The best free lightweight productivity tools 2018: software to help you work smarter

Productivity software on a laptop

Generally speaking, your computer tends to be used for two things: entertainment and getting things done. If you're in the latter mode, efficiency is the name of the game and there's a whole genre of software dedicated to helping you out in this department. Productivity tools exist simply to make your life easier. Whether you're looking to optimize your schedule, save time, improve communication, or just find a better way to organize information, there's a tool out there for you.

Unfortunately, just as office suites and other types of software have become a little flabby and bloated over the years the same is true of many productivity tools. Thankfully, however, this is not the case for every single piece of software and we've rounded up some of the finest productivity tools that most definitely fall into the ‘lightweight’ category. 

LibreOffice

1. LibreOffice

The world's best lightweight office productivity suite – and it's free

There are few people who can live without and office suite on their computer, even if it's only going to be used from time to time.

Editor's choice: LibreOffice

The go-to suite may be Microsoft Office, but over the years this has become something of a bloated beast that packs a lot of features but can be slow and cumbersome. If you're looking for a lightweight alternative that won't weigh down your PC, look no further than LibreOffice.

This lightweight productivity suite includes everything you could need: a word processor, spreadsheet, database and presentation tool, but also extras like a drawing application and equation editor.

The suite is fully compatible with Microsoft Office and one things that make it particularly appealing is its support for extensions. This means that you can completely customise the suite to suite your needs, installing only the very basics and then using extension to install all of the specialist features you need.

Lightscreen

2. Lightscreen

Lightweight screengrab software that can upload straight to the web

Taking a screenshot is as simple as hitting the Print Screen button, right? Well, that's true to a certain extent, but if you want a little more control over your screen grabs you're going to need to look elsewhere.

There are commercial tools such as Snagit that are incredibly feature rich, but as well as having a price tag, they can also be a drain on your computer. That's not the case with Lightscreen. This extremely lightweight screenshot tool lets you use multiple configurable hotkeys to grab different type of screenshot in an instant.

Not only can you create keyboard shortcuts to grab the entire screen, just a window or a different section of the screen, you can opt to have screenshots saved automatically, and even  uploaded to the likes of Imgur. A great piece of software that's a real time-saver.

Task Coach

3. Task Coach

Lightweight software for managing to-do lists – no matter how long

Everybody has a to-do list that they need to work through, whether it’s a mental collection of everything that need to be completed by the end of the day, or a more complex project made up of multiple parts. Relying on a mental list means things are likely to be forgotten, so you need a task manager to help you keep on top of things.

Task Coach can be made as simple or as complicated as you like, from simple check lists to more complicated multi-stage tasks with dependencies. You can add notes and links to tasks, calculate costs, and even track the amount of time you spend on different elements using the taskbar-based timer.

Task Coach is also available as a portable productivity app so you can pop it on a USB drive if you want to take your tasks on the move. There are also mobile apps and lightweight versions for multiple desktop platforms.  

Metalogic Finance Explorer

4. Metalogic Finance Explorer

Simple, lightweight software for keeping track of your money

Dealing with the financial side of life is rarely fun, and while there's probably no software out there that can change this, Metalogic Finance Explorer does an excellent job of making things as simple as possible. While you could create a spreadsheet or even a database to track your finances, this lightweight productivity tool already has everything in place for you. 

ou can set a budget, keep track of how much money is available in different accounts, monitor your investments and – importantly – track your spending.

There's no limit on the number of accounts Metalogic Finance Explorer can handle, and it can also download the latest stock information from the web to make it easier to keep up to date on this front.

This is an excellent example of a lightweight productivity tool that may not look like much, but it an astonishingly useful addition to your software library.

CintaNotes

5. CintaNotes

Lightweight note-taking software with handy labels and categories

Around the house, sticky notes are handy way to keep track of things you need to remember, but they're not particularly well-organised. CintaNotes brings the idea of sticky notes to your computer, but with some important differences.

You can create notes with a quick click, and then tag and categorize them so they're easier to find. This means the notes you create can be much more than a record of a phone number or some other snippet of information that you'll need later; you can use this lightweight productivity tool to organize all of the information you need relating to a project you're working on.

To help speed things up, there's the option of using configurable hotkeys for easy access to frequently-used settings and tools, and notes can be backed up and synchronized for security.

For the ultimate lightweight note tool, look no further than the portable version of CintaNotes, but the desktop version is very light on resources too.