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6 Amazing Productivity Apps for Work from Home Professionals

6 Amazing Productivity Apps for Work from Home Professionals

Tech & Gadgets | October 13, 2020
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As the world copes with the reformed way of life brought by the COVID pandemic, more people have started to embrace the idea of remote work. It’s a new beginning in a sense as we radically change our work habits and environment.

If you think about it, the rise of remote work was only a matter of time—even in a developing country such as ours. In fact, the Telecommuting Act was enacted as a law back in December 2018. It enables employees to do their jobs in an alternative workplace with the use of a computer or similar technology. A new bill has been passed this year, which, when signed, will turn this optional arrangement into a mandatory setup provided that specific conditions are met.

With work from home (WFH) becoming the means of operation for the majority of businesses today, one topic has remained controversial: productivity.

The Productivity Conundrum: A Double-edged Sword

Working from home has been a generally positive trend, and for a lot of professionals, the flexibility it brings offers many rewards. But when it comes to productivity, there are as many people struggling to accomplish tasks efficiently as those who do in a WFH setup. Research shows that there is no universal approach in terms of working remotely, and the diversity of industries as well as the nature of work are significant factors in overall output. Add to that all the distractions you might face while working at home, and it would be easy to see why we find it more challenging than ever to stay on task and accomplish things faster.

One effective solution to all of this is to learn how to maximize available technology.

That’s why I rounded up a list of some of the best productivity apps I regularly use to help you become more organized, focused, and on track on your tasks. These apps help you manage your day to day activities and get things done efficiently.

This list covers everything from idea organization, time and task management, work collaboration, and online meetings, among other functionalities. Whatever kind of app you decide to download and use in the end, remember that using them regularly is essential to get the best results.

1. Workflowy

With online meetings happening every day, we need to be ready before going live. WorkFlowy is a web-based outliner created by Mike Turitzin and Jesse Patel at the 2010 Y Combinator startup camp. This app lets you organize your thoughts and agenda before attending the meeting. It lets you create a list—and a nested list within that main list—and so on.

Workflowy promotes a more fluid process in dealing with heavy workloads. | Photo from The Workflowy Blog

What makes WorkFlowy stand out is its versatility. You can jot down thoughts, break down projects, input casual matters, and itemize tasks. It has a zoom-in function on sub-lists, which is helpful if you need to focus on a specific topic. You may also filter or tag items for extra organization and even mark them as complete. You can share a link to collaborate (a Pro version exclusive feature) with others and even assign a bullet to a particular person, so they can update all tasks assigned to them in real-time. Best of all, it’s easy to learn, and you can get the hang of it in five minutes.

You may use WorkFlowy as a web application on a desktop for macOS, PC, and Linux or on mobile on both iOS and Android. The cross-platform capability comes with solid integration giving you a smooth transition regardless of which device you want to use. There are 100 list items available on the free version, but you can refer or be referred by a friend who uses the app. You can get additional 250 items in case 100 is too few for your purposes. The Pro version gives you unlimited items and will set you back $50 a year (around Php2,400 as of current exchange). Although if you have a business team or department interested in using it, there’s a Pro version for teams offering a 20% discount.

I highly recommend this app to those who lead meetings and develop presentations regularly.

2. Trello

Trello employs a Kanban-style of list-making, but contrary to a lot of people’s notions, it’s not just an app for making lists—it’s a project management tool as well. The lists it uses—called ‘boards’—can contain attachments, checklists, and other details such as due dates.

With your thoughts placed on categorized boards, your mind becomes more visual and easy to organize. | Photo by Marcelo Andre Winkler

A good case-use example is by having three boards: Pending, Ongoing, and Completed, each having a list of tasks. When you start a task, you can move it from Pending to Ongoing, and so on. You may also customize the name of the boards as needed. Now it makes more sense on how can be applied when managing projects. 

Here are the 10 helpful features of Trello to maximize your experience:

  1. Detailed & Quick Overviews of Front/Back Cards
  2. Easy, Drag-and-Drop Editing
  3. Easy Organization with Labeling, Tags, and Comments
  4. Progress Meter Checklist
  5. Card Records Archive
  6. Easy file upload (Local Devices, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box)
  7. Deadline alerts and notifications with automated email notifications
  8. Individual/Group Task Assignment
  9. Mobile-Friendly Views
  10. Voting Options

The free version is already great as it provides unlimited boards, cards, and lists, albeit with a 10mb file size attachment limit and one Power-up per board. The Business and Enterprise plans cost $9.99 (Php483) and $17.50 (Php847) per month per user, respectively. This app is perfect for multiple project management.

3. Zoom

I can say that Zoom is a pandemic baby. The exponential growth of the app was due to the quarantine, brought by our natural desire to connect with family and relatives, friends, or workmates. Zoom provides videotelephony and online chat services, through a cloud-based peer-to-peer software platform and is used for teleconferencing, telecommuting, distance education, and social relations, among others.

Zoom’s thoughtful features puts it miles ahead its closest competitors. | Photo from the Zoom website

With the Zoom mobile app on Android and iOS, you can start or join a meeting. By default, the Zoom mobile app displays the active speaker view. If one or more participants join the meeting, you will see a video thumbnail in the bottom-right corner, and you can view up to four participants’ videos at the same time. It also has email integration with Apple Mail, Outlook, or similar email programs via a plug-in. This allows you to set meetings using your email app and pick Zoom as your call medium.

Zoom leads the competition due to its call and video quality, as well as other special features like recording meetings. This is especially crucial for teams that work in different time zones, so everyone has the chance to get up to speed with what is happening in the department or company.

