Happy New Year peeps! How have you been? I’ve been great, brewing a lot goodness inside. New year, same me, different goals. You?
What? You’re worried about the title? No need to. You guessed it, no ‘extracurricular’ activities today, we’re having a lecture. It’s quite sunny outside, with no rain expected (Are those sighs I’m hearing?) 😄
Kenya is among the leading African countries that actively use smartphones and the internet. I remember in the 90s and early 2000s when cell phones used to cost an arm & a leg. Actually close to the price of a ‘fayfteh by hadred’ plot in Kamulu today. But technology has advanced, as you can get a pretty decent smartphone for a cool Kes. 5,000. As a result, millions of apps have been created to help us perform a wide array of tasks. I came up with a list of personal favourites that help me a lot in my day-to-day life (you won’t find Tinder here) as you will see. You may have come across some and I need to mention that the list is not in any way exhaustive. I also may have a slight bias towards android devices because that’s what I mainly use but most of them are available on Steve Jobs’ devices as well. Let’s learn!
To-Do Lists, Calendars & Task Management apps
I love having to-do lists because they help me plan my meetings better, and have a structure for the day, the week, the month or even the year. Google Calendar is what I use the most; I can keep track of everything from reports I need to submit, to meetings I need to attend. If you’re serious in campus, in a demanding job, or you’re plain OCD like I am, you’ll get overwhelmed with so much work that multitasking might be an issue. Set reminders about meetings, events, birthdays, monthly/yearly anniversaries (thank me later), important holidays and you’ll never forget a thing. I also use Timetune to help me manage tasks and it also helps save time. I have created routines for each day and the app will remind me to do what, when, at which particular time and for how long. E.g. you can add a timetable if you have classes and even a diet reminder. The possibilities are endless.
Todoist is also another powerful app that works similarly to TimeTune. Other alternatives are Trello, Wunderlist and Any.do. These apps are particularly important because you can invite/involve friends, colleagues as well as clients, depending on your nature of tasks and collaborate efficiently all in real time.
Document Processing Apps
Word processing programs (e.g. Microsoft Word), spreadsheet programs (e.g. Microsoft Excel) and presentation programs (e.g. Microsoft PowerPoint) have been widely used over the years. In recent years, apps have also been created to enable the user to create, open or edit these documents. I’ve used Microsoft’s Word, Excel and PowerPoint; I have also used Polaris Office and WPS Office+PDF too. These apps are numerous. I personally use Google’s Docs, Sheets, Slides, PDF Viewer and Forms for one reason, cloud sync & storage. The collaborative strength can’t be emphasized enough too. The power of simultaneous working on documents comes through a lot.
Some* modern-day printers have Bluetooth printing and Wi-Fi printing capability. This enables you to print documents and pictures effortlessly from your mobile devices. These printers will usually come with free apps you can download. Once you’ve connected to the printer (via Wi-Fi/Bluetooth); you can print via your smartphone or tablet. I have a HP printer at home and I have HP Smart (Printer Remote) installed on my devices. Another great app is Cloud Print by Google. It’s outstanding because with it I can add multiple printers to my list, regardless of the printer model and print from anywhere as long as my Wi-Fi/network printers are connected with Google Cloud Print. Another good alternative is StarPrint-Mobile Print App.
*Note that not all printers are capable of wireless printing.
Scanning is basically converting a document into digital format and storing it for later reference. Or put simply, taking a photo. Most people do so with their phones, save to their gallery and they’re happy. Using your default camera app to ‘scan’ might be a bit tedious however; dark or blurry images, cropping nightmares etc. You may opt to use apps specifically tailored for scanning. I mainly use CamScanner. After capture, it really refines the image, brightens it even in low light and even automatically crops the document quite accurately. You can then scan to a file or email in the format you prefer (JPEG, PDF, TIFF etc).
I mainly use Google Keep to take my notes. I can use it both offline and online. Keep is quite a powerful tool especially because notes are automatically saved and synced once I go online. I can create to-do lists, actual checklists, add reminders to my notes, add images, audio clips and even invite other users to collaborate on a specific note. If I see a website I like I can save it to Keep and append notes to it. I can customize my notes to have different colour schemes and also categorize according to my preference. Alternatives you may have come across are apps like Evernote and Microsoft’s OneNote.
Cloud Sync & Backup Apps
Backup is one of the most important aspects in mobile technology. They really come through for you in the event of loss, failure or theft of your device. Whereas external storages e.g. mem cards are some of the repositories for your backup information, in the case of theft or damage, you will still incur loss. That’s where these apps come into play. I use Google Drive because it’s reliable, so extensive and flexible. You have free 15GB of space once you sign in with your Google account and you can choose what to upload and sync from your mobile device. I like it because Google Sheets, Google Docs, Google Forms, Google Photos etc sync automatically into your Google Drive. You can store almost anything here. Audio, video, software, documents, compressed folders (ZIP files) etc. A good alternative is of course Dropbox although it has a maximum free space of 2 GB for free accounts. An Apple iOS alternative is iCloud.
