Productivity Tools

Here is a list of apps I use and recommend. They’re mostly all free because I don’t pay for anything if I can help it.

Note: This list is not yet complete, and I will be updating it gradually.

Contents:

  • Homebrew
  • Flux
  • Lastpass
  • Brain.fm
  • Google Play Music
  • TickTick (and Todoist)
  • Atom (and Sublime Text)
  • Stickies
  • Google Keep (and Simplenote)
  • Google Calendar
  • Spectacle
  • Alfred (and Spotlight)
  • Google Drive
  • Google Photos
  • Google Backup and Sync (and Dropbox)
  • Tomighty
  • WordPress (and Pages, Word, Penzu, My Secret World By Imagine, Blogger, Weebly)
  • Tumblr
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Cold Turkey Blocker (and Freedom)
  • Cold Turkey Writer
  • Pocket
  • Zotero
  • Mint
  • Volkron CheckBook
  • RescueTime
  • Duolingo
  • Notability
  • Stop, Breathe, & Think

 

homebrew logo — it's a pint of foamy beer with a silver apple floating in itHomebrew is a package manager for Mac, and I use it whenever I can to install stuff. Search with “brew search <term>” and install with “brew cask install <term>”. Uninstalling is just as simple with “brew cask uninstall <term>”.

I hadn’t realized how awesome the logo was until I wrote this entry.

 

F.lux logo — a yellow and blue circle. It looks like the sun rising over the oceanFlux makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, so it’ll be warm at night and like sunlight during the day. These changes help with sleep, circadian rhythm, and probably eye strain. I love it.

If you get it, note that recommended colors are meant to help transition new people into Flux and classic flux is the main setting. I had used recommended colors for over a year and only recently did I realize that the classic flux colors are what I wanted.

 

Lastpass logo — it's a red square with three white dots and a white vertical lineLastpass is a password manager. I switched to it when I got a free account from my graduate school. Little did I know they have a free version too, and it basically does everything. I highly recommend it! Now I can make as many accounts as I want, and the password is secure—and I don’t have to remember it.

 

 

brain.fm logo — it's a happy face wearing headphonesBrain.fm — I used to have a homework playlist of instrumental music. But due to myriad factors, I started to get really sleepy listening to it. I decided to try Brain.fm, and I really like it. I purchased the yearly plan.

 

 

Google Play Music logo — it's an orange triangle with a yellow circle, inside of which there is an orange circle that has a white music quarter note in the centerI love Google Play Music because I can upload music and create playlists that sync between all my devices. I don’t have to pay anything for the syncing! I used to use iTunes, but I was annoyed that I had to connect my phone to my computer with a cable anytime I changed a playlist.

iTunes logo—a red to blue gradient circle with a two-quarter note music symbol inside, also colored with that red and blue gradient

 

ticktick logo — it's a circle outline with the top-right quarter of it missing and there's an orange checkmark inside it, extending to the top-rightI’d been using Todoist (free version), but I switched to TickTick due to buggy behavior. I am using the free version of TickTick. It only allows 9 lists, and I am compensating for that by using tags for what used to be my subfolders.

It even has its own pomodoro timer.

Todoist logo—a red square with rounded corners and three stripes/obtuse checkmarks on the left

atom.io logo — it's a green circle with a white atom outline in itAtom is my text editor. I used to use Sublime Text, but I switched since Atom is also great, is open-source, and is free. I kind of felt bad about using a never-ending demo of Sublime.

I love the shortcuts I can use with the editor, so I use it for general text editing and for coding. For instance, you can select all lines of text by using, on a Mac, Command + Shift + L. This shortcut lets me put spaces in between all the lines, add punctuation, delete punctuation, and etc..

Sublime Text logo—a black, rounded square with an orange, geometric S shape inside it

mac stickies app logo — three yellow sticky notes overlapping each other. one has "MILK" written in blue ink, "EGGS" written in red ink, and "Lou 555-7361" written in black ink, with two lines under the phone numberI love to use Stickies to write things down quickly. I usually transfer them to Google Keep or something that’s more permanent. I like that these stickies can be made transparent, to float over other windows, and different colors.

