Raise your hand if you’re reading this on a $600 smartphone. Yeah that’s most of you. You’re also probably not using very smartly for its full work potential. These things hold more computer power than the rockets that took us to the moon, but the instant gratification monkey in our brains take the wheel and we browse Reddit till the cows come home. Whether you’re studying for your next final or simply running errands, you need the right productivity apps to keep you on task and on track to success, at least until the weekend. From habit trackers to password managers, check out these apps you need on your glorified Facebook-machine for the new school year.
It happens to all of us. We sit down with purpose in the library, ready to clear our to do list, crack open our laptop …and go straight to Twitter. What happened to that workhorse of a student from two seconds ago? Truth is, we have so many things clamoring for our attention nowadays, from social media feeds to breaking news stories that we lose focus on what important. With Freedom, you can block those distracting apps and websites (Facebook, Twitter, Buzzfeed, you name it) from disrupting your workflow. The app not only blocks notifications but also prevents you from accessing them entirely. You can also schedule when the app starts blocking apps automatically.
Device: iOS, Windows, OS X
2. Last Pass
Do you use six versions of the same password for online account, from bank accounts to social media? That’s where LastPass came in handy, since it can generate passwords up to 128 characters long using special characters and numbers, making your data more secure. More importantly, it remembers every password for you in an encrypted vault and it even fills out the password for you within your browser or your favorite apps. You just need to remember the master password. So, say goodbye to wasting time and effort trying out all your password possibilities before giving up and resetting via email.
Device: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Web Browsers
Price: Free, $1/month Premium
When inspiration strikes, the last thing you want to think about is where to write it down. So you just grab the closest sheet of paper and start planning out your next big project. But paper gets lost, wet and crumpled up. Even if it doesn’t, do you really want to carry it around like some luddite? Get with the times and download Paper, an iOS app that allows you to simply take notes, make checklists and sketch out diagrams with ease. It’s paper for the 21st century. But what’s Paper without a Pencil? Pencil is the for everyone who doesn’t have an iPad Pro (and those that do). It’s compatible with other writing and drawing apps like OneNote and Adobe Illustrator.
Price: Free, Pencil $49.95
Sometimes you miss a deadline so big that you start reevaluating your whole life beyond just work. You don’t need an app to handle workload better. Instead, you need an app to change your life. Enter Rewire, the app that promises to reorganize your brain structure through the power of habit building. The app helps you keep track of those minor tasks by reminding you to check in every day and keeping track of your streak. Ever wanted to start studying everyday instead of cramming at the last minute? You’ll want to download this app. According to its website, Rewire is built around Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret of building a visual representation of streaks of days in which you perform your desired habit. It works because your goal is no longer to quit smoking, get fit or learn a language, but instead to just not break the streak.
How many times have you emailed yourself a file or a link just to access it in another device? Too many to count, I bet. With Pushbullet you no longer have to. Pushbullet removes the middle man by creating a connection between your devices through desktop, browser and smartphone apps that result in a more unified workspace. You can also see all of your phone’s notifications on your desktop and browser, including phone calls. If you dismiss them on your computer then they’ll go away from your phone too. Four words will sell you on this app: universal copy and paste. How many times have you wanted to copy and paste between devices? Copy here, paste there. It’s amazing. Still not sold? Here’s four more words: Remote access to files.
Device: iOS, Android, Windows, Web Browsers
Price: Free, $4.99/month for Premium
6. IF by IFTTT
This list mostly consists of apps that help you get things done, but what if you don’t want to do anything? I mean, why can’t your phone just do it for you? IF by IFTTT makes programmers out of liberal arts majors by gifting us the power of the conditional statement. The app allows you to set if-then statements so that for example, if you post a photo on Instagram, IF by IFTTT can tell Twitter to post that photo too automatically. Or if the weather forecast predicts rain today, the app can remind you to put on a rain jacket. You can browse a huge catalog of recipes or create your own using hundreds of apps and services you’re already using.
Device: iOS, Android
7. iA Writer
A great writer can fill the empty canvas of a white page with poignant prose, clever metaphors and vivid descriptions like it’s second nature. The rest of us write sentence fragments one by one and edit paragraphs three pages back as we do. If you could just focus on the sentence at hand, maybe you’d get your essay done by midnight. You might want to check out iA Writer, a simple minimalist approach to word processing whose main feature lies in its lack of features. It provides a focused work environment by eliminating most formatting distractions like fonts and margins. You’ll still have access to essentials like headings, bold and italic text and footnotes thanks to its implementation of Markdown. And if you really have trouble focusing on your current sentence, iA Writer features a Focus Mode which fades out lines already written. No more jumping around from page to page rewriting sentences before the editing stage.
Device: iOS, Android, OS X
Price: Free (Android), $3.99 (iOS), $9.99 (Mac)
8. Brain Focus
While Freedom helps you get your work life together with an iron fist, Pomodoro timers like Brain Focus help use procrastination to your benefit to keep you motivated and not as miserable. You get things done by focusing on work for 25 minutes at a time with 5-minute breaks between each work session. Once four work sessions go by, you’re rewarded with an even longer break of 20 minutes. With the promise of leisure so close, you will find it much easier to buckle down and get serious. Brain Focus also lets you tinker with the length of every session through the settings and keeps track of your statistics to help you maximize your work output. If you can’t beat procrastination, you can at least keep it under control.
Price: Free, Pay-What-You-Want for Pro version
Remember using flashcards in elementary school? Maybe you still do for your anatomy or language classes. As helpful as they are, who wants to buy physical cards, write on them and carry them around? That’s why you need a digital flashcard app like StudyBlue, which lets you create flashcards with text, pictures and even audio. Your 3″ by 5″ cards can’t do audio. Not only that, but rather than just running through the cards, StudyBlue prioritizes the items you have the most trouble with so you can get better faster. The app can even quiz you with multiple choice, true/false and fill in the black questions starting from terms you studied least or that you found difficult. You won’t even need a study partner to quiz you anymore.
Device: iOS, Android
Price: Free, Pro for $10/month or $84/year
If you browse the internet for any length of time, you might find yourself having constant and terrible FOMO every time you look at anything interesting, especially on social media. How hard is it going to be to find later? So you click, scroll and next thing you know you find something else that looks interesting. The cycle continues until you find yourself pulling yet another brutal all-nighter. This wouldn’t happen if you had Pocket, the app that lets you bookmark articles, videos and other webpages for later consumption. Once saved, you can access your self-curated content on any device by searching for the title or viewing tags set when saving. It even recommends more things to read and watch!
Device: iOS, Android, OS X, Web Browsers