The Best Apps For Productivity

Today you can do just about anything from your cellphone or tablet. Apps are just another way to make your life a little bit easier. This month we asked the LTRC board what apps are best suited for their day to day needs.

Our Panelists

Chad Burton (CB), Brett Burney (BB), Aaron Street (AS), Steve Embry (SE), Dennis Kennedy (Dk) and Sofia Lingos (SL).

What apps do you find help you with your daily productivity?

CB: My entire day runs off of apps on my iPhone and iPad. Those that currently get opened many times an hour include: Inbox by Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Keep, Trello, Slack, Google Drive/Docs, and TripIt (while I am traveling).

BB: There are so many it’s almost embarrassing. But I always have my iPhone or iPad with me and I use them a lot.

  • The usuals: e-mail and calendar. I still use the default e-mail app on both devices.
  • For task management I love Wunderlist but use Siri to create entries in the iOS Reminders app.
  • 1Password because we all manage dozens of passwords and you must have a secure fortress for them all.
  • Starbucks app, because, I must.
  • For staying up on news I use Tweetbot to cover the Twitterverse. I read RSS feeds on Reeder on my iPhone and Mr. Reader on the iPad.
  • For organizing notes I use Evernote or OneNote but frequently dictate into the default Notes app on my iPhone.
  • Lose It! to track my caloric intake. I had no idea how many calories were in a Girl Scout Thin Mint!
  • Sonos app because I gotta have the tunes.
  • Dropbox is my primary repository for documents I need everyday to support clients, store caselaw, share docs, etc.
  • GoodReader and PDF Expert for managing files locally on my iPad and annotating PDFs.

AS: I use a number of productivity apps, but the ones that make the most difference for my are Wunderlist, which is a great free task manager (tip: assign everything a due date), and Inbox, which is Google’s productivity-based Gmail alternative to encourage inbox-zero.

SE:There are several APPS I use pretty often. One is Scannable. I travel for clients a lot and used to forever lose receipts. With this app I can scan as soon as I get the receipt, email it to myself, and throw the paper version away. I also use 1Passord, Waze, Wunderlist as a to-do list, Tripit among others. I use Transcriptpad, Trialpad, and PDF expert quite a lot as well. My firm uses netdocs so I use that app frequently. And Notetaker HD has been a Godsend.

DK: First and foremost, Omnifocus—at once the most I’ve ever paid for an app and the one that has brought me the greatest benefit. With Omnifocus, I have successfully implemented David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach and that helps with productivity and just staying on top on my many obligations on a daily basis. I use Feedly to monitor blogs and other news sources and that definitely makes my information gathering much more productive.

SL: I use Clio and the associated app for daily case management. Trello is my go to project management system and future listing solution, but I also have a number of team projects on Basecamp, so I usually log on there daily as well. I have used Errands for a long time which is a basic scheduler and checklist for home, errands and work tasks. It can be repetitive, but it has a better task scheduler than the calendar for Trello.

If there is one app you couldn’t live without which would it be?

CB: Slack. It is the communication backbone of Curo. If we ditched Slack, my email inbox would explode. That would be tragic. Oh, and we are in the middle of a new Game of Thrones season, so HBO Now is critical.

BB: Like many folks, I must have access to e-mail so that’s open all the time. I also rely on Dropbox for storing documents and accessing them from any computer or device.

AS: Personally, the camera (is that an app or just a feature?). Professionally, Slack has become crucial to staying in touch with my team.

SE: While I’m embarrassed to admit, I don’t think I could live without my Starbucks app. It lets me pay, automatically reloads and helps me find stores on the road. And yes it goes without saying it improves my productivity.

DK: I have to say Omnifocus, but Overcast for podcast listening and management is a very close second.

SL: Errands. Even though it is basic (and free!), it has been my longtime listing and reminder app for home and business. If I dare say, it helps me achieve work/life balance. You can set deadlines which include dates, times and reminders, and add detailed notes. It allows you to assign folders and view only work or home so you can block out those nagging to-dos that are not immediately relevant. There is an option for recurring reminders such as “Workout” and when you check it for that day and it repopulates into the next day. You can sort tasks in numerous ways and view via list or calendar. Folders and tasks can even be shared via e-mail or app. I sometimes visit this app upwards of ten times a day.

