Working from home: Here are 7 handy productivity apps to make life easier

Working from home: Here are 7 handy productivity apps to make life easier

Zoom, Zapier, Quip, Slack and more: Here’s a handy list of tools and services – because you’re still working, right? We can’t help when your bed beckons though.

work from home photo: Mimi Thian Unsplash
(Photo: Mimi Thian/ Unsplash) 

With a lot of people increasingly working from home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the question of how to be productive away from the office has become a real one. There are a lot of digital apps and tools to help with telecommuting but for tech noobs – like me – the choices can be a bit confusing, unless we simply follow office protocol.

Which one works for me? Do I have to pay? Can it be used on both the laptop and mobile phone? Will it really help maximise my productivity – or will I be spending more time learning how to use it than actually working?

Working home bed
Don't get too comfortable when working from home. (Photo: Unsplash/Designecologist)

Thankfully, the Internet does look out for people like me. The apps I tried were surprisingly tech novice-friendly, straightforward and easy to use, whether it was for project management or organising a to-do list. Oh, and I now know what “cloud-based collaboration” means.

Of course, there are a few things that tech can’t help you with. Like ignoring the clarion call of your bed or being disciplined enough to actually get dressed for work – after all, it’s nice to be decent from the waist up (at least) during video-conference meetings.

Here's a list of tools and apps that are primed to help you out. And yes, they’re idiot-proof.

ZOOM


Zoom, as it states on its website, offers a range of video conferencing and communication tools for all sorts of businesses. The standout product is Zoom Meetings & Chat, which offers easy-to-use video and voice calls, both of which can be conducted in a group of up to 100 participants or one-to-one. 

Another very important (albeit vain) plus point? It has camera filter function that helps to "smooth out the skin tone on your face, to present a more polished looking appearance." 

Other features include the ability to host webinars, send messages and share files between team members via the app.

A good point to note is that the free version of Zoom is useful for smaller teams looking for short meetings. If you don’t fancy being kicked out after 40 minutes, the paid version allows unlimited meeting time and only requires hosts to pay a monthly fee rather than everyone who attends meetings.

For Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and web. Free and paid versions available.

QUIP


Quip boasts the ability to combine chat, documents, task list, slides, and spreadsheets all in one app, so that it’s all streamlined enough to make collaborations fast and easy. According to the website, you can real-time chat and message, edit documents with your co-workers, create charts using live data and embed full featured spreadsheets with support for over 400 functions.

Most importantly, you can import documents from Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, Box, Google Docs; and export documents to PDF and Microsoft Office alongside spreadsheets to Microsoft Excel.

All these are accessible on all of the devices you use at any time, so you can easily review changes, comments, annotations to your docs and spreadsheets from your iPhone and iPad.

Quip is pretty simple and straightforward but is not without its limitations. As pointed out by other users, sharing files or documents with people outside of your organisation is not possible because of issues like formatting. And that could be that pesky fly in your ointment.

For iOS, iPadOS and macOS. Free.

ZAPIER


Who isn't looking to save as much time as one can in an already over-stuffed 24 hours?

Zapier is an automation tool that promises to save you endless amounts of time on repetitive tasks. Instead of constantly switching between different apps to complete basic functions like manually uploading files to Google Drive, the website states that you can choose from a library or customise automations to do these tasks for you.

Essentially, Zapier sends data between your integrated oft-used apps, allowing you to spend less time switching between them. For example, it sends data to your Gmail and Google Drive so email attachments are automatically uploaded for remote access.

For Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and web. Free (for 100 tasks) and paid versions available.

ASANA


Organising and tracking your work to-do lists is important when it comes to project management productivity. Asana is built to do just that and helps small teams manage their projects effectively. According to the website, you can add tasks, to-dos, projects, teams, and files made available for up to 15 people absolutely free. If you need to add more people or more advanced features, an upgrade to Asana Premium is required.

Overall, the basic features of Asana are very easy to use. One great one is that all changes made in Asana’s mobile app will immediately appear on the web app. And any action, like creating a task or making an update, can be created offline and will automatically sync when you are back online.

This means your entire team can stay in touch with progress on specific projects without the unnecessary need to send out alerts every time there is a status update.

For Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and web. Free and paid versions available.

PAGES, NUMBERS AND KEYNOTE

According to Apple, all you have to do is to invite others to your documents and work on them together in real time. That means regardless of where you are, you can still work with your teammates on that important presentation or project without actually being in the same room.

Collaboration is built into the iWork apps on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, and iCloud.com. Best of all, you can see the edits that others make in real time, hide or show editing activity.

For iOS, iPadOS and macOS. Free.

SLACK


Slack is an instant messaging platform designed for teams and bills itself as the ideal live communication tool for seamless collaboration between remote workers scattered all over the country.

All chats are organised into different channels, which team members can join and leave, as needed, so nobody receives messages or notifications irrelevant to them.

And if you need to discuss anything outside of the main topics, team members can carry on in separate threads, which prevents these messages from interfering with the more pertinent conversations.

It’s also a great platform for instant file sharing where a simple drag-and-drop is all that is needed to share PDFs, images, videos.

For Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and web. Free and paid versions available.

TRELLO


Having all your tasks at hand fully visible is possibly the best function of Trello. Why? Because this streamlined task management system painlessly lets you track the flow of work as it moves from one stage to another.

Not only is it straightforward, simple and easy to get familiar with, the interface is also incredibly self-explanatory – a definite plus point for this tech noob. 

According to the Trello blog, you can add comments or collaborators whenever necessary, and the uncomplicated drag-and-drop functionality helps make project management easier. And for organisation junkies, you can also customise with your own columns and labels, alongside receiving notifications when things relevant to you happen.

For Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and web. Free.

Source: CNA/gl

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