MONEY Tech

4 Apps That Will Supercharge Your Productivity

Matthew Hollister

Not enough hours in the day? These tools can help you get it all done.

1. For Managing Tasks: Todoist

The problem: You’re juggling multiple projects, and you sometimes lose track of what to do next.

The fix: Todoist is a list-making and task-management app that can be as basic or as powerful as you need it to be. You can create a personal to-do list, of course. But it’s also possible to share lists with other people, so you can delegate tasks as projects get compli­cated. Your lists are available via a web browser, mobile apps, and desktop programs—13 platforms in all—and sync automatically. ­Todoist is free, but if you want reminders and other extra features, you’ll need to splurge on the $29-a-year premium version.

2. For Staying Focused: Anti-Social

The problem: It’s time to get serious work done—but you keep checking Twitter and Facebook.

The fix: This software for Macs and PCs blocks distracting sites for a period you set. It costs $15 (it’s free five times) but has a just-right mix of flexibility and strictness that free programs lack. If you do decide you need a Twitter fix, you must reboot—just annoying enough to make you reconsider. Facebook and Twitter are blocked by default, but you can shut out any site you choose.

3. For group editing: Quip

The problem: Everybody on your team has an opinion, and it’s hard to keep straight all their ­suggested changes to the Word doc you’re working on.

The fix: Quip, which is free, merges word processing with instant messaging. Designed by Facebook’s former tech chief, it’s a web-based word processor with a stream of chat messages and revision notes docked to the left of your text. It also lets you put docs into shared online folders, so you can keep track of multiple versions.

4. For easy presentations: Haiku Deck

The problem: Creating great presentations is a ­vital skill, but the process can be frustrating for ­PowerPoint newbies.

The fix: This free app makes presentation prep easy—and almost fun. Available on the web and the iPad, Haiku Deck lets you choose from a range of backgrounds, fonts, and layouts to create a slick package, even if you have no eye for design. Then you can put your work online, post it to Twitter and Facebook, or send it via email. A cool extra: Use your iPhone as a remote control to click through your presentation.

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TIME Paycheck Friday

5 Unique Sleep Gadgets for Under $60

Come on, you're making some decent money now. Live a little! Consider blowing your paycheck on these worthy splurges.

Cool or Hot Pillow Pad ($32.75)

GelO_Cool_Pillow_Mat
Human Creations

Your blind date was going well until you embarrassed yourself by passing gas more loudly than a tanker truck replenishing the pumps at 7-11. Back home – alone, natch – your face gets red hot every time you replay the unfortunate incident in your head.

The Gel’O Cool Pillow Mat can cool your face down as you’re trying to fall asleep. Just pop it in the fridge or freezer before bedtime, place it on top of your pillow and then lay your shameful head down. During the winter months, you can shove it in the microwave to heat it up instead.

[Human Creations]

White Noise Machine ($54.95)

LectroFan
LectroSound

You live in a studio apartment with paper-thin walls above a rowdy bar and below a 24-hour daycare center full of teething babies with colic. Next door is a 24-hour doggy day care heralded for its innovative use of outdoor-only barking zones. Across the street is a gun range. That’s 24 hours, too.

This highly-rated white noise/fan-sounds machine is small enough to travel with,

but gets loud enough to drown out even the most egregious hoopla. Not that you’d want to take a vacation: Your place sounds nice!

[Amazon]

Blue-Glow Sleep Mask ($39.99)

sleep mask
Sharper Image

You bring your work home with you. It’s not easy collecting soil samples for a living. All the second-guessing! Did I use the correct trowel? Should I be rotating my wrist to the left or to the right? And how many degrees?!

Thoughts like this normally keep you up at night, but this fancy sleep mask can help you relax your mind by bathing your eyeballs in a soft blue light meant to shift your brain from its beta phase to its alpha phase. Even without the blue-glow feature, the wraparound mask blocks out light while leaving room for your eyes to breathe.

[Sharper Image]

NASA Light Bulb ($59.95)

NASA bulb
Hammacher Schlemmer

At first blush, a $60 light bulb sounds expensive. But you know what’s marginally more expensive? Going to space. That’s what you’d otherwise have to do in order to use this thing. So if you think about it, this NASA light bulb pretty much pays for itself after all the trips you won’t take to space.

