Work from home better and smarter using these awesome apps
It is no surprise that the lockdowns and isolation protocols that are being undertaken and enforced globally have also been put in effect in this part of the world as well. As a result of these decisions, many offices have adopted policies to allow their employees to work from home, finally showing people how telecommuting is very much a viable solution for a lot of career options that do not require employees to be physically present to deliver work.
There are many apps which can take the experience of working from home from ‘good’ to ‘great’, and here we are outlining a handful of the ones which we consider the most useful of the lot.
While it used to be relatively unknown compared to names such as Skype and Google Meet, over the last three months, Zoom has pretty much become ubiquitous in professional environments. The app has rapidly established itself as an excellent solution for teleconferencing with a vast slew of features, such as allowing up to 49 users (25 on mobile devices) to hold conferences at a time, presenting and annotating the contents of a screen or a specific app window, instant messaging sharing files, using custom filters and backgrounds, and even letting other users to remotely take control (if granted authorization, of course) of another user’s computer during a screen share session. As a veritable Swiss Army knife of professional teleconferencing options, Zoom also allows sessions to be recorded, and for audio to be automatically transcribed from a meeting.
While Discord’s roots lie in gaming, its versatility as a tool for professional communication is not something to be taken lightly. Allowing separate channels for voice chat (including screen sharing and video calls) and regular chat (including file transfers), allowing organizations to create and maintain their own servers that would only be accessible by authorized personnel, and by allowing the addition of purpose-specific bots, Discord manages to be a very different beast from more regular video conferencing options like Zoom, which makes it perfect for intra-office communications.
While many project management solutions are currently available, such as Asana, Avaza and Monday, Trello continues to remain one of the most elegant and effective ones. Designed on the foundations of the Japanese ‘kanban’ schedule management system, Trello allows each task of a project to be assigned to an individual card that can be filed under different lists, with assignable levels of priority and completion. The app’s minimalistic nature makes it easy to overlook its elaborate feature set, which includes descriptions, checklists, file attachments and deadlines to be attached to each task, which can in turn be assigned to specific users, thus vastly simplifying division and allocation of roles and task components. Aside from task management, Trello can also be used very effectively for planning and ideation, with ideas being assigned to cards.
While not yet as affordable as Google Drive, Dropbox sports amazing real-time cloud synchronization of locally stored files without triggering access violations or restrictions, by using a highly efficient change-detecting process called block-syncing that does not require entire files to be reuploaded with every change made to them, instead of relying only on uploading the particular sections of the files which have undergone changes. The files can also be easily shared with other users using sharing links, and the cross-platform nature of the app makes it useful on every possible device, be it a computer, a tablet or a smartphone. The desktop iterations of Dropbox are particularly versatile, running in the background at all times and syncing any changes made to the contents of its synced folders.
Window’s built-in Snipping Tool has become quite powerful over the last few updates, but ShareX manages to one-up it with ease by being an incredibly powerful tool for grabbing static screenshots as well as capturing short recordings of any onscreen content or app windows. Captured screenshots can be freely edited or annotated using the app’s built-in editor, which also allows specific/sensitive parts of screenshots to be blurred or pixelated. Moreover, a finalized screenshot can be automatically uploaded on the web, emailed, exported as a file, sent to the clipboard for pasting elsewhere or even directly printed, as defined within the settings of the program. While the initial configuration can take some time, its usefulness cannot be overstated in any way, especially in an era where screenshots and screen recordings have become integral parts of our professional and personal lives alike.
With the internet being the very backbone of working from home, data security is more critical an issue than ever, and in order to ensure the safety of one’s accounts, a password manager app is of paramount importance. LastPass is perhaps the best app in this category, offering the option of generating unique high-security passwords for each and every account, and stores them on the cloud in an encrypted format which renders them nigh-impossible to steal through any regular means. The app and its browser extensions also allow for the passwords to be called up automatically on any synced device for quicker and safer logins. As a result, the user only needs to remember one password – the master password of LastPass – as all other passwords are randomly and uniquely generated by the service. LastPass also offers a subscription-based premium version with more bells and whistles for those who may need them.
Cloud-synced notetaking solutions such as Google Keep and Evernote are very much popular, and while Microsoft’s OneNote has been around for a while, it never quite managed to become as popular, thanks to the clumsiness and tackiness of its earlier iterations. However, the recent versions of OneNote are nothing short of incredible, combining an extremely versatile freeform notetaking engine with support for pen and/or touch input on any touchscreen-equipped device, allowing users to scribble and doodle away to their hearts’ content, while switching to typed notes and annotations wherever necessary. It even supports integration with Microsoft’s Office 365 suite, which can be immensely useful.