An entire classification of software is devoted to making our work easier and ourselves more productive. If there’s a task to be done, there’s a productivity app that will help you do it faster, cheaper, and more efficiently.
From browser plugins to services that help you maintain important relationships, productivity apps aim to do it all—or at least, try to help you do it all.
I review a good deal of productivity software, and there are days when I’m not even sure what that classification means anymore. It used to refer primarily to office suites, apps like PowerPoint and Outlook, but now can mean anything from a contact management app to a social networking service. If you can find answers to hard questions quickly from the people who know, hey, that counts as having increased your productivity.
At the heart of all great productivity tools is a solution to a specific problem. Some look toward efficiency, aiming to take an existing product, such as email, and make it easier to use so we waste less time futzing with it. Others seek to silence the noise of the net, bolster collaboration, or unite disparate data.
The 50 programs, mobile apps, plugins, and services in this list are among my favorites for helping anyone be more productive, from office workers to students. It’s by no means a comprehensive list, but I hope it lets you explore your options among the truly necessary productivity tools, as well as introduce you to some hidden gems that you might have missed while you were busy getting things done.
If you know of some great productivity apps we missed here, tell us about it in a comment. —Next: Office Suites and Collaboration >
Collaborative Office Suites
The free and very accessible Google Drive (formerly known as Google Docs) is the obvious choice among collaborative tools in the cloud. You can create and edit documents, solo or with others, in real time online. Google Drive is accessible wherever you have Internet access and a Web browser. The newest feature, file-syncing, has an optional downloadable component, too. Other online-only suites, notably Zoho, have a bigger feature set, but Google Drive comes close to the ideal balance of features, speed, and convenience. If you require maximum compatibility with advanced Office features, then Microsoft Office Web Apps might be a better choice, but for certain projects, Google Docs is the simplest and most effective solution.
Microsoft’s cloud service, SkyDrive, combines online storage with document creation, editing, and syncing, much like Google Drive does. SkyDrive is a cornerstone of Microsoft’s next big operating system version, Windows 8. The Web apps for creating files mimic Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and all the core features and functionality are there (although more advanced tools, like Track Changes, for example, are stripped out in these free versions). For businesspeople who care about productivity, the ability to log into a Windows account (such as Hotmail, for example) from any computer and quickly get your hands on a free Web version of, say, PowerPoint to edit a presentation, then save it, log out, and be on your way without having to think about where you saved the file, is priceless.
$44.99 per month for 5 users
HyperOffice is a slick online collaboration service that lets you store and access files, tasks, contacts, links, an documents—almost any digital file—on a HyperOffice-hosted website. A fully hosted alternative to building your own Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint servers, HyperOffice is feature-rich, but it has a few minor interface glitches that need to be worked out. For $44.99 per month for five users, HyperOffice is easy to set up as both an intranet and an extranet that lets co-workers, customers, and clients see specific data. If your company is thinking about cloud-based collaboration, you’ll be impressed with this inexpensive product.
IBM Lotus Symphony is the best free productivity suite you’ve probably never heard of. Designed by IBM for smooth, reliable use in office environments, this office application suite was created by putting a tried-and-true open-source engine into a shiny chassis created by IBM. Under the hood, Lotus Symphony is based on OpenOffice.org 3.0, a slightly earlier version of the same office-suite code that powers LibreOffice. What you see on screen, however, is an interface that’s been tweaked by IBM to make it by far the user-friendliest no-cost productivity suite. Expert users who need to open files in a wide range of formats, including Microsoft Works, Corel WordPerfect, or Lotus WordPro, will prefer LibreOffice, because Lotus Symphony only imports Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org documents—but that’s all that almost every office environment ever needs.
Office Suites, Desktop
$99 per year
A $99 per year subscription to Microsoft Office 365 Home Premium lets you install a full copy of Office 2013 on up to five devices, and also lets any Windows 7 or 8 machine temporarily download Word, Excel, or the other Office apps for use on other machines. Office 2013 looks better than Office 2010 and includes new convenience features, with a minimal learning curve for existing users. Microsoft’s flagship office suite remains one of the most powerful productivity software bundles on the market.
