Selecting the Right Productivity App

Sections: Mobile Computers

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Yesterday I wrote about my tablet and other devices I use for mobile productivity. Today, I turn to apps. As I said in the previous article, I use an iPad, but many of these apps, or similar ones, are available for Android, so most of this will apply if you use a Nexus 7 or similar tablet.

The activities I do the most while traveling are:

1. Writing
2. Reading blog posts
3. Checking and updating social media
4. Checking and responding to email

I’ve got go-to apps for each of these, sometimes more than one, depending on my exact needs.


My primary apps for writing are Pages, or WriteUp, depending on what type of writing I’m doing.

Pages is perfect for long-form writing, like novels. I’m a fiction writer in addition to a tech blogger, and I like Pages for novel writing. The app is fast and responsive. It gives me a word count and enough basic formatting options for fiction writing. I can easily convert to Word format for sending to my editor. I can download (but not upload) to Dropbox, which is the one weakness, but I work around that by emailing documents to myself.

Other Office-compatible packages exist. When I still had an Android tablet, I used Office Suite Professional, which would have been my first choice when I bought an iPad, but there is no iOS version of the app. If you’re using Android, it’s my recommendation. It had more options than QuickOffice, and I liked it much better.

WriteUp is a simple text editor that can also be used to write in Markup language, easily converted to HTML. I use it for blog posts (like this one) and other short-form writing.

Reading Blog Posts

Pocket is my go-to app for taking content with me. I can grab articles on my computer, send them to Pocket and then read on the go, even if I’m lacking a WiFi connection (like on the Metro).

is my favorite app for checking my Google Reader feed on my iPad. It works best when I have WiFi, however, so I generally only use it at home or on public WiFi at a coffee house.

Social Media

Hootsuite is the clear winner here because of the scheduling feature. I can spend 15-20 minutes catching up on my Twitter lists and then schedule my retweets for later. I do occasionally use the native Twitter app, but generally just to check and respond quickly to Mentions or Direct Messages. Hootsuite is better for heavy lifting because I have better access to my lists.

Checking and Responding To Email

I’m a Gmail user, and the iPad app is very nice, much better for my purposes than the native Email app. I have several email accounts feeding into my Gmail account, and the Gmail app remembers my default “send from” address. The native app isn’t as reliable, and I’ve accidentally sent business emails from my personal account enough times to annoy me.

If you’re not a Gmail user or don’t have my particular needs, the native app on the iPad is excellent, however. It handles Exchange servers well, and the layout is attractive. It supports folders and Gmail labels, even allowing you to label individual messages. It nests conversations logically and is certainly a good option.

Anyone else have a favorite productivity app they’d like to suggest? I’m always looking for new apps to try out.

Look for the next article in the series next week, where I write about organizational apps, both for time and information management.

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