35 Time-Saving Productivity Apps for Busy WordPress People
35 Time-Saving Productivity Apps for Busy WordPress People
Keeping a car is a lot like time when it comes to working with WordPress: you can add all sorts of bells and whistles to turn a clunker into a race car and, similarly, you can better manage your time, productivity and workflow with the plethora of apps that are currently available.
Whether you’re developing a site or blogging with WordPress (and everything in between!) by yourself or with a team, scroll through the list below to see some of the best apps and tools you can use to maximize your time and increase your output.
The apps below are compatible across many platforms including desktops, mobile devices, Macs to PCs, and multiple browsers.
The only difference between cars and your time is that cars depreciate in value, but your time certainly won’t with these apps. Quite the opposite actually, so let’s get to it!
Design and Collaboration
When it comes to designing your WordPress site and sharing your designs, ideas and progress with others, these apps make designing and collaborating easy.
Slack is an app you can use to collaborate with your team or with clients who also use the app. You can separate conversations between subjects by creating what’s called channels. You can give each channel a custom name and description to help team members know where to start conversations.
You can also install this app to communicate with those a part of Make WordPress to help make contributions to the WordPress community.
We also use Slack here at WPMU DEV to keep in touch with everyone on our remote team. You can read about how we use Slack in How Slack Has Completely Changed the Way We Work at WPMU DEV.
Asana is a great app for collaborating with teams on projects. You can keep track of tasks that need to be completed as well as assign those tasks to team members of your choice.
We also use it here at WPMU DEV to keep track of bugs and fix them as quickly as possible.
Skype is a well-known app that you can use to chat with people through video (or audio). To make it happen, all you need besides this app is an internet connection.
It’s a great way to communicate with clients or a remote team when you’re spread out around the world because sometimes, chatting through text just doesn’t cut it.
Basecamp helps you manage projects while also being able to collaborate with a team at the same time. Instead of having to keep track of several email chains, messages and phone calls, all your communication is in one place for your team.
Basecamp makes it easier for everyone to be on the same page and gather feedback on projects.
Upfront Builder isn’t an app, but it seriously puts a dent in the amount of time you spend creating a stunning and effective WordPress theme. It’s a WordPress plugin that you can use to drag and drop your way to an eye-catching theme. Plus, coding is optional and you can see your design as you make it in real time.
You can use it across all major browsers and you can also create WordPress themes that are responsive as well.
Red Pen lets you comment on project documents to share your thoughts with your team. You could also use it to give your clients an easy way to give you feedback on your progress.
You’re able to place a dot anywhere within your documents to pinpoint exactly where you want to place your relevant comment. When you share your marked up document, your client or team member can hover over the dot to reveal your comment.
Cage lets you collaborate with team members as well as helps you keep track of projects. It also has the ability to let certain team members approve edits to projects or mark up documents with suggestions on improvements that need to be made before they can be approved.
InVision is a collaboration app that lets team members provide feedback on projects in real time. It’s excellent for collaborating on prototypes because it includes tools to bring the digital prototype to life. You can quickly create links, animations and transitions on your design mockups to give team members a more thorough look. That way, they can provide more relevant feedback.
This is another tool we use here at WPMU DEV. It allows our design team to share designs with developers and other teams so we can provide feedback and collaborate. It’s a fantastic tool for sharing designs and I don’t know what we ever did without it!
With Blrt, you can have a real-time conversation with your clients or team members while you markup your project documents with your feedback. Basically, you can draw directly on your projects using a mobile device or table as you’re providing direct feedback. That’s basically all there is to it. Your voice, gestures and files combine to provide a video-like experience to the person/people you’re “Blrting” with.
It’s free to use a Basic account, but if you want premium features like longer Blrt duration and more people in conversations, a Blrt Plus account starts at $4.99 per month.
For many, one of the most difficult aspects of working efficiently is being able to manage your time wisely and avoid distractions. These apps are designed to help you keep track of your time and how you use it.
