The best productivity apps in 2024

The best productivity apps in 2024

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The premise of this article’s headline is nonsense, sure, but it isn’t clickbait—I promise. 

You’re almost certainly here because you searched for “best productivity apps.” I understand that impulse. You want to get more done in less time, which is about as universal a feeling as humans can have at work. The problem: productivity is deeply personal, and the words “productivity tools” mean a lot of different things to different people. What works for you may or may not work for me, which is why—after over a decade of writing about productivity software—I don’t really believe there are objectively “best” productivity apps. 

I do, however, think there are categories of tools that can help you become a better version of yourself. Some of them work better for more people than others, and not everyone needs an app from every category. Knowing what kinds of apps exist and what you should look for in an app is more important than knowing what the “best” app in that category is. 

Having said that, you’re here for software recommendations, not my personal reflections on the nature of productivity. So I’m going to go over the main kinds of productivity apps I think most humans who use electronic devices at work should know about. I’ll explain why I think each category is important, point to an app or two that I think will work well for most people, and then offer links to other options if you want to learn more. 

Just remember: the specific app doesn’t matter. The best productivity app is the one that works best for you. The most important thing is having a system. Sound good? Let’s jump in. 

How we evaluate and test apps

All of our best apps roundups are written by humans who’ve spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. We spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it’s intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We’re never paid for placement in our articles from any app or for links to any site—we value the trust readers put in us to offer authentic evaluations of the categories and apps we review. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog.

The best productivity apps at a glance 

Category

Best for

Pricing

Todoist

To-do list app

Balancing power and simplicity

Free version available; paid version from $5/month

Google Calendar

Calendar app

Seamless integration with other calendar services

Free with a Google account; Business Starter for Google Workspace starts at $6/user/month

Reclaim.ai

AI scheduling assistant

Protecting your habits

Free with a Google account; Business Starter for Google Workspace starts at $6/user/month

Microsoft OneNote

Note-taking app

A freeform (and free) experience

Free for up to 5GB of notes; $1.99/month for 100GB

Freedom

Focus app

Blocking distractions on all your devices at once

$3.33/month (billed annually) or $8.99/month (billed monthly); $199 for a lifetime subscription

Streaks (iPhone) / HabitNow (Android)

Habit tracker app

Building and maintaining habit streaks

Streaks: $4.99 for the app; HabitNow: Free for up to 7 habits, $9.99 for unlimited habits and  more features

Pocket

Read it later app

Easily saving articles for later

Free plan available; $4.99/month for Pocket Premium

Loom

Screen recording app

Quickly recording your screen to share with others

Free for 25 videos up to 5 minutes; Business plans from $12.50/month/user

1Password

Password manager app

Easy password management across devices

$36/year for Personal account; $60/year for Families (up to five accounts)

The best productivity app for organizing to-do lists

Todoist

We all have things we need to do—at work and in the rest of our lives. The worst place you could store those things, in my opinion, is in your mind. It’s just stressful: you’ll remember, at random moments, that there’s something you were supposed to be doing, and that memory will result in panic. Writing down everything you need to do allows you to make a plan and (crucially) means you don’t have to panic. 

Not everyone benefits from a dedicated to-do list app—some of the most productive people I know prefer sticky notes, email inboxes, or even spreadsheets. I think that’s great, so long as you have some place to record the things you need to do.

Todoist, our pick for the best to-do list app for balancing power and simplicity

I think that Todoist, shown above, is a great to-do list app for most people. It’s easy to use but also offers a lot of features. It can also be installed on basically any device you can imagine, meaning your to-do list is always available. It allows you to assign due dates to tasks, sort tasks by project, or even view a project using a Kanban board. You don’t have to worry about those features if you don’t want to, though, which is why I think it’s a great starting point for someone who needs a to-do list. 

Todoist also integrates with Zapier, which means you can automatically create tasks in Todoist whenever something happens in one of your favorite apps. Check out some ideas for automating Todoist with Zapier, or get started with one of these templates.

