Working online can mean distractions and loss of productivity, not least when multiple applications and software platforms need to be used and switched between. Luckily, a number of apps to improve productivity are now available to ensure that individuals and teams can work more efficiently, by keeping communications on a single development platform, so that users don't have to keep changing logins to use other ones.
The main features of productivity apps will focus on collaboration and project management, 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 and task management. 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 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.
Here then are the best productivity apps on the market, showing our featured preferences with additional ones to also consider.
The best office software in the world now is: Microsoft 365
There are many different office software suites out there, but Microsoft Office remains the original and best, offering an unsurpassed range of features and functionality that rivals just can't match.
Even better, Microsoft 365 - previously known as Office 365 - is a cloud-based solution which means you can use it on any computer, mobile device, or smartphone, without having to worry about compatibility. All your files are saved in the cloud and synced between devices, so you can begin work on a document at home or in the office, then continue working on it on the go.
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The best productivity app: Microsoft Office 365
Microsoft Office is probably the platform most people think of first when it comes to office productivity suites, with the cloud-based Office 365 being the latest incarnation.
What ensured that 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, Excel, Powerpoint, and Outlook 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, 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. With prices starting from $6.99 (£5.99) per month it also remains one of the most accessible.
While we've featured Office 365 as the best productivity suite, we've also showcased a large number of additional productivity apps here. You can jump to:
The best staff productivity software at a glance
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 organise 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-organised and facilitate conversations when it comes to updates on how work is progressing.
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 to up to 6 users and provides 50GB online storage for $69 per user per month.
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.
No matter how well organized you are, sometimes you'll be in one place and the files or people you need will be somewhere else. And that's where TeamViewer comes in handy. Once set up, this amazingly powerful free-for-private-use tool allows you to access and use remote devices as though you were sitting in front of them.
You can hold web meetings with audio, video and text chat, a whiteboard, file sharing and more. It's possible to collaborate with up to 300 people at once, and meetings can even be recorded for reference later.
This isn't just about desktops. The latest TeamViewer enables screen sharing on iOS devices, something you won't get anywhere else, and TeamViewer's upgraded Android app now features a one-click login, and has cut data usage by up to 80%.
Whatever device you're using, the new single-window interface makes for simpler and more intuitive operations, and you can control your device, transfer files and generally do whatever you like with the minimum of hassle.
Productivity isn't just about getting more done at your desk. Ideas and inspiration can strike anywhere, which is why you need Evernote to tie them all together. Whether it's a quick to-do list or a lengthy essay, you can add it to your Evernote workspace. Grab photos, screenshots, links, the interesting bits of a web article – anything that can help with your current projects.
Any note can have a 'reminder' attached, optionally sending an email alert for important tasks. Smart search tools scour everything you've collected to find the details you need. And Notebooks can be synced across all your devices as required, enabling you to view and work on them anywhere.
You can go a long way with the free product, but Evernote also has some premium options. The Evernote Business plan includes Spaces, for instance, a way to organize your notes into separate collections, each of which can be used by individual teams, while the searchable Space Directory enables tracking what's happening right across your company. A free version is available, with more advanced paid versions available for $7.99 a month, or $14.99 per user per month.
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.
The basic version is free, with a business class version with more features available for $9.99 per user per month.
It's the first law of the web: no matter how much time you've got online, it's never enough to explore all the interesting things you'll find. And so you open more and more browser tabs, add bookmarks you'll never find again, or maybe email yourself links for later reference.
Pocket acts as a central storage space to hold articles, videos and other content for easy viewing later. These don't have to be just links – Pocket can download content for offline consumption – and if your picks were as good as you hoped, you're able to send them to another user's Pocket, or share them directly via social media.
Saving is simpler than you might expect. Pocket isn't just a browser-based service – you can save directly from Twitter, Flipboard, Pulse and 1,500 other apps.
Pocket's free version works well, but the Premium version goes further by dropping the ads, making your content a permanent resource and delivering a stack of advanced search tools. It's yours for $44.99 (£31.14) a year.
Let's be frank: passwords are a security nightmare. Whether it's generating them, sharing them between devices, having to enter 16 cryptic characters on a tiny mobile screen, or just remembering them, the password model is now just too complicated for manual use.
That's why a good password manager is essential, and LastPass is one of the best. It can quickly generate strong and secure passwords, then save them in an encrypted vault. Your latest passwords are immediately available across all your devices, so whatever you're using, LastPass will automatically log you in with a tap.
That's just the start. LastPass can remember and use other details, too – for example automatically filling in your payment and shipping details at an online store. And neat password management functions include easy and safe sharing of passwords with others (no more need to send your credentials in an insecure text).
Apps for Android, iOS, Windows and Mac combine with a host of browser add-ons to ensure you can use LastPass on almost any device. All the basics are available for free, but the Premium plan adds multi-factor options, more versatile password sharing, 1GB of encrypted cloud storage and more for $3.99 a month, billed annually.
There's also a new family option to manage all family passwords in a single space. This not only allows nominated members to recover them in the event of unforeseen circumstances, it can also ensure never being locked out of services. The new LastPass Family option is available from $4 (£2.50) a month.
Buffer is a one-stop social media manager which enables professional users to create, schedule and track the performance of all their social media posts from one place.
Scheduling is ultra-flexible, with the ability to set up different date and posting times for each of your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and other accounts.
Buffer doesn't force you to manage or schedule posts individually. You can create posts in your spare time, then they're added to the program's queue and Buffer automatically publishes them according to each account's schedule.
