In a remote work environment, really in any work environment, there are apps that are needed to get work done. Apps range everywhere from the mundane to the fun and exciting, but I was curious which tools the team really truly loved, so I polled each of them to find out the answers to three questions:
- I couldn’t imagine doing my work without [blank]
- I find myself recommending [blank] at least a few times every month
- I have no problem paying for [blank] because I get a ton of value/joy from it
In all we ended up with mentions of over 60 different apps and services, but rather than publishing an exhaustive list (some of which were pretty obscure), I decided to share the ones that had the most overlap or were mentioned multiple times by people on our team.
Some of the apps in this list we’ve implemented at an organizational level, so we probably gave them an unfair advantage in this app roundup, but our team members still voluntarily gushed about each of them.
So maybe these apps are subject to some bias, or maybe our company has extremely good taste in apps. You be the judge ?
We included 1Password in our list of remote team collaboration tools toward the end of last year, and I really can’t say enough about this magical application. It’s truly the epitome of well-built reliable software, and our team enjoys using 1password.
Let me say that again.
Our team enjoys interacting with the app that we use to store our passwords.
We use 1Password for Teams and it’s become an integral part of our daily workflow and security. Features like Travel Mode and the ability to manage user access globally are such stellar additions to an already great app.
I’m so into 1Password that I recently got my parents to start using it and even they rave about how nice it is to use (and as an added bonus they’re much more secure online).
$2.99 per month for individuals and $3.99 per team member per month
If you haven’t heard of TextExpander before, you need to check it out. It was mentioned by several people on our team, and it’s quickly rising my list of must-have apps. I recommend it to people all the time.
We use Textexpander in support all. the. time.
Let’s say hypothetically that you get the same type of question over and over again in a support role. Canned replies are nice, but they’re obviously canned. People can feel when they’re on the receiving end of a template.
What if you could take the efficiency of a canned reply but populate a bunch of custom fields to make the reply feel more natural to the recipient? That’s exactly what Textexpander can do with its mad lib style canned replies. We can also share the replies across our team, and update language throughout the company when we have a policy change or just want to liven things up a bit.
$3.33 per month for individuals and $7.96 per month for team members
If you don’t know Alfred, I recommend you meet him. If you use a Mac, think of Alfred as Spotlight on steroids. He’s your personal butler and can help execute all sorts of automated tasks on your computer and elsewhere.
Let’s look at a quick example. Say you want to download WordPress, unzip the archive, and move it to another directory for local development. Simple enough, right?
Here’s what it takes to actually do that:
- Open a browser
- Go to wordpress.org
- Click “Download”
- Click “Download” again
- Double click zip archive
- Select all files
- Copy all files
- Browse to new directory
- Paste all files
It’s a nine step process! ?
But not with Alfred. He takes care of all the heavy lifting for you. By simply opening the Alfred prompt and typing
wpcore, all of those steps are automatically completed for you (thanks to a custom workflow we’ve built).
The time savings for a task like that is probably only about 1 minute, but with enough workflows and automation, those minutes really start to add up. I recommend going with the PowerPack so you can get all the goodness of custom workflows!
Alfred is free and Powerpack is a paid upgrade
Fantastical is a desktop calendar app for Mac (there’s a great iOS versions too!), and where it comes in handy the most is consolidating lots of different Google and Mac calendars into one personal calendar with a helpful views.
One of my personal favorite features is the natural language. I can type something like “Call: All Team at 10:15am at Battery Park for 1 hour with John Doe and Kathy Hargress” and Fantastical magically parses that into an actual calendar event and can even send out the invites for me.
$49.99 in the Mac App Store
Deliveries is one of those apps that you don’t know you need until you have it, and then you wonder how you ever lived without it. Deliveries consolidates all of your shipments tracking numbers into one nice feed that can notify you when things are happening.
