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The 23 best new productivity apps for 2022

Fast Company 7/11/2022 Jared Newman

There’s always a better way to get things done, and this year’s best new productivity apps prove it.

From powerful search tools for your web browser to exciting tools for remote collaboration, these apps will help you remember more, cut down on repetitive tasks, and give your presentations just a little more pop.

While our annual best apps list covers all kinds of new creations, we lean heavily into the tools you might use on a computer or in a web browser. And nearly all of them are either free to use or free to try. If you’re looking to boost your productivity this year, here are some great ways to start.

Better browsing

Beefed-up search: Give your web browser a powerful command bar with Omni, a free extension for Chrome (and other Chromium-based browsers, such as Microsoft Edge) and Firefox. Just press Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+K, then start typing to search through your open tabs. You can also use keyboard commands to load bookmarks, search your history, clear your browser cache, and more. [Chrome, Firefox]

Everything in one place: By tapping into your browsing history, Eesel acts as a powerful starting point for productivity. This free extension replaces your new tab page and helps you look up Notion pages, Google Docs, Trello boards, Spotify playlists, and more, all from a unified search bar. You can also sort commonly used pages into folders for quick access, or launch specific pages with keyboard commands. [Chrome, Firefox]

A browser breakthrough: Orion is a new browser focused on speed and privacy, with built-in tracker blocking and a promise to never collect data on your behavior. It also offers some helpful tab-management tools, such as an overview button and a customizable toolbar. Its neatest trick, however, is the ability to run both Chrome and Firefox extensions, despite being based on the same Webkit engine as Apple’s Safari. [Mac, iOS]

Speed reading made easy: Next time you’re digging into a lengthy article and have limited time to read it, give Bionic Reading a try. This browser extension and conversion tool uses bold text at the start of each word to help guide your eyes. While it may look strange at first, it does feel faster. You can even take a test to compare Bionic Reading with standard text. (Note that while similar tools such as Jiffy Reader have risen to prominence this year, we’re giving credit to Bionic Reading for being the original.) [Chrome, web]

Total web page recall: Ever find yourself searching on Google for web pages you’ve visited before? If so, Heyday can be a major time-saver, digging through your browser history to surface relevant pages as you browse. You can also connect Heyday to services like Twitter, Dropbox, and Google to get even more useful suggestions. It’s like giving your web browser an extra brain. [Chrome, Firefox]

Organizational upgrades

Stay focused: Great ambient noise apps are in short supply on Windows PCs, which is why Ambie is so refreshing. It includes dozens of high-quality background sounds, plus the ability to save your own custom mixes. A major update this year added focus timers and a simple notepad, making this a one-stop concentration shop. [Windows]

Arrange your day: Bento takes a novel approach to keeping you on track, asking you to arrange tasks into small, medium, or large sizes. Each task gets its own dedicated focus timer, along with some soothing ambient sounds to help you stay in the zone. This app has a one-time purchase price of $8. [iOS]

Plan your week: If you’re overwhelmed by traditional to-do lists, Tweek is a welcome antidote. Type directly onto this weekly agenda view to create new tasks with minimal effort, then check them off or drag them around. Tweek’s mobile apps were completely rewritten this year, making them faster and easier to use offline, and they automatically sync with the web version. [iOS, Android, web]

Consolidate your reading list: Unclutter your inbox and stop frittering away time on Twitter with an assist from Matter. This app automatically pulls in your newsletter subscriptions and interesting reads from your Twitter follows. Plus, you can save articles from the web for later or import your reading list from Pocket or Instapaper. It might be the last read-it-later app you need. [iOS, web]

More natural note-taking: For stylus-equipped Windows PCs, Microsoft Journal offers a simpler way to take handwritten notes. Scribble over an item to delete it, draw a circle around it for the selection tool, or draw a star to mark important items for later. You can also copy your handwriting and paste the text directly into apps like Word. It beats having to juggle clunky on-screen tools. [Windows]

