Ask Google to search for the “best apps for productivity” and before you finish typing the words you’ll get a seemingly bottomless return of lists offering anywhere from 5 to 105 of the top apps—for iPhone, Android, web, even a few with suggestions for pen and paper—to take your business, nay your entire life, to the next level. The truth is, if you’ve conducted such a search, you probably have not yet found that magical app that will make you the god or goddess of productivity and therefore likely do not have hours and hours to sift through hundreds of app reviews. Well, we here at The Common Desk, always having your best interests in mind, thought we’d undertake that daunting task on your behalf.
This week, we conducted the search, filtered it by articles and posts published in the last year, and sifted through the first three pages of returns to create a master list of the most lauded productive apps of our time. At least until the lists are remade at the end of 2015, at which time we bet you’ll be glad that you didn’t have to go to the trouble of looking through all these articles (and the nearly 300 apps they mention) yourself.
And the winner is…
Free to $5/mo. and up
iOS, Android, Windows, Mac OS, Web
We weren’t surprised to find Evernote on this list, but we were a little surprised at the landslide by which it made it to the top. The tool appeared on fully half of the lists we looked at, its nearest contender garnering mentions in only 1/3. As it happens, Evernote also integrates with a great many of the other apps that appear on this list.
Second prize is awarded to…
iOS, Android, Windows, Mac OS, Chrome, Kindle, Web
Wunderlist is, as you will have guessed, a list app with some extra capabilities like shared lists, multi-platform syncing for every device under the sun, email, reminders, and comments.
In third place…
Android, Chrome, Web
The Verge calls it “the first great calendar app for Android and web”. It’s a free calendar made to handle Google Calendar, Exchange and iCloud. But, with its upcoming API, you’ll soon be able to integrate it with a variety of other useful apps, including the much-adored Evernote, Asana and Trello (also on this list).
Runners up (all in fourth place)
Any.do Free to $26.99/yr or $299/ mo. (special launch offer as of this posting) iOS, Android, Chrome, Web
This is a to-do list app similar to Wunderlist, but focused more on coordinating your life, where Wuderlist is more project-based. Any.do ties with four other apps for the fourth most recommended spot.
Clear $1.99 (iPhone) to $4.99 (Mac OS) iOS, Mac OS
Another list and reminder app, Clear, created by Realmac, syncs via iCloud. Features you might like include personalized themes and its gesture-based design. It is meant to mimic the simplicity of hand-written notes, but with more organization.
Dropbox Free to $9.99/ mo and up iOS, Android, Windows (New!), Blackberry, Kindle, Web
Dropbox is essentially a cloud storage service enhanced by easy-to-use apps across almost every device. It functions almost like a shared drive, but with greater access control, so is a popular way to share files among team members. And, so far, it has proven to be secure.
Google Drive Free iOS, Android, Windows, Mac OS
“All your files, ready where you are” is the tagline of Google Drive, which is not terribly dissimilar in concept to that of Dropbox, “Your stuff, anywhere”, and the two tools are accordingly similar in their function (and popularity, as it turns out). The upshot of Google Drive is perhaps the broad range of capabilities afforded it by its sister apps, Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Drawings, and more, which work alongside (as well as independent of) the Microsoft Office Suite.
Microsoft Office Mobile Free (Mobile Apps) to $6.99/ mo and up (Office 365) iOS, Android, Windows, Mac OS, Web
Over the past year, Microsoft has slowly but surely made the primary tools of its Office suite—Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote—available to varying degrees on mobile devices, for free. Interestingly, this seems to have been a response to Google’s apps, suggesting that Google Drive and its minions might just do the job of the Microsoft Office Suite and Dropbox in one, provided you don’t need the broader range of functions in Office.
Honorable mentions (all touted in at least 5 best app lists this year)
Fantastical 2 Calendar/ tasks list/ reminder for iPhone
IFTTT (If This Then That) Creates automatic causal actions between tools (i.e. If I check on Foursquare, create a status message on Facebook); for iOS and Android
Asana Integrator and task manager that pulls from all your favorite tools—Evernote, Wordpress, Sunrise, Google Drive, and tons more; for iOS and Android
Due Tasks list for iOS
PDF Expert 5 (by Readdle): PDF viewer and editor plus document manager that integrates with Google Drive and Dropbox; for iOS
Pocket Reader that allows you to save articles, posts, tweets, whatever from pretty much anywhere; for iOS, Android, Kobo, and Web
ToDoist Free to do list with shared tasks for more than a dozen platforms
Trello Project management tool that links with other tools; for iOS, Android, Windows, Kindle, and web
We hope this has helped you in your quest to find the perfect suite of apps to help you run your business. If you want more, check out the complete list of nearly 300 apps along with links to the reviews we sorted through to bring you this magnificent compilation.