Monday, February 5, 2018

24 Must-Have, Everyday Workhorse Apps*

Top 24 apps (logos shown clockwise from 7 o’clock): Timely, Accuweather, Gmail, Podcast Addict, Google Voice, Google Hangouts Dialer, Hiya Caller ID & Block, Google Keep, SimpleMind, MindMeister, Floating Stickies, Google Docs/Sheets/Slides, Wunderlist, Google Maps, Feedly, Puffin, Xodo PDF, FBReader, Pocket, Google Photos, Fast for Facebook, Twilight, Atmosphere

If you’re like me, your mobile device (phone, tablet, etc.) is loaded with apps. In fact, I’ve just checked and discovered that I’ve got hundreds installed! And that left me wondering, “How many of these things do I need? Which of these do I depend on every day?”
After some reflection, I came up with a list of my “24 must-have, everyday workhorse apps.” Since I get so much value out of these, I decided they were worth sharing with you. They’re listed in the order that I typically use them throughout the day.

My Must-Have, Everyday Workhorse Apps

Timely:  Timely is simply the most beautiful clock/alarm/timer app I’ve seen. When I need an alarm to wake me, its gentle tones fade in slowly, building in volume until I’m up and ready to go. Later, when I need a meditation timer, Timely is there to ease me back to reality when I’m ending a session.
Accuweather Platinum: Before I get on with my day, I always check my Accuweather app so I know what to expect outside. It’s loaded with features that provide daily, hourly and even minute-by-minute (!) forecasts, videos, animated maps and much more — all exactly matched to my specific location.
Gmail:  Gmail is flat out the best email manager out there. It automatically pre-sorts my messages into folders labeled Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums — no intervention needed! So I can easily find what’s most important at the moment. And, the experts agree, Gmail pretty much eliminates spam.
Google VoiceGoogle Hangouts Dialer and Hiya – Caller ID & Block — These apps help me manage all my voice and text communications. I give out my Google Voice number (You can get yours free with your Gmail account!) to everyone. I have it set up to ring both my house phone and my cell phone at the same time. And if I decide not to answer, the caller can simply leave a voice message. This voice message is simultaneously sent to my email as an audio attachment and a transcribed text message that appears in the body of the email. Better yet, it’s also texted to my mobile device. And it’s all free!  Google Hangouts Dialer lets me call directly from my phone or tablet using my WiFi connection… NO phone minutes are used!  And Hiya – Caller ID & Block automatically blocks nuisance calls before they come in by comparing the incoming phone number to a known database of phone spammers! This database is constantly growing because it’s crowd-sourced by my fellow Hiya users — so we all identify the bad guys and Hiya blocks them!

Podcast Addict:  When it’s time for the morning news, I
Podcast Addict:
My Main News Source!
skip the TV and go straight to my own custom-curated list of downloaded podcasts. I listen where and when (usually while exercising) I want. The app lets me playback at high (speech-compressed) speed, auto rewind on Pause, and make a zillion other adjustments that can get really geeky. (It’s a powerhouse!) Better yet, Podcast Addict can live stream media sources from all over the world so I can listen live to my favorite PBS stations in different time zones.
Google Keep is flat-out awesome! I use it like a digital scrapbook for saving ideas, images, how-to instructions, links, reminders… everything! It updates instantly for access across all my devices. And because it’s Google, powerful Search and tagging and color-coding tools help me easily find that scrap of info I stashed somewhere in a note long ago. (For more info, see my article Top Five Free Apps to Capture Ideas & Leverage Creativity.)
SimpleMind Pro mind mapping and MindMeister (mind mapping) help me brainstorm when I’m preparing to write an article or create a presentation. And I am ruthless about quickly switching from one to the other! Depending on the concepts that I’m struggling to conquer, one of these will always help me figure out how things hang together!   (For more info, see my article Top Five Free Apps to Capture Ideas & Leverage Creativity.)
Google DocsSheets and Slides are powerful replacements for Microsoft® Word, Excel and PowerPoint. As a writer and trainer, I spent years using the Microsoft products — you could even call me a power user. But recently I find that I use the Google suite exclusively because they are easily available (for free!) on all my devices and help me do everything I asked of the Microsoft suite.  (For more info, see my article Top Five Free Apps to Capture Ideas & Leverage Creativity.)