 

 

Google Keep logo — it's a yellow square with the bottom right corner folded up. there's a white outline of a lightbulb on itGoogle Keep is what I use for notes. I was using Simplenote before. It was great, and I don’t remember why I switched. It may have been solely because I use Google products often, and Keep was just as good, if not better.

Simplenote logo—a white circle with two blue teardrop like shapes in it, as if they were yin-yang shaped

Google Calendar logo — it's a blue square with a white "31" on itI love Google Calendar. It’s a great calendar app with Reminders. I don’t recommend using Goals. I tried it, and my monthly goal kept disappearing. If it’s not reliable, I’m not using it—definitely not for things as important as my calendar and to-do list (hence my switch from Todoist to TickTick).

 

 

a pair of black glasses (looks like plastic) with lenses that are tinted red and greenSpectacle is awesome for organizing windows. I like to use Command + Control + Arrow Key to put a window on the left, right, top, or bottom of my screen. For the top right, top left, bottom left, and bottom right, I like to use Command + Control and then one of four buttons that represent the position: The ; and , and . and /.

 

 

Alfred logo — it' a black bowler hat with a purple strip on the rim and a magnifying glass with a brown handle is leaning on the hatAlfred is my Mac search tool. I don’t use Spotlight. It has more functions and features, and I’m happy with it.

Spotlight logo—a blue circle with a white outline of a magnifying glass inside

Google Drive logo — it's a triangle with green, yellow, and blue sidesI started using Google Drive for all my files when I got a school account with unlimited data.

 

 

 

Google Photos logo — it's like four parallelograms arranged in a circle. There are yellow, red, blue, and green parallelograms.I save all my photos on Google Photos. I use my Drive with unlimited storage, so I save the original photo quality. However, the free version lets you save all photos in high quality, and I love that too.

 

 

Backup and Sync logo — it's a blue circle with a white cloud, inside of which there is a blue arrow pointing upI sync a folder I call “activeFolder” to my Mac. I used to use Dropbox, but Google Backup and Sync is great and is connected to my Google account.

Dropbox logo—an abstract, blue open box

Tomighty logo — it's a tomato kitchen timerI’ve stopped using Tomighty because TickTick has a pomodoro timer, but if you want a dedicated app, I recommend Tomighty. I like TickTick’s, and I like it better when I use fewer resources to do what I need.

 

 

Wordpress logo — it's basically a blue circle with a white "W" inside itI use WordPress for journalling, blogging, and my personal website.

Journalling: I’ve tried various methods. I’ve used physical journals, computer documents (Pages, Word, text files), online applications (Penzu), and even video games (My Secret World by Imagine). I like using a free WordPress account best now. It’s private, accessibly from anywhere, searchable, and aesthetically pleasing.

Blogging: I’ve tried various sites for blogging. I really wanted to share cool things I found with others, so I tried Blogger and Weebly. I’m now using a free WordPress site for that too.

Personal Site: That’s what this website is! I was using a free account for a while. Then I felt it was time to get more official. I wanted a shorter URL, no advertisements, and to show I was serious about my site. A website helps you stand out from the rest.

Tumbler logo—a dark blue square with a white small t insideI use Tumblr because WordPress can autopost to Tumblr, and that’s good for promoting my blog. I also love the Tumblr interface. I’m not actively using it, but it’s really nice. You can easily follow other bloggers and share posts.

 

 

Twitter logo—a blue silhouette of a birdWordPress can also autopost to Twitter, which is why I’m also using that. Twitter is great for following others and briefly connecting.

 

 

LinkedIn logo—a blue, rounded square with a white "in" insideWordPress also autoposts to LinkedIn, but I had an account before I figured that out. LinkedIn is great for networking. You can basically build a full-on resume, get recommendations from others, and look for jobs. You really ought to have one if you plan to be in a competitive job market someday.

