As we all know, cloud storage and cloud backups are great ways to keep all your files and information easy-at-hand and also secure. Google Drive, Dropbox, and other storage services are integral parts to many people’s daily work flow. But when you combine ever smarter smart phones and cloud systems, you can really get stuff done. I’ve put together a list of apps that use the cloud to help you stay on task, map out your ideas, work well with others, and generally help you be a more productive you.
I had heard a lot of people espousing the benefits of Slack for awhile but being a freelancer meant I never really had much use for this beefed up team-chat client until recently when a client started using it for their project. I was immediately sold on how it can keep a team of collaborators up-to-speed on a project as it progresses and evolves. At first it seems like nothing more than a chat client, but you can also link documents and files, send private messages to specific people, set channels for different topics, and you can even have Slack give the team notifications when changes happen to code, Google Drive folders, and more. Slack is free and available on desktops and mobile devices, making it even easier to keep in touch with your team.
Trello is a great to-do and task manager program that works great whether you’re working with a team or just trying to get your own ideas and projects organized. With Trello, you set up boards for overarching ideas or projects. Within the board you set up lists of ideas, to-dos, things you’ve already accomplished, etc. The lists are made up of cards with individual items you can drag and drop between the lists. This makes it easy to take an idea to completion. You can even add images as cards, giving it an almost Pintrest-like look. Inviting others and assigning them tasks is simple, too.
This is another to-do list/task managing system however it’s different from Trello in that it is more of a text-based system compared to Trello’s more visual system. You get many of the same tools though – setting up projects with multiple threads and tasks is easy enough and you can assign people to various to-dos. You can even set up recurring tasks to remind yourself and others of repeating work. One person over at Quora compared Trello and Asana and said that Asana is for “the CEO and project manager” while Trello is for “team and individual members.”
The third task and to-do list app on this list is a little somewhere in between Asana and Trello. As with the other two, making lists and accessing your tasks on any mobile device or computer is a breeze. Which one you decide to use (or none of them!) really comes down to the type or work you do and your own personal tastes. Personally I slide more towards Trello because I like being able to see a whole project laid out at once.
I’ve extolled the wonders of Evernote before and I will gladly do so again. If you’re a compulsive note-taker like I am, Evernote is definitely a great way to keep those notes organized and usable. You can take and store text, audio, images, and even hand-written notes with Evernote and access them wherever you need. Evernote even has special paper notebooks that you can use in conjunction with your mobile app and phone camera to take your hand-written notes and put them in the cloud! You can then search your notes and organize them with tags, making it a quick process to refer back to ideas or important things you’ve jotted down.
This is another service I recently discovered and tried out for myself. It’s helped tremendously with everything from sorting out an article pitch idea to figuring out the flow of a new podcast. Mindmeister is basically a digital, cloud-based flow chart with lots of tools and templates to help you organize your projects and brainstorm sessions. This is absolutely a must-have tool if you’re more of a visual person like me. You can even make your mindmaps public to share ideas and thought processes with others or share them with team members for group brainstorming. The one glaring downside is that unless you fork over $36 USD for 6 months of use, you’re limited to 3 mindmaps at a time. You can export your maps as a wide variety of file types and save them to your cloud storage for easy access even if you don’t have access to the web.
If you feel that Mindmeister is a bit too structured for your liking, Draw.io is the next thing to try. You get free reign of a huge range of vector tools (circles, squares, cylinders, arrows, etc) to draw and map out your ideas. Another thing that Draw.io has over Mindmeister is that it is totally free with no limit on how many files you have. When you start up you also choose which cloud storage to save to automatically, which makes it easier to save your files.
Another that I’ve discussed before but it’s worth talking about again for this list. Lastpass allows you to save all of your passwords for any site and access them with just one login. Lastpass will even generate passwords for you so that you can make sure you use different passwords for all your sites and stay secure. There’s even a mobile app so you’re never too far from your login details. If you have to access various sites and share passwords with your workmates, Lastpass is a great way to streamline your workflow.
A bit different from everything else on this list, Boomerang is actually a sort of add-on to Gmail. It can really up your email game and help you stay on top of your ever-growing inbox. You can set emails to be sent on a schedule which is very helpful if you’re working with people in other timezones or want an email to go out first thing in the morning. You can even set it to give you reminders to follow up on an email you’ve received or reminders to follow up with someone who hasn’t responded to your original email yet. Some of these features are now made redundant with Google’s Inbox, but if you don’t like Inbox (lots of reasons not to), then Boomerang might be a way to get some of those productivity updates without compromising on other functionalities. There’s even a mobile app so you can retain your email notifications on-the-go.