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50 of the best productivity apps

SoftwareFeatures
by Jill Duffy, 17 Dec 2012Features
50 of the best productivity apps

Time is of the essence, especially in business, but also increasingly across the blended work-personal life that many people lead. There's no shortage of quality software on the market today that aims to make our work easier, and to increase our levels of productivity. If there's a task to be done, there's an app that will help you do it faster, cheaper, and more efficiently.

From browser plugins to services that help you maintain important relationships, productivity apps aim to do it all – or at least, aim to help you do it all.

I review a lot of productivity software, and there are days when I'm not even sure what that classification means anymore. It used to refer primarily to office suites, apps like PowerPoint and Outlook, but now the term can mean anything from a contact management app to a social networking service. If you can find answers to hard questions quickly from the people who know, then that counts as having increased your productivity.

At the heart of all great productivity tools is a solution to a specific problem. Some look towards efficiency, aiming to take an existing product, such as email, and make it easier to use so we waste less time messing around with it. Others seek to silence the noise of the net, bolster collaboration, or unite disparate data.

So what follows is a collection of top programs, mobile apps, plugins, and services which are among my favourites for helping anyone be more productive. It's by no means a comprehensive list, but I hope it lets you explore your options among the truly necessary productivity tools, as well as introduce you to some hidden gems that you might have missed while you were busy getting things done.

If you know of some great productivity app we missed here, tell us about it in the comments section below. But for now, without further ado, here come the apps…

Office suites (desktop and collaborative)

Google Drive (free)

The free and very accessible Google Drive (formerly called Google Docs) is the obvious choice among collaborative tools in the cloud. You can create and edit documents, solo or with others, in real time online. Google Drive is accessible wherever you have Internet access and a web browser, and the service is the oldest of the online application suites. Other online-only suites, notably Zoho, have a bigger feature set, but Google Drive comes close to the ideal balance of features, speed, and convenience. If you require maximum compatibility with advanced Office features, then Microsoft Office Web Apps might be a better choice, but for certain projects, Google Docs is the simplest and most effective solution.


SkyDrive (free)

Microsoft's cloud service, SkyDrive, combines online storage with document creation, editing, and syncing, much like Google Drive does. SkyDrive is now also built right into Microsoft’s new OS, Windows 8. The Web Apps for creating files mimic Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and all the core features and functionality are there (although more advanced tools, like Track Changes, for example, are stripped out in these free versions). For businesspeople who care about productivity, the ability to log into a Windows account from any computer and quickly get your hands on a free web version of, say, PowerPoint to edit a presentation, then save it, log out, and be on your way without having to think about where you saved the file, is priceless.


HyperOffice (from £4.30 per user, per month)

HyperOffice is a slick online collaboration service that lets you store and access files, tasks, contacts, links, and documents – almost any digital file – on a HyperOffice-hosted website. A fully hosted alternative to building your own Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint servers, HyperOffice is feature-rich, but it has a few minor interface glitches that need to be worked out. For £4.30 per month for each user, HyperOffice is easy to set up as both an intranet and an extranet that lets co-workers, customers, and clients see specific data. If your company is thinking about cloud-based collaboration, you'll be impressed with this inexpensive product.


IBM Lotus Symphony 3.0 (free)

IBM Lotus Symphony is the best free productivity suite you've probably never heard of. Designed by IBM for smooth, reliable use in office environments, this office application suite was created by putting a tried-and-tested open source engine into a shiny chassis created by IBM. Under the hood, Lotus Symphony is based on OpenOffice.org 3.0. What you see on screen, however, is an interface that's been tweaked by IBM to make it by far the most user-friendly no-cost productivity suite. Expert users who need to open files in a wide range of formats, including Microsoft Works, Corel WordPerfect, or Lotus WordPro, will prefer LibreOffice, because Lotus Symphony only imports Microsoft Office and OpenOffice.org documents – but that's all that almost every office environment ever needs.


iWork '09 (£60)

iWork '09 offers a terrific set of programs for light word processing and medium-to-heavy spreadsheet use. And the stellar Keynote presentation app leaves the competition in the dust. Apple's productivity suite isn't yet a replacement for Microsoft Office for the Mac, but it's a cheaper alternative if you don't really need the full power of Office.