OpenOffice.org, now released in its long-awaited 3.0 version, is a free, open-source replacement for Microsoft Office—and the first and only application suite that can be seriously considered a substitute for the massive power and flexibility of Microsoft’s suite. OpenOffice.org used to look clunky and work slowly, but the 3.0 version is sleek and fast. It still retains the essential look and feel of Microsoft Office 2003 and earlier versions, instead of imitating the new ribbon interface of Office 2007, but that’s a plus for many users who want as much continuity as possible when switching to a new application. OpenOffice.org doesn’t include all of Office’s features, but it adds some conveniences that Office can’t provide, such as built-in PDF export and a single interface for opening and editing word-processing documents, HTML files, worksheets, presentations, and drawings.—Next: Business & Presentations >
For more tips on choosing between office suites, see our guide for How to Buy an Office Suite.
From $39 per year; corporate accounts charged one-time fee of $49 plus $99 per seat.
The mobile app Abukai Expenses is a wonderful reminder of the usefulness of business solutions on the go. Available for Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry, Abukai suits anyone who has to perform the mundane task of filing expense reports because it lets you take pictures of receipts, submit them, and receive a finished report. Customization capabilities and integration with back-end financial systems makes this one of the neatest mobile apps and cloud service solutions for businesses. It’s not a cheap service, but if you have a lot of expenses to track, it’s a great buy.
Freelancers, contractors, and others in the self-employed ranks grapple with the administration and paperwork that comes with running a small business. OfficeTime ($47; available for Windows and Mac) is a small business owner’s best friend. This highly practical yet relatively simple program helps SMBs keep track of their billable hours and other expenses, and it generates invoices for their work. OfficeTime tracks how much time you spend on various projects and tasks while you’re working, and it shows the minute-by-minute costs as they accumulate, or with numbers rounded however you choose. And whenever you can decrease the time spent managing yourself, you’re likely to be world’s more productive.
Nuance PaperPort has long been the program that others are measured against for personal and professional document management. In its latest version, PaperPort Professional 14 ($199.99 direct), it retains all the features that have helped make it the top pick for document management, plus it’s added just enough extra—primarily extending its reach into the cloud—to make it potentially worth an upgrade. The program was already the best in its category, and the new features help burnish it a bit more. The most notable new features are the connections to cloud apps, including the new PaperPort Anywhere (free to $24.99 per month, 3.5 stars).
SohoOS has set out on an understated undertaking: to create an online operating system for the small office/home office (SOHO) market. In addition to bundling all the tools you need to manage your small business—project management, inventory management, invoicing, payments processing, CRM, reporting, and more—SohoOS suggests a seductive price point: free. If you accept that SohoOS isn’t a premium service, and that its aim is to bundle previously pricey features into a cohesive whole, Soho not only makes sense, it makes a stir.
free to $35 per month
Zoho Invoice is an invoicing solution, and one of the myriad Web-based business and productivity solutions published by ZOHO Corp. Depending on the level of service you want from Zoho, you can pay as little as nothing or as much as $35 per month. Zoho Invoice definitely appeals to small businesses that don’t need the power or complexity of an accounting all-star like QuickBooks. Zoho Invoice comes as close to FreshBooks—the reigning SMB invoicing champ—as anything I’ve seen, surpassing it in some ways.
From $59 per year
Prezi.com is one of one of a new generation of cloud-based presentation apps. It uses Adobe’s Flash technology to create animated presentations with a few clicks and drags. Instead of creating a series of separate slides, you put all your content—text, graphics, captions—on a single canvas, and then you trace a path from one item to another.
free to $24 per user per month
SlideRocket is the most elegant and feature-rich cloud-based presentation software we’ve seen yet. If you’re convinced that presentation software belongs only on a desktop or laptop, SlideRocket may very well change your mind. It can’t match the advanced graphic tricks that PowerPoint and Keynote manage with ease, but if you want vivid slides, based on striking themes, and fast-performing Web-based presentations, SlideRocket will probably be your first choice.
