The best productivity tools make it simple and easy to improve efficiency among teams, both in the office or working from home.
The main features of productivity tools will focus on collaboration (opens in new tab) and project management (opens in new tab), so that no matter where any individual is, they can remain in contact with the rest of their team and provide the latest updates and information that everyone needs. This can be done on a per project or by department basis, so that managers can ensure that the right people are in the right place to get the job done.
Management tools are also important, to prioritize schedules and work to deadlines, such as for time management (opens in new tab) and task management (opens in new tab). The also interface needs to be simple and easy to use so that managers do not become bogged down in administrating it all. Additionally, everything needs to be presented in a clear way so that contact management (opens in new tab) information is easy to find and action.
There are also other tools that can help improve productivity and efficiency, simply by making complex tasks simpler and easier to do. This could be anything from managing backups to social media monitoring, or customer relationship management (opens in new tab).
Here then are the best productivity apps on the market, showing our featured preferences with additional ones to also consider.
We’ve also highlighted the best business productivity gadgets.
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Microsoft Office is probably the platform most people think of first when it comes to office productivity suites, with the cloud-based Microsoft 365 being the latest incarnation.
What ensured that MS Office became a market leader is the comprehensive way data can be covered by different applications and moved between them, making working more efficient and hassle-free. With Word (opens in new tab), Excel (opens in new tab), Powerpoint (opens in new tab), and Outlook (opens in new tab) forming the core programs, these cover everything from documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and emails - in effect covering most essential office needs. In addition to that, OneDrive offers online saving and backups to keep your files safe.
While there are alternatives to MS Office (opens in new tab), most rivals attempt to play catch-up with Microsoft rather than provide innovative new features, and MS Office still remains the office suite with the most comprehensive range of features. And even if you do use one of these alternatives, the chances are you are going to be working with document formats created specifically for MS Office, and handle data from customers and suppliers who are using the MS Office platform.
While MS Office does have its critics, the bottom line is that nobody does office productivity better than Microsoft, and the core applications in Office have yet to be bettered.
Read our full Microsoft 365 review.
Asana has been around since 2008, making it a veteran in the collaboration arena, and companies such as Intel, Uber, Pinterest and TED all use it as their core method of communication.
It’s been designed as an easy way for companies to track the work of employees and to get the best possible results. Using the platform, you can create to-do lists for ongoing projects, set reminders for upcoming deadlines and send requests to colleagues. Team members can also assign comments to posts within the app.
You can organize all your projects in a list or board format, and there’s a search function so you can locate past work quickly. In short, Asana is a very effective way to stay super-organized and facilitate conversations when it comes to updates on how work is progressing.
Read our full Asana review.
Bitrix24 provides a vast suite of powerful business tools: collaboration, instant messaging, telephony, project management, document handling, scheduling, employee management, and more.
If you prefer to keep things simple then you can concentrate on the excellent CRM, which is a capable system all on its own. Contacts and communications are logged, leads assigned to sales managers, emails sent, calls recorded, quotes and invoices issued. Detailed reports keep you up-to-date and there's convenient access via the mobile app.
Bitrix24's unusually generous free account supports 12 users and includes 5GB storage, but if you need more, the Plus account offers more features.
Overall, Bitrix24 is offers a powerful suite of tools that is especially going to be handy for small businesses and start-ups to help them develop and grow through improved productivity, all in one platform.
Read our full Bitrix24 review.
Trello is a smartly designed and popular service for managing, organizing and sharing everything from simple to-dos to major project management tasks.
Getting started is as easy as dragging cards onto a Trello board. Cards can represent single tasks, with priorities and deadlines attached. But they can also be more substantial checklists, with attached files and pictures, containing hyperlinks to point somewhere else.
And there's a whole library of Power-Ups, custom cards which allow you to integrate a host of third-party services into your workflow: Box, Evernote, GIPHY, GitHub, Hangouts, Join.me, Mailchimp, OneDrive, Salesforce, Slack, SmartDraw, SurveyMonkey, Twitter, ZenDesk and more.
Trello has plenty of collaboration tools to help you manage your projects, and a stack of ingenious features to ensure it's user-friendly. Just one example: the Cloud Aging power-up visibly ages cards if they've not been accessed for a while, fading them out, maybe turning them yellow and even cracking. This isn't just a visual gimmick – it allows users to instantly see underused cards on even the busiest of boards, a real timesaver.
Read our full Trello review.
The best free productivity apps
RescueTime not only tracks the time you spend doing different things on your computer or mobile – such as visiting particular websites or using specific apps – it does so automatically. Running in the background as it does, RescueTime quietly logs your activity without serving as a distraction.
It's possible to set yourself targets and alerts, and the idea is that these goals will help you to develop better working habits. It enables you to see just how you spend your day on your digital devices so you can better understand where the time has gone. There free version of the app enables you to look back at three months of data for analysis, but paid-for packages (which start at $6 per month) have no limits and includes a number of extra features.
