For much of the past 18 months even our humble Google Calendar has been mostly bare. Now, though, might be just the time to get super organised to avoid any potential overwhelm. Maybe you're preparing to return to the office, maybe you're readjusting to having actual social plans again, or maybe you're just in limbo and want to use sorting your lives out – both digital and real – to get a handle on the second half of the year.
These are the apps, sites and platforms the WIRED team is using to sort out our social lives, get work done, order our ideas and notes and keep our homes running relatively smoothly. Most of the options on this list are completely free, with some offering added features in premium tiers.
While productivity and planning apps are ten-a-penny – and we’ll break down the best ones below – software that helps you manage and reinvigorate your social life are less common. Meetup is one of the biggest and offers so much choice when it comes to finding things to do.
This degree of choice truly is what makes this app so great, whether you search board games, movies, yoga or garden plants, you’ll likely be able to find a group near you – depending on your location, of course. Once you’re interested, Meetup uses a calendar to keep track of events you’re interested in and provide notifications to tell you what you’ve got coming up. And there’s even messaging so you can ask questions before attending.
If you’re no fan of TripAdvisor, try Bimble. While there’s certainly a focus on major cities, it does a great job of finding hidden gems to suit your tastes. Titular “Bimbles” are lists comprised of places that suit a certain theme – whether that’s outdoor dining in central London, vegan food places in Edinburgh or museums in Manchester.
Then, there’s “Bimblers”, who are users of the app and a big focus of its appeal. Any Bimbler can create a Bimble and, if you’re a fan, you can follow them to check out more of their recommendations. This crowd-sourcing nature can mean there’s some junk to wade through, but Bimble does provide a curated homepage to try and give you some recommended picks. And, of course, you can explore and get involved by creating your own Bimbles, too.
You might have come across DesignMyNight when booking tables with bars and restaurants, but what you might not have realised is that it’s its own site, too – and it’s really useful.
The DesignMyNight website brings together all the venues it works with, letting you trawl through club nights, events and restaurants in an area of your choice. As well as the range of restaurants, a big coup of DesignMyNight is showcasing events, too, helping you find one-off gems that might be happening right when you’re in town. For the indecisive, there’s a ton of lists as well for cities across the country – from best brunch spots to quirky ideas for a night out.
Regular gig-goers will likely be familiar with Eventbrite, letting you book tickets for shows and see what’s coming up. Along with the basics, Eventbrite is great at helping you keep on top of your top artists and venues – letting you favourite them and get informed on what’s coming up.
Like Bimble, it does a solid job of helping you find new stuff, with curated lists to suit your interests, like virtual fitness classes, arts and crafts classes and more. Once signed up, Eventbrite keeps track of the event to give you a nudge when it’s almost arrived, and will also store mobile tickets so there’s no last-minute rush to find them.
Expensify is, unsurprisingly, all about tracking your expenses, and, even if that isn’t something you deal with for work, it's a useful tool for tracking receipts. All you need to do is create an expense and then take a snap of your receipt. If you go on holiday or want to categorise your spending for any other reason, you can create ‘trips’, helping you neatly organise when, where and how much you’ve been spending.
Keeping yourself organised is all well and good, but it’s only half the battle if you’ve got a whole family at home. FamilyWall is an app that aims to digitally organise your home life. It offers up schedules, meal planners, custom locations, photo galleries, messaging, lists, family member profiles and more all as ways of getting some household structure. The whole family can join in and you can even sync it with your Google calendar to make it work nicely alongside the rest of your own schedule.
Price: Free/£32 ($45) per year | FamilyWall
Kitche – not a typo – takes the meal-planning feature offered up by FamilyWall and turns it up to 11. Kitche is all about tracking the food in your kitchen to minimise waste and maximise efficiency.
Take a picture of your receipt using the Kitche app when you get home after a shop and it’ll add all the items in detects to your inventory. The app will then notify you to tell you when you need to get using certain items before they become waste. Once used, you can remove them from the app.
You’ll also be presented with recipes based on the food Kitche knows you have sitting in the fridge and larder. If things don’t go to plan, Kitche will tell you the currency value of food you’ve had to throw out, giving you a nudge to save those extra pennies and avoid waste going forward.
Momento is a neat diary app, letting you keep a private journal, but spruced up with a range of modern features. As well as typing in your many daily witticisms on life, you can assign photos, videos, places, people and events to your regular entries.
You can also integrate social media, Spotify, YouTube, even Uber rides. You can then search your journal entries based on all these factors to find a specific moment in time – from your days out with your best mate to the time you stargazed with your favourite playlist.
Todoist is a veteran of productivity recommendation lists by now – search it on YouTube and you’ll be overcome with hot tips on how to use it – but, it really is that good. This application takes the simplicity of to-do list creation and supercharges its function by keeping track of all your entries – letting you document long-term trends, view what’s coming up in your calendar and help you keep up with weekly and daily goals.
Consequently, Todoist’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness – it’s really an app that you need to go all-in on so it can provide you with a ton of insights and guidance. Whereas it becomes a tad unnecessary if you just want a pretty simple to-do list or task tracker. For the basics, look to Google Tasks.