Microsoft Office 2010 (£100 to £300)

Microsoft Office is by far the biggest name in office suites. The 2010 version is the most recent incarnation for Windows, and the suite’s component parts – Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, and a few other, lesser-used, programs – are industry standards. However, Office 2013 will be out early next year, so this version will soon be pushed aside. Also, for those who don't need the full Microsoft experience, free alternative suites generally let you open and access Microsoft file types (or convert them into a compatible file format).


Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 (£100 to £190)

With Microsoft Office for Mac 2011, Microsoft has finally got it right. After a string of disappointing releases, the 2011 Mac version of the world's most widely-used office suite is a spectacular success, and an unexpected triumph for Microsoft's Macintosh group. Office 2011 is innovative, better designed, startlingly faster, vastly more powerful, and far more compatible with Office for Windows than any previous version. Office 2011 even includes a few features that outclass anything in its Windows-based counterpart. If you're a casual, light-duty office suite user or a student, iWork '09 (two entries above) is still a great option, but if you've got heavy-duty work to perform on the Mac, you'll want Office for Mac 2011.


OpenOffice.org 3.4 (free)

OpenOffice is a free, open source replacement for Microsoft Office – and it can be seriously considered as a substitute for the massive power and flexibility of Microsoft's suite. Back in the day, OpenOffice used to look clunky and work slowly, but that certainly isn’t the case now. The free suite doesn't include all of Office's features, but it covers most bases. The latest version 3.4 enhanced the graphics side of the suite, and tweaked performance and stability.


LibreOffice (free)

LibreOffice is a fork from OpenOffice, and as such is pretty similar by its very nature. However, there are certainly differences, and LibreOffice is pushing forward on the features front. Indeed, version 4 of the suite is due out in February 2013, and promises to deliver a host of performance and interface tweaks. Others argue OpenOffice is more compatible with Microsoft documents – but the truth is, both are great products in their own right. And both are free, so you can try them and see which one suits you best.


Business applications

Abukai Expenses (free or £60 per year)

The mobile app Abukai Expenses is a wonderful reminder of the usefulness of business solutions on the go. Available for Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry, as well as a web portal, Abukai suits anyone who has to perform the mundane task of filing expense reports because it lets you take pictures of receipts, submit them, and receive a finished report. Customisation capabilities and integration with back-end financial systems makes this one of the neatest mobile apps and cloud service solutions for businesses. It's not a cheap service, at £60 per year for an individual user, or £60 per user for businesses (with a setup fee of £30 for the latter), but if you have a lot of expenses to track, it's a great buy. You can also get a free personal account, but that can only be used to produce 12 expense reports per year.


OfficeTime (£31)

Freelancers, contractors, and others in the self-employed ranks grapple with the administration and paperwork that comes with running a small business. OfficeTime (priced at £31 for both Windows and Mac versions) is a small business owner's best friend. This highly practical yet relatively simple program helps SMBs keep track of their billable hours and other expenses, and it generates invoices for their work. OfficeTime tracks how much time you spend on various projects and tasks while you're working, and it shows the minute-by-minute costs as they accumulate, or with numbers rounded however you choose. And whenever you can decrease the time spent managing yourself, you're likely to be far more productive. The product is available as a three week free trial, too.


PaperPort Professional 14 (£100)

Nuance PaperPort has long been the program that others are measured against in terms of personal and professional document management. In its latest version, PaperPort Professional 14, it retains all the features that have helped make it the top pick for document management, plus it's added just enough extra – primarily extending its reach into the cloud – to make it potentially worth an upgrade (which costs £80). The program was already the best in its category, and the new features help polish it up a bit more. The most notable new features are the connections to cloud apps, including the new PaperPort Anywhere.


