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8 apps to help you work

Digital forests, fancy spellcheckers and the looped sound of a ship’s engine. Whatever it takes to get that assignment finished…

Apps are usually things that prevent us from working, not the other way around. But there are a tonne of good ones out there specifically designed to boost productivity and concentration (that makes them sound like multi-vitamins, but you get the idea).

To-do lists, distraction blockers, spell-checkers and email-sifters – if you’re drowning in Post-Its, it might be time to download some of these.


Forest encourages you to stay focused on a single task. How? If you leave your phone alone, a small digital forest will start to grow. Flowers will bloom and bluebirds start nesting. If you answer a call, check an email or search for pictures of hedgehogs smelling cookies, the trees wither and die. Just like your self discipline. You can set timers if you need to concentrate for 20 minutes or an hour, and Forest even tracks how productive you’ve been each week.


Momentum is a Google Chrome plugin that sits in your browser. Every time you open a new tab, you’ll see the Momentum screen: a stunning natural vista (that changes each day), a basic to-do list, the time, an inspiring quote and other useful things (the current temperature, relevant links etc). You can customise your Momentum screen and synch it with other software or devices. It’s the best tab you can have outside a pub.


Grammarly might have some of the worst online advertising we’ve ever seen, but the app itself is great. It’s basically a spell-checker for your browser. The app parses what you’re typing in real-time, then checks for spelling errors, syntax mistakes and opportunities for clearer expression. You can set different dictionaries (it defaults to US spelling, so you’ll need to change that), and it even works on Facebook posts. Did we mention it’s free?  


No time to read the whole textbook? Blinkist is here to help. It’s an app that summarises non-fiction books, then spits out the highlights in 15-minute text and audio. There’s currently 2,500 titles on the database, divided into 19 categories (finance, science, literature etc). You can highlight key passages, browse themed book lists, and Blinkist will even suggest books based on your interests.


Love, love, love this one. Noisli is an online app that generates background noise to help you concentrate. You can pick almost anything. Drizzling rain, the clickety-clack of a passing train, wind through the trees, even the ambient noise of a café. Users can layer multiple sounds on top of one another – if you want to see how well you work to the noise of cicadas + boat engine + crackling fireplace.


Scanning documents and receipts is still one of the biggest pains in the digital world. Which is why we kissed the ground when we discovered Scanbot. It uses your phone to scan any document in crisp, 200+ dpi, then turns it into a usable, shareable PDF. You can scan documents, QR codes, whiteboards, sketches – anything. The docs even auto-upload to the cloud (or any online storage you nominate).

Block Site

Everyone’s got one website where they just can’t help themselves. You know you should be working…but five minutes on Youtube/Spotify/Facebook won't kill you, right? Next thing you know it’s 1am the night before the assignment’s due. Block Site does exactly what you think. It’s a Chrome web extension that blocks certain sites to discourage procrastination. Just tell Block Site what you want blocked, and for how long. It’ll do the rest.


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This article was originally published on 26 July 2018