Productivity can mean a lot of different things to different people. To some, it means easier note taking. To others, it’s a virtual public assistant. To still others, it means keeping track of billing hours. When it comes down to it, though, productivity apps are those applications that will make it easier for you to get things done – at home and at work.
And there are tons of apps out there, so finding ones that actually do what you need or want can be a bit difficult. So here are 20 iPhone productivity apps to keep you on track.
To-do lists and notes
There are lots of apps that allow you to take notes and organize them and do all sorts of nifty things with them. But if you want to access that note from, say, your father’s computer because you’re not at home and your iPhone ran out of power, you better have e-mailed it to yourself. Or have Evernote, which allows you to skip the e-mail part of the process but gives you access to your notes, lists and other stuff anywhere you have an Internet connection.
The app is free and so is the basic service, which gives you 40MB of storage a month. For $5 a month, you get 500 MB of storage, more document types supported, the ability to search within PDFs and the ability to allow others to edit your notes and documents, turning it into a collaborative tool.
Another free to-do list app, ReQall, gets high points from many reviewers. Besides integrating with the calendars on Microsoft Outlook and Google (on the free ReQall account, it’s done via iCal, on the pro account, the integration is direct), you can share your reminders with others and it converts voice memos into text notes if you so desire. Like Evernote, ReQall will sync your memos and reminders to an online account so you don’t even have to have your phone with you to look up or add memos or reminders.
The free account allows you to convert spoken memos of up to 30 seconds into a text note and organizes your notes according to date and type. A pro account adds location to the organization and also will find any Evernotes relating to your ReQall items. The pro account runs $24.99 per year.
• Remember the Milk
This app gets high marks on most reviewers’ lists for being simple and intuitive. The app is free – but only if you have a Remember the Milk pro account online. That’s $25/year. You can set it to auto sync when you have a connection, or work offline. You can auto-link to e-mail addresses in your address book or URLs on Safari and you can set up specific dates for tasks or develop Smart Lists that give a group of tasks the same criteria.
It sends reminders via e-mail, SMS text or instant messenger (including Skype), depending on your preference.
This one’s a little different. Jott transcribes voice notes to text and can post them to Google Calendar, Twitter, Facebook and a host of other services. There’s also a desktop app and you have an account on Jott.com it gets synced with. It can even work with Remember the Milk, as well as Blogger and WordPress. I guess if you want to dictate a (short) blog post, this is your app.
As with any voice-to-text app, there are sure to be some glitches in the translation, but that’s only going to improve in time.
The app itself is free, but you have to have a Jott account — the basic account is $3.95 a month, a pro account is $12.95 a month. You can also get Jott a la carte, $6.95 for 5 minutes of recording time, up to 60 seconds per message.
Password and account management• Personal Assistant
Pageonce‘s app allows you to keep track of all your online accounts – from credit cards and banks to Netflix and eBay; from frequent flyer miles to social networking. Granted, it could be a bit unnerving putting all those accounts behind one single security wall, but Pageonce assures its customers about that, informing customers it “uses 256 bit data encryption, 128 bit data encrypted SSL systems and is insured by a top 10 A+ rated insurance carrier” on Personal Assistant.
The premium version is $9.99 and has a few extra features, such as allowing an unlimited number of accounts, real-time flight information and refreshing all your accounts with one click. Both versions alert users when there may be fraudulent activity on their accounts, as well.
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The app’s website suggests you can save your web site login credentials, driver license info, social security numbers, credit card account information and the like in the app, locked behind a four-digit code AND a master password, both of which you have to set up. So don’t use “123password.” Once you’re behind the lock and key, you can use the information stored in there to auto-fill your information on sites you log into on the app’s built-in browser.
You can backup your data on your PC or Mac and the pro version allows you to cut and paste information from the app into Safari or other apps opened independently of 1Password. The app costs $4.99 — $7.99 for the pro version.
Not only will eWallet store all your username and password information for pretty much everything, it also keeps track of your security questions and answers. You can sync your information via wi-fi with your desktop – but only PCs running Windows, so it’s not for everyone. But the company behind it, Ilium Software, has been around a long time, with apps on Windows Mobile and Palm for more than a decade, so it has a track record. The information is behind a 256-bit AES encryption. And you can customize the look of each account you have in there.
There is a free version, but you can only keep information on 10 accounts there. The full version, which allows you to store unlimited accounts, is $9.99.
Dictation• Dragon Dictation
A voice recognition application, Dragon Dictation is supposed to be five times faster than just typing (hey, on an iPhone keyboard, that’s believable). You see your message as you dictate, and can use it to text or e-mail your friends, update Facebook or Twitter or send notes to yourself. It’s free.
This app is for making quality recordings with your iPhone. iTalk has selectable sample rates of 11.025kHz, 22.05 kHx or 44.10 kHz and you can either e-mail the recording to yourself if it’s not too large, or transfer it via iTalk Sync wirelessly to your computer. The free version won’t e-mail recordings larger than 2 MB, though you can still transfer them via iTalk Sync.
The premium app has advanced playback controls, while the free version has just basic controls. The premium usually runs $5, but was $1.99 at the time of this writing.
