The iPhone’s form factor — a relatively small screen and a hunt-and-peck virtual keyboard — means it’s not well suited to quite a lot of work-related tasks. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be a key part of your life when it comes to being more productive.
With the right apps, your iPhone can be great for a whole range of tasks, such as managing your time, organising projects, creating and storing snippets of information, and quickly scanning documents.
In this round-up, we explore six of the best apps we’ve found for getting things done (or at least encouraging you to do so), and that are perfectly suited to iPhone-based workflow.
1. OmniFocus 2 for iPhone
Size: 13.9 MB
Developer: The Omni Group
OmniFocus is a comprehensive task management system, designed to help you collect tasks and ideas, then process, review and complete them. The app is available for OS X, iPad and iPhone, and data syncs across devices, but the iPhone app can also work in standalone fashion.
Instead of a basic to-do structure, OmniFocus emphasises organising tasks into goals within projects, and then grouping those tasks using contexts (such as device availability, location, people, or other tags relevant to you). Larger tasks can be broken into smaller, more manageable steps. The net result is a system that should help you work through your projects more efficiently.
The interface of the iPhone app is sharply focused for enabling you to rapidly access data and achieve goals. Its home screen is populated by friendly, tappable buttons, and a forecast view crosses the top of the screen, with a live count of your due items. Only occasionally needed options such as sync, settings and search are accessed via a pull-down menu, akin to Spotlight on your iPhone’s home screens — a great balance of decluttering and accessibility.
This isn’t an app you’ll just dive into and that will be rewarding from day one — it requires investment into the system. However, for anyone demanding an exhaustive, flexible and beautifully designed task manager, it’s the best you’ll find on the iPhone.
– Well-considered design
– Flexible and robust
– Probably overkill for some
– No landscape support
Size: 13.7 MB
Developer: Binary Hammer
30/30 is essentially a task manager, based around the idea of defining timers for your tasks, giving you a nudge to move on to the next when the moment comes. Through being able to create sets of generic tasks that automatically loop, it’s ideal for managing your time in a rather more general sense, for example regarding regular work/break slots when adhering to a simplified version of the Pomodoro method.
The interface is bold and simple, making heavy use of gestures; a default list cleverly exists as a kind of live tutorial, showing how to use them all. The app also provides the means to colour-code tasks and add icons, extra sets of which can be purchased via IAP for tiny sums. Plenty of options exist to fine-tune things further, toggling notifications, vibrations and sounds, and settings can sync over iCloud if you use multiple devices.
Even if you use another task manager for dealing with the specifics of what you need to get done on any given day, 30/30’s highly recommended for making the most of your hours and minutes during that time.
– Gestural controls
– Can set timer loops
– Font could be more readable
– No full-screen mode
Size: 2.5 MB
Developer: Simon Nickel
The idea behind Weekly is to help you define repeating tasks that you want to achieve on a weekly basis, and then to keep track of how well you’re doing. Although it can be used for repeating work-based tasks, it’s also useful to remind you to do things elsewhere in your life — take walks, have a bit of a read — which can rest the mind, raise morale, and thereby result in you being more productive later.
Set-up is straightforward: you define a task and then state how often you want to do it on any given week. A rightwards swipe on the task then fills in one of the empty blobs, adding to your total. Alternatively, you can tap a task to access buttons that enable you to add an entry at a specific time, delete an entry, edit the task, and access a graph of how you’re doing.
Weekly can be surprisingly effective as both a reminder and a sanity check about activity, although if you find its nature a bit over the top, Full is a simpler and equally good alternative.
– Great for getting you to do things
– Optional notifications
– Interface is a touch fiddly
– Can’t add entries for more than a week ago
Size: 62.0 MB
There are all sorts of note-takers for your iPhone and many of them excel at a certain kind of specific task. The reason we’ve added Evernote to this list is because while it lacks the focus of simpler rivals, it’s a kind of kitchen sink that enables you to dump all kinds of thoughts, images and sounds online, safe in the knowledge you can search and retrieve them later.