$749 for lifetime license
If you’re looking for feature-packed remote control, desktop sharing, and presentation software, TeamViewer is both the simplest and most powerful option. Businesses will have to shell out a bunch up front (a lifetime license is $795), but individuals can use it free. Either way, it’s a very good deal.
free to $9 per month
A good-looking slide deck, filled with images that pop or make you giggle, can help capture your audience’s attention and keep them tuned into your ideas. VisualBee Premium (from $9 per month; free light version available) can be a savior for the design-impaired. The small downloadable product is a plugin for Microsoft PowerPoint that handily adds design (template styles), effects (slide transitions), and pictures to your files. It has a cache of images it that it matches to keywords in your text. And you always have the option to override or tweak the suggestions VisualBee gives your presentation.—Next: Utilities & Plugins >
$279.99 direct; Professional Edition $118.99
ABBYY FineReader 11 is optical character recognition (OCR) software that can handle difficult and massive jobs, like converting complex tables into usable spreadsheets, or scanning a hundred-year-old book into a searchable PDF. It even masters weird-looking typefaces. If you often need to copy text from images found on the Web, you need to get the most accurate possible text out of images on your disk or documents that you’ve fed to a scanner, or you want to convert a scanned document into HTML or into the ePub format used by e-readers, the app that gets those jobs done best, too, is ABBYY FineReader.
Prices vary; free version available
Asana is a Web app for task management and project management. Its thoughtful design, fluid interactive elements, and generous member allotment in its free version make it a powerful productivity tool for personal projects and light teamwork. The paid version provides the few extra features you’d need to use it for more complex project management. But for the low, low price of nothing, Asana doles out some pretty extraordinary services. The free account supports up to 30 members and unlimited projects and tasks. Paid account holders get a few additional features, such as project permissions and priority support, and the cost scales up depending on the number of users: $300 per month for 50 members, $550 per month for 75 members, $800 per month for 100 members.
Doodle has long been my go-to tool for scheduling with large groups of people, whether I’m planning a virtual meeting with people from around the world, or just trying to find a suitable night when all my friends are free to have dinner. With a free Doodle account, you can create simple polls where invitees mark themselves as free, busy, or available-if-need-be. There are more features and functions, too, especially if you pony up for a paid account, but Doodle’s scheduling capabilities eliminate so much back and forth that this one feature alone makes it an essential tool in a productivity lover’s kit.
Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 is an extremely accurate dictation-transcription and voice command tool from Nuance Communications. With Dragon and your voice, you can control virtually any computer program, after getting over an acceptably small learning curve. Loaded with features that you didn’t know you needed, Dragon NaturallySpeaking solves so many problems: it makes writing faster, relieves carpal tunnel syndrome and other mobility issues, creates closed-captioning for lectures, removes spelling anxiety, and on and on. Dragon is ripe for being co-opted for many purposes far beyond dictation/transcription, making it an amazing productivity booster.
(free to $45 per year)
Evernote’s motto is, “Remember everything.” The company likes to think of its namesake product as “your second brain,” a place to store all the things you need to know, recall, or remember. In a nutshell, Evernote is a syncing and storage service, with a number of apps (including mobile ones) from which you can access your files or create new ones. In addition to the Windows desktop app, there’s also an Evernote Web app and Mac app. You can type notes, record a voice memo, take a picture of a whiteboard during a meeting, or clip a Web page and save it to your Evernote account. All the files are searchable, including handwritten text and text that appears in images. As far as productivity goes, being able to remember everything certainly has its value.
