5 Awesome Productivity Apps For The iPhone

By Matthew Magain
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If, like me, you’ve succumbed to the allure of the iPhone, then you’ve no doubt also lost countless hours of sleep since the launch of the iPhone App Store. At the time of writing there are over 2,000 apps available to download, either for free or for purchase.

So whether it be to compensate for functionality that should already be present in the device, to take your productivity to the next level, or to simply convince yourself that your old phone is due to be replaced and it’s time to join the cult, we thought we’d pull together the five iPhone apps that we at SitePoint consider to be “must-have”.

While some are definitely worth paying for, others are free.

  1. NetNewsWire (FREE)

    There are a number of RSS readers available for the iPhone, but as far as I’m aware only NetNewsWire allows you to sync your reading list (and your list of articles that have been read) with an online service (NewsGator). So if you use either NetNewsWire on your desktop Mac (or NewsGator, if you’re on Windows) then you can sync your reading list between your phone and your computer. Sweet!

  2. Evernote (FREE)

    If you’ve already made the leap to collecting and collating your life trail in text, images and sound with Evernote, then adding the free iPhone version to your arsenal is a no-brainer. If you’ve yet to discover the convenience of capturing your life in an Evernote account, then the iPhone version of this app might just be enough to convince you to give it a go. Free accounts receive 40MB upload per month, and $5/month gets you 500MB/month.

  3. OmniFocus ($23.99)

    The desktop version of OmniFocus is the mother of all GTD-inspired task managers (Mac only). The iPhone version is no exception, with features like GPS-based context switching and syncing via Apple’s MobileMe or via a WebDAV server on your Mac. While it definitely has a learning curve, when migrating from other task management tools, it’s one that is worth persisting with. One notable omission is the “perspectives” view that is so useful on the desktop; hopefully this will be added in future versions.

  4. FileMagnet ($5.99)

    The inability for the iPhone to act as a USB storage device is something that has bugged many users for a while. Cries of “this functionality should be built in to the operating system” have been ignored by Apple, but not by the developer community. FileMagnet is one of a bunch of apps that are popping up to address this limitation in different ways (others include Caravan, Files and DataCase). While not perfect (FileMagnet runs into memory problems with larger files, unfortunately including many SitePoint PDFs), its slick and intuitive user interface gives it the thumbs up over the competing apps.

    One other potential hurdle — it’s a Mac-only app. Adding Windows support and improving its ability to handle larger files would elevate this app to the top of the list; hopefully the developers will tackle these issues in future releases.

  5. Note2Self ($3.99)

    While OmniFocus allows you to add photos and audio attachments to tasks, for simple voice recording, it’s overkill. Note2Self is a simple app that records audio and emails it to an email address of your choice. That’s all it does, but given the potential for what can be built on top of this one task, that’s a pretty powerful little task.

    Note2Self provides an intuitive interface for quick voice recording, ensuring your ideas can be captured at a moment’s notice. While the Jott iPhone app supposedly takes this feature to the next level by leveraging powerful audio transcription, unfortunately Jott requires registration via a telephone number in the United States and Canada (talk about limiting your audience!) so I wasn’t able to review it.

    Until Jott sets its sights beyond North America, Note2Self is an easy-to-use solution for sending myself short notes. It may even be possible to set up something similar using email filters, automator, and a speech recognition app, but I haven’t explored how feasible this is as a solution. For short notes, I don’t feel like I’d benefit that much from the automatic transcription service, but for longer purposes, like when I’m in the mood for dictating the next author contract I send out, rather than typing it out (ahem!) I can definitely see the value this feature would provide.

What are your favourite iPhone productivity apps? Let us know in the comments!

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  • sigamy

    Appigo’s ToDo is also a great task manager. It syncs with RTM or Toodledo. Has a great UI, fast data entry and doesn’t bury you in too much GTD stuff.

  • I like FileMagnet a lot as well, but like you said I look forward to when it handles larger files better. At times it can be very frustrating to freeze up when trying to read something.

    I am not sure if these are productivity apps, but I also like SplashID (although it is quite pricey, especially if you buy the companion desktop app). With passwords and usernames galore, it is helps me out to have everything in one central area.

    I also the WordPress app for my blog, in case I have that brilliant idea when I am not in the office. :)

  • I’ve found that simply using an independent email address, say for example ‘myfiles@gmail.com’ and setting it up on my iphone works the best. It’s just another mail account, and once I open the file once, it’s on my phone. They all line up nice and pretty in my ‘inbox’ and any file that is supported on the iPhone can be opened. And adding the document is as easy as emailing it to my ‘myfiles@gmail.com’ email account. From there, I can forward the files on to anyone I choose.

    One other plus – i can always access the files from any other computer as well.

    Oh – and it doesn’t cost a thing and doesn’t have to be approved by Apple.

  • For a FileMagnet replacement, try DataCase. It exposes itself as a shared drive without any pre-configuration needed or you can FTP to it, or use WebDAV over HTTP.

    I haven’t hit any memory limitations with it neither.

  • It should be noted that users wanting to sync OmniFocus on the iPhone with OmniFocus on their mac will need to use the bleeding edge beta client for mac (dubbed “sneakypeek”). It’s stable but you will be asked to update your OmniFocus install almost daily.

    I find the time it takes to launch OmniFocus on the iPhone kind of frustrating. I want to use it to quickly dump things I have in my head and I don’t like waiting for the data file to load. I am persisting with it however because the sync functionality is gold (although it also takes a long time).

    Anyone who has not yet purchased an iPhone and uses Google Reader for RSS; rest assured, Google’s iPhone version of Reader works really well too.

  • Jens Poder

    Nice list. I agree about the omnifocus slowness mentioned here. PLUS the need for at webdav account for wireless syncing really annoying.

    I’ll be checking out note2self. I looks cool.

    Is it fast?

    – Jens Poder (www.poder.dk)

  • Jens Poder

    I really like NetNemwsWire as well. Not sure that I would call it productivity enhancing. ;)

  • Xav

    I totally agree about the first 3 apps. These apps have proven great iPhone UI design as well as granting their users a very high level of consistency of data between several machines (will be even higher when the new push system is released), consequently offering a better continuity with our daily workflow. And this is so great I can’t tell.

    Concerning Note2self being in your list, I feel quite skeptical. Evernote already records audio notes and, needless to say, sync them within your evernote account and notebools.

    I’m skeptical just because Note2Self sits next to Evernote, and it seems quite superfluous to me. Would you, please, explain why those 2 apps are in your list, and how different are the uses you make out of both of them?

    2 remarks:
    – Omnifocus can be sooooo long at syncing…
    – I don’t mind about FileMagnet, as I don’t use my iPhone for USB storage. Looks good anyway.

  • It can’t act as a USB storage device ? Sounds like that’s on purpose.

  • It’s not an app (It’s a web app) but I like 37Signal’s Ta-da Lists. It’s super simple and it works. You do need access to the web to use it, so it may not be for everyone. It’s free and the mobile version (tadalists dot com slash iphone) works well. Instead of adding a bookmark, select, Add to Home Screen.

  • FYI: File Magnet now has a Windows file uploader. I agree about the larger files issue, I get the running low on memory error from time to time.

  • Stephen

    I find airsharing to be a great network sharing application for the iPhone/iPodT. I read my PDFs using it all the time. Turning sharing on or off is a snap, accessing the shared space is extremely easy from Mac, Linux, or Windows.