The Best Everyday Apps for Productivity Minimalists
Features are great but design matters too. If you are like me, you enjoy an app that can do what you need it to do but also look great while doing it. So, if you are a productivity minimalists too, let’s take a look at some of my top everyday app choices that hit the perfect balance between design and function.
I love Newton. For me, it is the perfect combination of design and functionality. It’s got a clean design with a lot of whitespace which makes even the most chaotic inbox seem just a bit more calm and manageable. It also is a powerful app with a lot of really useful features.
Be forewarned, though there is a free version of Newton, everything I am going to talk about below will require a subscription to their service at the cost of $50/yr. You can use a very stripped down version of Newton without paying the fee but it is pretty basic. If that is too steep for you go ahead and try Airmail which is also a great email app that has some of the same features and, most importantly, is free.
Newton does a lot right but some of my favorites are what they call their ‘superchargers’. These extras really help Newton shine. With ‘Read Receipts’ you can see when the recipient of has read your email. Set up an email to send at a later time with ‘Send-Later’ or ‘Snooze’ your e-mail to return to your inbox later. Even get some more information about the people you are e-mailing with using ‘Sender Profile’.
If that’s not enough, Newton’s integration with some popular apps like Todist, Slack, Google Drive, and more makes it a breeze in implementing it into your current workflows.
For many of the same reasons I like Newton, I like Google Calendar. In the ‘Schedule’ view, there is a lot of white space but features event cards with images to indicate the type of event it is. The cards can give little hints as to the nature of the event with pictures and maps which enhance the experience rather than a plain text based entry. The app also has a great day, 3day, and week views as well as a month view that doesn’t feel crowded.
Since my calendar is primarily a Google calendar, the integration is seamless. For example, the app will pull events from my Gmail account and put them on the calendar in appropriate ways automatically. Things like flight details, party invitations, restaurant reservations, hotel reservations, health appointments, and more show up on the calendar and can be edited from there.
To top is off the ‘plain text entry’ makes Google Calendar app a breeze to create new events. Instead of having to move through multiple fields and input text you can write, ‘Birthday Party Tomorrow at 3pm at Brian’s’ and it will automatically fill in the fields with the appropriate information.
Another option is Fantastical. This app has a large following and for a good reason — it’s a great calendar app. For me personally, I am not a big fan of the design, color choices, or typography but it is still a extremely solid calendar app.
Here is the deal with Fantastical that I can not get around as well. The iOS app is $4.99. I think that is a more than fair price for a good calendar app but it doesn’t stop there. If you want to download the desktop app — that is $49.99. Personally, I think that is ridiculous. You can do what I was doing for a while which is use the iOS app and utilize the stock Apple calendar app to save $50.
We all have things to get done and sometimes it can get out of hand. That’s where Todoist steps in. With just the right amount of feature and flexibility mixed with some great design, Todoist is a solid choice. I don’t think it’s the sleekest out there but I think it does a good job balancing everything together where some other apps do not.
Todoist has both a free and paid version. To be honest, most people will never need to move to a paid level and will very happy with the free one. I used the free version for quite sometime until I felt I could benefit from some added features.
A great feature is the ability to work on your tasks not just on a desktop app but also a web based version. That way if you are at a computer that you don’t want to download the app to you can always access the web based page to get to work.
With all the features listed above as well as the ability to collaborate and share lists this a task manager that does it right.
Best Notes App — Bear
I want to love Apple Notes — I really do. There is so much that I like about it, especially the seamless integration. But the texture. That notepad background drives me crazy. It has always confused me why Apple would continue to keep it around even when everything else they have be doing has been so clean.
So, I have begun using Bear, which some are saying is the, “the Apple Notes we always wanted.” The design is absolutely killer and makes Apple Notes look stuck in the 90's… and that hurts to say.
Bear features a tagging system using hashtags to organize your notes. With parent level and sublevel tagging, you can tag to your hearts content. Bear also uses a markdown-like editor that I can see some loving and others not liking much–I think this could be a major factor in deciding whether to use it or not. Finally, the ability to export in PDF, HTML, and MD is a great addition for those who want to make your notes more functional than just trapped in the app.
Bear is free at first but in order to utilize the sync to to other devices you will need to step up to a paid account. This is where I hedged on whether to stay with Apple Notes or not. Ultimately, $1.49 a month was well worth it and I made the jump.
One final note, I was an Evernote user for a long time. The reality is I think there are some great features but the design is just a killer for me. If the design and some UX issues were fixed, I could see myself heading back over.
First Choice: Bear (Free/$1.49 a month) Second Choice: Apple Notes(Free)