Document viewing, editing, sharing• Air Sharing
This app allows you to wirelessly drag-and-drop documents of a variety of formats between your iPhone and your computer (Mac, Windows or Linux-based). One nice feature: Air Sharing has controls that allow you to delay or prevent iPhone auto-lock if you’re in the app. You can password-protect certain files if need be, as well. Basically, it turns your phone into a wireless USB drive. That you don’t only store documents on, but also view and edit them. OK, a lot more than just a wireless USB drive.
The standard version is $2.99, but you can go pro for $9.99. The pro version allows you to access files in your computer remotely and even print documents out. From. Your. Phone.
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This app also lets you use your iPhone as a sort of USB drive. For $4.99, you can copy files from a PC or Mac onto your phone – and wirelessly, if you get a second, free download. You can view most file types through FileMagnet, including PDF, Office Suite and iWork ’09. You can e-mail the docs to others and password-protect on here, too.
It’s a portable version of Microsoft Office, basically. You can view, e-mail and edit attachments in Microsoft Word and Excel. You can password-protect files and have access to some of Office’s tools, such as smooth scrolling, text underlining and word count. You can write in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and Simplified Chinese.
It’s usually $19.99, but at the time of this writing, was on sale for $7.99
• Documents Free
You can use the Documents Free app on or offline to edit and manage spreadsheet and text files. It can open documents in Microsoft Excel and Word, Apple Numbers, TextEdit, Notepad, Open Office and other office suites and it can be synced with your Google Documents account so you can open the files when you get home or to work on your Mac or PC.
Time management/tracking/invoicing• Timewerks
Timewerks allows you to track the hours you’ve spent on various projects for various clients and even send invoices from it. There’s even a built-in stopwatch to keep track of the amount of time you’re spending on a specific task: And it keeps running even if the app is closed. You can also export the invoices to tab-delimited files via wi-fi to your computer. And integration with Credit Card Terminal (which usually runs $49.99 for the app, but is on sale for just 99 cents right now) allows you to accept credit card payments directly through your phone.
And before shelling out $9.99 for Timewerks, you can try the free “lite” version. It has all the functions available in the full version, but can only handle one project at a time.
TImeLogger also allows you to set timers and export your data in a CSV file to a default account or by regular old e-mail. You can configure default categories for different clients or types of jobs and keep track of your time on projects or types of work. Jobs are sorted by client so you keep track of what you’re doing for whom.
There’s a way to backup or restore data from a WebDAV or MobileMe account, too. The app costs $3.99.
• Billings Touch
The Billings Touch app can be used as a standalone or synced up with the desktop app on your home computer. It’s a Mac-specific application, though, so if you have an iPhone and a PC, it might not be as useful. You can track your time spent on a project, mileage, expenses, invoicing and payments. Those are in the free app.
For the $14.99 pro app, you also can sync your data wirelessly with your desktop and e-mail invoices directly from your phone. The desktop application is $39.99.
Offline reading• Instapaper
It’s hard to find an article about productivity apps that doesn’t include Instapaper. The app creates offline versions of any article from the web. That way, if you’re taking the subway, flying cross-country or riding a yak across the tundra, you can read the articles on your phone. It takes a little pre-planning, as you have to actually save the articles you’re interested in reading, but if you know you’re going to be out of signal range and have some reading you need to catch up on …
The basic version of Instapaper is free, and ad-supported. For $5, you get a bunch of extra features, perhaps the best of which is the ability of the app to remember where in the article you were (very handy if you’re reading something long from The Wall Street Journal or The New Yorker magazine).
Computer/file management• Mocha VNC
Basically, you can see your computer’s files, programs and other resources via your phone using Mocha VNC. It has an encrypted password signon, zoom and control, landscape mode (hey, not every app does!) and the ability to handle 20 host configurations. The full version also has a key for Ctrl+alt+del, as well as extra keys such as the option and Apple keys and mouse support.
The lite version is free, and the full version is $5.99
• Remote Desktop
Also from MochaSoft, Remote Desktop lets you, unsurprisingly, see your desktop remotely. The catch is that it has to be a PC running Windows XP Professional or Vista/Windows 7. You get full access through wifi or the phone network and can work on any files or programs on your computer through your phone.
The premium version is $5.99 and for that has some extras the free version doesn’t have, including extra mouse functions and text macro support.
Search• Dragon Search
Just say what you want to search for and the app will give you simultaneous results from a variety of sources — Google, Yahoo or Bing (depending on your defaults, and on the iPhone, for now, that’s generally Google), YouTube, Twitter Search, iTunes and Wikipedia among them. Sure, YouTube and Wikipedia generally show up high in a regular search, but this gives you their searches separated out.
Dragon Search gives you a list of alternative suggestions, as well, so you can modify your search. The app is free.
ConclusionDepending on your needs, there are plenty of apps out there in all price ranges to help you organize your life and generally be more productive. There probably are more notetaking/organization apps than anything else, but most applications have free (or very cheap) versions you can try out before upgrading to the pro. If you’re not sure if the app is right for you, we’d suggest downloading the “lite” version and giving it a spin.
If you already have a desktop or web-based account with any of the applications, it probably would be worth your while to just get the iPhone app for it.