If Todoist doesn’t work for you, though, check out our list of the best to-do list apps—it’s got a wide variety of recommendations. I, personally, use TickTick because I like how easy it is to add tasks. It also makes our list of the best to-do list apps if you have ADHD. And I can’t stop saying good things about Things for sheer simplicity on Apple devices. Find a tool you like—and that you remember to actually open. There’s nothing less useful than an app full of tasks you never look at.

Todoist pricing: Free version available; paid version from $5/month.

Once you’ve picked your to-do list app, make the most of it with automation, so you can easily add tasks that come in by email, team chat apps, project management tools, or notes. Read more about automating your to-do list.

The best productivity app for managing your calendar

Google Calendar

There are only so many hours in the day, unfortunately, which means you have to budget them. A calendar is how you do that. You could use a paper wall calendar, sure, but a calendar app lets you invite other people to an event. Also, in a world with arguably too many meetings, calendar apps give you a useful place to store the link to your Zoom call or meeting location. 

Google Calendar, our pick for the best free calendar app for seamless integration with other calendar services.

I think that Google Calendar, shown above, is the right calendar app for most people—particularly people who already use Gmail. Google Calendar is easy to load on any device, lets you see your calendar in several different views, and makes it easy to invite anyone else to any event or meeting you happen to plan. I could write multiple articles on Google Calendar features (and I have). This app does everything any other calendar app can do, and then some, all while being pretty easy to use.

Want more out of your calendar? With Zapier, you can connect Google Calendar to your favorite apps to do things like create calendar appointments from spreadsheets. Learn more about how to automate Google Calendar, or get started with one of these pre-made workflows.

If Google Calendar doesn’t work for you, though, check out our list of the best calendar apps for more options. Microsoft Outlook is a solid alternative, as is the Calendar app that comes with all Apple devices. 

Calendly, our pick for the best meeting scheduler app for simplified scheduling

I’d also consider looking into some kind of meeting scheduling app. These apps let anyone sign up for appointments with you, which is particularly useful if you have a meeting-heavy calendar. Calendly, shown above, is a solid option, with a lot of customizability and the ability to sync with Google Calendar. You can check out our list of the best meeting schedulers for a more complete rundown of Calendly and other options. 

Google Calendar pricing: Free with a Google account; Business Starter for Google Workspace, which includes all Google apps, starts at $6/user/month with a one-year commitment.

Once you choose a calendar app, take it to the next level. With automation, you can do things like automatically turn calendar events into tasks on your to-do list or use forms to create calendar events. Here’s how you can bring context to your calendar by connecting other apps.

The best productivity app for AI-powered scheduling

Reclaim.ai

If you have a challenging time sticking to habits, like your morning meditation or that brisk afternoon walk, an AI scheduling assistant is a great way to help you get back on track without scheduling headaches. 

Reclaim, our pick for the best AI scheduling assistant for protecting your habits.

For this, Reclaim.ai, shown above, does the trick. It’s a great option that looks good, works even better, and offers the right balance between power and complexity. 

There are plenty of other options, though. Check out our list of the best AI scheduling assistants. Try an AI scheduling assistant for a few weeks, and see if it helps you spend your time more productively. You might be surprised by how quickly you notice a difference in your productivity. 

Reclaim.ai pricing: Free for 2 calendars, 3 habits, and limited integrations and features; paid plans start at $8/user/month for unlimited calendars, unlimited habits, more integrations, and more advanced features.

There’s no shortage of AI-powered tools designed to boost your productivity in the workplace. There are apps for chatbots, content creation, note-taking, and even email inbox management. Here’s a list of AI productivity apps that will change the way you work.

The best productivity app for taking notes

Microsoft OneNote

I’m constantly taking notes: before and during meetings; while researching an article; even while brewing beer. And I think most people have some class of information they’ll need to reference later that doesn’t quite meet the threshold of a “document.” Who wants a sprawling series of folders with all of that information? 