Let’s kick off this section with Harvest, a great time tracking tool for freelancers and agencies. Harvest offers simple time tracking, online invoicing and reporting software. It’s easy (and free) to get up and running quickly, whether you’re on your desktop computer, laptop, iPhone, Android phone or even using an Apple Watch. Just start the timer and Harvest will start tracking your projects.
The app includes built-in reporting that analyzes your data so you can set hourly fee-based budgets to track your project’s progress and keep an eye on things like billable and non-billable time for staff members, tasks, clients, and project.
Pricing couldn’t be any simpler. It’s $12 per person per month to use Harvest after an initial 30-day trial.
Toggl’s homepage markets the app as being “The ultimate timer. It’s insanely simple” and I have to agree. I used Toggle when I first started freelancing and needed to track my work hours, and tracking my time really was insanely simple – all I had to do was open the app on my iPhone and click “Start.”
The interface is clean and intuitive and really just a joy to use. Plus, it’s easy to manually add hours if you forget to use the timer. You can also get an overview of how you spend your time with reports
Pricing starts at $10 per user per month after a 30-day trial.
If you have a Google account, you have access to Google Calendar. What can I say, it’s a straight-forward, no-nonsense online calendar that lets you see your days, weeks and months at a glance. With multiple color-coded calendars you can quickly – and visually – distinguish between events, such as meetings, birthdays, travel and reminders. Another great feature is the ability to schedule time with other people – just add their (Google) email address and they will receive an alert about your event.
I’ve used a lot of calendars and I have to say, it’s hard to find one that beats Google Calendar in terms of ease of use and features. And the fact that it’s free helps, too.
Outlook is a free email and calendar service that promises to help you stay on top of what matters and get things done. I have to admit, I haven’t used Outlook myself as I’m a Mac person through-and-through, but my partner is a Windows person and swears by Outlook and he’s the most organized person I’ve ever known. And if he says Outlook is the real deal, then I can’t argue with that (though I still can’t get over the fact he uses Hotmail, but that’s a tale for another day…).
The best way to describe Outlook is that it’s a full-featured and comprehensive package. It integrates email with documents, a calendar and cloud storage, and connects you to services like Skype, Yelp, Uber and PayPal, all within the same app so you never have to leave the window. It’s not just a simple app for keeping track of your time, no, it’s an app that can help you organize your life and work.
If you’re a Windows person and need an app to help you stay organized, Outlook is definitely worth checking out. It works on a freemium model, so it’s free to sign up for an account but there are limitations on features such as storage, plus you’ll see advertising.
This app is a to-do list, calendar and virtual assistant all rolled into one. You can schedule tasks and get reminders when they need to be completed. It also has a minimal design which makes it easier to use. Everything also syncs up across your devices so you won’t have to worry about missing another appointment.
You can sign up for Any.do for free but there are limitations on the features available. When you upgrade to premium, starting at $2.99 a month, you can create teams, upload files and pick color schemes.
Kin is a calendar web app that was created to replace the wildly popular Sunrise calendar when development was ceased. It has a wonderfully simple interface which makes it a cinch to use. It also integrates with many popular apps such as Google, Office 365, Trello, Todoist, Facebook and more.
Wunderlist helps keep you organized by letting you create to-do lists, set reminders, write notes and share lists with others to collaborate right inside the app. You can also keep you lists organized by grouping related lists into folders. You can also set your forwarded emails to get turned into a task for your to-do lists.
If you get easily distracted from your work by the many wonders the internet has to offer, the Freedom app may be able to help. It eliminates distractions by blocking social media sites, other apps and the internet under specifications and times you set. It also works across all major devices so you can’t sit at your computer, then cheat by switching over to your phone to get your distractions back.
Streamlining Writing and Research
When it comes to planning projects or blog posts for your WordPress site, it’s easier to have everything you need all in one place from tracking your ideas and research to writing and editing your project plans or post outlines.
These apps help you keep the information you need at your fingertips or help you create better content.
I’ve been using Evernote, a writing app, for a few years now and use it so often that it’s almost always open on my laptop. I really only close it when I need to upgrade to a new release.