If you pay for overnight shipping because you really need the Care Bears 25th Anniversary Blu-ray tomorrow morning (no judgment), Deliveries will not only track your shipment, but will send notifications as progress is made so you don’t miss your delivery window.
I have a Google Calendar specifically for deliveries that auto-creates all-day events when packages will be arriving. That means I can take a quick glance at that calendar each morning and know if I should be expecting anything.
If you really want to give Deliveries full control, you can give it access to your email inbox and it will find tracking codes for you and automatically add them to the app as it discovers them. I haven’t gone quite that far yet (puts on tinfoil cap), but it’s a really nice feature if you’re free and easy with your trust like that.
$4.99 one time fee
For development we use a lot more online services than we do native apps, but there were a few that bubbled to the top when I polled our team.
Finding the right FTP client has been an internal company debate since before I can remember. It was the original crunchy or creamy peanut butter controversy. It started with a Cyberduck/Filezilla showdown, and then apps like Forklift showed up on the scene, but at this point the de facto standard file management client is Transmit from Panic.
I’ve personally been a Transmit user for years, but I think the $45 price tag was an aversion for some initially. It’s safe to say that everyone is on the Transmit train now.
It’s so much more than an FTP client. Not only can it handle a bajillion protocols, it’s essentially a remote extension for your entire File Manager. In other words, you can mount remote services like Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3, etc and browse them just like they were on your local hard drive. It’s magic.
Free Trial and then $45 one time
I had to list two separate code editors here because this is still an ongoing debate at WP Site Care. Ultimately code editors and IDEs end up being very personal tools driven strongly by personal preference, so I think we’d be hard-pressed to find a company where the entire dev team uses the same tool to code.
It would definitely be nice considering we’d be able to share more extensions and the like internally, but it’s not really a big deal either way.
All that said, I wanted to mention that these two are definitely the favorites of our team here, and we’ve been through many.
Free Trial and then $80
I don’t know that this necessarily qualifies as a developer tool, but uBlock Origin is a browser plugin, and developers use browsers, so I dropped it in here. uBlock blocks advertising and tracking scripts to help improve privacy on the web, and make it a better overall experience in general.
The app gets frequent updates and filters out thousands of different types of scripts that make browsing the web tolerable again. Another nice thing about uBlock Origin is that it’s open source too. We can see the entire codebase and there’s no evil corporation with ulterior motives getting up in our business.
Free but you should donate to support the project
Apps for fun
Work hard, play hard as they say. Our team had no problem at all coming up with a list of apps to make the day go more smoothly, or to help us unwind when things get stressful. If you weren’t already aware, burnout is a very real thing in the WordPress support industry, so we need lots of different ways to decompress.
If you haven’t heard of Plex before, get familiar. The simplest description for Plex is that it makes all of your own media more accessible and easier to use. Think of it as Netflix for your own stuff.
It’s a beautiful app and works on about every platform in existence, and a few members of our team have curated some pretty big libraries of music and movies that we can share with each other seamlessly. Few things make downtime more enjoyable than watching Keanu get revenge for his puppy’s life.
Plex is Free with a paid upgrade to Plex Pass
I hesitated adding this one because of the garbage fire nature of Twitter these days, but if you do want to participate on Twitter, Tweetbot is the way to do it. It’s a really nice app that synchronizes your timeline across all of your devices, and doesn’t reorder all of your Tweets with unhelpful algorithms.
If you want the “old school Twitter” that’s a chronological stream of content from the people you follow, Tweetbot is a great option for that. They have apps for iPhone, iPad, and even the Mac!
$9.99 for the Mac & $4.99 for iOS
The most popular streaming music service on our team is Spotify. We have a few who use Google Music or Apple Music, but the Daily Mix from Spotify seems to. be a nice enough feature to keep loyalty among the ranks for now.
I use the Alexa integration to listen to some of my favorite playlists. Nothing feels more like magic than yelling at a tube and having it start doing the exact thing you asked it to.