You’re supposed to use it in a bedside lamp for a half hour before you go to sleep so it can ramp up your melatonin levels. You can optionally use it at your next dinner party to see if you can get your guests to pass out in their soup.

[Hammacher Schlemmer]

Sonic Boom Alarm Clock ($39.10)

sonic boom
Sonic Bomb

“Enough with trying to get me to fall asleep!” you bellow, slamming your hammy fists on your particle-board workspace as anger-spit forms in the corners of your mouth. “I can’t wake up!”

For you, there’s this ridiculously loud alarm clock.

I sleep and wake like a normal person, so this thing sounds awful. A 113-decibel alarm? Pass. A vibration doodad so powerful it can shake your entire bed? No, thank you. Flashing red lights? I’m good, thanks. There’s nothing quite like being terrified first thing in the morning.

[Amazon]

TIME How-To

iOS 8 Guide: 10 Cool Tips and Tricks

Whether you just picked up an iPhone 6 or you're looking to squeeze a little life out of an older iPhone, here's a handful of tricks to try once you're using iOS 8.

Say “Hey Siri” for No-Touch Assistance

If your phone is plugged in, you can get Siri to do your bidding just by saying, “Hey Siri.”

You’ll need to enable the feature first by going to Settings > General > Siri and then toggling the Allow “Hey Siri” switch.

Again, your phone has to be plugged in for this to work, but it could be useful when paired with a car charger or while you’re at your desk.

Find Battery-Sucking Apps

Battery being run down too fast? It’s most likely an app or two that are sapping an inordinate amount of juice. You can check which ones are causing the most trouble by going to Settings > General > Usage > Battery Usage.

You’ll see a list of the apps that have used the most battery over the past 24 hours, with the option to check which ones have been the top drainers over a longer period of time as well.

Adjust Brightness in Photos

When you’re taking a photo and you tap the screen to adjust the camera’s focus, you can now also adjust the brightness. Just tap the screen as you’re taking a photo, then swipe up to make the image brighter or down to make the image darker.

Use the Camera Timer

The camera also has a timer function. Tap the little clock icon in the top menu when you’re taking a photo and it’ll let you choose between a three- or ten-second delay before firing off some snaps.

Get Notified of Email Thread Replies

If you want to keep an eye on an important email thread, you can enable notifications to pop up every time someone adds a new email message to the thread. Click on the little flag icon in the lower left corner of an email message, choose Notify Me… and then Notify Me again. Step through the same process to remove yourself from future notifications once you’ve had enough.

Minimize an Email You’re Writing

If you’re in the middle of typing an email message to someone and you realize you need to reference some information from a previous email elsewhere in your inbox, you can swipe down on the message you’re writing to minimize it to the bottom of the screen. Once you’re ready to write some more, tap the message to expand it again.

Track Your Phone’s Final Location Before the Battery Dies

You’ve misplaced your phone — or worse, it’s been stolen — and the battery is surely dead. You can find out its last known location by heading into Settings > iCloud > Find My iPhone and then toggling Send Last Location on.

Minimize the QuickType Feature

If you find the keyboard’s new QuickType word-guessing feature more annoying than useful, you can minimize it by swiping down from the top of the QuickType bar. If you find that you miss the feature, swipe back up and it’ll re-assume its perch atop your keyboard.

Quickly Send an Audio Recording, Photo or Video in a Text Message

When chatting back and forth in the Messages app, hold down the microphone icon in the lower-right corner to begin recording an audio message. When it’s ready, tap the arrow above it to send it or tap the X to delete it. To send a photo or video instead, hold down the camera icon in the lower-left corner and tap the top icon to snap a photo or the right-hand icon to record a video. Note that these features require that your recipient has an iPhone as well, although you’ll be able to send photos and videos (but not audio) to non-iPhone owners by tapping the camera icon in the lower-left corner and then following a couple additional steps.

