Best Free Productivity Apps for the iPhone and iPad

Last week we took a look at nine free iOS apps to help you track expenses and mileage, organize bills, calculate on the go, budget, make smart purchases, and track packages. This week we focus on free productivity apps for project management, paperless meetings, better communication, security, task management, file sharing and storage, workflow, video conferencing, scanning, PDFs, eSigning, notetaking, sketching, languages, and business travel.

Project Management

Trello is the free, flexible, and visual way to organize anything with anyone. Forget lengthy email threads, out-of-date spreadsheets, sticky notes, and clunky software for managing your projects. Trello lets you see everything about your project in a single glance.  Compatible with Apple Watch.

Paperless Meetings

minute-iconUse Minute to conduct easy paperless meetings. Instantly invite attendees, turn agendas into meetings, import and share documents from Dropbox, Evernote, email, etc. Collaborate on notes, to-dos, decisions, and documents. Delegate tasks to attendees. After the meeting read and revise notes and export meeting minutes.

 Better Communication

Rather than worrying about your data allowance or cell signal, WhatsApp lets you send messages over Wi-Fi or a mobile data connection instead. Send and receive photos free over Wi-Fi* with no size restrictions. (*Or if you have unlimited mobile data.)


1passwordKeep track of passwords, security codes, and alarm codes in one place with 1Password. Search to find what you’re looking for on any connected device. Save and fill passwords, credit cards, and addresses into webpages with a single click. Keep your data safe and encrypted. Unlimited installations with paid subscription. Compatible with Apple Watch. (Free 30 day trial; $5 per month subscription.)

Task Management

todoist-iconAdd, complete, and re-schedule tasks from any device, even offline with Todoist. Automatic 24/7 sync. Create sub-tasks and sub-projects, set priorities, and color-code projects. Share projects, assign tasks, and add comments all within the app. Instant notifications will keep you up-to-date whenever changes are made. Compatible with Apple Watch.

easilydoEasilyDo connects to online services, like your email, calendar, and Facebook, then looks for things it can help you get done. For example, it might ask you if you’d like to add contact details of someone who emailed you to your address book. Or it might spot an upcoming birthday. (Best for personal use.)

File Sharing and Storage

Transfer files instantly across Mac, iOS, Android, and Windows platforms using simple drag and drop with Instashare Air Drop. Transfer any file type (MP3, images, PDF, slide decks, docs, and more). Any size. Completely secure – files are transferred only between devices – no copy is kept in the cloud. Supports older devices: back to iPhone 3Gs and iPad. No need to register, just open the app, and start sharing. No email account, no passwords required.

hightailUse Hightail (formerly YouSendIt) to upload files to a shared project area called a Space then name it and add context or project goals. Solves the problem of oversized email attachments. Upload to Hightail instead and send your recipients a link. Supports PDF, docx, PPT, png, and other file formats. Documents can be secured with an access code.  (Free 250 MG storage.)


Use Clips to clip from anything from anywhere: quotes, links, stories, images. Ideal for users who write a lot on their iPhone and iPad or hate switching between apps to copy-and-paste. The custom keyboard doesn’t log any of your input and requires no use of the Internet. Sync across all iOS devices through your private iCloud account with the Pro version.  Compatible with Apple Watch.

ifttt“If this, then that.” Use ifttt to automate just about anything: create events in Google Calendar with only a few taps; keep your team in sync with scheduled reminders for Slack; catalog important email from your inbox in an Evernote notebook to go over later; sync files quickly. Ifttt makes two separate apps work together!

Video Conferencing

zoomZoom offers quality video and audio conferencing – available for mobile devices and on the desktop.  Screen share apps and photos, send files, annotate, mute attendees (or not), easily invite phone, email, or company contacts.  (Free for 50-person or less meetings that last no longer than 40 minutes.)

Scanner and Whiteboard Converter

CamScanner turns photos of sketches, receipts, sticky notes, and whiteboard notes into editable files. Make digital copies of printed documents, business cards, or posters and trim them precisely. Printed text is automatically recognized (using OCR) so you can search for words in images and copy and edit them.  200MB free storage.

PDFs and eSigning

Adobe Acrobat Reader DC is a PDF viewer made specifically for the iPhone. Take a picture of your handwritten signature on your mobile device, and then sync it to sign PDFs at your desk or on the go. Annotate PDFs or mark-up files.  Draw on the screen with the drawing tool. Store, access, and share files from your Dropbox account.  (In-app purchases may apply.)

signnowUse SignNow to sign documents with your finger. Fill and complete PDF, Word, or rich text documents. Open documents from your inbox, Dropbox, and more. Easily collect signatures from multiple people. Secured with bank quality encryption.  (Sign up to five documents per month at no charge.)

Notetaking and Sketching

Use Paper 53 to draw on photos or quickly spotlight details. Sketch diagrams, charts, and drawings. Want to add titles to notes?  Swipe left. Want to add a checklist? Swipe right.