SohoOS (free)

SohoOS has set out with an understated undertaking: To create an online operating system for the small office/home office (SOHO) market. In addition to bundling all the tools you need to manage your small business – project management, inventory management, invoicing, payments processing, CRM, reporting, and more – SohoOS boasts a seductive price point: It’s free. If you accept that SohoOS isn't a premium service, and that its aim is to bundle previously pricey features into a cohesive whole, it not only makes sense, it’s impressive stuff indeed.


Zoho Invoice (free or £9 per month)

Zoho Invoice is an invoicing solution, and one of the myriad web-based business and productivity solutions published by Zoho Corp. Depending on the level of service you want from Zoho, you can have a free account, stump up £9 per month for the standard level plan, or £18 per month for a professional account. Zoho Invoice definitely appeals to small businesses that don't need the power or complexity of an accounting all-star like QuickBooks. Zoho Invoice comes as close to FreshBooks – the reigning SMB invoicing champ – as anything I've seen, surpassing it in some ways.


Presentations

Prezi.com (free or £35 per year)

Prezi.com is one of a new generation of cloud-based presentation apps. It uses Adobe's Flash technology to create animated presentations with a few clicks and drags. Instead of creating a series of separate slides, you put all your content – text, graphics, captions – on a single canvas, and then you trace a path from one item to another. There’s a limited free version of the service available.


SlideRocket (free or £15 per month)

SlideRocket is the most elegant and feature-rich cloud-based presentation software we've seen yet. If you're convinced that presentation software belongs only on a desktop or laptop, SlideRocket may very well change your mind. It can't match the advanced graphics tricks that PowerPoint and Keynote manage with ease, but if you want vivid slides, based on striking themes, and fast performing web-based presentations, SlideRocket will probably be your first choice.


TeamViewer (free or £439)

If you're looking for feature-packed remote control, desktop sharing, and presentation software, TeamViewer is both the simplest and most powerful option. Businesses will have to shell out a bunch up front (a lifetime license is £439), but individuals can use it for free. Either way, it's a very good deal.


VisualBee (free or £31 per year)

A good looking slide deck, filled with images that pop or make you giggle, can help capture your audience's attention and keep them tuned into your ideas. VisualBee Premium (from £31 per year; there’s also a free basic version available) can be a saviour for the design-impaired. The small downloadable product is a plugin for Microsoft PowerPoint that handily adds design (template styles), effects (slide transitions), and pictures to your files. It has a cache of images that it matches to keywords in your text, and you always have the option to override or tweak the suggestions VisualBee offers.

Utilities

ABBY FineReader 11 Professional (£69)

FineReader 11 is optical character recognition (OCR) software that can handle difficult and massive jobs, like converting complex tables into usable spreadsheets, or scanning a hundred-year-old book into a searchable PDF. It even masters weird-looking typefaces.

If you often need to copy text from images found on the web, or you need to get the most accurate possible text out of images on your disk or documents that you've fed to a scanner, or you want to convert a scanned document into HTML or the ePub format used by e-readers – the app that gets those jobs done best is ABBYY FineReader.


Alfred for Mac (free to £15)

Alfred sat installed but hardly used on my Mac at home for nearly two months before I figured out why I would want to use it. But one day I launched it and I awoke to its possibilities. Alfred has since become indispensable for increasing my productivity and reducing mouse-related repetitive motions. Alfred works so simply and cleanly that it's possible to install it on a whim (seeing as it doesn't cost a penny), and never take the five minutes to figure out what it can do for you. But it’s well worth trying it and sussing it out, as I found. There’s also a Powerpack upgrade for big Alfred fans which adds further features for £15.


