20 Best Productivity Apps 2021 (Free & Paid Software Tools)
We all want to get more done. Distractions are never desirable. But there are just so many of them, particularly when you use cloud, in-browser work apps.
Productivity apps can help keep you focused. There are an incredible number of digital tools for better work out there. And many are built to suit most any working style and use case.
In this article, we outline the best productivity apps overall.
The best mobile apps for mobile devices. The best SaaS apps for desktop, Mac, and Windows. The best productivity tools in general, and for different niche needs.
Productivity apps comparison chart (top 10)
Startups, SMBs, enterprise companies
Freelancers, Startups, SMBs
Startups, SMBs, Agencies
*Prices listed do not include free versions.
What are productivity apps and why do you need them?
Simply put, productivity apps are for getting things done. They let you do things with less hassle, in less time.
Make use of note-taking, project management, task management, and time management tools. Jot down ideas, organize workflows with Kanban and other tools, and meet due dates.
Keep team members aligned with task lists and team collaboration tools. Link and sync Gmail, Outlook, Google Calendar, and other everyday tools you already use.
What are the different types of productivity apps?
Here our list of the different kinds of productivity apps and tools you can find:
Team chat (instant messaging)
Calendar and scheduling
What are the best productivity apps? Here’s our top 20 list:
We’ve sorted out the best productivity apps. This is a broad category, so we’ve noted what each of the apps is best for. We hope this helps narrow down the types of apps you might be interested in, according to business or personal need.
Here’s our top 20.
Slack (best productivity app overall)
Slack is versatile and simple, with applications from personal use to corporate contexts. That’s why it wins out as the best overall productivity app.
Slack has already become one of the top productivity and collaboration tools for businesses. It replaces email as a primary method of communication by allowing for real-time group chats, direct messages, and file sharing in a central place.
With its capacity to integrate third-party applications, the solution has helped development teams across many industries make their routine communications more efficient.
Integrations push its uses further. You can use Zapier to link Slack to 2,000+ other apps.
Slack also has integration with Zoom for in-app video calls.
Slack seems to abide by the creed that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The platform hasn’t really changed much over the years, so don’t expect many new features in updates.
One standard criticism is that Slack conversations flow by fast. It’s easy to lose track of messages or files in chat.
Free version with limited message storage and 10 integrations is available.
Standard plan is $6.67 per user/per month, billed annually.
Plus plan is $12.50 per user/per month, billed annually.
Enterprise Grid plan requires contact with Slack.
No free trial is available for paid plans.
Asana (best business productivity app)
Asana offers project management with overviews of portfolios and workloads. It’s designed to foster great work culture and better productivity.
Asana helps teams collaborate on projects. To track tasks and communicate through the platform’s many dashboards.
One can view all their tasks as a list form, or see them plotted onto a calendar. There’s a board view, which follows the Kanban logic of moving tasks through stages. Receive real-time project updates and do time tracking as well.
Asana includes tools for conversation and file sharing, which means team members don’t need to rely on emails, other chat apps or cloud platforms to share comments and media.
The timeline feature is sort of a mix between a calendar and a vision board. Projects get mapped out according to an ideal plan. That keeps everyone involved and motivated to meet deadlines.
It’s great for big projects like total website overhauls and new product launches, Marketing campaigns and even event planning.
There’s a free version of the app. It’s targeted at personal work and small team project management. And it’s pretty effective.
There’s a lot of features, and it can be confusing to set up your workflow. The task layout view is not super intuitive. You have to click around quite a bit to get to sub-tasks.
Also, sometimes Asana sends you many email notifications. This can make it tricky to sort out what’s an important update and what’s not.
Basic plan for individuals and teams is free.
Premium plan is $10.99 per user/per month billed annually, and $13.49 per user/per month billed monthly.
Business plan is $24.99 per user/per month billed annually, and $30.49 per user/per month billed monthly.
Enterprise plan requires contact with Asana.
A free trial is available for the Premium and Business plans.
HubSpot CRM (good productivity tool for businesses on a budget)
HubSpot's basic CRM is free and provides many productivity boosting features. It includes project management and workflow tools.
The platform works with G Suite and Microsoft Office and has tons of Zapier integrations with apps like Slack, Facebook Lead Ads, and Google Sheets.