Some of the 10 most exciting features of Zoom Meetings include:

  1. Easy adoption with WebRTC technology
  2. Join from anywhere on any device
  3. Built-in tools for screen sharing
  4. HD video and audio calls
  5. Virtual background and appearance touch-up
  6. Meet securely with role-based user permissions
  7. Streamlined calendaring services with Outlook and Google
  8. Built-in recording and transcripts
  9. Team chat both for groups and one-on-one messaging
  10. Access to extra features like webinars, chat, and phone

The free version lets you hold meetings for as long as 45 minutes. Otherwise, you may subscribe for $14.99 per month per user for a monthly plan (Php725) or $12.49 per month per user for annual (Php600).

4. Keynote

Meetings involve presentations most of the time. Because it’s done virtually today, showing visually appealing, informative decks have become more needed than ever. A skillful Keynote user can dish-out stunning, professional-looking presentations.

Keynote makes presentation-making an art of its own through its user-friendly features. | Photo from the Apple website

Keynote is user-friendly and easy to learn but takes time and patience to master. It has a non-cluttered interface and yet packed with features. You can start playing around with animations for your text and transitions then explore more advanced settings like image manipulation presets and timing markers. The theme and template repertoire of Keynote also gives you virtually unlimited choices when it comes to designing a deck. With a massive Apple and Mac user community globally, you can find something suited for your interest or purpose.

One other notable thing about it is that it is continuously updated. Keynote Version 10 was released a few months ago in March, which added a myriad of features like playing Vimeo or YouTube videos right in your presentation—isn’t this amazing?

I am sure a lot of you are already familiar with this app, so I just summarized the 10 best features that you might want to maximize from the last three versions of the update.

Keynote version 10.0 for Mac:

  1. Select from a variety of gorgeous new themes to help you get started
  2. Add a Keynote presentation to a shared iCloud Drive folder to automatically start collaborating, though this requires macOS 10.15.4
  3. Edit shared presentations while offline with your changes to be instantly uploaded when you’re back online 
  4. Easily access your recently used themes in a redesigned theme chooser
  5. Print or export a PDF of your presentation with comments included
  6. Add a drop cap to make text stand out with a large, decorative first letter
  7. Enhance your presentations with a variety of new, editable shapes.
  8. New “Keyboard” text build in and build out animation

Keynote version 10.2 for mac:

  1. Use the new “Play Slideshow in Window” option to have access to other applications while presenting locally or via video conferencing (this is important for Zoom users)
  2. Movies can now play through slide transitions so you can add the same movie to multiple slides to play from one slide to the next.
  3. Use the Align to Path option to have objects stay pointed in the correct direction while following a motion path.
  4. Easily add captions and titles to images, videos, shapes, and other objects

Keynote version 10.3 for mac:

  1. Use Play in Window for Recorded Slideshows
  2. Movie export now supports a wide selection of formats and frame rates
  3. Enhance your presentations with a variety of new, editable shapes
  4. And of course, my favorite, Play YouTube and Vimeo videos right in your presentations

5. SignNow

SignNow is one of the global leaders in electronic signature technology. The software-as-a-service platform enables individuals and businesses to sign and manage documents from any computer. With industry-leading features like advanced threat protection and link security, it keeps your documents as safe and secure as possible. In many cases, documents stored in SignNow are actually safer than those in computers, which are often the target of ransomware attacks. 

SignNow’s safety and security features safeguard your data and make signing documents hassle-free. | Photo from the SignNow website

Here are the top 10 features I love the most about the app:

  1. Upload and send documents for eSignature
  2. Add Fillable Fields (name, date, initials, etc.)
  3. Customize Signing Order
  4. Sign documents remotely
  5. Received email notifications 
  6. Encryption and Security
  7. Integrated with iOS and Android apps
  8. Stamp your own branding
  9. Link to your Dropbox for automatic filing of your complexly signed documents
  10. Use pre-built document templates, perfect for forms.

Whether you’re working on media, medicine, finance, or whatever industry, SignNow can deliver a safe, reliable, and quick document signing process. Users with access to files may even be assigned roles (like editor or viewer). SignNow pricing starts at $8.00 per month per user (Php387), but there’s a free 30-day trial that allows you to try its complete functionality.

6. Grammarly

Preparing documents to be signed is one thing; creating great ones is another. This is where Grammarly comes in handy. You don’t have to be a professional writer to be able to take advantage of this app, as it may be used as a web app, browser extension, or add-on for programs like Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and native macOS and Windows apps. You can use it for documents, messages, and everything in between.

Grammarly is the gentle grammar nazi who has sharp eyes but friendly nature. | Photo from the Grammarly website

You can write emails and proofread it quickly at the same time using Grammarly. With much of today’s work communication done online, getting your message across accurately in an easy to understand manner always helps. Its purpose is not to replace your writing skills. It’s to help you polish and fine-tune it every time.

The free version grants all the core features such as grammar and spelling checkers, while Premium starts at $11.66 per month (Php565) for an annual subscription with a yearly charge.

Much like motivation, productivity ultimately comes from within yourself. That’s why finding more ways on how to improve it boils down to learning how to make the most of what’s available. In this day and age, when technology is right at our fingertips, picking out the crème de la crème can spell the difference between simply getting the job done and finishing it with quality, timeliness, and style. These apps are among the best in their niche, hence why they’re mainstays in my and many other people’s devices. If you haven’t yet, give them a try and let me know how it goes.

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Helming several businesses on top of One Mega Group, Inc., Archie Carrasco's success in the industry is attributed to his agility to adapt to modern technology and innovation. His genuine interest and deep understanding of both software and hardware is something he takes pride in and he is able to apply these in his business plans and models.

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