Were you an early adopter of using apps or are you just now becoming an avid user?

CB: Early adopter. I do not want to know how much money I have dropped on buying new apps and paying monthly subscriptions. At this point, I probably could have paid for a year of college for one of my not-as-smart kids who can’t get a scholarship.

BB: I cannot remember the dark days before I had an iPhone in my hand all the time.

AS: I bought a first generation iPhone in 2007 before there was any ability to add or subtract the default apps.

SE: I am not sure I qualify as an early adopter but I have been using apps pretty religiously for the past three years. Now I probably am an early adopter for new apps. I often try them and if they don’t work out for me, just delete them.

DK: I was a heavy user of apps even before the publication of Tom Mighell’s iPad Apps in One Hour for Lawyers book, so I believe that I can reasonably claim that I’m an early adopter. I’ve experimented with many apps over the years and am now working on pruning the number of apps that I have loaded.

SL: I was an early adopter and have watched and tried many new apps as they continue to develop. It took me awhile to completely abandon the desktop, bedside and in purse notebooks, but now all of my activities and ideas are stored (securely—I hope) in the cloud. I appreciate the additional efficiencies and peace of mind these apps provide.

Is there an app that you tried that just never seemed right for you?

CB: Evernote. I have had an off-and-on love affair with Evernote for years. I want to use it. I like the UI, the features, the community—all of it, except it does not fit into my workflow as well as other apps that provide the same features. Like Leo and Kate, I will never let go. Someday, we will work out.

BB: Fantastical; everyone talks about it all the time and I’ve tried it several times, but it doesn’t work for me. I stay with the default calendar app on the iPhone, and I use the Week Calendar app on the iPad. OmniFocus, too—again everyone talks about OmniFocus with reverence, but I cannot muster the time and brain cells to learn it well enough. Wunderlist is much simpler for my measly capacity of smarts.

AS: I’ve felt that way about Evernote over the years. It’s always seemed like an amazing tool that I could never quite find an important use for, but recently I think I finally figured out how to make it right for me.

SE: I went through quite a task list apps before I found Wunderlist. I really wanted one that was easy to use and took little time to add things to. Most of the apps I tried were frankly too complicated and took to much time to navigate. Wunderlist doesn’t have everything but it’s the best I have found.

DK: There are probably too many of those to mention. The one area of apps that has never worked out for me the way I would like is, perhaps surprisingly, timer apps for speakers. There are many of them, but I’ve never found that feels like it works or displays exactly how I’d like. The weather apps, in general, seem to suffer from usability issues. And, speaking from my experience on a recent trip, the map apps can be a real “trip,” and are surprisingly difficult to use effectively, especially when walking from point to point. I’m not sure why that’s the case, but I did much more retracing of steps on the recent trip than I could have expected.

SL: I am reluctant to admit, but I have had a hard time with Evernote. Even though its functionality is robust, it challenges the way that I think about organization. I look forward to Heidi Alexander’s pending publication from the ABA LPD that will hopefully assist me in taking advantage of this powerful program.

Any particular app you’re looking forward to being launched? What type of app would you like to see created?

CB: Google just announced a series of AI driven apps for Summer 2016. I cannot wait to use them—if for no other reason so that Sergey and friends at Google truly know everything about me.

BB: Scrivener for iOS—we’ve been waiting for a long time.

AS: I can’t wait for the future of augmented reality and virtual reality apps, not that I think they’ll be directly relevant to law practice.

SE: I would really like see some the various productivity apps combined into one easy to use app that would manage calendars, notes, documents, scans, etc so that I don’t have to go from APP to APP to get things done.

DK: I don’t really see a new killer app coming. I’m more in the pruning mode on apps so I wouldn’t mind not seeing too many new apps created. For the most part, I’d like to see improvements in usability and features in the apps I use on a regular basis.

SL: I find communicative software and intelligent assistants to be ever improving. I’d like to have an app that lets me speak, schedule, and then reminds me verbally in a reliable manner from my iWatch.

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