Assign tasks and track progress. Centralize your record of customer interactions across various channels like email, social media, chat, website, and more.
To get more out of this primary operational functionality, you can buy one of HubSpot’s add-on plans. For marketing (Marketing Hub), sales (Sales Hub), service (Service Hub), or comprehensive growth (Growth Suite). These add a wealth of features including: reporting, AI, and advanced automation.
Free CRM is full-featured, yet basic. You will likely want to buy a paid plan. When you do that, you’ll find the entry-level plans are probably priced a bit high for many small businesses.
Also, HubSpot’s customizability is limited.
HubSpot CRM is free, and the number of users is unlimited.
Marketing Hub, Sales Hub, and Service Hub add-on packages are $50 each per user/per month, billed monthly.
HubSpot CMS starts at $300 per month, billed monthly.
All-inclusive Starter Growth Suite starts at $113 per user/per month, billed monthly.
There are no free trials for the add-on packages.
Trello (best productivity software for students)
Trello is simple, visual web-based project organizing software. It’s a flexible and easy-to-use task management tool. Built around Kanban boards for managing productivity workflows.
It’s useful for students to plan weekly work and collaborate on projects. And the free version of the app will suffice for school work. That’s great news, given the budget constraints of most students.
Information is visible on cards at a glance. You can add comments, attach files, and set due dates on each card. Create useful lists too.
There’s also workflow automation provided by the “Butler” tool. Set rules, trigger events, and schedule commands.
Trello integrates with Slack, Evernote, Dropbox, and Google Drive. And plenty more. This allows you to sync it with all the apps you already use.
The app’s long been a favorite of freelancers, startups, and small teams. It’s even touted as a way to organize your upcoming family vacation. That’s the level of simplicity we’re talking about.
Trello isn’t a heavyweight project management tool. If your project is truly complex (like say software development), it might not have the tools you need. Particularly if you’re looking for detailed analytics and metrics.
Free plan is available, with unlimited cards and 10MB limit per attachment.
Business Class plan is $9.99 per user/per month billed annually, and $12.50 per user/per month billed monthly.
Enterprise Class plan for 20+ users is $17.50 per user/per month, billed annually. Price per user drops as the number of users increases.
A 14-day free trial is available for the Business Class plan.
monday.com (better choice for startups and small teams)
monday.com is a project management app with a rock-solid reputation. It's prized for having a neat interface that puts collaboration tools front and center. And for syncing information across work applications.
It’s suitable for startups and small business owners. As well as individual/personal use (i.e. freelancers).
monday.com incentivizes productivity and gives everyone a heads up on what they need to do. It lets you collate workflows and streamline tasks.
The platform also lets team members click around and see what’s going on within the bigger picture. That's great for project alignment, not to mention morale.
The mobile version has been described by some users as “clunky.” It lacks some of the desktop app’s features. Lacks a call recording feature.
Basic plan is $25 per user/per month, billed annually.
Standard plan is $39 per user/per month, billed annually.
Pro plan is $59 per user/per month, billed annually.
Enterprise plan requires contact with monday.com.
A 14-day free trial is available without a credit card. It includes unlimited users and boards.
Hootsuite (best productivity app for social media)
Hootsuite is first and foremost a social network management software and not primarily for customer relationship management—imagine Sprout’s social functions minus the sales pipeline features. Hootsuite integrates with Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Wordpress, Instagram, Youtube, and Pinterest.
The Hootsuite dashboard can be customized to be more CRM-ready with a range of app extensions, like Nimble, Salesforce, Batchbook and others—all available right on the Hootsuite app directory. You can plan and schedule posts, and use social media monitoring to follow trends or keywords. It’s easy to save and share user content, and promote your own. Hootsuite also has analytics and custom reporting.
Has a lot of features and a moderate learning curve. It’s not a pick-up-and-go productivity app.
App pricing model is a bit confusing. You really have to do your research to make sure you find the right feature/cost trade-off.
There’s a free plan limited to 3 users.
Professional plan is $29 for 1 user per month billed annually.
Team plan is $129 for 3 users per month billed annually.
Business plan is $599 for 5 to 10 users per month billed annually.
Enterprise plan (contact for details).
Hootsuite offers a 30-day free trial.
