37 Super Simple Productivity Tools that Save You Time

Danny Schreiber
Danny Schreiber / Published January 14, 2014

Remember when a teacher first showed you the long way to solving a problem and then weeks later, just after you had mastered the method, showed you the short cut? It’s a bittersweet moment—you’re glad you’ve learned the new skill, but you’re a bit frustrated you didn’t learn the fast way first. That same sensation can be had when finding a time-saving app, especially when it’s a simple one that puts an end to a repeated task.

Those are the apps you’ll find on the list below—they’re not loaded with features, but they do one thing extremely well.

Manager Your Files Faster

Alfred Mac app makes it quick and easy to search for files online or on your Mac. It also offers a handy calculator, dictionary and a few other simple tools. (Free) — Similar: Quicksilver and LaunchBar

Found Mac app opens up on a double tap of your control key to quickly let you find files across your Mac and personal cloud services, including Dropbox, Evernote, SkyDrive, Google Drive/Docs, and Gmail (attachments). (Free)

Cloud Mac app instantly uploads your file or just snapped screenshot and adds the image’s URL to your clipboard. (Free) — Similar: Jumpshare, Dragshare, TinyGrab, Imgup, GrabBox and Upshot


Dropzone Mac app sits in your menu bar, ready to receive a file with one click and send it to the destination of your choice. ($9.99) — Similar: DragonDrop

Unclutter Mac app helps you do just that to your desktop, giving you a handy place to dump whatever digital items end up there. ($4.99)

Yoink Mac app makes the drag and drop of files between windows, app, spaces and fullscreen apps easy with the assistance of a tiny window that fades in and out. The window holds your files until you’re ready to drag them to their final destination. ($3.99) — Similar: Dropshelf

Instashare Mac, iOS and Android app makes transferring files between two devices easy. It’s a new take on Apple AirDrop, which doesn't connect with Android devices. (Free)

Get it Quick

TextExpander Mac app lets you create custom keyboard shortcuts for frequently-used text and pictures. “I couldn’t live without TextExpander making my repetitive typing tasks trivial,” web developer Brett Terpstra said on his blog. “With the fill-in snippets and ability to run shell scripts, it’s a productivity monster.” (Free trial; $34.95) — Similar: aText, Typinator and TypeIt4Me


PopClip Mac app comes into play when you select text with your Mouse on your mac, doing so allows you to access context-specific actions such as copy and paste or dictionary definition. ”Once you get the hang of it, you don’t want to work without it,” Terpstra said. ($2.99)

Glui lets you to take a screenshot, annotate it and then instantly upload it to Dropbox, providing you the share link. ($6.99) — Similar: Snapnote and Skitch

Rapporative for Gmail eliminates a social network search to learn about a new contact in your inbox by automatically providing links to their accounts. (Free)

Canned Responses in Gmail lets you save an email message or reply and instantly use it with the click of two buttons. (Free)


ClipMenu Mac app allows you to manage your clipboard history and access it with the stroke of a keyboard shortcut. (Free) — Similar: Jumpcut and Flycut

Customize Your Computer

Fluid Mac app cuts down your browser tabs by turning your most frequent visit websites into standalone Mac apps. “Then instead of hunting through your browser maze, you can just Command + Tab your way to the stuff you need most,” Read Write’s Taylor Hatmaker wrote in a productivity app roundup. (Free)


BetterTouchTool Mac app allows you to customize gestures for your Magic Mouse, Macbook Trackpad and Magic Trackpad. But that’s not all. You can configure commands from your iOS device, too. “It’s my top-number-one-double-plus-awesome pick for 2013,” Terpstra said in his year-end round-up of apps. (Free)

Caffeine Mac app prevents your computer from automatically going to sleep, dimming the screen or starting screen savers—a must app for long Skype calls. (Free)

DwellClick Mac app lets you click without clicking—just point with your mouse or trackpad and the app clicks for you. (15.99)


Divvy Mac app makes “divvying” up your screen with more than one window an exact science versus a corner click and drag parade. ($13.99) — Similar: Spectacle, Cinch, SizeUp, Window Magnet and BetterSnapTool

Right Zoom Mac app makes the green zoom button work as intended—to make the app fill your screen. (Free)

Shortstop Mac app turns off global keyboard shortcuts with just one click so you can make sure the ones you’ve set up for your current application aren’t overridden. ($2.99)

Default Folder

Default Folder Mac app enhances your open and save dialog boxes. “Once you’ve used Default Folder X for a while, OS X’s stock file-navigation dialogs feel crippled and half-baked,” MacWorld’s Dan Frakes said in a review. ($34.95)

Padlock Mac app lets you lock your computer with a quick keyboard shortcut. Perfect for coffee shop dwellers. (2.99)


Bartender Mac app makes more use of your menu bar, letting you add more shortcuts but keep a clean look. ($15)

HyperDock Mac app enhances your Dock by showing previews of the app’s open windows. (Free)

Shortcat Mac app calls itself “Spotlight for the user interface” because it lets you completely control your apps with only your keyboard. ($16)

Rule the Internet

1Password Mac and Windows app keeps your password management simple and secure. ($34.99) — Similar: LastPass

Pocket Chrome Extension cuts saving an article to just one click of its icon. (Free) — *Similar: Readability and Instapaper

Sugarbox offers real-time collaboration on any website with a click of a button. (Free)

Buffer Chrome Extension gives you the ability to share the link on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn (or schedule an update) on any page with just a click of its icon. (Free)

I’m Away Mac app changes your status across four instant messenger apps—Skype, iChat / Messages, and Adium—with one click. ($2.99)

Xmarks Mac and Windows app syncs bookmarks and browsing history between Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer. (Free)

Productivity Potpourri

BeamApp for Mac sends your ongoing activity from your Mac to the iPhone and back. One handy use case: grab a phone number from an email and “beam” it to instantly dial it on your phone. (Free)


QuickCal Mac and iOS app lets you use natural language—breakfast tomorrow at 5pm, for example—to add events to iCal, Google Calendar and BusyCal. ($2.99 for Mac, $1.99 for iOS)

f.lux Mac and Windows app assures you’ll never need to mess with your computer’s brightness settings again, making the color of your display adapt to the time of day. (Free)

CheatSheet Mac app shows you all the active short cuts of your current application. (Free)

Ecamm Call Recorder is a Skype add-on that allows you to record a conversation with one-click. ($29.95)

RescueTime Mac or Windows app lets you look at how you spend your screen time—it tracks the time you spend on applications and websites, giving you a picture of your day’s productivity. ($9 per month)

What Simple App Saves You Time?

What app keeps its functionality simple but saves you time? We know there are dozens more that could be on this list. What are the apps you would add?

Credits: Image via Harvard Homemaker

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