Asana (free)

Asana is a web app for task management and project management. Its thoughtful design, fluid interactive elements, and generous member allotment in its free version make it a powerful productivity tool for personal projects and light teamwork. There is a paid version which provides the few extra features you'd need to use it for more complex project management. But for the low, low price of nothing, Asana doles out some pretty extraordinary services. The free account supports up to 30 members and unlimited projects and tasks. Paid account holders get a few additional features, such as project permissions and priority support, and the cost scales up depending on the number of users, starting at £60 per month for 30 members.


Click.to (free)

The little productivity program Click.to turns the keyboard shortcut for "copy" into a workflow shortcut that copies the text or item you need and, with one extra click, puts it into a new file. Supporting a huge number of file types, Click.to can be a real time saver. Fewer clicks per day adds up to more productivity over the days and weeks.


Cloudmark DesktopOne Pro (£12 per year)

Spam is easy to recognise but hard to define. However you choose to define spam, the fact of the matter is it slows you down. Cloudmark DesktopOne Pro relies on the collective wisdom of its billion-plus users to identify spam, and it does the job very well. When multiple users flag the exact same message as spam, the system diverts that message into the spam folder for all other users. The less you have to blacklist senders and quarantine mail by hand, the more you can focus on work that really needs to get done. There is a free Basic edition on offer, but that’s limited to one account and one folder.


Doodle.com (free)

Doodle has long been my go-to tool for scheduling with large groups of people, whether I'm planning a virtual meeting with folks from around the world, or just trying to find a suitable night when all my friends are free to have dinner. With a free Doodle account, you can create simple polls where invitees mark themselves as free, busy, or available-if-need-be. There are more features and functions, too, especially if you cough up for a paid account, but Doodle's scheduling capabilities eliminate so much back and forth that this one feature alone makes it an essential tool in any productivity lover's kit.


Dragon Dictate for Mac (£130)

Don't confuse Dragon Dictate for Mac with the next entry in this article, Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium for Windows. They are, in fact, two different products from the same vendor, although they both achieve the same basic function: Turning your speech into text. I can't say, after testing, that the Mac version hits quite the same mark as the Windows version, although it is still rather good at what it does. Mac users looking to increase their productivity will find that Dragon Dictate immensely speeds up the time it takes to write, whether you're composing email, notes, scripts, articles, or something else. It does take some time to get used to dictation software, but once you do, it really speeds the writing process along.


Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium (£150)

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 is an extremely accurate dictation-transcription and voice command tool from Nuance Communications. With Dragon and your voice, you can control virtually any computer program, after getting over an acceptably shallow learning curve. Loaded with features that you didn't know you needed, Dragon NaturallySpeaking solves so many problems: It makes writing faster, relieves carpal tunnel syndrome and other mobility issues, creates closed-captioning for lectures, removes spelling anxiety, and so on. Dragon is ripe for being co-opted for many purposes far beyond dictation/transcription, making it an amazing productivity booster. See our full review of the product here.


Evernote (free to £35 per year)

Evernote's motto is: "Remember everything." The company likes to think of its namesake product as "your second brain," a place to store all the things you need to know, recall, or remember. In a nutshell, Evernote is a syncing and storage service, with a number of apps (including mobile ones) from which you can access your files or create new ones. You can type notes, record a voice memo, take a picture of a whiteboard during a meeting, or clip a web page and save it to your Evernote account. All the files are searchable, including handwritten text and text that appears in images. As far as productivity goes, being able to remember everything certainly has its value. Evernote is available via the web, and on Windows and Mac, along with iOS, BlackBerry, Android and Windows Phone apps.


NoteControl (£38 per year)

No more jotting notes and sources by hand. NoteControl is an app that equips scholars, students, educators, and business professionals with a simple way to capture and organise their research. Many scholars will be smitten with NoteControl's ample support for different types of research – including text, images, web, audio, and documents, WorldCat search, popular style sheets, and a familiar Outlook-style interface. The floating toolbar NoteControl Capture can collect text and images from websites or files, snap screenshots, and take down audio notes. However, Mac support is restricted to the web browser (notecontrol.com), searching for sources can be cumbersome, and some aspects of capturing research feel counter-intuitive.


