The ever-growing array of tools and apps for managing your work can often feel daunting when trying to figure out which is best for our own personal needs. I've spent hours comparing apps through the gruelling process of reading reviews and test-driving free versions – and I'm sure I'm not the only one.
It's been painful and time-consuming, but I've finally found the perfect collection of tools to keep me on track throughout the day. This is the first part of a series in which I'll be covering a few tools I use daily that keep me organised so I can work creatively with more ease.
I've been using Basecamp, the most popular project management tool in the world, for more than 10 years now. In fact, for the past couple of years prior to its recent relaunch celebrating Basecamp's tenth birthday, my picture was featured on its homepage!
I've tried other similar programs in the past, but none of them truly enable you to keep track of everything related to a project all in one place, and with such ease. I especially love the ability to start a new discussion thread on a particular file or text document, choose who to include in the message, and change the people included in each discussion without having to start a new one. It facilitates normal, real-life solutions for people to interact together on a project, and to do so quickly and easily. And though it's incredibly easy to get the hang of, its super friendly customer service team has put together easy walkthroughs, examples and videos to help get you acquainted with it.
Kippt is a bookmarking web app and plug-in. The premium version (just $5 a month – and worth every penny) enables you to create folders that are organised along the left-hand side of your web page, and then add as many lists as you need to within each folder. This makes both categorising and finding bookmarks (or as Kippt calls them, 'clips') a breeze, which I find is crucial when I'm trying to track down a quick reference for something.
For example, I have one folder called 'Design' in which I have about 15 lists including Showcases, Studios, Type Foundries, Typography and Writers. So if I come across, say, a type foundry online that I love and want to remember for later, all I have to do is click on the Kippt bookmarklet button in my browser window, choose the Type Foundries list I created from a drop-down menu and hit Save. I also love that when viewing a list page in the web app, the clips you've saved are displayed with an image from the web page along with its page title.
You have the ability to edit this page title, add tags and notes, share the clip elsewhere online, and mark it as a favourite, which adds it to the default Favourites list that comes automatically as part of Kippt. The community feed enables you to follow other people and add their clips to your own lists. You can even mark certain lists as 'Private' , which makes keeping track of gift ideas for that special someone totally possible as well.
It feels like I had been searching for the right to-do list app for forever, until recently, when I came across ToDoist. While the free version does provide far better options than most other apps of the same realm, I purchased the Premium account for about $30 for the year because I had finally found a tool flexible enough to do everything I need it to. Its minimal, modern aesthetics provide a stress-free experience, while being robust enough in functionality to cover all the bases.
I've created several projects (both for work and for personal things like 'Life' and 'Presents'), which I've colour-coded to match the way I mark up the same projects in Gmail, Google Calendar and Basecamp. I can easily add, remove or change a due date or note to each task, drag and drop a task from one list to another, and even create projects within other projects to further help me stay organised. The best part is that I can sync this all through the cloud (keeping safe backups) and access the list through the just-as-excellent mobile app on my phone, a crucial part of the process. If only I could get my Basecamp tasks to sync with my ToDoist account ...
I use Pocket the same way I use Kippt, but more specifically for storing reading materials in one place. There are plenty of tools that function essentially the same way, but Pocket does everything I need it to with ease and elegance that I've found more enjoyable than its competitors, such as the well-known Instapaper (instapaper.com).
The browser plug-in enables one-click bookmarking so you can save things without getting too off-track from the task at hand. Then, from within your Pocket account, you can quickly filter through your saved content by jumping between lists, highlights, favourites and the archive. Topmenu toggles switch between list and tile views.
Each page thumbnail shows the main page title along with the primary image (if there is one) or the first bit of written content. The favicon and URL are displayed at the bottom of each page thumbnail for quick reference and a link to the primary source where you saved the page from. Search functionality enables you to track down a page using keywords. Via the Content Filter toggle you can filter all pages by either Articles, Videos or Images. Finally, viewing the saved page in detail view (by clicking on its thumbnail) displays the content with a hierarchy optimised for easy reading, whether viewed on the desktop or on your smartphone app.
05. Day One
The Day One app is one of the best journal apps on the market. I use it to record notes from both my personal and professional life. When starting a new entry, the first line you write can be set to automatically save as the title for that entry, which makes navigating through notes in the Timeline view a breeze, and makes for a good way to keep them organised.
I record all of my meeting notes at work, all business-related phone calls I make, and even use it to save nice things I hear or witness so I can come back and reminisce about them later. Day One also gives you the ability to add a picture to an entry if you so desire. In addition to adding pictures for journal-like entries (like a picture from a ski trip that I am writing a bit about), I'll sometimes add a sketch or something from a meeting to act as a quick visual reference for when I want to refer to that again. One of the best things about Day One is its easy access. For adding quick notes, it's as easy as clicking on the Day One icon in your menu bar, typing your text into the pop-up window and hitting the Save button.
While each of these apps play a different role in my daily life, one thing they all possess is an awesome user experience. The right balance of flexible functionality and elegant aesthetics can make for a successful, enjoyable interaction for the end-user, an aim that should be at the forefront of any web app development and design team's minds. As I mentioned earlier, the options available to us when it comes to choosing tools for our various needs are nothing short of plentiful, but finding the right ones to work for you can be tough and time-consuming. I hope you find these apps as helpful in your day-today workflow as I have.
Words: Joy Burke
This article originally appeared in net magazine issue 254.