 

Cold Turkey Logo — a line drawing of a turkeyI love Cold Turkey Blocker and Cold Turkey Writer. I’m using the free versions of both. Cold Turkey Blocker will stop you from being distracted from the Internet, and it can block other desktop apps too if you get the Pro version, which is decently priced I think. Freedom is also a good blocker and will also block your iPhone. Freedom requires payment though. Cold Turkey is enough for me, and I’m using a Pixel anyway.

Cold Turkey Writer is a program that won’t quit until you write a certain number of words or for a certain amount of time. You can also not use those restrictions, but that’s what I love about it. It just won’t quit, so you’re stuck to your promise to yourself!

Freedom logo—a green outline of a butterfly

Pocket logo—it's like a semicircle with a down-facing white carrot in itI like using Pocket to save websites. I save articles I want to read later, and it’s also like a great bookmarks app. I don’t know why I didn’t use this app before—I’m pretty sure I’d heard of it.

 

 

 

Zotero logo—a gray hexagon that also looks, like the corner of a room, with a 3D-red Z in itI use Zotero for bibliographies. I just use it to store and organize all published papers I’ve saved. It’s a helpful reference tool. I recently needed to use Word (because I’d been using LaTex) and found out Zotero has a Word plugin. You can also just create a bibliography in a rich-text document, which is what I had been doing before.

Zotero has a section for you to collect your own publications and the ability to have a shared library.

 

Mint logo—a teal circle with a half white, half-teal raindrop-shaped white outlineI decided to start budgeting and am using Mint. I love it because it connects to my bank accounts and automatically gives me stats on my spending. I can set goals and budgets. It took me a while to understand, but I love it.

 

 

Volkron CheckBook app—it's a blue box with rounded corners with the word CheckBook in it; in an inner white, rounded box, it also has a blue pencil writing a couple of lines to the left of a dollar signI am also using Volkron CheckBook. I’ve used various checkbook apps over the years. The important thing is that I want to track my expenses myself, so no one can use my card without me knowing; I want to make sure I’m not overcharged (or undercharged). This system also makes me be more aware of how much money I’m spending and have left in my accounts, etc.. So I use them to reconcile my transactions/balance my accounts. 

 

RescueTime logo—a red outline of a cross with two black clock hands/arrows; the time it points to is 3:00I love RescueTime. It tracks what I do automatically, like what internet sites and applications I’m on. It also categorizes them on a range of productivity. I love it. I tried Toggl briefly, and it does what it should great—but I don’t like manual time-tracking as much. 

Toggle logo—a red circle with a white power button symbol inside, which is a circle with a line going from the center to outside the circle

Duolingo logo—a green, happy owl with an orange beakI love Duolingo. I can learn new languages in a fun, interactive way. It has a feature to translate books too. You can connect with your friends, and see whose leading in learning. 

 

 

 

Notability logo—a blue circle with a short yellow number two pencil inside itI so love Notability. I used to use Mead notebook binders. But I saw college peers use iPads to take notes and a couple years in, I decided I wanted to use that too. Notability is my app of choice and was worth the $10 or so for me. There’s an app for both the iPad and Mac (which are purchased separately). I like being able to view notes on my Mac and write in a different note on my iPad. I also used the Apple Pencil with this. Notability can also export notes in different formats and backup notes to Google Drive, Dropbox, and cloud sites. 

OneNote is also a cool note-taking app. I did not like the syncing with OneDrive. It seemed too slow. Notability syncs with iCloud, which I worry about, but Notability did work well. OneNote also has an infinite page, and I prefer multiple pages, like in a Word document, because it makes more sense when printing notes. However, while Notability’s user interface is minimal and appealing, OneNote’s is really attractive and… cute to me.

Microsoft OneNote logo—a purple notebook cover, viewed from the side so we see paper in the open notebook; the cover has a white N on it

Stop, Breathe, & Think logo—a red, rounded square with a white cloud inside; this cloud has a face, whose eyes are closedStop, Breathe, & Think is my favorite meditation app. You can do a check-in of how you’re feeling, and it can recommend a meditation. You can download ones to do offline. 

I don’t use it now because I don’t like meditating much… though studies have shown its benefits. I also want to do more unguided meditations. And since Brain.fm has music specifically for meditation, I am using that currently.