Software Tools That Keep Me Productive
Some software products have proven indispensable for me. I use them for curating content, organizing my knowledge or getting things done. Here are some software tools that I use every day.
Newsletters are my preferred medium for content curation. I subscribe to people whose writing, opinions or philosophy that I trust. In a traditional, cluttered inbox it can be difficult to keep track of such subscriptions. That’s why I’ve opted to use a dedicated newsletter reader.
Stoop is the app that I wish I had built myself. In fact, I had the idea of a dedicated newsletter reader for a while. By chance, I stumbled upon it when browsing the App Store a few years ago. The app is by no means perfect but it’s one that I use every day without exception.
I’ve tried a ton of knowledge management tools: GitBook, Roam Research and Notion, just to name a few. I would recommend checking them out if you haven’t heard of them. But for me, Obsidian — the most recent tool that I’ve tried — ticks all of the boxes:
- Markdown-focused editor with a VS Code-esque Command Palette (using the same
CTRL + Pshortcut!)
- Core + community plugins to augment the app’s features, like a Daily Notes plugin that I use for journaling
- Full-text search
- Browse community themes for customizing your experience
- Design that feels right for me
Obsidian is free to use for local use. That is, you can maintain a folder locally on your computer for free and have access to all of Obsidian’s features. If you want to synchronize your knowledge base across devices you can pay for Obsidian Sync, which is an add-on. I didn’t want to go through the hassle of setting up the sync manually across my devices, especially mobile, so I opted to pay the $4 USD/month. It’s a small price to pay to have access to my entire knowledge base wherever I want to access it.
I might write a future post on how I use Obsidian after I’ve become more familiar with the app.
I discovered TeuxDeux through Matt D’Avella’s YouTube channel. As the name implies, it’s a todo app. What I like most about the app is it’s simplistic, minimalistic design and the fact that it’s cross-platform.
TeuxDeux attempts to replicate a true pen and paper experience as much as possible. The UI is simple and uncluttered. While simple, there are some useful features for organizing your tasks like drag-and-dropping to other days and using the “every X” suffix to automatically generate todos at the given frequency. It’s not as well-executed as the habit frequency system in Habitica, for example, but it works well enough. If I want to create a todo every Tuesday and Friday I can create two different tasks ending with “every week” and that will get the job done.
It’s worth mentioning that TeuxDeux is cheap but not free. It cost me ~$24 for a yearly subscription. I’m happy to pay for quality software that just works but I can understand that paying for a todo app might rub some people the wrong way. But for me, being able to track and schedule my tasks on both desktop and mobile is a huge plus and makes TeuxDeux a worthwhile experience in my opinion.
Pocket helps me organize articles that I’ve read online and want to remember. It’s a place for me to offload the mental burden of keeping track of content I know I’ll need more time and space to digest. No longer do I need to keep 12 browser tabs with articles that “future me” wants to read but “now me” has no time for.
Using Pocket is dead-simple. I use the “Save to Pocket” feature on my iPhone and the Chrome extension on PC. Add some tags and move on! My recently saved articles There are a few things that I love about Pocket. The first is the aforementioned tagging system. It’s simple to create or add existing tags to articles for grouping your saves. But the coolest feature is its integration with Revue. As I’m writing a newsletter, I can quickly scan through any articles that I’ve saved. It makes it easy to share useful resources in my newsletter issues.
It’s worth noting that I don’t pay for Pocket’s premium version. I haven’t used it enough to determine whether it would be worth it or not.
While I used Notion more in the past, I still make good use of it today. The most interesting new and useful feature in my opinion is the launch of their API. This makes it so that you can use Notion is a mini-database. I use the app to keep a list of the books that I’m reading. Then, by using the API, I can fetch and display these books on my new website.
Obsidian and Notion are similar tools. I personally prefer the more barebone, simple Markdown approach of Obsidian. It’s fast and flexible for my needs. However, Noti0n is an incredible tool not only for personal use but for product development teams.
A Tool is a Tool
At the end of the day, software will only get you so far. Discipline, organization and workflow are greater factors to your productivity. But maybe that shiny new software too can get you motivated enough to start.