Todoist (best iPad and best iOS productivity app)
Todoist is a multi-featured to-do list app. It helps you track personal and work tasks and keep it all together.
The app is intended to make every day manageable and methodical. Set up shared projects and delegate tasks. Receive notifications and communicate with other team members with comments.
The user experience (UX) is uncluttered and designed to work for you. Users can attach due dates to tasks, sub-tasks, projects, sub-projects, and dependencies. While also prioritizing them using a color-coding system.
It’s great for keeping track of tasks across devices. You can use it on your Android phone, iPhone, or iPad and sync all your info.
Free version is very limited. The app is simple, potentially to a fault if you need task hierarchies. Also, tasks vanish from your inbox when you finish them, which can lead to confusion later.
Free plan for starters is available.
Premium plan for pros is $3 per user/per month billed annually, or $4 per user/per month billed monthly.
Business plan for teams is $5 per user/per month billed annually, or $6 per user/per month billed monthly.
A 30-day free trial is available for the Business plan.
The idea behind Smartsheet is to align people and tech. About a third of the work day is lost looking for information or dealing with meetings. So the basic principle of the tool is to eliminate this lost time and make your business more agile.
Smartsheet is project and task management software, with easy work sharing through Gantt charts and other views. It also has automation, time tracking, and reporting tools aplenty.
There are tools set up specifically for scaling your business, while mitigating risk. The Control Center dashboard lets you build complex workflows with custom automation rules.
Smartsheet data can be connected to Microsoft Excel with the Live Data Connector tool. This lets you consolidate multiple data sheets into one in Excel file. To format and rearrange data and get real-time insights.
Lacks a chat or a ticketing system. The interface is functional, but it’s a bit cold and un-engaging.
Individual plan is $14 per user/per month billed annually.
Business plan is $25 per user/per month billed annually.
Enterprise plan requires contact with Smartsheet.
Premier plan (Enterprise features with premium options) requires contact with Smartsheet.
A 30-day free trial is available. No credit card required.
PomoDone (top productivity tool for pomodoro technique)
PomoDone tracks your workflow with the pomodoro method.
It’s a simple timebox app for staying on task and getting things done. Avoid distractions and end procrastination. The app sends out reminders when you’re deviating from an important task.
You can also go through your task history and filter out specific types of tasks. This will give you perspective on how much time a particular type of task takes. Over time, this will help you make accurate schedules and set realistic goals.
PomoDone can be integrated into your existing productivity app workflows. It connects to many of the task and project management apps you use already. This includes Trello, Asana, Jira, Slack, and many more.
PomoDone is available for desktop on Mac, Windows, Linux, and as a web app. You can also download it as a Chrome extension. There are smartphone apps for iOS, and Android too.
If you use the Chrome extension and the desktop app together, there might be problems. Information sync sometimes fails.
It’s not possible to add a task when the timer is running. Creating a new task is super easy, but editing tasks is a chore.
Lite plan is $2.29 per user/per month billed annually.
Ultimate plan is $4.01 per user/per month billed annually.
5 licences package is $18.90 per month billed annually, and $28.64 per month billed monthly.
A 7-day free trial is available for the Lite and Ultimate plans. A 30-day money back guarantee is offered for all paid plans.
Lucidchart (best productivity app for Windows)
Lucidchart is billed as a “visual workspace for remote teams.” It’s built for real-time collaboration with data visualization tools, diagrams, and whiteboards.
The app works well in Windows, as well as Linux and Mac. This makes a fine alternative to Windows-based Microsoft Visio.
The UX allows you to easily customize color and layout.
As far as mind maps are concerned, Lucidchart offers many options. You can create a mind map from a template, or build one from scratch. Select a shape library for mind maps and begin working.
You can also import mind map outlines from .txt files. Lucidchart recognizes tab or space-indented text outlines. It automatically recognizes ideas and sub-topics to generate a mind map.
It integrates with Slack too.
Just grant access permissions to Slack, then use the /lucidchart command in your chat. This will create a link to a new blank Lucidchart diagram.
You can also use Lucidchart’s Share dialog to send WIP or complete diagrams to Slack channels. Or to specific Slack users.
Considering the wealth of features offered, Lucidchart is very fairly priced.
Sometimes the automatic line drawing is a bit wonky. Resulting in line shapes that aren’t visually appealing or intuitive.