RescueTime Solo Pro (£44 per year)

Proponents of productivity are always looking for tips, tricks, and data that can inform them how to eke a little more out of themselves, both personally and in the office. RescueTime is an indispensable tool for any productivity kit, and a top notch offering among time-tracking software. The app monitors all your computer use, or just the apps and sites you tell it to log, and informs you when and how you're both productive and distracted. It's compatible with both Mac and Windows, and can work across multiple computers. With excellent settings and levels of customisation, a variety of reports, and amazingly simple setup, this app is a corker. A free limited "light" edition is also available, but only lasts for two months.


ShadowProtect Desktop 5 (£55)

What makes backup software good for your productivity? When systems go down – and they do! – a highly productive person will want to restore her information quickly and get back to work. If you backup regularly, you'll never waste time or effort trying to patch together the files you've lost.

The best and most secure backup software is a drive imaging program that makes a backup of your whole disk. A drive image restores either the whole system to the working version you were using yesterday, or old versions of your files by copying them from the backed-up images of your disks.

StorageCraft's ShadowProtect might not offer features that you can’t find elsewhere, but it performs those tasks more smoothly, reliably, quickly, and easily than any rival software, making it a dream solution for those who care about productivity.


TotalFinder for Mac (£11)

Essentially a plugin for the Finder in Mac OS, TotalFinder, compatible with OS X 10.7 Lion and 10.8 Mountain Lion, adds new ways to see information in the Finder space of your Apple computer. The app gives you tabs in your Finder space, and it adds greater usability and visibility to the OS, so rather than having multiple Finder windows open, you can easily work from one. The application introduces a few other features to enhance the Finder, some very visible and some less so. At a tenner, TotalFinder is admittedly a bit pricey for a fairly niche plugin, and the value you can get out of it largely depends on whether you're a command line user who will tap into its advanced features.


Todoist (free or £18 per year)

Procrastinators need not read this description of the competent task management app Todoist, as it won't revolutionise your life or your lazy habits. But for those of us who keep ourselves in check and thoroughly organised via to-do lists, Todoist should be on your radar. The proficient web app, with a browser plug-in and mobile apps to boot, can keep your to-dos in sync across multiple devices. Todoist's best features won't seem so impressive to every organised soul, as it's the kind of app that's right for certain jobs, but not all jobs, and thus not all people. But isn't that the core of efficiency and organisation: Knowing the right tool for the job at hand? Todoist is available for free, or there’s a Premium £18 per year version which adds extra features such as email reminders and SSL encryption for all communication.


Plugins

Any.DO for Chrome (free)

To-do list fanatics like me drool over good apps that sync seamlessly across multiple devices. Any.DO , which has apps for Android and iPhone, puts your daily tasks on more screens with a browser plug-in for Chrome. The extension syncs without a hitch and looks clean, but lacks any special features. Tasks themselves support reminders, additional notes, and a red label for high priority items, but settings and customisation are nil. Still, Any.DO serves basic to-do list needs reasonably well.


Smartr Inbox for Gmail (free)

Xobni’s free browser plugin Smartr Inbox for Gmail dives into your contacts list and pulls up pearls of information, like the date you first communicated with a person and who is frequently CC'ed on emails. It's an efficient way to search your list of contacts, while also keeping an eye on Twitter and Facebook, two other features that are built right into the plugin that displays in Gmail. If you've ever felt your productivity dip as a result of searching through emails, trying to remember which person at a company you usually ping, or looking for the most recent email thread with a certain group of people, Smartr can resolve most of your problems, providing more information than you'll get from Gmail's search results.


Stayfocusd (free)

URL blocker Stayfocusd enforces discipline better than Captain von Trapp for when you're on the clock. With deep and highly customisable settings, countdown clocks, and a self-imposed lock-out feature that's very time-consuming to undo, you'll never dilly-dally online while you should be working again.