$49 per year, per user
No more jotting notes and sources by hand. NoteControl is an app that equips scholars, students, educators, and business professionals with a simple way to capture and organize their research. Many scholars will be smitten with NoteControl’s ample support for different types of research—including text, images, Web, audio, and documents—WorldCat search, popular style sheets—MLA, APA, and Chicago—and a familiar Outlook-style interface. The floating toolbar NoteControl Capture can collect text and images from websites or files, snap screenshots, and take down audio notes. However, Mac support is restricted to the Web browser (notecontrol.com), searching for sources can be cumbersome, and some aspects of capturing research feel counterintuitive.
$74 per year
Proponents of productivity are always looking for tips, tricks, and data that can inform them how to eke a little more out of themselves, both personally and in the office. RescueTime ($74 per year for Solo Pro edition; a free “lite” edition is also available) is an indispensible tool for any productivity kit, and our Editors’ Choice among time-trackers. The app monitors all your computer use, or just the apps and sites you tell it to log, and informs you when and how you’re both productive and distracted. It’s compatible with both Mac and Windows, and can work across multiple computers. With excellent settings and customization, a variety of reports, and amazingly simple setup, this app is aces.
What makes backup software good for your productivity? When systems go down—and they do!—a highly productive person will want to restore her information quickly and get back to work. If you backup regularly, you’ll never waste time or effort trying to patch together the files you’ve lost. The best and most secure backup software is a drive-imaging program that makes a backup of your whole disk. A drive image restores either the whole system to the working version you were using yesterday, or old versions of your files by copying them from the backed-up images of your disks. StorageCraft’s ShadowProtect Desktop has been PC Magazine Editors’ Choice for drive imaging for years. It doesn’t offer features that you can’t find elsewhere, but it performs those features more smoothly, reliably, quickly, and easily than any rival software, making it a dream solution for those who care about productivity.
free to $29 per year
Procrastinators need not read this description of the competent task-management app Todoist (free to $29 per year), as it won’t revolutionize your life or your lazy habits. But for those of us who keep ourselves in check and thoroughly organized via to-do lists, Todoist should be on your radar. The proficient Web app, with a browser plug-in and mobile apps to boot, can keep your to-dos in sync across multiple devices. Todoist’s best features won’t seem so impressive to every organized soul, as it’s the kind of app that’s right for certain jobs, but not all jobs, and thus not all people. But isn’t that the core of efficiency and organization: knowing the right tool for the job at hand? — Plugins >
The free browser plugin Smartr Inbox for Gmail by Xobni dives into your contacts list and pulls up pearls of information, like the date you first communicated with a person and who is frequently CC’ed on emails. It’s an efficient way to search your list of contacts, while also keeping an eye on Twitter and Facebook, two other features that are built right into the plugin that displays in Gmail. If you’re ever felt your productivity dip as a result of searching through emails, trying to remember which person at a company you usually ping, or looking for the most recent email thread with a certain group of people, Smartr can resolve most of your problems and with more information that what you’ll get from Gmail’s search results.
URL blocker Stayfocusd enforces discipline better than Captain von Trapp for when you’re on the clock. With deep and highly customizable settings, countdown clocks, and a self-imposed lock-out feature that’s very time-consuming to undo, you’ll never dilly-dally online while you should be working again.
free to $48
Xobni is a free Outlook plugin that helps you search faster, communicate better, and just get more done. If you’re like most professionals working in Microsoft Office, you spend hours a day in Outlook, the touchstone of the modern professional work day, managing your email, appointments, and contacts. But as indispensible as Outlook is, none of us are completely happy with it. That’s where Xobni (free, $48 Pro version) comes in. It’s one of the best tools for getting Outlook to be more productive for you!
