail the way you used to once you read it. And then you will know why Gmail is on top of my list.
Again, if you are a mobile centric person then you can further enhance your Gmail experience by using Mailbox (available on iOS, Android and OS X) or Outlook (available on iOS and Android) instead of using the official Gmail app by Google.
And you can also try Inbox by Gmail — if you want to use Gmail as a task-manager as well.
Sunrise is a calendar app for desktop and mobile that works seamlessly on all your devices. What’s so special about Sunrise is that it’s not a calendar app by itself.
You need to add your preferred calendars (and task managers too) to it so that you can access and manage all of it — from within the Sunrise app.
Sunrise supports a dozen of calendar and task manager services like iCloud, Outlook.com & Office 365, Google Calendar & Tasks, Facebook Events & Birthdays, Wunderlist, Todoist, Asana, Trello, Evernote, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. so that you can access everything from a single space.
Evernote is so popular that there can’t be productivity list without it. It’s one of the best productivity app that’s equally useful to kids, writers, entrepreneurs, professionals, homemakers, or virtually anyone who want to “Remember everything”.
And if there is something that made it massively popular then I believe it’s because of its simplicity and the cross-platform compatibility (yes, it works like a charm on all your devices).
Oh yeah, I have already shared over 51 Evernote tips and tricks to make you an “Evernote Ninja”. So don’t miss it and you will definitely fall in love with Evernote (if you aren’t already).
My favorite task manager was Todoist and I still like it because of its simplicity. But I was unhappy about its syncing and that most of the essential features were part of the premium version.
For instance, you need a premium account to enable “Reminders” on Todoist. Reminder is an essential feature of any task manager app, right? In fact, even the premium version didn’t solve the syncing problem.
So I was obviously looking for a free alternative and tried Wunderlist (when Microsoft acquired it). And when I started using it, I was immediately convinced that it’s the best task manager app — that’s free.
And the best thing about Wunderlist is that… the syncing is perfect and almost all the features (including ones that are premium at Todoist) are free. Of course, they also have a premium version but you probably don’t need it — unless you’re an enterprise user.
Also, Wunderlist is virtually available on all platforms — just like Todoist.
We all have a list of websites or blogs that we want to follow pretty closely, right? Feedly is perhaps the only news reader app you will ever want.
It’s simply the best RSS reader (or simply news aggregator) — thanks to Google Reader’s demise — that lets you read, organize, bookmark, and share content.
What’s more? It’s got an intuitive interface with a lot of customization options.
Feedly is officially available on all major mobile platforms (iOS, Android, Kindle) and for other platforms there are a lot of third-party applications.
And it’s also integrated with over 200 third-party apps. One thing that I particularly love about Feedly mobile is that it works better than its desktop version.
Pocket (formerly Read It Later) is one of the most popular save for later app that lets you read articles offline. You can save articles, web pages, videos, etc. to access later — with a single-click.
Whatever you add an item to Pocket, it goes to a reading list and you can delete/archive it, when you’re done.
Perhaps the best thing about Pocket is that it’s available everywhere (on desktop, mobile, tablet, web, and as browser extensions) and is also integrated with over 1,500 apps and services.
So all your Pocket items are automatically synced across all your devices.
Dropbox is the most popular cloud storage service. In fact, it’s Dropbox that revolutionized the cloud storage for consumers. It’s got the best user interface and works beautifully across all the platforms and devices.
And you won’t have to rely on a third-party client ever as there’s an official Dropbox app for almost all the desktop and mobile platforms like Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, and Kindle.
No other cloud storage service — whether it’s OneDrive, or Google Drive, or Amazon, or Box — offers this cross-platform support.
Trello was not among my favorites and I was not using it until a couple of months ago. But when I did, it immediately became one of my favorites and eventually replaced OneNote.
Microsoft OneNote was my favorite note-taker and planner app before Evernote and Trello came on the scene. And it’s still one of my favorite productivity tool except that I don’t need it much these days.
The reason is quite simple… OneNote is a superior app that’s way more sophisticated than Evernote or Trello. It’s is enriched with a ton of collaboration and notes organization capabilities, formatting options, digital tools, and a lot of other nifty features. So I would rather use it someday as an advanced note-taker or planner app — when I need to.
Trello on the other side is an intuitive project management app and it can be used to organize almost anything (from ideas to recipes to shopping list to notes and what-not) and share it with anyone and work together as a team.