On the iPhone, the interface is a little cluttered, but once you find your way around it, creating new notes is simple, whether they’re just a bit of text, or a combination of lists, images (which can be annotated) and audio. Items can have reminders attached to them, and you can scan in business cards. With many other iPhone apps integrating with Evernote, it’s easy to think of ways the app can help boost your productivity, from stashing meeting notes and agendas through to organising ideas, receipts and contracts.
The basic app is free, but there’s also a premium option ($5/£4 per month or $45/£35 per year), which provides offline notebooks, collaboration options, extra capacity, PDF and image searches (rather than search only for text files), a full-screen presentation mode and a passcode setting.
– Can add text, audio and images
– Available for many platforms
– Can be a bit overwhelming
– Offline access requires a premium account
Size: 11.3 MB
Developer: Agile Tortoise
Drafts bills itself as “where text starts” on your iPhone, and it’s designed to make it simple and quick for you to jot down ideas and then send them to other locations.
On launching the app, you’re faced with a blank screen, and can just start typing. A live word/character count details the length of your missive, which can then be automatically archived by starting another note, or shared with a huge range of services.
It’s during the sharing process that the power of Drafts becomes obvious. Actions enable you to send text to various cloud services and social media sites, and the specific actions can be organised into four action panes. Additionally, there’s support for Markdown (and subsequent HTML conversion), and the means to create single-tap actions with pre-defined text.
Usefully, creating a new document automatically archives the previous one, and all your text is fully searchable. The speed and flexibility of Drafts therefore makes it a very useful tool if you use your iPhone for notes, and you want to spend more time writing and less dealing with filing and sharing.
– Tons of sharing options
– Customisable and powerful
– Nothing to speed up Markdown
– Separate iPad app
6. Scanner Pro by Readdle
Size: 43.6 MB
Traditional scanners are bulky devices, and, unless you’re some kind of weirdo, you probably don’t carry one around with you all of the time — but you are likely to have your iPhone handy. Scanner Pro is one of a number of apps that transforms your iPhone into something resembling a scanner. And while it’s certainly not the app that does the most, we like it a lot because it does a few things really well.
The app utilises your iPhone’s camera, and attempts to smartly recognise the borders of scanned objects, which can mean the edge of a business card or a portion of text on a page. Automatic cropping and transformation is usually successful, but you can tweak the settings to suit. Multiple pages can be scanned at once.
Scanner Pro attempts to clean up each image it scans, and we found this sometimes over-saturated colours, but you can manually make adjustments; it’s also possible to make a scan black and white or greyscale if that’s better for your purposes. Files are saved as PDF, and can be emailed or uploaded to cloud services. iCloud sync then enables your scans to be rapidly accessible across your iOS devices.
– Smooth, fast and reliable
– Useful adjustment settings
– Scans are often a bit saturated
– No OCR functionality
The best of the rest
$9.99/£6.99 • 7.2 MB • v2.2.5 • Cultured Code GmbH & Co. KG
GTD-style task manager. A truly smart, powerful system, but rarely updated and the app’s looking a bit long in the tooth now.
$0.99/69p • 2.6 MB • v1.4 • Lemonly
Simple app for defining and logging monthly goals. Uses a traffic-light coloring system, which is very clear. Great gestural interface and history screen.
Free • 2.3 MB • v3.1.1 • Fetchnotes
Task manager that utilises hash-tags and @ mentions to automatically organise notes. Fast, efficient and likely to appeal to Twitter nuts.
Free • 24.6 MB • v2.1 • Swipes Incorporated
Swipe-based GTD app, which integrates with Evernote, and attempts to make the most of your time and help you achieve your goals.
$5.99/£3.99 • 107 MB • v4.3 • Time Base Technology Limited
Note-taker, which enables you to combine PDFs, hand-written notes and images. Gets around the iPhone’s small screen with a clever zoom feature.
$6.99/£4.99 • 38.6 MB • v1.1.1 • omz:software
Plain text editor with a slew of powerful automation tools that enable you to create workflows that extend its feature set. Useful for fast writing on the go.
$1.99/£1.49 • 40.6 MB • v2.6 • doo GmbH
Mobile scanner that also rolls in QR code scanning and OCR, via IAP. Offers cloud sync, and the means to work with multi-page documents.