Xobni for Outlook (free)

This is a free Outlook plugin that helps you search faster, communicate better, and just get more done. If you're like most professionals working in Microsoft Office, you spend hours a day in Outlook managing your email, appointments, and contacts. But as indispensable as Outlook is, none of us are completely happy with it. That's where Xobni comes in. It's one of the best tools for getting Outlook to be more productive for you!


Zotero 3 (free)

For students, scholars, and those conducting research for business, Zotero 3 is a reliable companion for tracking, managing, and sharing citations. While this free tool is billed as a Mozilla Firefox browser plugin, users can also take advantage of Zotero Standalone, a desktop application for Mac, PC, and Linux; Zotero Connectors, plugins for Google Chrome and Apple Safari; and Word Processor Plugins, designed to integrate Zotero Standalone with Microsoft Office and LibreOffice/OpenOffice. It's advert-free, too.

 

Mobile apps

Bento for iPad (£6.99)

Keeping your business and personal life in order can prove a true challenge, but FileMaker's Bento for iPad aims to solve the problem. The iPad app makes it simple for anyone – even novices – to create attractive databases for keeping their lives and work in order.

Thanks to 25 pre-designed templates, a flexible editing system, and a clean, intuitive interface, you can get your work on track in minutes. Bento can be used as a standalone iPad app, or in conjunction with the new Bento 4 for Mac OS X (which is £35).


Brewster for iPhone (free)

Contact management app Brewster hooks into multiple places where you might have contact information stored and brings them together, merging duplicates along the way. Visually appealing with good-sized photos of your friends leading the charge, the Brewster iPhone app eases the pain (and time loss) of looking for contact information. It also auto-generates some neat lists, such as people in a certain geographic region and people with whom you may be losing touch. The merging feature works very well, with a manual override option available. Check out our review of the Brewster iPhone app here.


CardMunch for iOS (free)

For LinkedIn members, CardMunch connects with a transcription team to accurately transform business cards into contacts on your iPhone. Contact info includes full LinkedIn profile data, where available. It provides much more accurate and better results than any mobile OCR scanning app. As soon as you've installed the app, just point it at a business card, line up and focus the image, and snap a photo. If it's legible, upload it; if not, retake it. After that, it's a waiting game, since actual humans at LinkedIn handle the transcription. I've gotten results within an hour, and normally I’ve never had to wait more than overnight. Currently, there are some complaints from reviewers on iTunes about having to wait an age, but hopefully if that is an issue, it will be one that gets sorted out soon enough. Note that you do need a LinkedIn account in order to use CardMunch, but LinkedIn membership is free. Sorry, Android fans; CardMunch only works on devices running iOS 4.0 or later.


iWork for iPad (£6.99 per app)

With Apple's iWork for iPad suite of office applications – Pages for word processing, Numbers for spreadsheets, and Keynote for presentations – you can do real work on an iPad. However, the tablet version of Apple's office suite offers only a basic subset of features and functions compared to the high-powered OS X version of iWork. The iPad's cramped on-screen keyboard can slow down productivity, so if you're serious about using the iPad for work, pick up the Apple iPad Keyboard Dock (£57) too.


Penultimate for iPad (£0.69)

Fast, flexible, and friendly, Penultimate is a first-rate handwriting app (sans keyboard) for the iPad that aims to replace your favourite pen with your index finger. Using the app is second nature because it's nearly the same as doodling in a paper notebook. When paired with a touch stylus like the Kensington Virtuoso, Penultimate can scale to the professional demands of engineers, architects, and industrial designers. At less than a pound, Penultimate is a bargain.


PaperPort Notes for iPad (free)

If you need a free iPad note-taking app that lets you verbalise whatever you want to write down, PaperPort Notes is the best option. PaperPort also syncs with Dropbox or Box.net. If you're already comfortable using dictation software, the app is a breeze to operate. Moreover, it doesn't contain a single advertisement. It's not quite picture-perfect, with a few interface idiosyncrasies, but among free note-taking apps, it's one that can really boost your productivity.


