Important for optimising your working, productivity tools can be invaluable when it comes to streamlining processes or removing pain entirely.

But with so many available on the market, it can be hard to know what to look out for and which are right for you.

So what do productivity tools do, and which are the best free options to get you started?

What are productivity tools?

An essential part of modern office work, free productivity tools are apps that help make your day easier.

That can be through providing online document storage, automating complex processes or offering specific solutions to issues that cause friction in your workflow.

These can range from single-use programs like note or checklist apps, to end-to-end business platforms like Office365 or GDrive.

Many platforms require a subscription to access their full functionality or to be used legally in an office environment.

However simple research can highlight some alternative options for your use-case, many of which offer protracted trials or are free to use.

Finding these can add value to your daily practice, making administrative, communication, and planning tasks both quick and simple.

How can they help?

While there are nearly as many apps as there are businesses on the market, there are several aspects you should look out for when it comes to selecting a tool that is appropriate for you.

They include:

Unification: A good app should aim to unify your software as much as possible. Put simply, this means there is a single point of access to carry out daily tasks – letting you click into one dashboard to access work rather than cycle through several programs that do not ‘talk’ to each other. It can introduce redundancy and human error, creating a snowball of issues that must be addressed in the long run.

Validation: Quality software will encourage sound working practices while also providing flexibility to deviate when necessary. That can include setting folders in cloud storage drives, limiting access to sensitive files and information or setting reminders for meetings and dates.

Communication: Enjoying a shared channel for communication can be a massive timesaver, especially in businesses that specialise in human interaction. That means being able to capture and review chat messages, emails, invoice and alerts from one system – making it quick and simple to review past decisions and capture data for future analysis. It also makes contacting others as straightforward as possible.

What ones should I consider?

It is important to remember that a poorly-chosen app can hinder as much as help.

It can result in adding extra steps to existing processes, creating a roadblock as staff gets used to the new systems or even just not be fit for purpose.

For that reason, trialling software is important and using a strong, free service is even better.

Bearing this in mind, here are some of our favourite free tools to add to your business:

Google Drive: A popular, free file storage and sync service, Google Drive is a powerful piece of collaboration software that allows each individual user up to 15GB of storage for files and documents. It lets you work across a range of devices, cutting back on the effort required to organise and review content. As standard, signing up to the service grants you a Gmail account for email and access to Google Docs, Sheets and Slides.

It permits both clients and colleagues to work together on content. And with 800m users worldwide, it should come as no surprise it’s an extremely popular software platform. It also includes the ability to sync with an Android phone, providing backups to protect against data loss or corruption.

Google Calendar: A piece of time management scheduling software, Google Calendar first launched in 2006 and has been adopted as a de-facto organiser for professionals throughout the market. By default, it allows individuals to create, share and set reminders for events on their daily calendar – making sure you never miss important appointments. Offering a clean and clear interface, it makes scheduling meetings with clients and candidates simple. Recent changes allow key dates to be pulled from your email notifications and automatically added to your calendar, providing a custom configuration that steadily makes the system fit-for- purpose.

Hootsuite: Marketed as an ‘all in one’ social media solution, Hootsuite unifies your social accounts through a single easy-to-use dashboard. It lets you bring in platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn under the same banner. Doing so enables you to combine and repurpose your messaging, taking the minutiae out of timing your scheduling and allowing you to schedule posts in advance. It takes a huge amount of effort out of your online engagement and brand management, allowing you to keep to a rigid posting schedule and be flexible enough to respond to change and challenges with speed.

Slack: A cloud-based communication platform, Slack is an Instant Messenger (IM) that offers a number of channels and tools for users. These can include persistent chat rooms, group conversations, file-sharing, and the ability to create teams for different projects. This ability to segment and search any chats makes it a useful and flexible tool to track work on projects or discussions – letting you hold a formal meeting over IM chat and report or review your minutes, taking what could be a significant disruption to your day to an effortless, quick conversation. Add in an ability to send SMS texts and private messages and you’re all set.

Find out more

If you want to learn more about optimising your employees’ or individual workday, the team at Practical Software is here to help.

Whether you are struggling with optimising, collaboration or ironing the kinks out of an old initiative, our range of tools and bespoke software modules help provide the assistance you need every time.

You can review our list of services in full from here.

Or, if you have specific needs that aren’t being addressed by your providers, please do not hesitate to get in touch directly and let us know exactly what you need to make a difference in your work.