The app’s system for managing user images is also not super developed. It can sometimes be a slog to search for images you’ve uploaded.
Finally, the app has a bigger learning curve than you might expect. UX features don’t hide the app’s features for new users.
Basic plan for a single user is free.
Individual plan for a single user is $7.95 per user/per month, billed annually.
Team plan for business is $27 for 3 users/per month, billed annually. Additional users can be added for a higher per-month cost (ex. 15 users for $135 per month/billed annually).
Enterprise plan is priced in consultation with the vendor.
A free trial is available for the Individual and Team plans.
ClickUp (best Android productivity app)
Cloud-based project management platform. Handles process, task, and time management. With team collaboration tools aplenty.
ClickUp has an intuitive UI that lets you switch between features smoothly. It’s aided by the QuickSwitch navigator feature. This lets you move between inbox and dashboards with a single hotkey.
Set up reminders for yourself and others. They can be linked to tasks and set up as recurring, and even include attachments.
There are scrum and Kanban backlog management tools too. This lets you do agile project management. For staying on point on-the-go, there are well-designed mobile apps for Android and iOS.
And there’s a lot of data migration options. There’s easy data import from competitor PM platforms like Wrike and monday.com. Zapier lets you connect ClickUp to data from 1,000+ apps.
At first, the number of features and different dashboards can be overwhelming. You may need about a week or so to learn the app.
Also, ClickUp’s browser extension doesn’t work very well if you’re blocking third-party cookies.
Free plan with a 100MB storage limit is available.
Unlimited plan is $5 per user/per month billed annually, and $9 per user/per month billed monthly.
A free trial is available for the Unlimited plan.
Airtable (best choice if you want flexible spreadsheets)
Airtable takes spreadsheets and turns them into versatile work tools. And it goes further, providing a flexible work platform that can serve myriad business roles.
The CEO of Airtable, Howie Liu, was a Salesforce product manager. But the digital tool his new company built is way simpler than his old company’s CRM. It can be a CRM, a project management tool, or a general productivity tool for startups and small businesses.
Airtable organizes workflow in a feature called “Blocks.” Blocks are a series of steps that progress from one to the next based on event triggers. It sort of works like a flowchart.
Create and save your workflows with visual editors. For example, a Gannt chart. There are many other apps and tools you can use here. These include maps, bar lines and scatter charts, time trackers, and countdowns.
The drag-and-drop dashboard allows you to generate custom fields. And populate them with everything from attachments, run-on long-form text notes, checkboxes, links to records in other tables. Even barcodes.
Airtable allows users to link data from different sets and interpret them easily. Importing and exporting data from .CSV is a cinch.
And if you have any questions with the platform, you’re covered. Airtable gets good user reviews for customer support.
More complicated work processes and task management will probably be too much for the platform to handle.
Free version provides essential features.
Plus version is $10 per user/per month, billed annually.
Pro version is $20 per user/per month, billed annually.
Enterprise version requires contact with Airtable.
RescueTime (best time tracking app)
Time tracking, distraction blocking tool to help you optimize work.
Automatic time tracking shows how much time is spent using specific apps, websites, and documents. Fields are filled without any manual input, and detailed reports are generated.
See which days of the week are least productive. Analyze your work habits and identify bottlenecks and distractions.
You can also track offline time use manually with a simple one-click on-off switch. This means IRL tasks can also be tracked and measured in comparison with internet apps and other digital tools.
Block distracting websites. Set daily time limits for specific apps and sites. Schedule focus time into your calendar.
RescueTime lets you set goals for time use. From less time in email to more time doing specific work. You can also track productivity within your preferred calendar app.
Reporting tools don’t offer a lot of qualitative detail. The user interface feels dated.
Sometimes you need to access a blocked website for legit work purposes (like say YouTube). And it’s easy to disable the block controls. This means blocking is often not that effective.
Lite version for individual users is free.
RescueTime $6.50 per user/per month billed annually, and $18 per user/per month billed monthly.
A 14-day free trial is available.
Toggl (better time tracker app if you want integrations)
Time tracking app with one-click timer, tracking reminders, and 100+ app integrations.
You can do real-time tracking as well as manual time entries. This is very useful if you forget to run a timer when you start a task, and for correcting timesheets in general. Calendar events can also be turned into time entries on the Toggle mobile app with a single tap.