Polaris Office for iOS (£8.99)

To get work done effectively on an iPad, you need an app that lets you access your preferred storage system, create new documents, and edit existing documents from your storage area. Apps that do one or two of those things are a dime a dozen, but it's hard to find a good one that can do them all. The three-in-one productivity app Polaris Office for both iPhone and iPad radically changes the office landscape. It's an alternative to Apple's iWork suite for editing and creating documents, but also gives you access to a few of the major storage services, such as Dropbox and Google Drive. You can edit your existing spreadsheets, Powerpoint files, and Word documents, or create new ones and save them locally or to your storage service. For more information on Polaris Office, see our full review here.


Priority Matrix for iPad (£2.99)

The organisational iPad app Priority Matrix is a good example of an app that contains the functionality to be useful, but may not appeal to all users due to its slightly unconventional schematic design. In Priority Matrix, you set up projects and associate tasks or to-do list items with them. The twist is that you then have to categorise each task into one of four quadrants. You can change what these four quadrants are called, but the defaults are: Critical and immediate, critical but not immediate, not critical but immediate, and not critical and not immediate. Priority Matrix could be a great productivity tool to add to your iPad toolkit, if you appreciate the slightly unusual schema.


Smartr Contacts for Android (free)

Smartr Contacts for Android, formerly called Xobni for Android, creates a comprehensive picture of your contacts. Xobni is the company that makes the app, and it has been a relatively big name in contact management.

The free app, which requires a Xobni account (also free) gathers your contacts from Gmail or Outlook, and finds additional information about them, including headshots, from LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, and meetings or text messages.

For keeping up with email from your Android phone, Smartr Contacts can increase your productivity by removing a lot of the legwork that can sometimes be involved in keeping in touch. It orders your connections by how often you communicate, rather than alphabetically. And it handily merges multiple emails for a single person into one entry, so if you have an outdated email address for someone, but she has uploaded the most recent one to another platform, Smartr can find it.


SugarSync (free)

Android users looking for a way to make their files and photos available from anywhere should definitely check out SugarSync. It's similar to Dropbox, but you get more space, 5GB, with a free account (Dropbox gives you 2GB – although more for referrals). When your files are available to you from everywhere and automatically synchronised, you never waste time trying to sort out which version of what file you put where. Some of SugarSync's goodies are hard to find, and others are hard to use, but for Android users looking for a more full-featured alternative to DropBox, SugarSync is a pretty sweet deal.


Social networking management

Engagio (free)

Powerful search capabilities make Engagio an absorbing platform for analysing what's being said in your social circles, while also letting you manage interactions in a format that's reminiscent of Gmail. The most valuable commodity the web-based Engagio has to offer is the ability to search through multiple social networks simultaneously for keywords used in discussion. You can't search everything that has been posted by every one of your contacts in every network, but you will find all the instances of a searched word or phrase that has been used in conversation with you on multiple platforms. This feature alone makes Engagio a unique and valuable prospect for promoting small businesses and individuals, as well as for social networking power users.


HootSuite (free or £6 per month)

For a lot of people, staying current with social media is an important part of their "work," however it is they choose to define it. If it is, having a social media aggregator that works, and that you like using and isn't distracting you from your other duties is a must. Social media dashboard HootSuite lets you link to your networks and build a screen that displays up to five of your primary social streams, choosing from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress, MySpace, Foursquare, Google+ and Mixi. Hootsuite's beauty is its streamlined nature; you can view multiple social networking streams on the screen at the same time without opening new pages.


TweetDeck (desktop version, free)

The desktop version of TweetDeck condenses your social media profiles and data streams into one highly customisable application. You can't adjust the size of reading panes (columns), and the app suffers from borderline feature bloat, but it has a very good notification system and customisation options. It takes a while to set up, but once you have all the dials right where you want them, it's a great tool for staying on top of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Foursquare.

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