Essential Productivity Apps & Gear from the iPhone Life Team

 

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2017 issue of iPhone Life magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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Favorite Apps

Slack (Free)

Our team has a strong work ethic and a good sense of humor. Slack keeps us productive and laughing, whether we’re telecommuting from a remote coffee shop in New Zealand or working in the office. Skype used to be our app of choice for collaboration, but Slack lured us away with useful features like Channels, which lets us separate things like headline brainstorming sessions from pictures of our pets. Slack’s hilarious GIF generator alone made the switch worthwhile¬. Private messaging makes it easy to get in touch with the right people at any given time via one-on-one communication or small group discussions. Slack also makes it easy to search for and locate files exchanged between people, although the free version deletes your archive once you hit 10K messages. Notifications from Slack’s iPhone app keep us informed on the go, and we can snooze notifications outside of work hours, allowing us to unplug after a long workday.

Skype (Free)

While Slack’s chat features put Skype to shame, Skype still reigns supreme when it comes to video calls. Skype ensures that we can get everyone together even if several team members are working remotely (you can connect up to 25 people for free!). We also love Skype’s screen sharing capabilities, allowing everyone on a call to view the same presentation or spreadsheet. Skype isn’t perfect though—even with a strong Wi-Fi network, you’re bound to experience connection glitches or distorted sound once in a while (headphones can help with audio feedback). Still, Skype is an invaluable tool for pushing the ball forward on projects, even if team members aren’t in the same place.

Skitch (Free)

If you read iPhone Life regularly, then you’ll be familiar with our daily tips, which aim to teach you cool ways that you can use your iPhone—and most tips take less than a minute to read! When creating these tips, Our feature web writer Conner Carey (a.k.a. “the tip monster”) snaps screenshots on her phone and uses Skitch to add circles or arrows to show readers exactly where they should be looking. It offers a fast, visual way to convey a message of any kind, whether you’re using it for work (like we do), for home projects (like planning a kitchen renovation), or on your social media page.

Asana (Free)

Our editor in chief Donna Cleveland began using Asana as an editorial calendar a couple of years ago to help keep track of important dates and article assignments. With Asana, we can create an assignment for a contributor and include a task description and deadline. When finished, the author can attach the finished draft and mark the assignment as complete. Our only complaints are that you can’t assign a task to more than one person and that the iOS app lacks the desktop version’s calendar view.

Dropbox (Free)

Dropbox is the industry standard file-based cloud service and the place where all our company files live. We’re big fans of Dropbox because of its reliability and how simple it is to set up and use. It integrates with many other apps (such as Microsoft Office 365) and services on your iPhone and iPad, making it easy to save files to your Dropbox account with just a few taps. You can also set up the app to automatically back up all your photos and videos, if that’s a feature you’d like. For teamwork, the absence of online file collaboration is a real downside. You get 2 GB of free storage, or you can upgrade to Pro for $8.25/month and 1 terabyte of storage.

Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides (Free)

We use Google’s suite of productivity apps—including Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides—to upload files and collaborate on documents, spreadsheets, and slideshows with our team in real time. What we love about these apps is that changes are synced across devices instantaneously. This is a great tool for projects that require input from other team members. You can share documents with other users and see their activity as they make changes and leave comments. The apps are cross-platform and friendly with iOS, Android, and all desktop browsers. You can create word documents and spreadsheets for free since Google gives you 15 GBs of free storage.

Simplenote (Free)

Our CTO Raphael Burnes swears by Simplenote, a notetaking app with all the simplicity of Apple’s Notes app but with improved features like collaboration, note history, tags, and the ability to publish a note as a webpage. While Simplenote has its own Mac app, it also syncs with Notational Velocity, a desktop app that Raph likes for its robust searching capability and variety of supported text formats, including HTML, plain text, and rich text. Raph’s a really fast typer, so he also loves that Notational Velocity is totally keyboard accessible, meaning he doesn’t need to be slowed down by using his mouse. 

Vimeo (Free)

When we launched our iPhone Life Insider program, we needed a video hosting service that we knew was secure and that we could rely on. Vimeo has been a great, professional solution. Unlike YouTube, Vimeo is completely ad free (which provides a superior experience for our customers) and allows us to choose different privacy settings so we can keep premium video content only viewable by our Insider subscribers. When we record interviews on our iPhones, such as at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Vimeo has made it super easy to upload videos through the app. The iPhone and iPad app also make it easy to track engagement from our customers, so we can easily see which of our videos are most popular and performing well.

Twitter (Free)

Twitter is our social platform of choice during our live coverage of Apple announcements. We live tweet updates and impressions as Apple unveils new products and use trending hashtags so followers can easily find us. Our updates range from specs of the new iPhone’s camera to funny event highlights, such as Apple exec Eddy Cue’s awkward dancing as he debuted Apple Music (#dadmoves). Twitter has also proved to be an effective tool for article researching, allowing us to track down sources and message them directly to set up an interview. When sharing articles from our website, we’ve also been having fun tweeting headlines, callout quotes, or interesting facts from a story and seeing which tweet gets the most clicks.

Hootsuite (Free)

Our CEO David Averbach is a big fan of batch processing, (a.k.a. doing a job in one sitting instead of in increments) as a way of maximizing efficiency. Hootsuite helps us apply this method to social media, allowing us to schedule posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus, and LinkedIn all at once as soon as the posts go live. The Hootsuite app makes it easy to keep a finger on the pulse of our social accounts and make sure we’re keeping in touch regularly. Not only can we schedule and review all our upcoming posts, but we can see all our comments and private messages from across our social media platforms. 

Amazon (Free)

Making a trip to the store for supplies is always a drag, even when we’re out of office essentials like paper, printer ink, and chocolate. Amazon to the rescue! We have a company Amazon Prime account, meaning we can use the Amazon app to keep our office supplies coming in a constant stream with two-day shipping. Everything about the Amazon app makes it easy to buy things, which is both a blessing and a curse. It keeps a record of past orders for you to buy again, lets you sign up for recurring shipments of items that need replenishing, and offers Amazon Dash buttons—a small gadget that is paired to our product of choice (e.g. jumbo packs of paper towels) and allows us to reorder the item at the touch of a button.

Favorite Gear

Blue Mic Yeti & Headphones

In the last few years, the iPhone Life team has grown what used to primarily be a print publication to a company with a booming website, email newsletter, podcast, and digital subscription service (iPhone Life Insider). To create high-quality content for our new services, we needed to find the right audio gear. Our friends at Blue Mic have kept us stocked with awesome equipment, including a set of Yeti microphones that make us sound great in our podcast and video tips, and a pair of high-quality headphones that allow us to edit audio with precision, catching background sound and any inconsistencies in sound quality. Blue offers both USB mics like the Yeti as well as mics that use the Lightning port for on-the-go recording with your iPhone.

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