Reply to a Text Message Without Leaving Your Current App

When you receive a text message up at the top of your screen, pull down on it to access a quick-reply box. Type your reply, hit Send and go back to what you were doing — all without leaving your current app.

TIME Paycheck Friday

5 Unique Cell Phone Gadgets for Under $50

Come on, you're making some decent money now. Live a little! Consider blowing your paycheck on these worthy splurges.

Bluetooth-to-FM Transmitter ($36.99)

streambot
Mpow

You pride yourself on owning the most bleeding-edge smartphone that money can buy. Your car, on the other hand, is a 1990 Mitsubishi Mirage with a tape deck. A tape deck! Sure, you could hook your Galaxy S8 — that’s a thing, right? — up to one of those gnarly tape adapters, but this is 2014, Jack. Let’s get with the program.

The StreamBot pairs to your phone’s Bluetooth connection and relays the audio to an open radio station. You can use it for music or as a speakerphone, and there’s a built-in USB port that allows you to charge your phone at the same time.

[Amazon]

iPhone-Android Combo Charging Cable ($27.99)

magic_cable_lightning_connection
Innergie

While the world around you fights over whether iPhone or Android is best, you quietly retreat to the window seat in your childhood bedroom. It reminds you of a simpler time. You feel safe there.

Oh, and you brought your Android phone and your iPad Mini with you. The world must never know. They wouldn’t understand. And seeing that you hate cable clutter, you’ve also packed this two-in-one charging cord. It’s got a Micro USB tip that snaps into a Lightning tip, allowing you to charge just about any device that’s currently on the market. It’s simple and safe. Like your childhood.

[Innergie]

Bluetooth Gloves ($49.99)

bluetooth gloves
hi-Fun

That guy walking down the street who looks like he’s talking to himself? He’s using a Bluetooth headset. He looks crazy, but you eat crazy for breakfast.

One-up the insanity by talking into these Bluetooth gloves like a lunatic. The pinkie acts as the mouthpiece, while the thumb serves as the earpiece. Sure, people will stare, but while they’re rubbing their eyes and breathing through their mouths in disbelief, you’re selling mildly abrasive cleaning supplies to the third largest school district in the county. Crazy like a fox!

[ThinkGeek]

Lipstick-Size Emergency Battery ($17.99)

ravpower
RAVPower

“Can I borrow your lipstick?” one of your sassy girlfriends will ask. “Not unless you need to recharge your FACE!” you’ll howl back. “You’re such a Samantha!”

Clearly, I have no idea how female relationships work, but this inconspicuous backup battery can provide more than a full charge for most modern phones and slips into your Kate Spade without taking up too much space. There are several color options available, including more masculine hues if you’re not into the whole lipstick motif.

[RAVPower]

Retro Handset ($6.99)

handset
Echo Logico

If you think Bluetooth is some sort of dangerous dental affliction, perhaps it’s time to uncomplicate certain aspects of your personal technology collection.

This retro handset plugs into the headphone jack of your phone and lets you telecommunicate like people used to back in the good old days. Back when kids didn’t sass their parents and gas cost a nickel. Get off my lawn!

[Amazon]

TIME Software

iOS 8 Release Guide

Apple

It’s Wednesday, September 17. Happy iOS 8 Day, everyone. Here’s what to expect.

When will iOS 8 be available?

Apple never sets a hard-and-fast time on when it’ll start rolling out the update, but it’s historically started rolling new iOS versions out around 1pm Eastern time. Some years, I’ve gotten the update right away; some years, it’s taken until around 3pm or so. I can’t ever remember getting it before 1pm, though.

How do I get it?

If you do nothing, you’ll eventually get a pop-up message on your phone saying that the new software is available. You can check manually in a couple ways, though.

First, from your phone, open the Settings app, select General and then Software Update. Your phone will check with Apple’s servers to see if the update is ready for you. Again, just because it’s 1pm doesn’t mean you’ll get the update right away. Be patient.

Second, connect your phone to your computer, open iTunes on your computer, and the first heading under your phone’s page in iTunes contains information about which version of iOS it’s running. Click the “Check for Update” button every once in a while to see if the new software is available for you. I actually find this method to work better than trying to get the update directly from my phone. Your mileage may vary, but give it a try if you’re near a computer when the update starts rolling out.

