Technology makes us more productive. Find out how with these 15 apps.
The iPhone and iPad have evolved into an all-purpose Swiss army knife that gets you through your busy workday and beyond. But its enormous library of apps — some 2 million — covering productivity, communication and organization can leave you befuddled as to which are the exact right ones for you. Here's our list of iOS apps to help you have a more productive and efficient day.
Calendar: Fantastical 2 ($4.99)
Fantastical 2 offers an intuitive, easy-to-use alternative to the stock iPhone calendar app, because it strikes a balance between features and ease of use, and can assist you in better time management. You can view your calendar by day, week, month or year, and drill down to view individual events. Plus, you can add events using natural speech, such as "Meet Ted for lunch at 2:00 on Tuesday." You're also notified when the event approaches. Its detailed location information includes a map. There is also a simple reminder feature that lets you voice tasks you want reminders for. Recent updates include support for iOS 12 and watchOS 5, as well as Siri Shortcuts that let you quickly add new events, view upcoming events and reminders, and view calendars or reminder lists. Updated interactive notifications offer snooze alerts for events and reminders from iOS notifications.
Task manager: Things 3 ($9.99)
A completely overhauled Things app optimizes a basic workflow that facilitates collecting your thoughts, getting organized, managing your time and customizing your process. Showcasing a new light, dark or black interface, the app's action extension lets you create to-dos from other apps or use Siri on any device and import from Reminders. You can create a project and add steps or take control of your tasks by grouping projects together and using tags for granular filtering. You can view calendar events with single or repeating to-dos to optimally manage your time. The app integrates with Apple Watch, Calendar, Siri, Reminders, Today Widget, Quick Actions, Action Extension, Handoff and Notifications. A new Magic Plus Button lets you drag and drop to insert to-dos anywhere in a list. The natural language date parser lets you type "tomorrow" or "in 4 days" or "next Wednesday" with the app correctly identifying your intent.
Day planner: Schedule Planner (free, with premium version)
Schedule Planner focuses on the details of your daily tasks and provides tools to help you determine whether you're spending your time wisely. It has a simple interface that helps you plan out your day in the morning, and place to-do items in color-coded categories such as Work and Free Time. The app generates charts so you see, at a glance, how your time is being spent – a key feature for small business owners. Schedule Planner allows you to set custom alerts, repeat tasks and move items around with copy-paste functionality.
Scanning: CamScanner (free, with premium version)
Sometimes you need to get a piece of paper into electronic format when you can't just fire up the multifunction printer and scanning software. No matter where you are, CamScanner comes to the rescue by turning your iPhone camera into a scanner and convenient OCR tool to quickly convert paper documents into JPEGs or PDFs. You can save those files to the cloud or share them via email or text. The app offers scan-quality optimization and smart cropping so your receipts, contracts, office whiteboards, and other documents look professional. CamScanner is free, but ad-supported with watermarks. A premium subscription removes ads and the watermark and adds OCR editing, auto-upload, and collaboration features.
To-do list: Todoist (free, with premium version)
Todoist helps you charge through tasks by adding extra functionality to the traditional to-do list format. In addition to setting up simple checklists, you set due dates and even rank tasks by priority to identify your next action item. A paid business version of the platform allows you to better collaborate with the rest of your staff. It includes project management features, including the ability to assign individual tasks to a larger project and designate tasks to a specific team member. Todoist features dozens of integrations with other apps, including Dropbox, Slack and Google. Updated versions let you sort your project task lists according to date, priority, name or responsible party. New task check boxes let you record completed tasks with a tap instead of a swipe. Among other updates, you can now select multiple tasks by swiping left to right, an updated color scheme makes prioritizing tasks easier, you can create new Siri shortcuts within the app, and premium users can load up to 300 tasks into a project. It's all accompanied by a new dark theme.
Organizer: Trello (free, with premium version)
Trello is the ultimate digital bulletin board where you organize and manage your projects so you can easily visualize and conceptualize your projects and tasks. It offers vast flexibility in organizing, viewing and collaborating on your projects. With Trello, you can set up to-do lists, organize notes, jot down ideas, gather images, and collaborate with team members whether they are in the office or on their way to a business meeting. Trello's customizable boards, lists and cards propel you into action as you drag cards across the board to follow your project's progress. Get new angles on your projects by adding checklists, labels, and due dates or use the Power-Ups feature to get a Calendar view, or add locations to cards to get a Map view.
Productivity: OmniFocus 3 (free, with premium version)
OmniFocus 3 is an all-in-one productivity app that allows you to record tasks and group them within projects. You can customize tasks and projects by adding location data, collaborators, priority and even energy level. It has an easy-to-navigate interface where you can review your list of tasks. Custom notifications keep you on track, and they can even be shared with your Apple Watch. The app integrates with Siri, so you can record tasks with your voice, and it supports Siri Shortcuts in iOS 12. Siri can track your actions and suggest activities based on past behaviors, which appear in Spotlight, on the lock screen, and in Siri Settings.
