Could your computer help you get more work done? It certainly can, but only the most effective software will streamline your workflow and let you get to the task at hand.
Used correctly, great organization software can make you more productive. It’s a matter of working smarter rather than harder; if you can entrust a well-designed program with matters of scheduling or communication, it leaves you more time to get the actual work done.
However, sub-par tools will yield sub-par results. It’s important to be sure that the applications you’re using are up to the job. Here are some of the best modern apps available to simplify your working life and allow you to concentrate on the important things.
A straightforward scheduling app that aims for simplicity rather than a wealth of features.
Microsoft’s own attempt at a calendar app is very easy to use, but suffers from a distinct lack of functionality. What it does have going for it is a sleek, clean interface that will be familiar to anyone who has experience with modern Windows apps, but that comes at the cost of features that advanced users will expect.
It’s easy enough to sync your events if you’re entrenched into the Windows product line, but if you’re not then you’ll have more difficulty. For example, a workaround does exist to export your Google Calendar events to the Microsoft app, but it’s extra work for a tool that seems entirely focused on being user-friendly. The lack of a way to easily categorize and color-coordinate events also seems like a major omission.
That said, if you only need the most basic calendar functions, this app will do the job. It seems that advanced features have been removed to streamline the overall experience, and that comes through in the finished product. Anyone could use this app quite happily, no matter their experience, and that’s crucial for this kind of software.
Sturdy email client that gets straight to the point.
Microsoft’s own email app carves out its own niche alongside the ever-popular Outlook. It rids users of much of the chaff of a traditional email client and leaves them with something much closer to the simplified email apps you might find on mobile devices — as seems to be the trend with Microsoft’s modern app offerings.
The mileage you’ll get out of this app depends on whether that philosophy resonates with you. Power users who have grown accustomed to feature-heavy clients will likely be put off — but it’s perfect for someone who simply wants to read their emails and respond to them if necessary.
The UI is the star here; it’s completely distraction-free, and there’s plenty of people who will be sold on that alone. However, that same uncluttered interface means that tools you might find essential aren’t at hand when you need them, and that might just be enough to send you back to your usual email client.
Limited contacts app that falls flat in the face of superior competition.
While Calendar and Mail serve their purposes well while keeping things simple, the third part of Microsoft’s productivity app trifecta is something of a disappointment. Like those apps, it boasts a clean UI — but unlike those apps, it turns out to be a complicated, awkward experience without actually offering all that much functionality.
Once your contacts are imported from various services like Twitter, Skype and your email client, you can either find them via search or view a feed of their recent activity. Looking at individual profiles presents information relatively well — but you’ll likely have to input much of it manually. The feed is almost completely redundant, doing a far worse job than dedicated social media trawlers.
All in all, this seems undercooked; a halfway house between an address book and a social media feed that doesn’t quite satisfy in either case. Better options are definitely out there.
Simplistic to-do list tracker to keep your eye on the task at hand.
Opening up Taskify for the first time can be a little bit daunting; its tutorial takes the form of a fully-stocked list of tasks that bring you up to speed with the app. It turns out to be a smart way of teaching you the ropes, but for a moment it might seem like the app simply too complex for its own good.
Happily, once you’re up and running it’s a distraction-free experience. The UI isn’t quite as nice as Microsoft’s own offerings, but everything works just as you would expect. You can set up any number of lists to house your tasks, and from there you’re free to add new items with optional info like notes or a reminder ahead of their due date. Then, it’s a simple click of a check-box to mark them as complete.
If it sounds simple, that’s because it is — but it’s a nicely refined experience. Taskify takes full advantage of the screen space available, presenting plenty of information to you without being overbearing. Chalk this one up as a case of simple things done very well.
In-depth task management tool with useful multi-user functionality.
Many Windows apps sacrifice features for ease of use, and it’s a strategy that can work quite effectively — Wunderlist, on the other hand, offers the best of both worlds. It’s intuitive enough to start using it without any prior knowledge of how it works, but it goes above and beyond what you might expect from a basic to-do list manager.
Like Taskify, different tasks can be put in different lists to separate them into home and work, or any other distinction you might want to make. However, there are all sorts of little details — that are quite easily ignored, if you like — but can come in very useful. For example, you can assign subtasks to any task, or star particular jobs to add them to a priority folder that spans all your lists. Little touches like this demonstrate that this is an app that’s built upon a foundation of experience using this sort of tool, and that’s of great benefit to the user.
However, the real reason that Wunderlist is such a great task manager is its multi-user support. Web-based project management tools like Slack are becoming all the more popular, and Wunderlist does a great job of integrating this sort of activity with your own personal use. Some collaborative features are locked behind a paywall, but it’s well worth trying out the free version of Wunderlist to see just what it can do.
Comprehensive project management app for expert users.
For anyone who has to keep track of various projects with a host of different people working together, flow.timer has a lot to offer. Time is of the essence, here — each task carries with it the amount of time allotted to it, constantly forcing users to think practically about how to organize their schedule. This may seem simple, but it’s a very effective way of reinforcing why we use tools like this: to make sure work gets done on time, and gets done on time.
Another great thing about flow.timer is the way that it uses the familiar clean UI of modern apps, but still offers up a huge amount of information. Normally, this would seem dead set against the Metro design aesthetic, but somehow extra data like percentage-based project overview figures is integrated into the interface very smoothly. The app is constantly delivering you information, but it always seems manageable.
This carries over to the reports that flow.timer automatically produces. The app is constantly crunching the numbers on your performance, and you can dip in at any time and see just how much any user or group has managed to get done over a particular period of time or on a particular project. It’s a well thought out step beyond the functionality of many similar tools, and it’s one that will likely put flow.timer a nose ahead of much of its competition.
Do you know of a great productivity app for Windows that we’ve missed? Let us know about it in the comments section below.