Reporting tools allow you filter data to see the metrics you want. Reports can be exported as Excel, CSV, and PDF files.
Attach billable rates to tasks too, so contract and freelance work gets worked out at the right pay grade.
There’s also the Toggl Button—a Chrome extension. This lets you start a timer from Gmail, Zendesk, or wherever you may be. The tool pulls a description of the work you’re doing based on the page you’re on, so when you look at it later you’ll know what the task was.
Toggl is available for Windows, Linux, and Mac. Mobile apps for iPhone and Android are available as well.
The MacOS version of the app feels a bit clunky. Desktop and mobile app sync is sometimes glitchy.
Basic plan is free.
Starter plan is $9 per user/per month billed annually, and $10 per user/per month billed monthly.
Premium plan is $18 per user/per month billed annually, and $20 per user/per month billed monthly.
Enterprise plan requires contact with Toggl.
A 30-day free trial is available for the Premium and Starter plans.
Cloze (better choice if you want an AI-enabled productivity app)
AI-enabled app for managing relationships, inboxes, and contacts.
Pulls contact info from multiple communication channels, as well as social data from LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Algorithms determine which contacts are important, and nudge you to keep in touch.
iPad app lets you track email messages, manage social media, log phone calls, do meetings, take notes, and more on the fly. Makes business email better with reminders, trackers, schedulers and reusable templates
UI feels somewhat dated and a bit cluttered. Some users find customer service can be slow to resolve issues.
Pro plan is $17 per user/per month, billed annually
Silver plan is $21 per user/per month, billed annually
Gold plan is $29 per user/per month, billed annually
Platinum plan is $42 per user/per month, billed annually
Basecamp (better choice for team productivity)
Basecamp is designed to improve productivity and organization. It does this by combining communication tools with file storage and work management dashboards.
Split work into projects. Add whoever needs to be involved to each project.
Each project has its own message board, group chat, and to-do lists. And a shared schedule too. You can also set up automatic check-ins, which prompt team members to give an update on status.
Works well as a comprehensive cloud storage platform. Upload and share documents, files, images, and spreadsheets. Organize your files to keep track of everything project-related.
There’s a free version of the app. This makes it suitable for freelancers and small nonprofits. And for personal projects.
Lacks a quick overview for seeing what multiple team members are doing.
Pricing model is nice and simple. However, the paid verison’s point is likely above the budget of some small teams and startups.
Basecamp Personal is free.
Basecamp Business with unlimited projects and users is $99 per month. There are no per user fees.
A 30-day free trial is available for the Basecamp Business plan. No credit card required.
Clarizen (best productivity app if you want Gantt charts)
Clarizen is an integrated PM tool for aligning teams, staying agile, and getting work done. A centralized view lets you see who’s doing what, and adjust tasks, priorities, and project timelines.
Project management features include Gantt chart, task reporting, and milestones. Do project-based invoicing too.
You can create and customize project templates quickly. Personalize workflows with multiple boards for different projects, teams, and/or clients. Add comments, team members, and external stakeholders to tasks with ease.
The app has direct integration with Zoom and Teams for Microsoft projects. Zapier can be used to connect it to thousands of others.
It’s quite expensive compared to competitors. The user interface feels dated, and might be a real obstacle to full-team adoption.
Clarizen Go for Agile Teams is $29.95 per user/per month billed annually.
Enterprise Edition requires contact with Clarizen.
Unlimited Edition requires contact with Clarizen.
A 30-day free trial is available for Clarizen Go.
Podio (best productivity app for developers)
Podio’s goal is to get everything you need to see on one page. To speed collaboration and ensure everyone is aligned.
It offers comprehensive project communication and work tools. File sharing, task management, workflow, and reporting tools.
Create personal, shared, and recurring tasks. Organize daily operations into open, private, and employee workspaces.
Social activity streams reduce email and increase knowledge sharing. There’s chat and group chat with media and file sharing. And audio/video calling in-app.
Podio API allows developers to build new integrations. Or new apps.
There’s a time tracker too. This can be used for employee timesheets. Or for tracking time spent on projects.
It’s very customizable, so initial setup can be time-consuming. And a bit confusing.
