Working at home means you're surrounded by all of your stuff: from that pile of dirty dishes in your sink to that pile of laundry that's still unfolded. And maybe you have a pressing deadline along with a pressing need to sort that pile of books (you sure do have a lot of piles!). Good news: you can do both with the help of a few time management and chore management apps that can double as productivity boosters when you need to get a handle on your day.
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Being a notepad and pen replacement is just one of the roles that smartphones fill for us now — alongside being a digital camera, a musical jukebox, an address book, and an ever-expanding encyclopedia. Not all the options are created equal, though. Whatever the reason you need to take down notes, these are the best tools to do the job.
All browsers: Google and Dropbox are now collaborating on a brand-new "Dropbox add-on for Gmail", which will make it easy to share the contents of your Dropbox directly within Gmail. If you're going the other way, it's also a lot easier to dump files directly into your Dropbox, saving you the step of having to pull up your Downloads folder and manually drag the file over yourself.
iOS, Android: Keepsafe, the company behind privacy-focused apps like Blur for iMessage and Private Photo Vault, launched a new app this week for browsing the web privately. Aptly named Keepsafe Browser, the browser prevents third-party trackers from snooping on your mobile web browsing and comes with a built-in ad blocker to give you a little more privacy as you peruse the web.
iOS: Earlier this year, Google teamed up with Nintendo to turn Google Maps into Mario Kart, replacing the app's usual location icon with a fist-bumping plumber riding a red go-kart. The crossover didn't last very long, but Google is now bringing back some of that magic with a new update to the Maps app on iOS.
iOS: Making GIFs yourself has always been a pretty involved process either made too simple to suit my desires or too complicated to be intuitive. GIF Toaster blends the best of both worlds, offering more than enough control over the GIFs you're trying to create in an interface that's simple to use and free of ads (if you pay).
I learned how to play the piano the old-fashioned way -- by being dragged by my mother to weekly lessons taught by an elderly woman in the neighbourhood, and yawning at the sheet music as my kid-fingers played a clunky rendition of Für Elise. Since then, music instruction has evolved. There has been a crop of video game apps that introduce children to instruments such as the piano, guitar, drums and ukulele and through fun challenges, get them to practice -- willingly.
iOS/Mac: Whenever I plug my MacBook into a TV to share, say, a video with my friends, I end up on the floor, squatting in front of the laptop, while everyone else sits back and enjoys themselves. Since I occasionally use my Mac to manage the streaming media in my home and often find myself connecting it to some big screen via its HDMI port or through something like a Chromecast, a remote control would be a lifesaver.
You're standing in line at the grocery store, so it seems like a decent time to scroll through Facebook. But then you do it again while you're stuck in traffic driving those groceries home, and then again waiting on dinner to arrive. Before you know it, you can spend cumulative hours on social media over the course of the day, hours you're never going to get back that could arguably have spent, at least a few of them, doing something a little better.
Boomerang, the email add-on that lets you control when to send email, is now a free full-featured email app on iOS. We've included the Android version in our Android download pack for years and the app started in 2010 as a Gmail add-on, so this has been a long time coming. The iOS version is in beta, according to a FAQ buried inside the app's settings menu.
iOS: If you're like me, you've experienced the sting of an unwanted subscription draining money from your checking account, long after you forgot to cancel a free trial. If you'd like to finally get a handle on all your subscriptions without poring over your bank statements, take a look at Bobby. It's an iOS app that lets you track multiple subscriptions to see how much money you're shelling out each month. The only thing it requires is a little leg work to start (and a $US1.99 ($3) in-app purchase for certain options).
If you've been using your computer to manage the apps for your iOS device, that time has come to an end. The latest update to Apple's iTunes removes its access to the iOS App Store, as well as the ability to manage iOS apps, with the company expecting you to handle all that app-related business on your iOS device itself. So long, app syncing.
With an eye towards the developing world where people are more likely to own cheap phones and have spottier wireless data access, the big names in tech are developing simpler versions of their apps. These apps are lightweight, use little data, and don't burn through battery life. Sound good? It does to us too, and here's how to give them a test drive.
iPhone: The only thing better than using social media is not using social media. That's why there's Binky, which is sort of both.
iPhone: Annotable is one of the best image annotation tools around, especially after Evernote abandoned Skitch a couple of years ago. Now, it's been updated with a slew of new features, making it much more versatile.
Podcasts have become one of the best forms of entertainment around, but it's tough keeping track of the ones you like, ditching episodes you're not interested in, or even managing what you want to hear. Pocket Casts is one of the best apps for helping you organise your podcasts, but you'll need to experiment with it a bit to get it to work for you.