Productivity Tools

Best Christmas Apps to Stay Organized
in the Holiday Rush Season

Christmas is a wonderful time, and we all love to bring some magic into our everyday life. But being a magician is not easy: shopping, decorating, preparing gifts and planning parties requires time and attention. Children and adults are waiting for wonders, so forgetting anything is not an option! That’s where Christmas apps can help — we’ve collected the best of them.

1. The Christmas List

Shopping for Christmas sometimes turns into a nightmare: you have to remember all gifts, decorations for your home, and food for parties! The only option not to overlook anything is to put it on paper… or in an app. A paper list may seem to be a part of tradition, but you can easily lose it or accidentally throw it away (bet it happened to everyone at least once!).

So why not organize all your shopping to-dos in a special app? The Christmas List not only keeps all your shopping lists in one place, but also allows you to track progress and set budgets. Track gifts by status: to buy, bought, shipping, received, and wrapped. Share your lists with friends, family, and anyone you’re planning your Christmas holidays with.

2. Giftster

Giftster is a gift registry that connects family and close friends. Its members send their gift ideas into the app, and then various options are possible: private idea sharing (if you’re preparing a collective gift for a family member or mutual friend), involving Secret Santa into gift giving, or reserving gift ideas so that others don’t buy a similar gift. The app can also be used as a wish list: create your own list and share it with your friends or family members.

3. Gift Wrap App

Wrapping is an important part of a gift, so we think about it thoroughly and try to find out new ideas and designs. But what if you’ve prepared a “digital” gift, like for example a voucher or a ticket? Gift Wrap App will help you prepare a proper decoration for it. With decorative paper and animated ribbons, it creates a realistic wrapping effect and makes your gift look just like a “real” one!

4. Moonpig

Holiday cards are one of the hardest challenges: you like the picture but don’t like the text, you like the text but that glitter is ugly… Why not prepare your own card for Christmas? Choose a card, upload your own handwriting, and use photos from your smartphone or tablet camera to personalize the card. What’s more, the app allows creating reminders so that you never miss an important event.

5. Christmas Countdown

Can’t wait for Christmas to come? Try Christmas Countdown! It has everything to get in the Christmas mood: beautiful themes and wallpapers, Christmas music, a new gift every day in December, and, of course, countdown of days and hours until Christmas. In the premium account, also two countdown widgets for homescreen are available, alongside with more music and extra themes.

6. Santa Tracker

So busy that you don’t even get in the holiday mood? That’s no problem: with this game app, you’ll feel the magic of approaching Christmas season: follow Santa on his journey around the world, see how much time remains until Christmas, and play games with elves and reindeers in different locations! The app updates in the end of November and loads new games and redesigned locations.

7. 101 Christmas Cake Ideas

If your responsibility is baking cakes for party, probably you’d look for some inspiration when decorating them. Then, this app is what you need! Instead of googling, just open the app and take a look at 101 Christmas-themed cake decoration examples. You can use them as ready-to-use designs or as an inspiration to create a decoration based on one of the examples.

8. Christmas Songs

Finding music for a holiday party is really time-consuming! And if your guests enjoy singing, you probably also need a songbook with chords and lyrics. Christmas Songs app might be of help then: it contains popular Christmas songs to listen and dynamically shown lyrics to sing along.

Once you downloaded and installed the app, you don’t have to download any songs and lyrics separately, and you don’t even need an Internet connection, as all songs are already included in the app. With its nice graphics, the app is a favorite for both kids and adults.

9. Christmas Advent Calendar

Just a calendar, with countdown, presents and music. Know exactly how far away Christmas is, discover new songs and books, and find gift ideas for friends and family. A simple app that will help you stay organized and create the holiday mood.

10. Snowball Fight

It’s busy time, but why not take a break when you’re tired of shopping and preparing for a Christmas party? Play a fun game that we all love, and you even don’t need to go outside. You and your kids will love to play a snowball fight– even on a smartphone!

Productivity Games:
Get work done when you actually want to play

Working and learning hard is great, but it depletes willpower and concentration, and you end up just wanting to relax and play a video game. And here’s the problem: many are super achievers in video games, but lack focus and motivation in real life. So why not turn work, studies, or any self-improvement into an RPG, but with real-life results? Here’s our list of the best productivity games that turn routine work activities into fun.