It must also be said Podio has quite a flat visual identity. This may pose some issues for full team adoption.
Free plan for up to 5 users is available.
Basic plan is $9 per user/per month, billed annually.
Plus plan is $14 per user/per month, billed annually.
Premium plan is $24 per user/per month, billed annually.
No free trial is available for paid plans. However, a free version is available.
Zoho Projects (best productivity app if you want to connect to CRM)
Cloud-based tool for business productivity. Helps you plan work, track it, and collaborate over distances. Works seamlessly with Zoho CRM and other products in the Zoho suite.
Keep track of critical tasks. See, at a glance, if there’s a gap between planned progress and reality. Gantt charts help you build a project plan.
Automate routine tasks to save yourself time. Use a drag-and-drop interface to visualize and build up automation rules.
Timesheets let you log billable and non-billable hours. This is super helpful for invoicing. There’s direct integration with Zoho Invoice as well, which will auto-generate invoices from timesheets.
You can also use Zapier to connect Zoho Projects to a ton of other apps. Excel and Slack, for example.
The user interface is not the most intuitive or aesthetically pleasing. Search function is limited to tasks within specific projects.
Free plan for up to 3 users and 2 projects is available.
Standard plan for 6-10 users is $2.50 per user/per month billed annually, and $3 per user/per month billed monthly.
Express plan for 12-50 users is $3 per user/per month billed annually, and $4 per user/per month billed monthly.
Premium plan for 15-100 users is $4 per user/per month billed annually, and $5 per user/per month billed monthly.
Enterprise plan starting at 20 users is $5 per user/per month billed annually, and $6 per user/per month billed monthly.
A 10-day free trial is available for all paid plans.
MinimaList (best productivity app if you want simple to-do lists)
MinimaList takes a “less is more” approach. It’s a simple to-do list app with an intuitive UI.
The app combines the principles of calming aesthetics and functionality. It reminds you to do things and does task management. But it keeps information displayed to a minimum to avoid stress.
When typing the name of a task, if you include any words related to a time or day, MinimaList intuitively detects this. The app then automatically asks if you want a reminder and when.
You can set timers too. There’s a Pomodoro timer that counts 25-minute intervals for working, followed by a 5-minute break. There are stopwatch and countdown timer options too.
MinimaList is an Apple app, designed mainly for iPhones and iPads. There are also versions for desktop as well as for Apple Watches.
This means it works intuitively with Siri. Prompt Siri with a simple statement. You’ll be prompted with a confirmation screen letting you know the item has been added to tasks.
When switching to the “view multiple lists” screen, there’s a danger of accidentally swiping and deleting items.
Basic version is free.
Pro version is $5.99 per user.
No free trial is available for the paid version.
Choosing the best productivity tools for your needs:
In this article, we’ve offered a screenshot of the better productivity apps out there.
We’ve shown off tools for users of Apple MacOS, Linux, or Windows. SaaS web apps and tools available as Chrome extensions. And the many types of productivity apps out there, from simple to-do lists to project management suites.
To narrow down your options, you will want to think about the work you do. What tools do you need to realize your goals? Start from zero and consider how many bells and whistles you’ll need.
For instance, how important is calendar syncing? Do you need sync with Google Docs and other G Suite tools? Do you need cloud storage of files via Microsoft OneDrive or Dropbox?
Do you need additional features like customizable workflows? Or will you be happy with a simple Kanban board or equivalent visual workflow tool?
Of course, the size of your business also makes a big difference.
If you need to coordinate work and track hours with other team members, you’ll probably want a project management app. Something more robust and flexible.
If you’re a freelancer, student, or small team, it’s a different story. You might be able to just use a simple to-do list, Kanban, or upgraded spreadsheet tool.
Think also about whether you just need productivity tools for the desktop. You may want the ability to reach in your pocket and do work on mobile devices.
Then there’s basic psychology. Not everyone boosts their productivity with the same tools. Everyone has their own system.
If you’re a fan of short bursts of intense productivity, you will want an app that incorporates the pomodoro technique. If you’re working more with the big picture in mind, you will want Gantt charts, project timeline tools, and task and subtask management.
As always, the best place to start is with free apps and free trials. Take a look at the vendors on the list above, then start narrowing your search. You’ll be enjoying better productivity with the right app in no time.