Beyond the service itself, the benefits of listening to music for focus and mental health during work are clear. Even if Spotify isn’t your service of choice, get those tunes going the next time you really need to focus and get work done. I love the “Focus Flow” playlist on Spotify (it’s not just a clever name).
Stream for free and get Premium features for $9.99 per month
Activities (Apple Watch)
That said, working out isn’t always super fun. Sometimes it can even be NOT fun. Apple didn’t invent the gamification of workouts, but their three ring approach to fitness has proven particularly effective among our group.
About half our team has Apple Watches and shares activity data. We can encourage each other to get workouts done, and celebrate together when we reach certain milestones, like 30 consecutive days of filling all three rings. It’s a fun way to share progress and nudge each other to stay active. Heaven knows I need it.
(This is an expensive thing so do some research first to make sure you’ll like it)
Speaking of gamification, have you ever gamified your commute? I promise this is real. Waze is a Navigation app that uses crowdsourced data to make your commute more enjoyable and less stressful.
If there’s an accident on the shoulder up ahead, it’s probably already been reported by other Wazers, so you know why things are slowing down. Maybe there’s a cop ahead setting a speed trap, a little notification from Waze will let you know to back off the accelerator just a little bit.
Not only that, but as you “give back” to the Waze community by sharing information, you can earn points and new achievement levels. It actually makes driving more tolerable, which is a really hard thing to do.
I haven’t tried this yet (since I work from home), but Waze Carpool looks super interesting too!
The renaissance of the animated gif is really something to behold. I can’t imagine Steven Wilhite (the creator of the animated gif) intended that every pop culture phenom in history would be enshrined in his file format, but maybe he did too? ?
Our team is constantly sending gifs to each other, and it’s even become a bit of an unspoken battle to share the best gif as a reaction or to make each other laugh.
The Giphy integration with Slack makes sharing super simple, and even allows for previewing gifs and rotating through different options before firing them into the channel. Our work wouldn’t be the same without Giphy.
Yes we needed an entirely separate section for games. Don’t judge us. We work hard, ok?
Seriously though games have become a bit of a staple in our culture here. When we get together it’s all board games all the time, so these mobile games are our virtual replacements when we’re far apart.
Two Dots is a puzzle game you can play with friends. This game is incredibly addicting and may result in thumb fatigue. Seriously though it’s a great game to work your brain muscle and get some social interaction at the same time (unless you want time away from people, which is totally fine too).
Free with a premium tier
Vainglory is an entirely different type of game, focusing on teamwork and strategy. It’s a very social game and needs everyone contributing to some degree. It’s been around for quite a while, and feels a little bit like Clash of Clans during gameplay.
The goal is simple. Destroy the other team at all costs. Kind of like business, right? Yeah something like that…
Free to play with infinite opportunities to spend money
Data Wing is a beautiful game with a great soundtrack and a pretty bad name. But don’t let the name deter you. It’s a super addicting touch agility game that can be both incredibly frustrating and satisfying at the same time. You’ll find yourself replaying levels just because you can. This is a game you definitely want to play with your headphones in. The music adds another dimension that’s increasingly rare in modern games.
Threes is my favorite mobile game of all time. In a way it’s become my personal fidget spinner. If you’ve played Threes before you’ll know what I’m talking about, but there have been times when I’ve found myself moving the game tiles around without even really thinking about each move.
In this game you combine tiles and try to by getting a high score. There is an end to the game, but I’ve only ever witnessed it on YouTube, and it looks amazing. My new life goal is to beat Threes all the way to the end.
Pretty exhaustive list, right? Our team has a special place in our tiny metal hearts for cool tech, and we really appreciate products and services that go out of their way to add an extra level of polish.
This list represents our best of the best mobile apps, and stuff we really wouldn’t want to live without, even though we know we could. Probably. I mean, most likely…
What are the apps and services you can’t imagine living or working without? Hit us up in the comments so our team can check them out!