1. Habitica

Habitica is one of the most popular RPG-style apps that help you improve your skills, focusing, and attitude. When you feel bored with your routine tasks, learning, or building up healthy habits, turn them into “monsters” and fight them one by one. When you complete a task, you progress in the game, and when you fail to get something done, you lose health and backslide. You can cooperate with other players, get gear to build up your avatar, set up the system of rewards, and compete with others. What’s more, the app has extensions and add-ons to track your progress and use your data more efficiently.

2. SuperBetter

SuperBetter has helped many people to build up new habits, develop their skills and talents, and successfully pursue long-term goals. The author claims that the app improves mood and overall wellness, as it helps reduce stress caused by too many daily to-dos, oppressing circumstances, or a hard-to-tackle challenge.

The idea is using psychological strength we display when playing games for tackling real-life challenges. The main factor that gives us strength is belief in our ability to succeed, and the app increases it. This belief helps cope with personal challenges, develop good habits, learn new skills, and improve ourselves.

3. Fitocracy

A fitness app that helps improve your workout progress. In its free version, it offers various workouts for any goals and experience levels, logging progress, support, motivation, and daily articles on the subject. The paid version includes personal coach’s advice on nutrition (with a personal nutrition plan), workouts made specifically for you, and guidance on your way to your goals.

4. ChoreWars

What on Earth can be more boring than household chores, like washing dishes, making bed, and cleaning the house? ChoreWars turns this process into a game with monsters, achievements, rewards, and competition — everything you need to start doing chores you kept putting off for ages.

The users report that the game is especially efficient with children that are always reluctant to do what their parents ask. But, it can be helpful not only for big families, lazy roommates and coworkers: people who suffer from mental illnesses say that the app helps them remember what simple tasks need to get done.

5. Todoist Karma

Karma is a fun productivity game app developed by Todoist, the author of the popular to-do list tool. It does not turn anything into monsters or bosses: its method is accumulating Karma by being productive and accomplishing more tasks.

Set up your daily number of tasks you want to accomplish, and earn Karma by achieving your goals. When you start using the app, the Beginner level is assigned to you. Unlock new levels by being productive and finally become the Enlightened! And don’t forget to share your achievements on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ directly from the app.

6. EpicWin

The developer’s description of this tool sounds quite simple: a to-do list with XP. But in fact, it adds adventure and fun to your life, making it easier to remember daily chores and get more things done. You can customize your profile as you want (and choose a super fun name, of course), set up a to-do list, and start playing… or working.

For each of the tasks you accomplished, you receive points for intellect, stamina, spirit, and other characteristics. As the authors emphasize, doing laundry is an epic feat of stamina, so it’s fair that you get stamina points for that. With more points, you move forward on the quest map, uncover new locations, and find rare items (because who doesn’t want a Helm of Questionable Appeal to put on the enemy’s head?). Users say that it is a great encouragement that helps increase productivity in work and studies from the first day of use.

7. Life Game

Those who don’t enjoy fighting monsters, accumulating XP, and hunting down rare stuff, could try this productivity game app. It uses a metaphor of a tree that you plant and grow — its leaves represent different aspects of your life. Find out the most important one, or try to keep the balance between all of them: health, studies, finances, social life, or any other areas that you consider important.

The app allows creating a personal action plan that helps pursue your personal growth goals. Track your progress on every step of your way, and get inspired for future achievements. The app also offers social features, so you can share your progress on social media and get support and inspiration from the community.

8. Zombies, Run!

Most of us start doing sports to improve health or lose weight, and we all know the problem: the result promises to be great, but the process itself is disappointingly boring. To stay productive when working out and achieve your goals, try a gamified app like this. Instead of just walking, running or cycling, accomplish an important mission in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.

The app contains over 200 missions, and you can create your own ones, so you’ll never run out of motivation. Your results are stored online, so you can track your progress and share your results.

9. Itemz (beta)

Itemz looks like a regular to-do and work management app, but it includes a trophy system. As the app is still in beta, trophy is only the beginning: the developers plan to implement a more motivating point-and-level system in the future. The app’s functionality seems to be half-baked as for now, but at least its creators honestly admit that and promise much more fun in the future.

