Time is money, and the more time you are able to spend on things that make you money, the more Benjamins you’ll be able to stack. We’re nuts about productivity here because we know we all have the same amount of time per day… it’s simply up to us to maximize that time. We’re also in different time zones and states, and in order for us to work as a team, we have to have the right blogging tools to make sure we’re not duplicating the other person’s efforts.
Work smarter, not harder, right?
Here are our favorite 45 apps that help us get more done:
Collaborating, Brainstorming, and Productivity
1. The Hit List (Mac)
I use this every day to organize my to-dos across multiple projects. It’s a great way to get things out of your inbox and into a place that is much easier to find.
This is an excellent project management app. We’ve used Asana in the past and didn’t like it nearly as much. Kathleen has used (and likes) Basecamp, but for two users, Moovia is free, and it’s robust enough to link to Google Drive, schedule meetings, and compile your to-do list across a variety of projects.
3. Google Drive
Working in Google Drive is an excellent way to share ideas with people you’re not in the same room with. We use it to draft posts, track money, build presentations — it’s fantastic.
Do you brainstorm with mind maps? This is an awesome online version of mind maps. If you think this way, creating a mind map is a very useful way to brainstorm and collaborate with your team.
If you’re sitting at your computer anyway, you might as well start a Google hangout! That way, you’ll meet with real people instead of voices coming from your phone. It’s a great way to connect with your colleagues while saving your typing hands for other work.
This is a great take on the Pomodoro method, which states that humans can only focus for so long (25 minutes) before they need a five-minute break. If you work from home, you need the external beep of the timer to tell you it’s time to step away from the computer every once in a while.
7. Scrivener (Mac & PC)
If you have something big to write, Scrivener will help you organize it. I LOVE it for outlining content because once you write your outline, you can fill in the content, then organize it once you’ve hit a writing block. You can even use it to organize your blog posts.
8. Pages (Mac)
Apple’s Pages are like the diet version of Microsoft Word. Sometimes you just want the streamlined thing, and I’ve found that since I’ve started using Pages, posts come together a lot more quickly. I can’t say why, but I like using this product a lot.
This might seem odd to put in the writing section, but it shouldn’t be. Most of us can talk faster than we can type, and Dragon makes it easy. I won’t lie — there’s definitely a learning curve here — but it’s worth it because 1000 words can come together in 20 minutes. You do have to factor in time for editing, though because you’ll find you have more “speak-os” than typos.
Draft is the polar opposite of all the fancy tools. If you need blank space to chill out, and just get to writing, Draft is your friend.
11. Google Docs
I know I mentioned Google Drive already, but I would be remiss if I neglected to mention Google Docs as a powerful writing tool. Sure, you can’t easily change case like you can with Word and Pages, but that’s a small price to pay for the robust linking ability that only Google can provide. I’m writing this post in Google Docs, and I’m constantly amazed that every single time I link to a product name, Google finds it without interrupting the flow of writing.
Grammarly is a Chrome extension (wait, do we need to take a minute and tell you to use Google Chrome?) that helps you look like you know what you’re talking about. It’s pretty cool, but I’ve found a few things I don’t love: if Grammarly doesn’t like the way you spelled something, they won’t link to it, which adds a step when you’re writing for the web. They’re also not consistent lovers of the serial comma, which is a bigger flaw, because I don’t think the serial comma is up for debate. Example sentence that doesn’t have a serial comma: “My biggest influences are my parents, Ayn Rand and God.” That’s quite clearly giving the wrong impression (unless you have some weird combination of parents!) and you could save yourself the trouble of people thinking you’re crazy simply by adding the serial comma. That said, Grammarly rocks when you’re the editor of a blog with multiple writers because it’ll fix some errors you didn’t catch. Just watch out for that comma.
Social Media Enhancement
Tweepi is great for bulk following in Twitter. You can follow a list or a user’s followers. It’s much faster than using Twitter itself, and you pay for it by tweeting about it. You can manage multiple Twitter accounts this way, and you can build your followers quickly.