Learn Languages

duolingoUse the free Duolingo app to read, listen, and speak Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, Irish, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, and English.  Learn languages in bite-sized lessons: Apple’s iPhone App of the Year.  (In-app upgrades available.)

Business Travel

Hopper hopper-iconconstantly monitors prices to find great deals on airfare. Shows you the best time to go, predicts the right time to book flights, and where to buy.  Includes personalized tips.  Promises savings of 40% or more on your next flight.  A best app of the year winner in 2015.

Input your itinerary and GateGuru will automatically provides you with the check-in airport terminal, airport weather, gate arrival and departure information, real-time flight status, estimated TSA security wait times, airport food and amenity information, airport maps and tips, last minute rental car bookings.

All Rights Reserved 2016 Beverly Michaelis

SendNow vs. YouSendIt – A File Sharing Service Shootout

With the launch of SendNow, Adobe becomes the newest vendor to offer cloud based file sending solutions for mega files. The most well-known competitor –YouSendIt –  has also amped up its services with a suite of corporate plans. Check out other service providers here.

So how do the newcomer and the tried and true sevice provider stack up side-by-side? Let’s take a look: 

Feature SendNow YouSendIt
Free Trial Available Yes Yes
All File Types Supported[1] No Yes
Outlook Plug-in No Yes
Send Multiple Files at Once Yes Yes
Support for Branding (Logos) No Yes
Virus Check Yes Yes
Delivery Confirmation/Tracking Yes Yes
Return Receipt[2] Yes Yes
Time Limits on File Sharing Yes Yes
Restrict Access with Password Protection/Verification[3] Yes Yes
SSL Authentication and Encryption Yes Yes
Browsers Supported – Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome[4] Yes No
Operating Systems – Windows, Mac[5] Yes Yes
Customer Support[6] Yes Yes
Flexible Pricing Plans[7] Yes Yes


Questions About Security?

Review the YouSendIt security statement here. Read Adobe’s security statement on the System Requirements page 

The Devil is in the Details 

So who wins?  Well, it’s a little bit like comparing apples to oranges, with a few fruit bugs here and there.  Adobe offers two complimentary months with each paid subscription, YouSendIt does not.  Return receipt, password protection and other security-related services are on a pay-per-use basis with YouSendIt, thus ramping up the cost of the basic plan.  (Comparable services are free with SendNow.) 

The most glaring difference?  The potential deal-breaker?  SendNow’s limited support of file types – CAD, Zip, Microsoft Office, and PDF are permitted, but no native audio or video files are supported.  (See footnote 1 for other file type restrictions.)

Now What?

You can certainly try each service for free – a real plus, since there’s nothing like actually taking a product for a test drive to see how it really works.  Like any other selection process, each user will be guided by his or her own preferences. For example, Linux lovers may have an easier time with YouSendIt (see footnote 5.)  Business users may not care that SendNow only supports limited file types.  In either case, I welcome Adobe’s entrance to the field.  We should all benefit from the competition. 

Copyright 2011 Beverly Michaelis

Postcript: YouSendIt has clarified they do support Safari. You can find more information here.  Kudos to the YouSendIt team for quickly fixing this broken link 😀

Author’s note:  This review was conducted at the author’s own initiative and represents the author’s opinion only.  The author was not compensated or influenced in any way by Adobe, YouSendIt, or the other providers of file sending services.

[1] SendNow does not support native audio and video files. You cannot use Adobe SendNow to send the following file types: audio formats (MP3, AAC, OGG); video formats (MOV, WMV, FLV, XVID, DIVX, RETG); font formats (TTF, DFONT, OTF); archive formats (TGZ, RAR 7Z, SIT, JAR, WAR, CAB); system files and executable formats (EXE, DLL, JS, VB, BAT, CMD, COM, CPL, SH, CSH, TCSH, KSH, BASH, ZSH, INF, HTA, HLP, INS, ISP, VB, JSE, LNK, MS, PIF, SCR, SHS, WS); web files (CHM, CRT); database files (MDB); or raster image files (PCD, SCT).  YouSendIt “supports all file types.” [2] Return receipts are free with SendNow. Available on a pay-per-use basis with YouSendIt’s free and Pro plans. (Included with Pro Plus and Corporate Suite.)  [3]  Available on a pay-per-use basis with YouSendIt’s free and Pro plans. (Included with Pro Plus and Corporate Suite.)  [4] YouSendIt does not support Safari and may become unresponsive with Google Chrome. SendNowworks with all browsers listed.  [5] Linux support is limited with SendNow and is untested (but should work) with YouSendIt[6]Premium plans available from both providers. [7] Compare Adobe’s three pricing plans here.  (Basic and Plus plan include two months free.)  Compare YouSendIt’s four plans here.