I just googled Evernote and read all the marketing speak about it and, to be honest, it doesn’t really convey clearly what it does. Basically, it’s lets you write and save notes, and create notebooks to store different notes. You can format text, add images, and even tag notes so they’re easily searchable.
One of my favorite features is that you can sync across different devices and access notes on your laptop, desktop and phone. It also has a powerful search function, which I use a lot. Another feature feature is the ability to share notes and collaborate with other people and chat in real-time.
It’s free to use with up to 60MB of new uploads per month, while Plus accounts start at $49.99 a year for 1GB of uploads.
OneNote is another writing app that lets you create and saves note, whether you want to save a napkin or a sticky note you’ve just scribbled on. It also includes features for collaboration so you can share notes with team members you work with, or even others in your family when you’re planning things like trips and events.
Like other similar note taking apps, you can access OneNote on different devices, even on your Apple watch.
It’s free to use but you’ll need a Microsoft account.
You know the tabs in your browser that you never close. Well, one of those tabs in my browser is reserved exclusively for Trello.
Trello is a simple visual organizational tool that lets you create different boards that you can fill with lists and cards. It’s hard to explain how it works exactly without showing you, so just head over to the site and check it out for yourself.
From organizing simple to do lists to coordinating bigger projects with lots of moving parts and team members, you can invite as many people to your boards as you need, add comments, upload files, create checklists, add labels and due dates and get notifications whenever your boards are updated. It also works in real-time, so when somebody moves a card or leaves a comments, the board is updated so you can leave it open all day, like I do, and never have to refresh.
The app was acquired for $425 million by enterprise software giant Atlassian in January, so it’s not clear what will happen to Trello in the future, but for now I can’t recommend it enough. Seriously, give it a go.
If you’re looking for a simple (and free!) writing app without the bells and whistles, you might want to check out Simplenote. Like its name implies, it allows you to write down notes without all the distractions you might find in other writing apps. It’s super minimalist but includes the features you need, such as the ability to sync across devices, find notes quickly with instant searching and tags, share notes, and find and restore previous versions of a note.
Simplenote was acquired by Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, back in 2013.
I have a little confession to make: for a writer, my spelling isn’t fantastic. Okay, it’s not terrible, it’s more that I rush through typing sentences, leaving a trail of typos in my wake. Thankfully, by the time my words reads the WPMU DEV Blog, there’s a little ol’ app that cleans up my copy and ensures it looks clean and polished. And that app is Grammarly.
Grammarly is an online proofreading tool that checks text for grammar, punctuation, and style, and features a contextual spelling checker. The great thing about Grammarly is that it integrates with text fields online so you can quickly scan emails, documents and anything else you write for spelling and grammar errors.
It’s free to use but if you want more you can upgrade to Grammarly Premium for more in-depth spelling and grammar checks, plagiarism detection, and suggestions for different writing styles, including academic, technical, and creative.
Todoist is a super simple to do list app that lets you manage everything from simple shopping lists to projects with multiple team members. What I love about this app is the simple design. It looks deceptively simple but includes some powerful features, such as the ability to access your tasks anywhere thanks to device syncing, share tasks with other people, create recurring to dos, create reminders and receive notifications, and add labels and filters.
Basic accounts are free while premium accounts start at $44.99 a year.
Feedly is another website I always have open in my browser. It’s a popular RSS, blog reader and news aggregator that allows you to quickly view feeds, articles and blog posts from different websites. I read a lot of tech, WordPress and design blogs, and Feedly allows me to keep on top of what’s published day-to-day. One of my favorite features is that you can create different lists of feeds, so I have one for WordPress websites, another for technology news, and also one for design sites.
It’s easy to search and add new sites to your feeds and favorite articles to read later. I use the Basic account, which allows up to 100 feeds (if I read anymore I think my brain would explode!). Pro accounts started at $5.41 per month and include a stack of integrations with services such as Dropbox, WordPress and Evernote, as well as unlimited feeds, collections and boards.
Pocket is cool because it lets you save articles you come across while surfing the web so you can put them in your pocket and read them later. It’s not a boring RSS feed. It has a stunning interface which includes images and that’s organized like a WordPress magazine theme so the articles you save are easy to consume. It’s a great way to compile research for blog posts and articles for easy referencing.