Will it work on my phone?

iOS 8 is compatible with the iPhone 4S and up. It’ll also be available for the iPad 2 and up, all iPad Mini models, and the fifth-generation iPod Touch.

What should I do while I’m waiting?

If you’re going the iTunes route, make sure you have the latest version (click Help, then Check for Updates). And make sure your phone has enough storage space to accommodate the new software. You’ll want to clear out five gigabytes or more if you’re updating straight from your phone, just to be on the safe side. Here’s a guide with information about how you can do that. If you’re updating from iTunes, you won’t need to have nearly as much space free.

You’ll also want the latest version of iOS 7 — version 7.1.2 — in order to quickly upgrade to iOS 8. Use the steps in the “How do I get it?” section above to make sure you’re running the latest version.

What’s new in iOS 8?

There’s a new photo album and quicker, easier photo editing; there are enhanced voice and video messages; there’s a revamped keyboard that predicts which word you’re going to type next; there’s a new health and fitness app; there’s a cloud-based hard drive; there’s app- and book-sharing between family members; there are enhanced notifications and a few other bells and whistles thrown in.

Apple’s iOS 8 site is here; we have an iOS feature guide here.

Do I need to download iOS 8 right away?

No. In fact, it could be argued that it’s a good idea to wait until the first update to iOS 8 hits — usually a couple weeks later — for all the kinks to get worked out. If you don’t install iOS 8 right away, your phone will still work just fine. Sometimes it’s best to wait at least a day or two to see what people are saying about the update online. Are they complaining about shorter battery life? Are apps crashing more often? Does the interface seem sluggish? If so, it might be a good idea to hold off for a while until everything gets smoothed out.

TIME How-To

How to Double Check Your Google Account Security Settings

Google Account Settings
Google's account settings page shows which sites, services and devices have access to your account Google

The unofficial Google Operating System site writes about a little gem found under the security section of everyone’s Google account settings page.

Head over to your account’s security section, and click the “Get started” button located under the “Secure your Account” heading.

It’ll step you through the various lock-downs available for your Google account, including setting a recovery phone number, a recovery email address and the ability to revoke access for apps, websites and gadgets you no longer use. You’ll also be able to check out your recent activity to make sure nobody’s been using your account without your knowledge.

It’s a good idea to run through a security audit such as this every once in a while, especially after a high-profile data breach.

[Google Operating System]

TIME Gadgets

iPhone 6 Wireless Plans Compared

Over at Yahoo Tech, Rob Pegoraro has taken up the unenviable task of comparing iPhone 6 wireless plans from major carriers AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.

This was all a somewhat simpler endeavor back when a phone cost $200, you picked a minutes/data/text messages plan, and signed a two-year contract. But newly-added pricing plans have saddled up alongside traditional pricing plans, resulting in a far murkier melange of minutes and megabytes.

The assumption with this exercise is that you’ll be buying a base-model iPhone 6 and will need two gigabytes of monthly data. All of these plans include unlimited minutes and text messages and, aside from network quality, your biggest decision is whether or not you want to be able to use tethering. Tethering lets you share your phone’s data connection with another device such as a tablet or laptop. It’s good for road trips and other instances where you’d get a cellular signal but wouldn’t have access to an open Wi-Fi network.

If you don’t care about tethering:

  • Verizon can be had for $1,640 over two years
  • Sprint can be had for $1,680 over two years
  • T-Mobile can be had for $1,730 over two years
  • AT&T can be had for $2,120 over two years

If you want to tether:

  • T-Mobile can be had for $1,730 over two years
  • Sprint can be had for $1,920 over two years
  • AT&T can be had for $2,120 over two years
  • Verizon can be had for $2,360 over two years

These figures don’t take into account network quality in your area, family plans, equipment trade-in bonuses, taxes or other stuff like that. Each carrier offers a trial period, though, so make sure to exercise your right to return your phone if you’re not happy with it.

Check out Pegoraro’s post for more info on the various plans and pricing schemes.

[Yahoo Tech]

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