My Desk

Productivity Apps I Cannot Work Without

Why write an article about productivity apps?

Agreed. There’s quite a few articles on apps for work productivity and I’ve read most of them. Over the years. I have probably tested well over 200 productivity apps and furniture combinations to make my home office the most efficient I can, given the small space I have.

I share my office with my music setup (five synthesizers, Kaossilators, MIDI controllers, drum machines, mixer, amps, you get the idea.) This leaves me with a crowded desk.

Pen fetish. Do not judge.I must admit to something. I have a pen fetish. And not just any pen. Papermate Flairs. I’ve written with them since college and—apart from the lovely Montblanc my wife bought me—no other pen makes me happy to write with.

But I have a serious problem with them. I freak out inside if I possess less than two dozen. I go through them very quickly (2-3 a week) because I write and draw a lot. That explains the multiple pen jars, most of which are jammed full of Flairs.

Office Supply stores are like crack for me. I have to put spending limits on myself or I’ll convince myself that I need fourteen new notebooks, ten cases of Flairs and 150 new dry erase markers. But I digress…

Here’s the apps I have found that in combination create the ideal workflow for me.


It’s the reigning king/queen of note apps for many good reasons: dictation, OCR scanning of your handwriting, cloud sharing, privacy settings, etc. Having access to all my notes on all my computers, tablet and phone all the time is a life-saver.


I am a coffee addict and love working in coffee houses. Studies have shown that the particular sounds of coffeehouses are conducive to creativity. However, it is not always practical to work in coffeehouses for several reasons:

  1. It gets expensive
  2. There’s not always a seat and if there is…
  3. …there’s not always a seat near an outlet
  4. It can occasionally be either too loud, or you end up next to a loudmouth on cellphone

Enter Coffitivity. A simple app that recreates the sounds of a coffeehouse. It runs in the background and takes up very little processing power. It really helps. I use it on conjunction with a playlist. Through experimentation have found the perfect volume mix of coffeehouse background noise to music that perfectly replicates my favorite coffeehouse. All that’s missing are the hipster baristas, but Coffitivity found some of those for me, too!


A simple Mac app that takes full-site screenshots. I know there are some excellent Firefox plugins for this too, but they lack the options Paparazzi! offers. One of my favorite options is Delay. You set the seconds you want before the screenshot is taken. Why? With a lot of these responsive sites that have enormous, slow-loading images, you may find that making the app wait 10 seconds will allow everything to load.

Funny. We solved the multiple sites issue and replaced that problem with another problem: images dimensions that are simply too slow for mobile (and yes I know there is a way around that, but too few devs are implementing it).

OmniGraffle Pro

Sorry, Visio. You are no match for OmniGraffle Pro when it comes to making IA or UXD diagrams, especially ones that won’t put folks to sleep. This app is a dream to work with (except on iPad. Not a fan) and the community of designers who make more stencils on Graffletopia keeps the app fresh.

This list is by no means exhaustive; I also use Keynote, Adobe Illustrator, etc. but I wanted to share the productivity apps I use most often. How about you? What apps make your day?






2 responses to “Productivity Apps I Cannot Work Without”

  1. Dave Linabury Avatar

    OmniGraffle is being replaced by Sketch.