For students, scholars, and those conducting research for business, Zotero 3 is a reliable companion for tracking, managing, and sharing citations. While the tool is billed as a Mozilla Firefox browser plugin, users can also take advantage of Zotero Standalone, a desktop application for Mac, PC, and Linux; Zotero Connectors, plugins for Google Chrome and Apple Safari; and Word Processor Plugins, designed to integrate Zotero Standalone with Microsoft Office and LibreOffice/OpenOffice. It’s free of advertisements and has wonderful integration with the online scholarly database JSTOR. — Mac Apps >
free to 15GBP
Alfred (for Mac) sat installed but hardly used on my Mac at home for nearly two months before I figured out why I would want to use it. But one day I launched it and I awoke to its possibilities. Alfred has since become indispensible for increasing my productivity and reducing mouse-related repetitive motions. Alfred works so simply and cleanly that it’s possible to install it on a whim (seeing as it doesn’t cost a dime), and never take the five minutes to figure out what it can do for you. Sure, you might understand how it works and what it does in an instant, but until you experience an awakening about how it can increase your productivity and change the way you interact with your computer, Alfred could largely hang around, unused and overlooked. Read the full review of the Alfred Mac app for notes on how and why to use it.
Don’t confuse Dragon Dictate for Mac with the aforementioned Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 for Windows. They are, in fact, two different products from the same vendor, although they both do the same basic function: turn your speech into text. I can’t say, after testing, that the Mac version hits quite the same marks as the Windows version, although it is still rather good at what it does. Mac users looking to increase their productivity will find that Dragon Dictate immensely speeds up the time it takes to write, whether you’re composing email, notes, scripts, articles, or something else. It does take some time to get used to dictation software, but once you do, it really cuts down on times spend typing.
free; optional Premium account $45 per year
Note-making and organizing tool Evernote made its name among the smartphone community, but its desktop Mac app give users an incredibly powerful and reliable hub. The latest version, Evernote 5 for Mac, does everything the mobile app does and then some. You can create text notes, audio memos, photos, and tag all these notes and organize them into notebooks so that they’re easy to find later. Version 5 looks less cluttered, less cramped, and more sophisticated with shades of dark gray replacing much of the signature green in the user interface. A new productivity-boosting shortcuts feature lets users keep notebooks they want to see at the top of the app. Wrap this in with Evernote for Mac’s excellent existing features, like having one of the most powerful search bars I’ve ever seen, and it’s a clear and obvious Editors’ Choice among software for productivity.
iWork ’09 offers a terrific set of programs for light word processing and medium-to-heavy spreadsheet use. And the stellar Keynote presentation app leaves the competition in the dust. Apple’s productivity suite isn’t yet a replacement for Microsoft Office for the Mac, but it’s a cheaper alternative if you don’t really need the full power of Office.
With Microsoft Office for the Mac 2011, Microsoft has finally gotten it right. After a string of disappointing releases, the 2011 Mac version of the world’s most widely-used office suite is a spectacular success, and an unexpected triumph for Microsoft’s Macintosh group. Office 2011 is innovative, better-designed, startlingly faster, vastly more powerful, and far more compatible with Office for Windows than any previous version—including the 2010 version for Windows. Office 2011 even includes a few features that outclass anything in its Windows-based counterpart. If you’re a casual, light-duty office-suite user or a student, iWork ’09 ($79) is still a great option, but if you’ve got heavy-duty work to perform on the Mac, you’ll want Office for the Mac 2011.
The proliferation of digital cameras has resulted in many photographers, both amateur and professional, snapping more photos than ever before and dumping them onto their computers for touch ups or uploading to Facebook. Unfortunately, those photo files get labeled names like IMG_9078 and DSC_0091, which don’t describe the content. MMR Software’s NameChanger, a free Mac app, remedies that problem by automatically renaming batches of files for you. If you’re a stickler for file and folder organizations, this app is a dream come true.
Every Mac has screen-capture features built in, but the $50 Snagit makes the act of grabbing and editing screens much quicker and more efficient. Included tools let you blur out confidential data, like email addresses, add arrows, apply a border, and convert to gray scale. Snagit also lets you set a timer for the screen capture as well as do video recordings or “screencasts.” Snagit (for Mac) does all this and more, and does it better and more efficiently than any other screen capture program we’ve tested.