Keep calm and code on:
Productivity tools for developers

Productivity turns into a vague concept when speaking of jobs in the technology environment. Programming is one of the areas where productivity is really hard to measure and manage: a developer’s productivity cannot be measured in trivial figures like lines of code. There are various opinions about how to handle it and many management approaches, but in any case, adopting special productivity tools for developers is a great way to improve team’s results. Alongside with the apps designed specifically for developers, general productivity tools that work for everyone can also be helpful for software development teams.

Work management and focusing tools

Let’s start with general productivity tools that help organize the work process regardless of the type of activity you’re engaged in. Keeping track of time, controlling workflow progress, and blocking workplace distractions is important for everyone when you need to get things done.

1. actiTIME

This tool is designed for keeping control over individual and team’s time expenses, but it also a good work management instrument. It is used both by companies and freelancers for recording time spent on work tasks, controlling project progress, analyzing performance and profitability, etc. With its rich reporting functionality, managers can always get a detailed picture of their team’s productivity and individual results, compare actual results with initial estimates, and better plan work for future. For regular employees, the tool offers a detailed overview of their work time structure, and a possibility to control their work time expenses and productivity.

2. Cold Turkey

A popular distraction-blocking app that helps you focus on your work, not on everything funny and attractive on your desktop or on the Internet. Set it up to block your access to specific websites, or to the entire Internet, or to any applications on your computer to create a distraction-free environment. The app helps develop self-control habits and get more done in less time.

3. Strict Workflow

Experts say that 25-minute focusing sprints with 5-minute breaks are an efficient way to increase productivity. Strict Workflow is a Chrome extension that implements this idea: set up and start the timer, and follow its work-and-break cycles. Or, alternatively, you can use the traditional pomodoro technique with a kitchen timer to develop concentration and build up productivity habits.

4. Habitica

If you enjoy playing RPG, why not gamify your work too? Habitica is one of the most popular productivity apps that motivates you with RPG-like rewards and punishments. The app turns your tasks into monsters that you need to defeat. The more you get done, the more you progress in the game (and you can customize your avatar, prizes and punishments). And if you find it boring or disappointing to play alone, there’s a social network feature: compete with friends who are also working on their productivity, fight bosses that can hurt your teammates, and tackle challenges with special prizes.

Special productivity tools for software development

There is another category of tools that can help developers get more productive at the workplace. Special tools that create a more comfortable work environment and speed up routine processes can be of help even for those who are not facing productivity issues.

1. Oh My Zsh

Oh My Zsh is an open-source framework for managing a Zsh configuration that comes with lots of useful functions. It is designed for developers working with the command line. When creating the tool, the developer focused on keeping it simple for people who are new to the command-line environment, but those who need advanced functions can choose among various plugins, helpers, themes etc. As for now, there are more than 200 plugins for different technologies, and over 1000 contributors keep working on the project.

2. The Silver Searcher

The Silver Searcher is a code searching tool. Its author explains that a lot of time he spent on “writing” code was actually reading the code and searching through it. So he needed a tool that would search quickly and relevantly, and he built it. Now The Silver Searcher is ranked among the most efficient productivity tools for developers, as it saves a lot of time and effort.

3. UltraEdit

UltraEdit is a text editor that is often used for editing code and markup in virtually any markup or programming language. It can handle large files (up to 4 GB) and allows to configure the work environment according to the user’s preferences. Besides syntax highlighting for unlimited number of languages and other visual features, it supports FTP, provides a SSH/telnet console, and allows logical grouping and ordering of files and folders, which is convenient when working on n large projects.

4. Homebrew

Homebrew is “the missing package manager for MacOS”, as the authors call it. Its purpose is quick installation of freely usable open source tools from binary packages. Its lead maintainer, Mike McQuaid, says that it is particularly useful for developers, as it offers the quickest and easiest way to find and install commonly used developer tools, or to create your own Homebrew packages.

5. GitHub Changelog Generator

As the name of this tool suggests, it offers automated creation of change logs for projects you’re working on. It generates change logs by tags, issues and pull requests in developers’ tools. This way, you can spend less time on describing important changes you made to your project, and focus on developing tasks.

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