This, to me, is what note-taking apps are for: quickly writing things down so you can read them later and (hopefully) follow up. They also work well as a personal journal or a place to store files related to a particular project. 

Microsoft OneNote, our pick for the best note-taking app that offers a free plan.

Microsoft OneNote, shown above, is probably the note-taking app most people should try first. It’s free—so long as you don’t run out of OneDrive storage—and it gives you all kinds of ways to organize notes, from notebooks to sections to sub-headers. It also has powerful search, which includes the scanned contents of any images or PDFs you might drop in a note. 

With OneNote’s Zapier integration, you can automate OneNote to eliminate the hassle of moving information between apps. For example, Zapier can automatically create new notes in OneNote whenever you have a new task, note, or calendar event in another app. Here are a few pre-made workflows to get you started.

But OneNote isn’t the only option. You should check out our list of the best note-taking apps for more choices. If you loved Evernote back in the day, you might like Joplin, which is a completely free and open source replacement for that app. And I personally love Obsidian, which turns your notes into an entire database, complete with internal links and an extensive plugin collection. There are a lot of good choices out there—find something that lets you write things down and dig them up later.

OneNote pricing: Free for up to 5GB of notes; $1.99/month for 100GB.

The best productivity app for blocking distractions

Freedom

I’ve never tried to work in the middle of an amusement park, but I imagine it would be distracting. The internet is worse. Everything you could possibly imagine is available, all delivered by brilliant engineers who are doing everything they can to keep you looking at more and more and more of it. It’s understandable if you have trouble getting stuff done in that context, which is why focus apps that block distractions are so helpful.

Freedom, our pick for the best focus app for blocking distractions on all your devices at once

Freedom is a great tool for the job. It runs on every platform and can block distractions—both websites and apps—on all of your devices. That means you can’t, for example, block TikTok on your computer only to pick up your phone and look at it there. With Freedom, you can set up multiple block lists, and then start timers for any of them. Check out our list of the best focus apps for our full rundown of the Freedom app or to explore other options.

I personally love Serene, which combines distraction blocking with a sort of to-do list. You say what you want to do and how long it will take, and then you start a distraction-free session to work on it. There’s also Cold Turkey Blocker, which can optionally prevent you from changing the time settings on your computer as a way of working around the block you set up. You’ve got more choices, though, particularly if you’re a Mac user. 

Remember: the internet is distracting on purpose. There’s no shame in using a tool to build discipline. 

Freedom pricing: $3.33/month billed annually or $8.99/month billed monthly; $199 for a lifetime subscription

The best productivity app for tracking habits

Streaks (iPhone), HabitNow (Android)

My dentist told me I should brush my teeth twice a day, and I believed him, but I tended to only brush at night. I used a habit tracker to change that. 

These applications might sound similar to a to-do list, but they’re very different. You can’t add individual tasks to a habit tracker—only recurring ones. The idea is to set an intention to do something regularly, and then keep track of how often you regularly do it. Eventually, you have a streak going, which psychologically motivates you to keep it up until the habit becomes second nature. Don’t laugh—it works. 

Streaks, our pick for the best habit tracker for iPhone users.

We recommend checking out Streaks, shown above, for iPhone and HabitNow, below, for Android. Both apps live on your phone, which is the place you’re most likely to look. They also let you create a list of habits you’d like to build, remind you about those intentions, and display your progress in various ways. 

HabitNow, our pick for the best habit tracker for Android users

They’re not the only options, however; check out our list of the best habit tracker apps for more ideas. Also keep in mind that some to-do lists have habit-tracking capabilities built right in. I, personally, use TickTick‘s built-in habit tracker—I love it. And some people use a paper calendar for tracking a simple habit—just add an X every day you stick to your habit. 

Streaks pricing: $4.99 for the universal app.

HabitNow pricing: Free habit tracker app for up to 7 habits; $9.99 for unlimited habit tracking and more features.