Essentially a plugin for the Finder in Mac OS, TotalFinder, compatible with OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard and 10.7 Lion, adds new ways to see information in the Finder space of your Apple computer. The most visible feature is tabs, meaning you get tabs in your Finder space. It adds greater usability and visibility to the OS. Rather than have multiple Finder windows open, you can easily work from one. The application introduces a few other features to enhance the Finder, some very visible and some less so. At $18, TotalFinder seems a bit pricey for a fairly niche plugin, and the value you can get out of it largely depends on whether you’re a command-line user who will tap into its advanced features.— Mobile Apps >
Keeping your business and personal life in order can prove a true challenge, but FileMaker’s Bento for iPad aims to solve the problem. The iPad app makes it simple for anyone—even novices—to create attractive databases for keeping their lives and work in order. Thanks to 25 pre-designed templates, a flexible editing system, and a clean, intuitive interface, you can get your work on track in minutes. Bento can be used as a standalone iPad app, or in conjunction with the new $49 Bento 4 for Mac OS X.
Contact management app Brewster (for iPhone) hooks into multiple places where you might have contact information stored and brings them together, merging duplicates along the way. Visually appealing with good-sized photos of your friends leading the charge, the Brewster iPhone app eases the pain (and time suck) of looking for contact information. It also auto-generates some neat lists, such as people in a certain geographic region and people with whom you may be losing touch. The merging feature works very well, with a manual override option available.
For LinkedIn members, CardMunch connects with a transcription team to accurately transform business cards into contacts on your iPhone. Contact info includes full LinkedIn profile data, when available. It provides much more accurate and better results than any mobile OCR scanning app. As soon as you’ve installed the app, just point it at a business card, line up and focus the image, and snap a photo. If it’s legible, upload it; if not, retake it. After that, it’s a waiting game, since actual humans at LinkedIn handle the transcription. I’ve gotten results within an hour, and certainly never had to wait more than overnight. You do need a LinkedIn account in order to use CardMunch, but LinkedIn membership is free. Sorry, Android fans; CardMunch only works on devices running iOS 4.0 or later.
$9.99 per app
With Apple’s iWork for iPad suite of office applications—Pages for word processing, Numbers for spreadsheets, and Keynote for presentations— you can do real work on an iPad. The tablet version of Apple’s office suite offers only a basic subset of features and functions compared to the high-powered OS X version of iWork. The iPad’s cramped on-screen keyboard can slow down productivity, so you’re serious about using the iPad for work, pick up the Apple iPad Keyboard Dock ($69.00 direct), too.
OfficeSuite Pro 6.5 is a full office suite for Android that turns your phone or tablet into a document creation and management machine. This app and all its tools lets you create and edit spreadsheets, presentations, and text documents. It supports most file formats and contains editing and formatting buttons aplenty. Your files can be stored in the cloud as well as locally. While OfficeSuite Pro isn’t perfect, it’s definitely a solid tool for editing, creating, and dispatching documents on the go.
Fast, flexible, and friendly, Penultimate is a first-rate handwriting app (sans keyboard) for the iPad that aims to replace your favorite pen with your index finger. Using the app is second nature because it’s nearly the same as doodling in a paper notebook. When paired with a touch stylus like the Kensington Virtuoso ($24.99), Penultimate can scale to the professional demands of engineers, architects, and industrial designers. At less than a buck, Penultimate is a bargain, all reasons it’s an Editors’ Choice.
If you need a free iPad note-taking app that lets you talk whatever you want to write down, PaperPort Notes is the best option. PaperPort also syncs with Dropbox or Box.net. If you’re already comfortable using dictation software, the app is a breeze to use. Moreover, it doesn’t contain a single advertisement. It’s not quite picture-perfect, with a few interface idiosyncrasies, but among free note-taking apps, it’s one that can really boost your productivity.
