App roundup: free productivity programs

20 free tablet apps that can boost your productivity.
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01.Office work and note taking

Productivity apps for tablet

You can use your tablet as a productivity tool if you have the right apps.

Our roundup looks at 20 programs that you can use to make notes on the go, tackle daily tasks and organise your work and personal life. And best of all, they’re free!

Office apps

Note-taking apps

Office apps

Kingsofticon  Kingsoft Office

  Platforms: iOS/Android

Finding a free office suite that can stand up to Microsoft Office is a big ask but Kingsoft for iOS and Android comes pretty close, with an interface and feature list that’s strikingly similar to Microsoft’s suite. It can save to Office-compatible formats (eg .doc/.docx/.xls/.xlsx) and won’t make any serious changes to formatting. It’s directly integrated into a handful of free cloud services including Dropbox, GoogleDrive and Box so you can quickly sync documents between devices. Note the iOS version doesn’t offer as many features as the Android app but it’s still suitable for basic editing.

Documentsicon Documents 5 by Readdle

 Platform: iOS

Documents 5 is a one-stop file management app that can read and display the most popular file types. This saves you the hassle of switching between programs when you’re managing multiple items. Editing options are mostly limited to the basics such as text-only word processing or highlighting and annotating in PDFs, but this isn’t a serious drawback as Documents 5 is targeted towards document organisation for your tablet.  It backs up files to iCloud by default or you can connect to an alternate cloud service that’s installed on your tablet - although support may vary. There’s also a web browser included for good measure.

Mailboxicon Mailbox

 Platform: iOS

Do you have a messy iPad inbox? Mailbox might be able to help. It’s built on the “inbox zero” philosophy which encourages you to delete or archive every email you receive, to stop your inbox becoming a cluttered mess. It uses gesture-based navigation so you can quickly sort and organise your inbox with finger taps and slides. The three main options being archive, delete or “read later”. The latter includes a customisable reminder so your read later folder doesn’t get backed up. There are a couple of drawbacks though, including a lack of customisation options and limited integration, as it can only sync with Gmail and iCloud accounts.

DocScanHDicon Doc Scan HD

 Platform: iOS

Document scanners use your tablet’s inbuilt camera to “scan” content from printed documents such as books, magazines, newspapers etc. They do this by taking a high-quality photo before using image enhancement to crop, straighten and sharpen text. While there are plenty of scanning apps available, Doc Scan’s speed, accurate touchscreen cropping and simple editing options are impressive. You can tweak brightness and colour to improve clarity and you can highlight or make small notes on the digital pages then export files as JPG or PDF.

Note taking

EvernoteIcon Evernote

 Platforms: iOS/Android

Evernote aims to be your memory in the cloud. This enormously popular personal note catalogue can collect and collate your thoughts, ideas and creations on the desktop or on the go. It’s very handy for storing articles “clipped” from the web, similar to saving recipes, for example, but without the huge pile of paper tear outs. Cloud synchronisation means you can access your notes on your smartphone, tablet or computer when logged in with the same account. The Android version has a slightly different layout, but the features are the same. Premium subscription adds some useful functions including offline access to notes and collaborative editing but the free version is packed with features suitable for the average user.

PenultimateIcon Penultimate

 Platform: iOS

Penultimate is a note-taking app designed for people who prefer to sketch and hand write rather than type, which makes it a great tool for sketching out rough graphs, charts or visuals aids. It can also import photos so you can make notes on or around your images. Your masterpieces or scratchings are organised into notebooks which can sync with your Evernote account.

ColorNoteicon ColorNote

 Platform: Android

ColorNote reinterprets the sticky note concept so you don’t have to line your computer monitor with little yellow squares. Instead you can enter notes or reminders onto ColorNote’s grid-like layout and organise them into categories or a calendar schedule. The simplistic approach to quickly taking and storing ideas/reminders works if you’re pressed for time or jotting things down on the go. And unlike a pack of sticky notes you'll never run out of digital squares to doodle on.

Ideasketchicon Idea Sketch

 Platform: iOS

Mind maps can be a great tool for expanding your ideas without losing track along the way. Idea strips things back to simple elements required for effective mind mapping, and doesn’t get bogged down in extra features. It’s almost entirely gesture based so a single tap will reorganise your mind map into a file tree format, for example, while swiping up, left, right or down will also auto arrange its branches. It can export the final product as a PDF, PNG, TXT or VDX (mind map file). What it lacks in aesthetics it makes up for in simplicity and versatility.



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