An instant memory bank: Like a cross between a notepad and a clipboard manager, Jot & Paste lets you stash text snippets that you want to come back to later. Press Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+Enter to bring up a simple scratchpad, type in what you want to save, then press Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+L to show a list of your saved notes, which you can quickly paste into any text field. [Windows, Mac]

Smarter collaboration

Next-level video calls: For a more innovative alternative to Zoom, check out Switchboard, which gives your team a blank canvas on which to create sticky notes, share files, and view web pages. Participants’ faces are relegated to small chat bubbles at the top of the screen, while the actual work that you’re doing together takes center stage. [Web]

Pack as a group: Ditch the spreadsheets and email chains for your next big outing and use Who Brings instead. With a simple shareable link, anyone in your group can add items to the list or claim responsibility for bringing something. You can even specify how much of something to bring and split the duties between people. [Web]

Protect your time: Do you overbook yourself with too many appointments and meetings? Reclaim for Google Calendar can help by blocking off time for deep work. Just specify how much time you need and when you need it by, and the app will automatically find an available time slot, all directly from Google Calendar. It’s an extension of Reclaim’s freestanding web app, which also lets you make time for positive habits. [Google Calendar]

An upgrade from PowerPoint: While many companies have tried using video to spice up presentations, none have nailed the execution quite as well as Pitch. Each slide can have a dedicated video snippet, which you can drag and drop onto any part of the screen. That makes the video seem less like a lecture and more like a natural part of the presentation itself. [Mac, web, iOS, Android]

A more polite meeting planner: In what seems like an act of magic, Boomerang has figured out how to embed your live calendar availability directly inside Gmail or Outlook. With its “Bookable Schedule” feature, you can send out scheduling emails with an embedded live view of your open time slots, so all the recipient has to do is click the time that works best for them. It beats having to send people off to an external web page for scheduling. [Web, iOS]

Visual enhancers

Graphic design for dummies: Even without serious graphic design chops, you can create slick posters, business cards, or social media graphics in minutes using Adobe Express. Start with a template or from scratch, then use the simple drag-and-drop interface to add fonts, images, and stock art. This app, formerly known as Adobe Spark, rebranded this year and added a slew of new editing tools, such as an instant background remover and video-to-GIF converter. [iOS, Android, web]

Screenshots, beautified: If you’re creating screenshots for social media posts or presentations, Pika offers a simple way to make them prettier. Just upload or paste in any image, and Pika will instantly frame it with background color gradients, shadows, and rounded corners. An optional $10-per-month “Pro” subscription adds features such as text and watermarking. [Web]

Erase unwanted elements: No Photoshop skills are necessary to remove photobombers, watermarks, or other unsightly elements now that you can use Cleanup.pictures instead. This AI-powered magic eraser lets you draw over the parts of an image you want to delete, then fills in the empty space automatically. A $5-per-month upgrade unlocks full-resolution photo downloads. [Web, iOS via the Clipdrop app]

Useful utilities

The ultimate webcam app: You don’t have to wait for iOS 16’s “Continuity Camera” feature to start using your phone as a computer webcam. Camo is available today, and it works across platforms; you can use an Android phone with a Mac or an iPhone with a Windows PC. With a major update in May, Camo became the first virtual camera app to work with FaceTime and Safari, so you can use it for all your video calls without restrictions. [Windows, Mac, iOS, Android]

Free document signing: Adding your signature to a PDF file shouldn’t require an expensive subscription or clunky login process. With SignFree, you can upload a document, draw your signature with a mouse or trackpad, add printed text if necessary, and download the results. The service is free to use, with optional subscriptions for extra features such as Gmail integration and signature requests. [Web]

A tool for every occasion: PicsArt’s Quicktools website is full of handy little utilities for your photos, videos, and documents. Remove backgrounds from photos, convert PDFs to Word documents, quickly crop videos, and more—all for free, with no login necessary. [Web]

Blur it out: To avoid revealing sensitive info on your next Zoom call, try using Zeroblur. This free Chrome extension lets you blur out web page elements with one click, perfect for demoing a product or website that contains email addresses or other personal information. [Chrome, Firefox]

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