To get work done effectively on an iPad, you need an app that lets you access your preferred storage system, create new documents, and edit existing documents from your preferred storage area. Apps that do one or two of those things are a dime a dozen, but it’s hard to find a good one that can do them all. The three-in-one productivity app Polaris Office ($12.99) for both iPhone and iPad radically changes the office landscape. It’s an alternative to Apple’s iWork suite for editing and creating documents, but also gives you access to a few of the major storage services, such as Dropbox and Google Drive (formerly Google Docs). You can edit your existing spreadsheets, Powerpoint files, and Word documents, or create new ones and save them locally or to your storage service.
The organizational iPad app Priority Matrix ($3.99) is a good example of an app that contains the functionality to be useful, but may not appeal to all users due to its slightly unconventional schematic design. In Priority Matrix, you set up projects and associate tasks or to-do list items to them. The twist is that you then must categorize each task into one of four quadrants. You can change what these four quadrants are called, but the defaults are: critical and immediate, critical but not immediate, not critical but immediate, and not critical and not immediate. Priority Matrix could be a great productivity tool to add to your iPad toolkit, if you like the slightly unusual schema.
Smartr Contacts for Android (free), formerly called Xobni for Android, creates a comprehensive picture of your contacts. Xobni is the company that makes the app, and it has been a relatively big name in contact management. The free app, which requires a Xobni account (also free) gathers your contacts from Gmail or Outlook, and finds additional information about them, including headshots, from LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, and meetings or text messages. For keeping up with email from your Android phone, Smartr Contacts can increase your productivity by removing a lot of the legwork that can sometimes be involved in keeping in touch. It orders your connections by how often you communicate, rather than alphabetically. And it handily merges multiple emails for a single person into one entry, so if you have an outdated email address for someone, but she has uploaded the most recent one to another platform, Smartr can find it.
Android users looking for a way to make their files and photos available from anywhere should definitely check out Sugar Sync. It’s similar to Dropbox, but you get more space, 5GB, with a free account (Dropbox gives you 2GB). When your files are available to you from everywhere and automatically synchronized, you never waste time trying to sort out which version of what file you put where. Some of SugarSync’s goodies are hard to find, and others are hard to use, but for Android users looking for a more full-featured alternative to DropBox, SugarSync is a pretty sweet deal. —Next: Social Networking Management >
Social Networking Management
Powerful search capabilities make Engagio (beta) an absorbing platform for analyzing what’s being said in your social circles, while also letting you manage interactions in a format that’s reminiscent of Gmail. The most valuable commodity the Web-based Engagio has to offer is the ability to search through multiple social networks simultaneously for keywords used in discussion. You can’t search everything that has been posted by every one of your contacts in every network, but you will find all the instances of a searched word or phrase that has been used in conversation with you on multiple platforms. This feature alone makes Engagio a unique and valuable prospect for promoting small businesses and individuals, as well as social networking power users.
free to $5.99 per month
For a lot of people, staying current with social media is an important part of their “work,” however it is they choose to define it. If it is, having a social media aggregator that works, and that you like using and isn’t distracting you from your other duties is a must. Social media dashboard HootSuite lets you link to your networks and build a screen that displays up to five of your primary social streams, choosing from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Ping.fm, WordPress, MySpace, Foursquare, and mixi. Hootsuite’s beauty is its streamlined nature; you can view multiple social networking streams on the screen at the same time without opening new pages.
The desktop version of TweetDeck condenses your social media profiles and data streams into one highly customizable application, although you can also run this app on Chrome OS on in a Web browser. The app suffers from borderline feature bloat, but it has a very good notification system and customization options. It takes a while to set up, but once you have all the dials right where you want them, it’s a great tool for staying on top of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Foursquare.
Mind Mapping. Our round up of mind-mapping software points to tools that help you transform brainstorming sessions and scattered ideas into something that makes more sense—a flow chart, tree diagram, or other kind of visualization.
By Jill Duffy, PCMag