Teleport is a specialized research tool designed for searching the best places to live and work. You can access data from locations all over the world and compare them to standards including quality of life, cost of living and salary. You can also answer questionnaires that outline what’s important to you so cities are scored based on your needs as well. With the information you collect, you can make an informed decision on where to live next.
More than Just Cloud Storage
One of the best things about cloud storage is that you can save all your files across your devices so you can access them from anywhere. It also gives you the option to backup your most important files. The one thing that’s possibly more important than being able to save your files across devices
The one thing that’s possibly more important than being able to save your files across devices is being able to do a lot more including sharing them with your team, clients or both.
Google Drive is more than just storage for your files and images. You can create new documents, spreadsheets. and slides and shares your files and with people you work with and event clients. You can let others review files or give them permission to add comments as well as make direct edits.
Being a Google app, Drive provides a powerful search function so you can search files. You can also star and trash files. Free accounts include 15GB of storage and you can upgrade for a reasonable monthly fee that’s around $20 a year.
Dropbox is a popular cloud storage solution that allows you to save files on your computer and access them anywhere on any device. Whether you just want to keep your documents and photos online and save space on your computer or share files with people you work with, Dropbox is simple to use.
It’s easy to share folders and even individual files in your Dropbox account, password protect files, recover previous versions of files, control sharing permissions and remotely wipe your files from a device. There are lots of more advanced features, too, but you’ll need to upgrade your account.
OneDrive is a great Windows cloud storage option that comes with a wide range of tools under one roof. You can store your files and share them when necessary, but you also have access to many other apps from storing your contacts and planning your life with a calendar, to OneNote, a note-taking app, and PowerPoint for slideshow presentations.
SugarSync is different than many other cloud storage solutions because it not only lets you selectively share the files you upload, but it’s also a backup solution. It syncs to your computer or device to backup existing and new files while also keeping your existing file structure.
Social Media and Task Management
Making your business or blog’s social media profile a happening place is a great way to boost engagement in your business and site. When done right, your business can go from hearing crickets to making sales.
After one month of using an app to manage my social media profiles, my engagement stats went up by 98% and traffic to my posts went up by 99%. Not to mention the fact that I saved tons of time in the process.
Sure, it’s one piece of the puzzle, but once you fit them together, it translates into huge positive changes in your business or blog.
Buffer is a social media management tool that helps you save time by letting you schedule your tweets in advance. You can also post to multiple social media accounts. You can use Buffer for your own social media accounts or use it for your business and set permissions so posts can be submitted for approval before they’re published.
Hootsuite is a complete social media management tool. You can schedule, view and manage posts for multiple social media accounts, collaborate with a team and set permissions so posts need to be approved. You can also view analytics on your efforts as well as choose posts to publish from an automated curated list.
Sprout Social is another social media management app and it specializes in giving you a platform to monitor your posts and accounts to maximize on user engagement. You can use it individually or with a team and it also includes tools like a helpdesk and customer relationship management (CRM) options.
IFTTT is an acronym for “If this, then that”. You can integrate a large number of other apps to link actions together to automate a nearly endless amount of tasks.
For example, you can set it up to publish a note to your WordPress blog that you created in Evernote. You can also set it up to tweet your WordPress posts as soon as you publish them. There are a ton more options where those came from as well.
Zapier is similar to IFTTT in that it can integrate with an enormous amount of other apps to automate a practically infinite amount of digital tasks. An automated task is called a “zap” and what sets it apart is that it’s super easy to customize an automated task and you can create a string of them.
For example, you can create a zap to tweet your WordPress blog posts when they’re published, but you can also set up a zap to create a Trello card when you have a new comment on your WordPress posts, then send a notification to your Slack account.
By now, you may have picked several apps from the list to try out and boost your productivity and efficiency when working on your WordPress site.
If you haven’t taken a look at some that have piqued your interest, then ask yourself how much more time you’re willing to let slip past your fingers when you could be increasing your productivity instead.