While Todoist and Google Tasks do their best to keep you motivated with written task tracking, it might not be for everyone – especially those who find visualisation more suited to their needs. Ayoa uses mind-mapping, whiteboards and other methods of visual task management to help you keep track of your ongoing projects.
Ayoa proudly touts its software solutions as a strong productivity option for people who are neurodivergent and neuroatypical. Colours, images and elements of all shapes and sizes are featured to help you best represent your ideas visually. With support across web, desktop and mobile, it’s easy to crack on wherever you are.
Price: Free/£7.50/£10 per month | Ayoa
Otter.ai is an absolute lifesaver for anyone who’s ever been tasked with the unenviable task of transcribed interviews, events or meetings. Otter records meetings and takes down all the words for you, in real time. If your first concern is about the accuracy, it’s unavoidable that Otter does sometimes make mistakes, but it’s extremely simple to listen back to recordings – with the app tracking the words as you go – and make edits where needed. Even with the need for review, it’ll save you a ton of time.
On top of its basic transcription chops, Otter also differentiates between speakers as it goes and then, post-transcription, you can assign a name to a voice and it’ll then auto-assign it to the same voice for the rest of the conversation. Otter offers an appealing free tier, with 600 minutes of recording available per month. If you need more, Pro, Business and Enterprise options are all available for a fee.
Price: Free/£6 ($8.33) per month/£14 ($20) per month | Otter.ai
It's not exactly new, but it's worth mentioning. Pocket is a handy way to make sure you don’t miss out on any articles that you just don’t have time to read. Pocket integrates into your browser and works alongside a mobile app. When viewing articles on the web, you’re able to easily save them for later using Pocket and you can then revisit them later – whether that’s on the web or mobile app.
It’s a great way of creating a newfangled newspaper-like experience customised to your tastes, with a range of all the articles that have piqued your interest of late in one easy-to-access place for when you fancy sitting down and getting lost in them.
Price: Free/£32 ($45) per year | Pocket
We’ve already got your note-taking needs covered on this list so we’re actually mentioning Evernote for a slightly different reason than its traditional use. For those who produce anything online or, similar to Pocket, want to keep track of articles, Evernote is a great option. With Evernote, you can save whole pages and organise them into folders offline – letting you keep these even after pages or sites are taken down. You can also send access to these to others, making it easy to use it as a work portfolio to show yourself off to potential employers.
Price: Free/£6 per month/£7.50 per month | Evernote
Unfortunately, having a perfectly organised social life won’t stop you from having to head back to work. But, there’s a ton of apps to help you to be more productive and get back to having fun as quickly as possible. One of our favourites is Scrivener. It's an app designed for writers – aiming to provide you with a workspace to best facilitate your undiscovered genius.
If you’re working on a long-form piece that features anything from research, transcription or captioned images to including all three at once, Scrivener puts it all right there at hand. A neat benefit is how it lets you arrange your lengthy work into sections, enabling you to easily dodge from chapter to chapter or abstract to case study.
Price: £47 | Scrivener
This suggestion must come with a warning: your work can be completely deleted – so bear this in mind when delving into this extremely intense productivity tool. MDWA (Most Dangerous Writing App) is a simple text box, giving you space to just write.
However, there's a big catch is: your writing will be deleted if you stop writing for too long. It doesn’t give you much time and the page begins to fade and turn red as the pressure piles on. The idea of MDWA is to help you just get words down on the page – a brute force attempt to beat the dreaded writer’s block. If you fancy something still structured but a tad less intense to combat trouble with writing, have a try of the BeFocused Pomodoro timer.
In 2021, a decent password manager is essential for most people. If you’re keeping passwords in a Word document, on a bit of paper or, simply, using the same basic password over and over again, please stop. A password manager like BitWarden – our top WIRED Recommends pick – can not only store your passwords to prevent them from being lost but they provide added peace of mind by creating secure passwords for you to use.
Price: Free/£7 per year | BitWarden
Getting words down in a document faster is something that everyone craves, but short of suddenly becoming a faster typer there’s not much you can do – except with this handy program Atext. Atext lets you assign frequently used phrases to abbreviations. For example, you may like “myaddress” to transform into your fully written address – saving you valuable time if that’s a regular occurrence for you. That’s just one example, but you can assign any template to an abbreviated form.
While much of this guide includes dedicated apps and software, this one is simply a feature of Gmail that anyone can take advantage of. Just head on over to Settings in Gmail and then Advanced and enable Templates. You can then create a range of canned responses that you often use for email replies. To use, you click the three dots in the bottom right-hand corner of a compose window, go to Templates and select your desired response. Whether it’s a “Thanks, I will get back to you soon,” or a “I’m looking forward to attending,” it’s a time-saving wonder.
Not to be confused with Google’s AI-backed Lens feature, Microsoft Lens is made for scanning documents. While it may not be as nigh-on perfectly accurate as a traditional scanner, if you don’t have one, Lens is a strong option for creating PDFs from physical pieces of written work. It’s as simple as enabling access to your camera and pointing it at your desired document.
© Condé Nast Britain 2021.