Monday, September 12, 2011

My Top 4 Productivity Apps

Doing the Bible App review was so much fun (at least for me) that I thought it would fun to do some more reviews. So here we go. Once again these are iOS apps although I am sure that a number of them are also available on Android and Windows Phone 7. Today* I would like to look at My Top 4 Productivity Apps. These are the apps that I use on a daily basis that help me stay organized and informed.

The number one app that keeps me on track is Appigo’s ToDo app. I have to admit to needing a task manager/reminder app or two in order to stay on track. I use this one because Appigo has a Lite version (read free) of their app which allowed me to try it out. I soon ran against the limit of 10 items and bought the full version because I liked the way it worked. For a while I used the sync function to sync with Microsoft Outlook but when I moved to using Google Calendar instead I had to find an alternative. Appigo offers only a Mac desktop app so I started to use Toodledo’s online app which syncs with the ToDo app. It is a bit of a convoluted system but it works for me. Appigo is bringing iCloud support this fall and it will be interesting to see how it works. I wonder if I will end up using iOS 5’s Reminders more than ToDo. 

Some of the features that I find extremely valuable in ToDo is the ability to set different types of tasks. It has 8 different types of tasks and while I use the “Normal” type most often I also use the “Checklist”, “Call a Contact” and “Email a Contact” types. Both the call and email variants allow you to select a contact and to either call them or email them directly from the app. The biggest two features are the reminders and the icon badges. Having the ability to get reminders as well as seeing the icon badge help keep these tasks in mind so that there is at least a better chance that they will get done on time.

Paired with Appigo’s ToDo app is the iPhone’s native calendar app. I use this extensively as it syncs to my Google Calendar. Generally when someone asks me to be somewhere or do something I immediately put it into my calendar. I sometimes feel like it might be a bit rude to whip out the phone in the middle of a conversation but if it does not get put into my calendar or my ToDo app, chances are it won’t get done in a timely fashion. So I just figure that it is more rude to forget to write a recommendation letter or miss an important event than to tap away at my phone. I generally keep two different calendars at the same time. One is for events and other big things that I have to do, like lead worship on a particular Sunday. The other is to break down the workflow of my day. My wife’s phone syncs with the big event calendar so she knows what is going on. My calendar also syncs with her calendar. That way we do not double book. 

As far as the interface of the native calendar app goes, it is far from perfect. As a matter of fact, I really don’t like it. But I don’t want to pay for a prettier calendar app when this one accomplishes what I need it to do. It looks like the iOS 5 calendar is going to be a big improvement. So I will be waiting for that as well.

The next two apps are not so much productivity apps per se, rather they are apps that I use to keep on top of my reading. I use Google Reader to follow a number of blogs and other RSS feeds. I follow 75 different feeds which can be a lot to read at times. I don’t read everything that gets posted but rather sift through the different articles. Most of these feeds update multiple times a day. If I miss checking them for a day or two and it is not uncommon for me to have well over 1000 items to look at. So I find it easier to keep track of them on the go. 

I use MobileRSS to sync with my Google Reader account. I use the app in a fairly basic way and it has more features than I will ever use. I have heard that Reeder is a superior app but once again MobileRSS has a free version to try out and Reeder does not. So I bought the know commodity rather than the unknown. 

While I will read some articles in MobileRSS, most of the ones that I really want to read I save to my ReadItLater account and access them through the free ReadItLater. The interface for reading articles on ReadItLater is much better and it loads a text version of the article to the phone. This was really nice on our latest trip to Los Angeles. I was able to download a bunch of long articles before boarding the plane to read on the way. It also serves as a great archive for articles that I want to keep. These two apps together work out well for me.

These, right now, are the four apps that I use most often to keep me up to speed. I realize that different jobs will call for different types of productivity apps – my wife uses a very complicated construction calculator in her job which is lost on me. But these work for me as I work with my church.

*This is the post that I started on Friday 9/9/2011 and never finished.

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