For most people, the free version will be more than enough, and the fact that it is available for macOS, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android and ChromeOS means that it is possible to track work across multiple devices and platforms.
Beeminder is quite a unique tool that can be used to track and monitor everything from running or trips to the gym, to logging how often you write, or managing a to-do list. Available as an app, or usable online, Beeminder is endlessly flexible – you define your goal (whatever that may be) and you are tasked with logging your progress. There is a degree of gamification to things here; you're aiming to stick to the 'yellow brick road', which means that, at least on average, you are hitting your targets.
Anything that can be plotted on a graph can be tracked – number of words written, number of hours worked, number of contracts signed – and sticking within the golden zone can be hugely incentivizing. If you're willing to commit fully, you can add your credit card details to your account so you can be fined for failing to stay on track. Beeminder is not for everyone one, but it is so unique, it is well worth giving it a try to see if it works for you.
Clockify grabs the idea of clocking on and off for a shift and runs with it. It is a very simple tool, but that's precisely what will make it so appealing to people – after all, if you're busy with work, you don't to be overwhelmed with a complex tool for tracking what you're doing!
Clockify is essentially a basic stopwatch so you can easily record how long you spend working on different project. Just start the timers, and you can add labels, descriptions and project details, and just hit stop when you're done. You can configure timers to start as soon as you open your browser so you don't need to remember to do so.
Clockify integrates with Trello, Asana, Jira, Todoist and more, and you can use the website and apps to view details reports and breakdown of how you have spent your time. If you would like to keep Clockify available at all times without the need to dedicate a browser tab to it, you'll be pleased to hear that there is a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox that keep it just a click away. There are also mobile apps, and desktop versions for macOS, Windows and Linux.
Todoist straddles the categories of time management tools and to-do lists, with an element of project management thrown in for good measure. Despite touching on multiple genres, the tool remains easy to use, making it possible to manage multiple project with ease, and see at a glance what you still have to do.
The website or app gives you a daily and weekly overview of what work you have to do, what appointment you have, or whatever else you choose to track. If you're working with a group of people and find that your workload is getting a little heavy, you can delegate tasks to others.
The free version limits you to working with five people and having 80 active projects on the go at any one time, and this should be more than enough for most people, but Premium and Business plans are available for a fee. Todoist offers integration with dozens of apps and services so it can tie in neatly to your existing workflow.
Toggl is described by its developers as ‘insanely simple time tracking’, and that's a pretty fair summary. If you take a look at the website, it is the premium versions of the service that are pushed, but there is a free version suitable for teams of up to five people.
Toggl is available for multiple platforms and synchronization means that you can move between devices and stick track your work. There's a lot to explore here, including manual and automated track of activity, a Pomodoro timer, automatic detection of idle time, reminders, integrations with various apps and services and much, much more.
The beauty of Toggl, however, is that it is so flexible and customizable. What ever you're looking to monitor, you can probably bend it to your will. The detailed reports are impressive, but it's a bit of shame to see that there is no invoicing option in an otherwise feature-packed tool.
Best mobile office suites for Android
While we've featured Microsoft 365 as the best overall productivity app, there are other mobile office suites worth considering. Here we'll provide a run down of these:
WPS Office is an office suite developed by Chinese software outfit Kingsoft. The app is free to download but in-app purchases can be made to include more features. The suite comprises of WPS Writer, Presentation and Spreadsheet.
The WPS PDF reader has the ability to convert PDF to WPS and is able to read Adobe PDF files. The app supports a number of file types such as DOC, RTF, DOT, PPTX, TXT and HTML amongst others. All documents are fully compatible with Microsoft Office and Google Docs.
The app allows you to securely encrypt your files with passkeys, and you can edit your documents without fear of losing your work thanks to the auto-save option. Features include the ability to track changes, comments, and run spell checks.
Another handy feature supported by the app is the ability to present documents straight from your smartphone (or tablet) to a compatible TV or projector. WPS for Android also supports 47 different languages.
The downside here is that if you’re not a paid user, you get shown adverts, and they are seemingly quite intrusive.
Read our full WPS Office Free review.
OfficeSuite was first released as a mobile app in 2004 on Palm OS, where it was mainly read-only until 2009. At this time Sony requested an Android version within a very short time span of 12 weeks. This was achieved and OfficeSuite for Android was born. The product is now a fully featured cross-platform productivity suite.
Although OfficeSuite is free to download, there are in-app purchases to upgrade the features available. If you purchase the Pro version you won't be forced to make certain in-app purchases (for example, paying for extra fonts), but you can still make purchases if you wish.
This suite is also fully compatible with a large number of file formats such as ODT, PDF, RTF, TXT and CSV. However, the free app is inundated with ads. Further note that you will need to upgrade to the premium version if you want to open certain file types such as ODT.
