Get Things Done Cheap and FAST
When time is of the essence, you want your technology working for you -- not against you. In order to get things done fast, you need to have the best tools at your disposal to be able to keep up with the multitude of requests that come onto your desk.
Here is a list of 10 productivity apps that can save you time, all without draining your bank account. The prices of these apps are either free or so inexpensive that your boss will have little trouble justifying a copy (or two or three or four) for yourself and your team.
Price: FreeEvernote is essentially a piece of notebook software on steroids -- mix one part awesome with an equal part of kick-ass and you end up with a critical time-saver that is an indispensable tool in your arsenal. Evernote allows you to record text notes, pictures, audio, video, links and even clip parts of webpages via a nifty browser plugin. Everything you capture is searchable, making it convenient to refer to prior notes when you've amassed a lot of them. You can also collaborate with other people who use Evernote and share notebooks with them. But one of the major features is that it syncs to the cloud. All data is synchronized with Evernote servers and stored so that you can even access notebooks from your web browser. In addition, Evernote is almost completely platform-agnostic. There are clients for PC, Mac, Blackberry, iPhone/iPad, Android, you name it. You can get up to 1GB of storage with a premium package, but the free version works just as well.
Price: FreeDropbox is another essential time-saving app that allows you to store files in the cloud. There are clients for PC, Mac, Linux, and mobile versions available. Dropbox works by having a client installed on your computer. The software creates a folder on your computer -- your personal dropbox for anything and everything. Whatever you put in there gets synchronized to the Dropbox servers. They're web-accessible from wherever you go, but the beauty is that if you have multiple computers you can install Dropbox on all of them and have the folders synchronized. Meaning to say, no more copying files between computers on USB keys. When you're not online, local copies are cached until you get back onto the grid. Everything is automated behind the scenes. A must for the mobile worker that uses different computing platforms.
3. MindNode (Mac OSX)
Price: FreeCommitting things to a medium that you trust is important in getting things done. Part of that is being able to write down a central idea and any sub-ideas that branch out from it. MindNode is one such an app that lets you do that for free. Available on the Mac App store, MindNode enables you to create mind maps in an extremely easy manner. The user interface is barebones and simple -- just the way we like it. No fumbling with help manuals is required here. Just jot down your ideas, branch off, and go. There is a Pro version available as well that adds some extra user interface features, but the free version is good enough. PC users may want to check out FreeMind as an alternative.
4. KeePass (PC), KeePassX (Mac OSX/Linux)
Price: FreeDrowning in a sea of usernames/passwords? KeePass will let you keep your head above water when it comes to handling credentials in a safe and secure manner. You can put all your passwords in a "vault", which is really just a database that is encrypted with one master password. You can search, sort, export to text files or HTML, and supports plugins that integrate password and form entry into browsers like Firefox. KeePass can save you from ridiculously tedious data entry, which is why it's a productivity app that you must have in order to save you from login/password hell. Get KeePassX if you have a Mac or Linux computer, or alternatively there are mobile versions as well.
5. mRemoteNG (PC), CoRD (OSX)
Price: FreeChances are that if you are a field technician you need some way of accessing remote servers. Typically this is done through Microsoft's Remote Desktop Connection. But if you're accessing multiple systems per day over and over, there needs to be a more efficient way of doing so. Enter mRemoteNG (or CoRD for you Mac guys). mRemoteNG supports a plethora of different connection protocols like RDP, VNC, SSH, Telnet, etc. The best things is that you can save multiple connections to different sites all from a central console. You are also able to have simultaneous sessions open and are able to switch between them easily via tabs. Multitasking on remote servers just got easier.
Price: Free7-Zip is an archiving/unarchiving tool that supports a whole whack-load of file formats (above all the ones that are actually worth a damn). Use as a standalone app with a file manager or integrate it right into Windows Explorer via right-click, 7-Zip is a powerful tool for compressing and decompressing files. Once you download this and install it, you won't ever need to find another tool when you find yourself stuck with a RAR archive and no Internet access to download something to extract from it. There are some equivalents for other platforms other than PC, but sadly they are not all free.
Price: FreeA long-time favorite of nerds galore, PuTTY is mostly used to access computers, network switches, routers, or other devices using the SSH, Telnet, or serial port connections. Easy to use, lightweight, and portable, PuTTY is the defacto standard in console connection apps. Hardcore geeks will love the PSCP and PSFTP apps the author has also written, but I will spare you from the nerd rage that I might incur from trying to explain what they do. All you IT guys need this in your toolkit, now. It's PC only though, so OSX/Linux guys will have to get their freak on in Terminal.
Price: FreeWunderlist is a really nice to-do app that is a must-have for saving precious time to get work done. Use the web version, or rock out with the Windows, Mac, or iOS versions. You can create tasks, subtasks, add notes, and assign due dates. We haven't totally transitioned to a paperless society, but Wunderlist sure is trying to help in that regard. The beauty of it is that it is multi-platform, so it synchronizes in the cloud with all your computers and devices to help keep you on track and save you time. Do you sense a theme here? I like multi-platform sync.
Price: FreeOkay, so how does an app that allows you to waste more time, save you more time? Well, for those working in social networking circles, TweetDeck is a life-saver. It hooks into your Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and other social networking sites that people no longer care about. You name it, you can manage it from one central console. Status updates are all sent in real-time, making it more of a "personal real-time browser" as the TweetDeck webpage calls it. You are able to consume and produce information from a consolidated interface. This saves you from logging into each social networking site and producing updates from there. It works on various operating systems on the desktop, or mobile platforms too (sorry RIM, no Blackberry app for you).
Price: FreeA staple of online communication today, Skype changed the game when the world needed easy voice and video conferencing so that grandma could reach out and nag you from across the Interwebs. An easy-to-use application that works on multiple platforms, Skype is very much a part of our lives and is an indispensable tool in providing free or low-cost communication that just plain works. Instant messaging and Skype-to-Skype audio/video calls are free, but if you feel like paying for the Premium services like Group Calling and Screen Sharing you can do so at under $10 a month. How much are you paying Ma Bell for the same thing? Wait, you mean they don't offer that service?
What's On Your List of Productivity Apps That Won't Kill Your Bank Balance?
Everything I listed was free but there are some value-added premium services that you can pay for (if you want to). All these apps will save you precious time to get you through your day. What apps matter to you and what can't you live without? Let me know!