Productivity boosting extras include RSS support which enables sharing content from your chosen sites with a click.
Buffer's comprehensive analytics allow for tracking metrics including clicks, likes, shares, comments, retweets and more, helping you better understand which posts work for you, and maybe indicating how to improve your social media reach in the future.
Buffer is free to use for a single user with 3 social media accounts, but this goes up to $12 a month for 8 accounts and up to 100 scheduled posts, with more expensive tiers for larger management volumes.
There are many ways to set up a virtual meeting, but the process can sometimes be more awkward than you would like. Participants might have to use the same software, for instance, or all be signed up to the same service, and even then you won't always get the functionality you need.
Join.me's focus on ease of use makes it simple to get started. Anyone can host a meeting in a click or two, or join one by entering a code in their web browser, with nothing to download or install.
There's still plenty of power here. Meetings can be scheduled and recorded, audio support enables participants to call in or use their device's microphone and speakers, and it's easy to broadcast and share your screen to present ideas and collaborate with others.
Smart extras include personalized meeting links (join.me/your_company_name), plugins that enable scheduling and starting meetings direct from Office or Chrome, and iOS and Android apps which ensure you'll be able to take part from wherever you might be.
It's free to create a personalized join.me URL, with pricing starting at $10 per month for meetings of up to 5 people, and $20 a month for a Pro account which comes with more participants, webcam streaming, recording, and cloud storage. The Business plan at $30 a month allows for larger volumes and extra security features.
MetaCtrl's sync software enables intelligent background syncing between Android devices and some of the most popular cloud storage services around, including OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive and Box.
Once set up, new files on your device can be automatically uploaded to the cloud, while cloud storage files are automatically downloaded to the device. Delete a file in one place and it's deleted in the other. This works across multiple devices, too, ensuring they're always up-to-date.
This will sound familiar if you use cloud storage on the desktop, as it's how the desktop clients normally work, but the Android apps leave you to manage the process yourself. That's why installing a MetaCtrl app could make a lot of sense.
Basic syncing is available for free, but paying to upgrade enables syncing of files larger than 10MB, works with multiple pairs of folders, uses smarter change detection for faster operation and drops the ads. There are multiple plans but they're not subscription-based, and even the do-everything Ultimate option is just a one-time payment of $14.
The best free productivity apps at a glance
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.
Also consider these productivity apps
We've listed just some of the key productivity apps we think you'll be interested in, but there are plenty more out there. Here's we'll list a few others which stand out for different reasons.
Slack is a major communications platform for team collaboration, and a number of existing productivity or project management tools can easily integrate with it directly. This doesn't mean to say it should be overlooked as a useful tool in its own right, and is very much a trailblazer in terms of looks, design, and functionality that it's style has been frequently copied.
Discord may seem more like a chat app for gamers, but it's a surprisingly powerful tool that allows messaging, voice calls, and video conferencing. And it's free. There are both mobile and desktop versions available, and while it may not look the most professional tool, it does allow for easy, simple, and cost effective video-conferencing with people globally, without having to invest in expensive hardware of subscription services.
Zoho seems to have a package for anything to do with business, and Zoho Cliq is no different. Built as a team communications platform for collaboration and business productivity, and even includes video conferencing as a feature in its free version. As expected, Zoho Cliq integrates with other Zoho products, but also with Mailchimp, Zendesk, Trello, and Dropbox. The paid-for unlimited version comes with a few extra features, and is available for around $3 per month.
Xenforo is a forum software platform, and might not be the first choice as a productivity suite. However, it can be superb as a communications tool in its own right, and comes with a wide range of customization options. It's not an app as much as mobile-friendly software you have to install on your own server, probably as a private space within your own business website. That means it takes a little tech know-how to set up, but once you do, you have full control of your data instead of another company owning it all.
Monday.com is a recent player into the productivity suite space, offering team communications and collaboration for project work. The interface is clean and simply, yet there are a lot of features under the hood which make it sleek and easy to work with. Integrations include Slack, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Excel. Pricing starts at $25 per month for 5 users, rising according to either the number of features or the number of users required.
Best mobile office suites for Android
While we've featured MS Word as the best overall productivity app, and listed G Suite above as an alternative, 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 Android version was released in 2014 and weighs in at 38MB. The app is free to download but in-app purchases can be made and these range from $0.99 to $29.99. 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.
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 from anywhere between $1.49 - $49.99 per item. A Personal use subscriptions costs $29.99 a year, with a Group option for work charged at $49.99 for up to five people. A Business tier charges $3.99 per user per month.
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 new 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.
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 of between $5.99 and $14.99. 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 Office 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 is $30 per month based on a team of five and costs an extra $10 per month for each additional member you want to add. This enables you 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:
G Suite has already been briefly mentioned in the introduction, and while there are limitations to Google Docs and other apps in the G Suite 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, not least GMail and G Drive (aka Google Drive) 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 G Suite, which could make them ideal for small teams. Available as a web application via the G Suite website, or as an app for Android such as Google Docs the G Suite is worth considering as a personal or business solution.
Polaris Office 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 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 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.
Thinkfree Office viewer is another one worth mentioning, as it's built to work with a lot of different file types for viewing, editing, and saving. The main focus is on accessibility through cross platform use. At 26 MB it's also a small file to download, no doubt to the simplicity of interface to make editing documents easy. The app is free to download, though there are in-app purchases available for additional features.