The OfficeSuite Drive allows you to store up to 5GB of files in the cloud. The Chats feature helps co-workers to collaborate and swap documents online. The app is fully compatible with all Microsoft documents and boasts support for PDF files with features such as camera scanning and PDF exports.
Read our full OfficeSuite review.
DataViz, the company that established Docs to Go, started off with a product that connected Macs and PCs together. Docs to Go was subsequently created for BlackBerry and is now a multi-platform app.
The Android app allows users to view Adobe PDF and Microsoft Office files. From here you can edit and create Excel, PowerPoint and Word files, all in the palm of your hand. Docs to Go has many formatting tools, such as word count, tables, font color and the ability to track changes.
There's a free and premium version of the app. Both support editing and formatting within the app, along with advanced Excel support. Some features such as cloud services, desktop sync, and password-protected file support require in-app purchases. Both the free and premium applications are optimized for use on a tablet with portrait and landscape views.
Docs to Go has its own versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint. These are known as Word to Go, Sheet to Go and Slideshow to Go. The only criticism the solution seems to receive is that PDF files tend to cause the app to crash, with folks being advised to stick with a separate PDF viewer for this purpose.
SmartOffice claims to offer the most accurate representation of Microsoft Office products that can be seen on a mobile app. It is one of the few free office suite solutions for Android out there. The company used to have a paid product, but in recent times has got rid of that to offer this free version, which comes with all the features needed to make a truly innovative app.
As the official Microsoft apps can take up a lot of storage space, this app is perfect for space-constrained users, as it only utilizes 16MB. The user interface is straightforward and simple to use, too.
The app offers password protection so that you have extra security when saving any documents you have been working on. Users can edit and share Microsoft documents easily and efficiently, plus all files can be converted to a PDF if needed. Documents can be opened and saved online with access to the likes of Dropbox and Google Drive.
SmartOffice supports several image formats such as PNG, JPG, GIF, TIFF and BMP. Wireless printing is also supported. It is compatible with all versions of Word since 1997 and supports over 37 different languages. The only real criticism of this suite is that the copy and paste options appear to be needlessly complicated, and as such, can take a while to figure out.
Quip is an online collaborative software suite that is available on Android devices. The company was founded in 2012 by Bret Taylor, who was a former Facebook CTO, in conjunction with Kevin Gibbs, founder of the Google App Engine.
The main features of Quip are the spreadsheet and word processing functions which allow online collaboration as well as alterations on the corresponding Android apps. All members of the group can view and edit documents at the same time and also have the ability to add comments if need be. Quip also has its own chat rooms and it is used by major players such as Amazon and Dell.
Quip offers a free tier, although it’s based on the activity of the user, rather than on the number of days you use it for. So, the more you make use of it, the more free time you will receive.
The paid tier enables a team to use spreadsheets, chat and Live Apps such as a Calendar. If you need assistance there is also excellent support available. The app allows you to work offline and sync documents when you are next online.
Some online reviews have criticized Quip's ability to load PDF documents saying that it is limited and sometimes can be time consuming. Further note that the app only supports a limited number of import/export formats.
Other Android office suites to consider
We've covered just a few of the office apps for Android above, but there are plenty more to consider. Here we'll add a few more than are also worth thinking about:
Google Workspace (opens in new tab) is also worth considering, though while there are limitations to Google Docs and other apps in Google Workspace compared to other offerings, it's still worth considering. This is not least because of the integration between the different Google apps and other Google services, such as GMail and Google Drive (aka Google One) which means it provides a decent if sometimes basic all-in-one office software solution. Perhaps the bigger sell is the collaborative functions that are available to use across Google Workspace, which could make them ideal for small teams.
Polaris Office (opens in new tab) is another big office software suite, providing word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations in a single app for Android. Advertised as an All-in-One Complete Office Suite, it's compatible with Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat files. In fact, it has a decent list of file types it can work with, not least DOC, DOCX, XLS, XLSX, PPT, PPTX, PPS, PPSX, TXT, HWP, ODT as well as PDF. Even better, it's free, though it is advertising-driven and in-app purchases are available to both remove the apps as well as expand the available feature list.
Zoho Sheet (opens in new tab) is just one of a large number of apps from the Zoho Corporation for office and business use, all of which should integrate easily with one another. As with some of the above, collaborative working is available on shared documents. Not only is Zoho Sheet free, it also works easily with Excel files for creating, editing, and saving.
AndrOpen Office (opens in new tab) works with the OpenDocument format and advertises itself as 'the world's first porting of OpenOffice for Android'. As with other office suites, it provides a platform for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations, but also comes with a drawing feature as well as a math editor. AndrOpen Office certainly contains a lot of features and is compatible with a huge range of file types that most other applications can't touch, so for accessibility it's definitely a winner.