The best productivity app for bookmarking articles to read later

Pocket

I’d love to read articles or watch YouTube videos all day. We all would. Sometimes, though, you have to do something else—even though your friend just sent you a really, really interesting article. That’s where read-it-later apps come in. They let you quickly save something you intend to read so that you can come back to it when you have time.

Pocket, our pick for the best read it later app for a balance of powerful features.

I think that Pocket, above, is the app of choice in this class. It’s free to use, offers extensions for every major browser, and has great mobile versions that sync your articles for offline reading. There’s also built-in support for highlighting, and then reviewing your highlights later.

You can even use Zapier to connect Pocket with your favorite apps. For example, you can automatically send articles in your RSS feed to Pocket or share your favorite content in Slack. Here are more ways to automate Pocket.

Instapaper is a close second, and it even lets you send articles to your Kindle. These aren’t your only choices, though—check out our list of the best read-it-later apps for some more options. 

It’s also worth noting that some people use bookmarking apps or even note-taking apps for the same purpose, and that’s great—they both make it easy to save things for future reference. 

Pocket pricing: Free; $4.99/month for Pocket Premium, which includes a permanent personal backup of the articles you’ve saved, suggested tags, and full-text search.

The best productivity app for creating and sharing screen recordings

Loom

Whether it’s for a quick presentation or troubleshooting a problem, sometimes recording what’s on your screen and sharing it just makes life easier. Screen recording tools are perfect for this, allowing you to quickly record your screen, your voice, and even your face if you have a webcam. 

Loom, our pick for the best screen recording app for quickly recording and sharing on the desktop.

Loom, shown above, is a great first tool to check out in this category. It’s easy to set up, works on all major platforms, and makes it really simple to share recordings. You can even add your face to the recording via a webcam. 

I personally use Zappy, which was originally an internal tool used by Zapier. It’s honestly the best screenshot tool I’ve ever used, and it’s free. If you use a Mac, it’s worth a try. Check out our list of the best screen recording tools for more options, and keep in mind you can actually record your screen without any software, if you don’t mind managing the file yourself. 

Want to share your screen in real time? You need a screen sharing app (Zoom works surprisingly well).

Loom pricing: Free for 25 videos of up to 5 minutes; Business plans start at $12.50/month/user with unlimited videos and recording length.

The best productivity app for managing your passwords

1Password

Coming up with a long, complex password—because you do use a long, complex password, right?—is tough enough. Remembering all those unique, carefully thought-up passwords for every website is a whole other challenge. That’s why you need a password manager. 

Password managers fix a lot of the problems with passwords for you. All you have to do is remember a single master password, and the app takes care of the rest. And since data breaches are way more common than you’d think, password managers help protect you against unauthorized access and harmful attacks—and keep all your information private.

1Password, our pick for the best password manager app for ease of use across devices.

1Password, shown above, is one of the biggest names in password management. It’s the best option for most people looking for a password manager because it’s easy to use, incredibly secure, and works on pretty much every browser, with all your passwords syncing across all your devices. 

There are other password manager apps that offer free plans, though. Check out our list of the best password manager apps for some more options. And if you’re serious about beefing up your cyber security, try a passkey instead. 

1Password pricing: $36/year for a Personal account; $60/year for Families with up to five accounts. Monthly plan available once you onboard.

Other productivity apps worth checking out

This article could go on forever. There’s no end to great software out there, and I love writing about it. I think the above categories should save you all kinds of time—and take up plenty of your time to set up—but here are a few other suggestions if you’re feeling particularly motivated.

Automate your productivity apps

Once you have apps set up in some of these categories, you can take the whole productivity thing even further. Zapier connects all the other apps you use with workflows you can build yourself—no code required. Like the tools above, Zapier won’t solve every problem you have, but it’s a great way to connect tools that otherwise don’t integrate well. This way you can use the best tools for you, as opposed to the tools that happen to play nice together. And it’s not limited to productivity—eventually, you’ll find yourself automating even your most business-critical workflows.

Related reading: 

This post was originally published in September 2018 by Matthew Guay. The most recent update was in December 2023 by Jessica Lau.

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