Once you’ve followed people en masse using Tweepi, SocialBro will carve out the keepers from the dead weight. This powerful tool will quickly analyze your Twitter accounts and tell you how often people tweet (to help you get rid of over-tweeters clogging your feed), people you’re following with social media street cred, dead accounts you’re following, and in-depth analysis of who’s following you (which advertisers love). Best idea? Follow people with Tweepi and then use SocialBro to decide who to keep/lose.
15. Board Booster
Board Booster will help you build your Pinterest audience quickly. If you’re not already on Pinterest, you need to be, even if you think you’re not the kind of company that would benefit from having a Pinterest presence.
Keyword Research & “Stealing Like an Artist”
Type the URL of a competitor into SiteAlerts and it will tell you some of the keywords that the site is ranking for. It’ll also tell you the relative size of your competitor. How much data is there? What tools are they using? What are people searching for to land on them?
There are two options here: keyword research and URL research. Keyword research means you’re finding out the most shared content for a particular keyword. When you search for someone’s URL, you’ll find the most shared content on their site. This is extremely valuable.
This tells you as much as you can know about someone’s website without having access to their Google Analytics. Traffic numbers, sources, geography, referring sites, social, and more.
This is a slightly easier-to-use version of Google’s keyword tool. Type the keyword you’re thinking about using (“apps to boost productivity” was mine) and it’ll give you alternatives (they liked “increase” more than “boost,” which is why I changed it here!).
20. Webmaster Tools
I like Webmaster tools much more than Google Analytics, especially when it comes to finding inspiration for more content. Webmaster tools tells you very quickly what you want to know about your content. Sure, analytics is more robust (and I swear, I can’t live without it!) but the simplicity of Webmaster tools keeps me going back.
Quora is great — it’s excellent for just regular browsing, and top notch when it comes to figuring out whether your content will resonate. Find a question, and answer it with a blog post. Alternatively, you can ask a question on Quora, compile the answers on your blog, and link back to people.
22. This Awesome List of 151 Blog Post Ideas
Matt put together an amazing list of inspiring ideas for where to find your next blog post. Check it out!
Have a keyword and no idea where to go with it? Use the content idea generator. It’s fun. Their suggestion for the title of this post is excellent, too.
Prozely is a content marketplace, featuring hundreds of high-quality Australian writers across a broad range of industries.
iStock is the gold standard for stock images, and their price reflects that. However, if you need a specific image in a short period of time, you can choose from a huge variety of very high-quality photos and illustrations.
123rf is the cheaper version of iStock, and it is neither robust nor will it get you what you want in the shortest amount of time. But it is inexpensive! And it'll work well if you have more time than money.
Nothing beats free, and if you’re long on time and short on cash, head over to this list of actually-free, royalty-free images available around the internet. Free images work best when you’re trying to evoke a feeling instead of describing a place. By that, I mean, their search engines are crappy, but their images are lovely.
You need to add pizzaz (I accidentally wrote “pizzas,” and while I think you need to add pizzas to a lot of places, your blog post probably isn’t one of them) to your images, no matter where you found it. PicMonkey makes it easy to add your logo and a few words about your image that will hopefully inspire social sharing.
Canva is a little harder to use than PicMonkey, but their images often look better, so try them both! See which image-editing software you like most. Canva will help you with ideas on where to put text on your images, and how to size images for the different social networks.
If you want to level up, use Adobe’s creative cloud. Illustrator is a thousand times more powerful and a thousand times more robust than PicMonkey and Canva. It’s also a jillion times more expensive — a year of PicMonkey Royale is $33, and a month of Illustrator is $29 — so consider this as an option when the web-based tools aren’t enough.
