I love apps that save time, even just a few seconds on each use. Most of my day is spent writing so any tool that allows me to keep my focus on that activity earns a spot on my computer.
Over the years, I’ve tested dozens of utilities that promised to save time, and I’ve found that very few have lived up to that promise. Many are either too complex, require too much administration or just don’t work the way they should.
But a few apps have withstood the test of time. These are the apps I use multiple times a day. A few of these I use a dozen or more times a day, and are among the first applications I install on every computer I own.
1 Password – There are many applications that promise to organize your passwords. Even Chrome, and Firefox include basic password management today. But 1Password does everything better. It saves my Windows 8.1 passwords and syncs them to my tablet and phone. You'll find applications that provide similar functionality at a lower price, but none of them are are polished across all devices. This is one example where the adage holds true: "You get what you pay for."
Price: 30-day free trial, $35 afterwards.
PhraseExpress – The benefits of this app are difficult to describe. You almost have to see it in action. Many users that came from the Mac will remember TextExpander, and PhraseExpress is basically TextExpander for Windows. It automates repetitive tasks and corrects spelling in any application. But my favorite time-saving feature is how it auto-completes phrases I frequently use. PhraseExpress sits quietly in the system tray and monitors how I work. It recognizes phrases I use often, and then offers to complete them for me. It’s like having a library of macros at your fingertips that work across any application. It’s freaking brilliant, but the one app here that comes with a modest learning curve.
Price: Free for personal use
Evernote – If you’re like me, ideas pop into your head at the least convenient times. While I’m waiting in the car to pick-up kids from school, walking to the park, or standing in line at Starbucks. Until Evernote came along, I would forget many of those ideas by the time I was ready to act. Evernote allows me to capture and organize those ideas (text or graphics) on my PC, phone or tablet. It then syncs those notes across all my devices.
If you’re still organizing tasks inside a walled garden like Outlook, I’m here to tell you there’s a better solution. Evernote even allows me to keep a list of grocery items and share it with my spouse via email or text. I would feel lost with Evernote.
Price: Free, $5/month for Premium, $10/month for Business
SyncFolders – I love hyper-focused apps that do one thing really well. That’s SyncFolders. I run Windows 8.1 and all my programs off a 512 GB Samsung SSD. But I save all my photos, videos, music to a secondary drive. I then use SyncFolders to sync the data on my secondary drive to an external drive, just in case my internal drive goes down. All mechanical drives eventually fail, and although I also use Crashplan to backup my data to the cloud, syncing files to an external drive will make getting back to work a much quicker affair.
I’ve found some sync/backup programs to be overly complex while others don’t provide enough information. SyncFolders is the perfect balance between the two. It will sync folders (and any subfolders) across network and flash drives as well as external and internal drives. It's a huge time saver.
Google Dictionary – So this isn’t officially an app, rather it’s an extension for the Chrome browser, and it also exists as a Firefox add-on. But everyday I come across words that I don’t know, and Google dictionary looks up the word inline and provides a simple definition without having to leave the page.
These are just a few of the apps I use each day. But they the apps that save the most time over the long haul. It's hard to imagine getting my work done with out them.
What apps have you found that save time?