Floating Stickies is a one-of-a-kind app that lets me
Floating Stickies lets you
make notes while keeping
your source material visible.
make notes without having to leave the screen I am examining. It stays on top of the screen I’m looking at no matter what app is running underneath!  So I can still see the content on that web page while, at the same time, typing text notes to be saved later for use in another app. It may seem too simple or even goofy… but once you start playing with it, you’ll find all sorts of ways to use it!
Wunderlist: To-Do List & Tasks is an app that my wife and I both use to keep a synchronized shopping list. The Google Play app description says it best: “Whether you’re sharing a grocery list with a loved one, working on a project, or planning a vacation, Wunderlist makes it easy to share your lists and collaborate with everyone in your life.”
Google’s Maps – Navigation & Transit app probably needs no introduction. Once we have that Wunderlist shopping list ready to go, we get the travel directions from the Google’s Maps app. And in case you haven’t looked lately, this is SO much more than just a map! I use it to check traffic, find local businesses, restaurants, and reviews; save offline map areas so I can navigate without data; look up the best bus/train routes, guide me with point-to-point navigation (Who needs a GPS?!)  and much more!
Feedly: your work newsfeed is a great little “news aggregator” app. When I’m ready to consume in-depth news from my own hand-picked news sources, I check my Feedly update. In the app’s words, I can pull in the latest posts from my “…favorite publications, podcasts and YouTube channels into collections and receive updates when new stories and videos are published.”
Puffin is my “go to” web browser for reading and research. And, from my experience, it lives up to it’s publisher’s claim:  It’s “… Wicked Fast: Puffin speeds up mobile browsing by shifting the workload from the resource-limited devices to the cloud servers, and resource-demanding web pages can run super-fast on your phones or tablets.”

Xodo PDF Reader & Editor is my favorite tool for working
Don’t just read PDFs —
Annotate them with Xodo!
with PDFs. Why just read PDFs when you can “mark them up” (i.e., annotate them and highlight them) then save them for reference later? This app is loaded with arrows, shapes, colored highlighters, text boxes and many other annotation tools. And it’s flexible! It opens lots of marginally-formatted PDFs that my devices’ default PDF viewers can’t open. And, once I save my changes, it will sync the new file with Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive.
FBReader: Favorite Book Reader is what I use when it’s time to relax and read e-books in any format. In addition to displaying books from my device’s library, it’s connects with a HUGE network of free book sources. So it helps me find and download plenty of free reading material. And the screen, page turning styles, etc. are highly customizable. Better yet, it can turn any book into an audio book with its FBReader TTS (text to speech) plugin. (Confession: I frequently fall asleep at night with FBReader reading to me!)
Pocket (Read It Later) is my personal stash of news articles and web pages. When I’m browsing the web and I see an article I’d like to read later offline, I simply click the “Share” button and add it to my Pocket. So when I’m on the bus or train, or just kicking back on a park bench, I can catch up on my reading. And Pocket also uses a built-in Text to Speech engine to read the article aloud through my headphones when the road gets too bumpy for reading text.
Google Photos is where I keep — and actually FIND easily! — any and all of my more than 16,000 digital photos. It provides automatic backup of photos as soon as I shoot them, then syncs across all devices; unlimited storage; unbelievable (scary accurate!) search/finding of people based on sophisticated facial recognition. No more tedious sorting and tagging of pictures needed! And I frequently make custom albums, stored online, to be shared with friends and relatives via a link — No more sending out bloated email attachments! If you take digital photos, you should be using Google Photos. (Learn more and read my review here:  Why I Use Google Photos, not Facebook, to Share Photos.)

Fast – Social App (a Facebook app replacement) is my
Fast for Facebook eliminates
the Facebook mobile app bloat!
main tool for interacting with Facebook.  (Note: I use the Pro version to eliminate ads.)  And it lives up to its name! I use it instead of the bloated, bandwidth-hogging, data-tracking, invasive, ad-serving Facebook app! (Did that sound harsh? Ah, well…)  As the publishers say: “Fast is an alternative and free client to manage your Facebook account! Fast gives a great and full experience even to the less powerful device!”
Twilight is an important tool in my personal “sleep hygiene” regimen. Every evening it automatically dims the screens on all my devices and adds a reddish overlay, blocking out the harsh blue light that gets in the way of my brain’s preparing for a good night’s sleep. Sounds weird, it’s true… but after you get used to it you’ll see that you really do fall asleep more easily when you’ve done your nighttime reading with the Twilight filters in place. (Check out my in-depth review here:  Trouble sleeping? Twilight (Android) or Night Shift (iOS) can help!)*
Atmosphere: Relaxing Sounds helps me drift off to sleep while listening to my own custom-tailored soundscape. I can mix and match sounds from the Atmosphere collection and even add my own custom sounds. My favorite mash-up to induce sleep is made up of ocean waves, the sounds of seagulls and a touch of whale songs. Atmosphere’s default collections include sounds from the beach, countryside, forest and lots more.
Bonus online app: I created the image at the beginning of this article by using Google Drawings. It’s powerful and can run on any device with a browser. It imports and exports lots of formats and has plenty of graphical power. And, of course, it’s free! (Here’s some detailed help info.)
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