Data on demand: Wolfram Alpha ($2.99)
This app is not only a comprehensive, live encyclopedia, but it gives you a compelling computational knowledge engine that can help you with any type of math or science problem. Wolfram Alpha offers quick answers to complex math equations, making it one of the best calculators. It has a variety of uses for hundreds of subjects. From currency conversions to the nutrition facts of your meal, Wolfram Alpha is the ultimate reference guide and supports all the newest iPhone models. Because aspects of Wolfram Alpha are also used in Siri, this app lets you access the full spectrum of Wolfram Alpha's knowledge engine.
Storage: Dropbox (free, with premium version)
Dropbox has become an almost ubiquitous app for cloud storage and collaboration. You never have to worry about sharing large files and folders – Dropbox holds all types of files, documents, photos, and data, allowing you to sync across all devices and access files anywhere. Linked files are available – even to those who do not have a Dropbox account. Other handy features include a document scanner, shared folders and offline access.
PDFs: PDFelement (free, with premium version)
PDFelement is a powerful PDF reader and editor that has all the essential tools you need to handle PDF documents. The app has an abundance of editing tools, including font recognition and editing, so you can change the style, size and color of text. Its annotation tools let you leave notes in text boxes or via freehand drawing. The camera feature allows you to snap a photo of a document and immediately turn it into a customizable PDF. You can convert PDFs to TXT, Word, HTML and dozens of other file formats. It integrates with Dropbox, Google and other services for easy sharing.
Time management: Hours Time Tracking (free, with premium version)
Everyone who has to track their hours among a multitude of projects knows how frustrating it can be. The worst part is forgetting when you started or ended a particular project in order to bill it properly. Hours Time Tracking is a handy time tracker you can tote around on your iPhone (or Apple Watch). Using the app, you can track time by clients, tasks, or projects; start, stop, and switch timers at will; set rounding rules; and set reminders. Hours offers a calendar view so you see the big picture of how your projects are allocated, and a visual timeline lets you correct mistakes. A team feature allows work groups to track and report time. An Hours Pro subscription for $7.99 per month offers additional options, web access and sync capabilities.
Read it later: Pocket (free, with premium version)
When you find an article or video you want to read or watch but don't have time to view it immediately, you can save it for later with Pocket. The app syncs content across phones, tablets and computers, or you can access it offline. It provides unlimited storage, letting you tag items for searching later. You can even recommend content to others. Recent updates offer new features. Now you can listen to articles saved in the app by tapping the Headphones icon. An updated, streamlined layout with new colors and fonts — and even a night or sepia theme — make the app more appealing, especially for night owls. The app's repositioned filters help you find exactly what you're looking for.
Accounting: FreshBooks Cloud Accounting (subscription)
Self-employed folks, small businesses and independent contractors know how hard it is to take control of billing and invoicing chores. FreshBooks Cloud Accounting is designed to take some of the sting out of this often tedious task. The app lets you create professional invoices, accept online payments, track your time and billable hours, keep automatic payment records, record expenses, and track client conversations. FreshBooks is cloud-based so it can securely sync your data to all platforms and devices. FreshBooks is free for 30 days, after which you will need a paid subscription, which starts at $14.99 per month and ranges up to $49.99 per month.
Recording: Just Press Record ($4.99)
Just Press Record is an essential app for business owners who want to record meetings, create voice memos or set voice reminders throughout the day. The app has a few marquee features, such as the option to transcribe audio into editable, searchable text and sync with Apple Watch and iCloud. It supports 30 languages. Recent versions of the app offer a dark mode and let you use Siri Shortcuts to record on iOS or Apple Watch.
Notetaking: Paper (free, with premium version)
Sometimes the best ideas pop into our minds when we're working on something else, but recording and tracking those random thoughts can be daunting. Paper is comes in handy for iPhone users who prefer to jot down their notes by hand. You can create diagrams, charts and sketches with a wide variety of styluses. It also has the organizational flexibility to make subsets for notes on random thoughts or specific topics, allowing you to keep track of your projects – with all items saved to the cloud. Newer versions, now owned by WeTransfer, offer updates to the full-screen canvas view. You can transition to the previous or next page by swiping with one finger left or right, or create a new blank page by swiping left or right with two fingers. It now incorporates the new double-tap gesture for Apple Pencil 2. Paper's new collage tool introduces a simple way to work with images, letting you add and manipulate multiple images to the same page. It also adds Unsplash integration with the photography site so you can search thousands of photographs for your projects. A new Blend tool lets you blend and blur the ink in your sketches to soften edges and smoothly combine colors – even if you don't use a connected stylus.