It is so flexible that everyone can use it in their own unique way (just like Evernote). Trello basically is all about “Boards”, “Lists”, and “Cards”. I treat a “Board” as a project, and a “List” as a section or a process within a “Board”, and finally a “Card” as a micro-task or a tiny-note.
Wait, we can even drag and drop cards between lists or can copy/move a card to another list (within another Board). And then there are additional features like comments, attachments, labels, reminders, etc. that lets you organize your Trello boards and lists in a more efficient way.
IFTTT is an acronym for “If This Then That”. It’s a powerful tool that lets you connect almost all your web apps in a way that you wouldn’t have imagined. Once you add (or rather connect) all your apps to IFTTT, you can create rules (known as “recipes” in IFTTT).
When you’re done, just browse the recipes and you will be amazed at the kinds of recipes that are doable using IFTTT. For instance, if you have connected Evernote and Pocket to IFTTT then you can create a recipe like “Save the favorited item in Pocket to Evernote”.
Apart from that, you can also create recipes that doesn’t require any third-party apps. For instance, you can create a recipe to receive an email alert about a stock price.
The more apps you connect, the more recipes you can create. Perhaps the loveliest thing about IFTTT is that… creating a recipe feels like coding — except that everyone can do it.
10. Google Chrome
Google Chrome is undoubtedly the web’s favorite browser. Actually, it’s much more than just a web browser. Or, what’s web without Google Chrome? I don’t know but I live in Google Chrome.
I love Chrome for its simplicity, clean user interface, apps, extensions, address bar (here’s why!), password manager, and the way everything is synced across all our devices — thanks to the cloud.
The Fantastic Ten: Changelog
- Wunderlist #Tasks
- Dropbox #Cloud
- Trello #Planner
- Todoist #Tasks
- Microsoft OneDrive #Cloud
- Microsoft OneNote #Planner
BONUS: Premium Productivity Tools
11. Day One
Day One is not exactly a productivity app but a journaling app for iOS and Mac OS X. And I have decided to include it as it’s one of my favorite productivity app now. You know why? Well, I use it to convert my thoughts or anything what’s in my mind to words and that way it helps me to refine ideas.
And that’s not all. Day One has got some really cool features like a Calendar View (that shows all our journal entries in a calendar), Multiple Journals, Reminders, Publish (that allows us to selectively publish a journal entry and share its link), Photos (oh yeah, we can embed photos from the web or can upload one from our own PC), Tags (it allows us to tag all our entries and make it more organized), Starred (it’s my todo — sort of — inside Day One).
I ‘Star’ an entry when I want to (temporarily or permanently) bookmark a journal entry or when I enter a journal entry that’s also a to-do. Day One costs a one-time $39.99 for the OS X version and $9.99 for the iOS (iPhone & iPad) version.
Note: As of now, Day One is available only on iPhone, iPad, and Mac OS X but I have listed it here as they are going to launch a Web and Android version sooner or later (though I’m not sure about its Windows version).
12. Microsoft Office
Microsoft Office is obviously the most popular (and the best too) productivity suite — and it’s getting more productive, useful, and feature rich.
Office suite is not free but I decided to include it as there’s Office Online (which is totally free).
Office Online lets you experience almost all the Office suite apps without buying or downloading the software.
And if this was a list of free as well as premium tools then I might have listed Office 365 at the top as it’s the best productivity software that’s worth every dollar that you pay.
The reason is pretty simple… today even a tiny cloud service can cost at least $40-$50 a year but Office 365 costs only $99.99 per year.
And it lets you install the full Office suite on 5 PCs or Macs, and 5 tablets and mobile phones.
That’s not all! You also get OneDrive storage of 1 TB each for up to 5 users and also 60 Skype minutes per month, again for all the 5 users.
It’s very, very likely that you already know most of the tools that I have mentioned here as they are all massively popular. But I just wanted to come up with a list and make it as useful as possible.
And by the way, I’m not actively using all the above tools at any given time as I always try to use only a minimum number of tools.
So I just switch according to my requirements. As of today, I’m not using IFTTT, OneNote, and Pocket from the above list.
Now I’m curious to know your “fantastic ten” productivity tools. So feel free to share it as a comment below. 😉
Stay focused, stay productive!
First Published: September 23, 2015; Last Updated: Wednesday, February 10, 2016.