21 essential everyday apps for your phone and PC/Mac

The best apps to get you through every day
The best apps for every platform to get you through every day

According to recent research, the average person spends seven years of their life on the internet.

While it's a slightly shocking statistic, it's not hugely surprising - we're connected at almost every moment of out lives, be it via desktop PC at work, a smartphone on the train or a tablet while we're lounging on the sofa.

We might as well embrace the phenomenon, and use our spangly technological tools to make the most of our lives.

There are millions of apps that promise to make our day-to-day existence better, but sifting through them to find useful ones is a herculean task in itself.

We've taken our average day at work and home and analysed each and every moment we spend online, be it in front of a computer or fiddling on a smartphone.

From here we've rounded up the most useful apps we've found ourselves using on a daily basis, from toothbrush timers to gaming services to traffic apps - and everything else in between.

First up, you'll find a list of our favourite desktop apps and programs. Computers tend to be used for longer periods, focused on specific tasks, rather than the on-the-go situations in which you'd find yourself using a smartphone. Therefore, the programs listed are the ones we find ourselves using most often throughout the day.

For smartphone apps, we've included ones that are more location specific - such as a cooking app you can use in the kitchen, or an exercise app you can fire up when you head out for a run.

Mac and PC

Apps aren't just for when you're on the move - whether it's improving your photos or organising a stag do, your PC can download everything you need

1. Picasa


PC and Mac

Your aunt's just emailed and she wants a nice photo of you for the family album. The thought of sifting through numerous folders of images of varying quality puts you in a cold sweat.

You need Picasa. Google's photo organisation software automatically seeks out faces in albums and tags them with scary accuracy - it can even correctly identify faces in 30-year old photos.

Add to this a host of features such as photo-fixing and automatic uploading and Picasa is an all-round winner. It's a program we use every single day, and it certainly keeps our aunties happy.

2. Trillian


PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Blackberry

Trillian's all-in-one approach puts all your Skype, MSN, Google Talk and Facebook contacts in one place. It will also check Facebook and your email for new messages, making it the only communications program you'll ever need.

3. Dropbox

PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Blackberry

You've got an important file on your home computer, but now you're at work you've got no way of accessing it. We don't know how we ever coped without Dropbox.

It's an easy-to-use utility that's essential for sharing files that are too big to email - a zip full of photos, or a whole album of music.

But Dropbox's functionality doesn't end there - by installing a small piece of software, you can create a folder and fill it with files and folders you want to share. These will then sync online, so you can access them from anywhere with an internet connection.

There are Android and iPhone apps too, so everything is still available when you're on the move, and we often find ourselves sorting out our lives with Dropbox.

"We don't know how we coped without Dropbox. It's easy to use and essential for sharing files"

4. Doodle.com


PC, Mac, Mobile

Not sure when the best date is for that upcoming team away day? Doodle.com's incredibly useful service saves you wading through email after email to see who's free and when.

Simply create an event, add dates and times and then copy the link to that particular Doodle into your invite email.

Participants can add their names to the table, then fill in their free times and dates. An ongoing tally lets you know who's planning on attending, and which days and times have the most votes.

It's such a simple service, but one that we find ourselves using all the time - even if it is just to see who's available for the office tea run.

5. Portable Apps


You've just got your new work PC delivered, but it's missing your favourite programs - Chrome, Skype and Office are all conspicuous by their absence.

Portable Apps is an incredibly handy download that puts lots of useful free software onto a single USB stick. It includes all sorts of programs, from 3D modelling in Blender to outrunning a falling city in the game Canabalt.

So when your new PC turns up, just plug in the USB drive and you'll have full access to all your programs. It will also sort all your documents onto the drive via its interface, and it's a one-stop-shop for everything you'll ever need on the move.

6. Google Docs

PC, Mac

Google's own fully-featured Microsoft Office alternatives have long been a mainstay of our office, but where they come into their own is with their collaborative features. Create a document, share it with co-workers and watch as they make changes and communicate via a chat box.

Sharing files is easy, with the ability to create emails with attachments from within each application in Google Docs. The icing on the cake is an offline mode, which means you can view and edit documents even when you don't have an internet connection.

7. BBC iPlayer


PC, Mac, Android, iOS, games consoles

The BBC iPlayer service has come on leaps and bounds since it launched in 2007. Newer features such as HD streaming and series record make it all the more pleasurable, and it's certainly worth downloading the desktop app so you can save programs onto your PC and watch them later. You can even view the occasional film for free in the 'Films' category.

Catch-up programmes are free-for-all in the UK, but if you watch programmes live you'll have to pay your licence fee to use the service, even if you don't own a TV. But it's worth every penny.

8. Instapaper

PC, Mac, iOS, Android

Ever find yourself stumbling across an interesting article, only to get distracted and not have time to read it? Sign up for an Instapaper account and you'll be able to save articles and entire websites for perusal at a later time.

The website consists of a bookmark that's dragged into your bookmarks bar, then clicked to save relevant pages. Everything you save is available from Instapaper.com, presented in an easy-to-read layout, and iPhone and Android apps make them available everywhere.

9. Chrome Apps

PC, Mac

Chrome isn't just for browsing websites - it has a fully featured app store packed with useful downloadable add-ons. Among these are Next Bus London and Tube Service updates for London transport, numerous weather checkers - including a rain alarm - and useful Gmail and Hotmail notifiers.

Google's really keen on promoting Chrome as the only program you'll ever need to download, so you'll also find playable full games such as Bastion, plus productivity apps like Listhings and the always-useful Task Timer. Best of all, the majority of these applications are completely free to use.

"Google is keen to promote Chrome as the only program you'll ever need, so it's packed with games and apps"

10. Sticky notes

Sticky Notes

PC, Mac (Stickies)

Who would have thought that a humble square of paper with a pressure-sensitive non-permanent adhesive backing would revolutionise the way we work? The Post-It note may have reached its 32nd birthday, but it's still as incredibly useful, and thanks to digital alternatives your desk needn't become buried under the ubiquitous yellow squares.

Windows 7 has its own free - and oft-overlooked - version in the form of Sticky Notes, which can be dragged and dropped to the most important parts of your desktop. Clicking the plus symbol to the upper right creates new sticky notes, and right-clicking lets you choose which colour they are. Keep an empty one open ready for when you get an important phone call and can't find a pen…