From podcasting on the go to adding music and sounds to your show, there are few apps more critical than BossJock. Made for the iPad or your phone, plug in a microphone and you’re off and podcasting. The app includes easy-to-use sound controls (with a neat music noise reduction so you can talk over a playing bed of music or speech) and big buttons for all of your sound cues.
Ever wish for the internet equivalent of live television when news breaks in your field? We’re just beginning to use Meerkat when the Fed announces interest rate moves, breaking news hits from Wall Street….or just to say hi to fans in a different manner. Just remember….you aren’t recording using this app (unlike Vine)….Meerkat is live the moment you press the button!
Music to Listen to While Working
I am perhaps the very last person to this party, but I love Spotify. It’s fantastic for finding new music (although their search feature is weird and let’s not talk about how hard it is to build your own playlist!) and getting me energized after a long stretch of work.
Songza is for people who don’t really have an opinion about music. That’s Kathleen. It has this little concierge thing where it says, oh hey, it’s Thursday morning, what are you in the mood for? With four clicks, you’re listening to music already!
8tracks is what would happen if you listened to Songza, decided you liked it quite a bit, but you wished you could build your own playlist. I find myself wondering if I’m listening to a playlist put together by a moody 13-year-old, then I remember what it’s like to be 13, and realize that yes, I probably am.
I feel like Pandora doesn’t need an introduction here — but I also don’t think I can talk about music to listen to while working without including it — so, listen to Pandora. There. Fun fact: Pandora was the DJ at my wedding.
If you want to work in something other than complete silence, but you don’t want to be distracted by lyrics or anything really musical, Focus@Will is right for you. It’ll give you an hour of music, then it’ll ring a bell, meaning, “Hey! Get up!”
Is your inbox getting unwieldy? Mine too. Unroll.me is great for turning eleventy emails into one subscription email. Sign up every once in a while and let it help you weed out emails that aren’t giving you any value.
Inbox by Google is a new way to look at your mail. If you’re not using it already, let me warn you: you might hate it before you love it. And if you’re one of those people who cannot stand seeing the (27) when you go to your regular Gmail inbox, then you need to understand that once you go Inbox, there’s no going back (unless you need to organize your contacts, which Inbox won’t let you do yet). Inbox bundles emails into different categories so your mailbox is never overwhelming.
Do you ever wonder if your emails are getting opened? Wonder no more! Signals will tell you when someone has opened your email. It’s both creepy and awesome. Actually it’s not any creepier than the time stamp feature on Facebook that tells you precisely when someone read your message and their lack of response means that yes, they are ignoring you.
Yesware is very similar to signals, but with one remarkable difference: email templates. Do you pitch companies? Reach out to strangers? Send one version of an email to 290 different people? Well, copy and paste no more! Yesware has templates that are easy to modify, and a dream to use. Plus, they’ll also tell you when your emails get opened, which can be fun, and also very distracting. Try out both Signals and Yesware, but for your sanity, only keep one.
Non-Post Blog Content
Explainer videos are a neat way to get your point across, and VideoScribe gives you the ability to make hand-drawn videos. The learning curve is steep here, but the effects are so fun. Write a script, read the script, find images that will work, then upload the whole thing to YouTube and prepare to be a viral sensation.
Powtoon is like a hybrid between slideshows and YouTube videos, and their learning curve isn’t nearly as steep. However, their final product is only available in Flash, which is limiting to iPhone users.
Another explainer video site! This one leans toward cutesy, so if you’re working on hard-hitting journalism, you may find that Wideo won’t serve your needs.
45. Keynote (Mac)
Keynote is so much better than PowerPoint, and I’m not sure why. They’re essentially the same thing, but presentations look better (waaaay better) on Keynote. Plus, if you start making presentations, you can start using SlideShare, which is both a place where you can upload a PDF and it’ll turn it into something embeddable, and a social network for sharing presentations. End all your presentations with a call to action (subscribe to the blog, perhaps?) and you’ll increase your breadth.
That's it! Use these tools and look like a polished, professional blogger… even if you're just starting out.