Finance & Budgeting Apps
Everyone should keep track of their finances, very important. I have let a lot of money slip ‘through the cracks’ both knowingly and unknowingly. Using these apps, I have kept track of my money on a huge scale. Of course these apps won’t stop your overspending (only you have that power) but you’re able to see how much you’re spending over a certain period of time and what exactly you’re spending it on. I currently use Monefy but I had previously installed Money Manager, a good alternative. Monefy has good features you can ‘deposit’ your amounts and then deduct as you spend. You’ll see how much you spend on booze, bills, food etc. and see the remaining balances. You’re able to set a password to prevent unauthorized access, I also have personalized my currency to the Kenya Shilling (Kes.) and you can also export your data to an Excel sheet. Using Monefy, you can also connect to your Google Drive account. I have my information synced across multiple devices too.
Calculator.co.ke – This app is mainly maintained by the guys behind the site with the same name. With it, you can calculate A LOT. Ranging from loan calculation, water bills, electric bills, PAYE/net salary calculation after tax, import levies etc to pregnancy due dates! Kudos to these guys, really.
MPESA Management Apps
I mainly use Safaricom’s M-Ledger to analyze my MPESA transactions. It’s very helpful in accounting because you can pull statements from as far back as six months and keep track of how many transactions you made (sent & received) either per individual, per month, per day etc. Quite handy.
MPESA Cost Calculator is also another app in this category but only to quickly calculate pay-bill, till number and withdraw costs.
We’re living in a digital age where we’re seeing less and less of paper. Digital signatures are becoming more and more a reality. The advantages of this are pretty huge. I have used DocuSign, where you can upload and sign documents or have other parties sign as well. All this is done without physically being there i.e. parties don’t have to be physically there to sign a document. The app has free services and premium ones as well. A good alternative is SignEasy.
These are not your basic alarms that you can just hit snooze and resume dreaming. The reason I call them ‘intelligent’ is because, my fren, you will wake up… or break your phone, you choose. If you’re not a morning person, they really help you be punctual. I use Alarmy if I really need to be somewhere and there’s a risk of oversleeping. This app allows you to set a normal alarm, but instead of turning it off/hitting snooze, it will require you to perform a complex task for it to go off. These range from solving a math problem, entering a complex code, or even an activity like shaking the phone 20 times to dismiss the alarm! This can be your enemy or friend (depending on how you see it) but it has helped me a lot.
It doesn’t hurt to learn a new skill. Besides, knowledge is power. I have used Udemy and Khan Academy to learn a lot. Some relate to a course you’re taking in school or just for career knowledge. Create an account and you’ll be exposed to various tutorials in various fields e.g. computer science, psychology, political science, economics, digital-marketing to mathematics et cetera .
If you need to learn the basics of another language, Duolingo can help you with that. Sometimes you may just need quick translations and that’s where Google Translate can come in. Alternatives are the translation dictionaries e.g. German-English dictionaries. There’s also a Dothraki app for those interested.😆
Resume Building Apps
I once used Easy Resume Builder-CV Maker to create a quick CV and I was quite impressed with the results. You don’t have to do much just key in your details in the required fields section and the app generates your CV in seconds based on modern templates and formats used today. It can save you a lot of time and save your document as PDF and email it. There are many alternatives in the Play Store/App Store too.
Business Card Builders
Apps like this can save you a lot, especially when designers ask for huge amounts to make business cards for you and you’re short of cash. Business Card Maker & Creator is a powerful app that performs this. You can choose from a variety of designs and choose even available logos or import custom ones as well. You then export to a preferred format ready to take to your printer.
Business Plan creators
Business Plan Quick Builder. This app does just that; quickly assists you to develop a business plan from scratch using some of the basic structures available. Just like the two apps above, you just enter data in the fields provided and voila! In seconds you have your business plan, ready to export/print. An alternative is Business Plan Quick.
They don’t particularly fall into the productivity category but they’re worth mentioning. These include taxi-hailing apps (Uber,Taxify,Little etc), navigation apps (GoogleMaps, Waze etc), news apps, gallery protection apps (Vault, Keepsafe, Secure Gallery etc), dictionaries, travel, hotel and booking apps (TripAdvisor, AirBnB, Booking.com), flight trackers (e.g. Flight Radar 24), shipment trackers (e.g. 17Track), unit and currency converters.
These are just some of the top apps you may come across that will assist you greatly in improving your productivity. I advise you to visit your specific app store and search for anything you can think of. Anything. You’ll be surprised by the results.
Is there an app you feel should be on this list? Let me know below!
(Image sources: Google Play Store)