Digital organizing and productivity tools

I’ve been working with a few tech tools lately to improve my organization and productivity. Some are proving themselves to be quite useful, while I’m on the fence with others. Here’s a look at what I’m using lately, both the good and the could-be-good.

Photo management

I’m still years into my search for the perfect digital photo management solution. Today we can take 400 photos as easily as breathing, but the technology for organizing it all has not kept up. My search for the current something that meets my needs has led to Dropbox’s Carousel. When matched with a Dropbox account, the Carousel app automatically uploads your photos to your storage. It’s pretty nice and, in my experience, the uploads are fast. I have the app installed on my phone and on my wife’s phone, so all of the photos we take end up in the same account — no more remembering to text or email photos to each other.

Picturelife is another solution I’m working with. It does auto-upload, too, and offers some unique tools. For one, I love the “Memories” feature. Each morning, I get an email prompting me to review photos I’ve taken on this day from years ago (you can opt out of this if you’re not interested). I find it is a lot of fun to peruse those memories. In fact, Picturelife makes it very easy to find old photos, which is no easy task when you have a contemporary digital library.


Bartender is a great little Mac utility that keeps my computer’s menu bar very well organized. The Apple menu bar displays icons that allow quick access to certain applications and utilities. The problem is, I’ve got a lot of those apps installed, and the menu bar becomes a cluttered mess. Bartender lets me display those I use most often, and hide the rest. It’s a great way to keep things tidy and accessible.

Google’s new invite-only email application for iOS and Android devices is named Inbox and it is … interesting. I’ve been using it for about a week and I’m not sure I’m ready to abandon my existing email software. It has some interesting features, like a “pin” that keeps certain messages at the top of your box, and defer options that I’m growing to like. I can tell the app to put a message in front of me on another day or time, when I suspect I’ll have more time or energy to deal with it. The app’s looks aren’t the most straight-forward, and so far that’s the biggest struggle for me. But, it’s still early in its life cycle, so that could change.


My daughter has been blessed with the same sieve-like brain her father enjoys. Now that she’s in junior high, the casual forgetfulness that she’s gotten away with is becoming increasingly detrimental. So, I’m trying to introduce her to a couple of strategies.

One is a good old notebook. I’m a huge fan, as regular readers know, and I’ve given her one of my beloved Field Notes Brand notebooks and pen to carry around. She’s using it all right, but I wonder if the novelty will wear off. The more you love a tool, the more likely you’ll use it. With that in mind, I turned her to an iPad mini and an app for it.

Remember The Milk is a no-frills, straight-forward task manager that’s compatible with just about every platform you can conceive. I know that she loves that iPad and is highly motivated to play with it, so an app may be her long-lasting solution. A habit takes time to build, and attractive tools will make that more likely.

Are you using any interesting organizing and/or productivity tools lately? Have a suggestion for any of the above categories? Let us know in the comments.

12 Comments for “Digital organizing and productivity tools”

  1. posted by Tiffany on

    Very nice post. I am still waiting on my Inbox invite from Google to try it out. Looks interesting. I’ve tried a few apps in the past that did something similar to it but most of those apps were abandoned.

  2. posted by Bill on

    For managing the photos once you have them all in the same place, I highly recommend Amok exif sorter. It allows you to use the date/time/camera (and other) information stored with the EXIF information within the digital photos to sort, re-folder, move, copy, etc. This has really helped me to bring some order to the madness of my digital archives. Here is an article:

    Also, my daughter is a big “post-it note” fan, but that was also causing her issues once she was in high school. I’ve recently got her into using Google Keep, which allows her to keep virtual stickies, and sync them to all of her devices (laptop, phone, school machines, etc.).

  3. posted by Pauline on

    Our enormous CD collections ( we are professional classical musicians) has been databased with Collectorz, and using a barcode-reading gun – like that used for groceries. Every selection, track, album, artist, conductor, composer – instantly searchable – and *findable*. Now we do not buy the same thing twice (r three times . . ) because we forget we owned it! They have programs for books, videos, games, etc. too.

  4. posted by Tina SooHoo on

    Love using Wunderlist, Evernote, Google picasa web album/photos (auto-upload, organizes by date, time). Extra space on Google is inexpensive.

  5. posted by Sandra on

    Teux Deux – changed my life since I started using 2 years ago. Finally the tool that thinks like I do with a simple interface that makes me feel like the captain of my own life ship. Weasel proof as yesterday’s undone follow you to today. Was it a false “to do” – easy to eliminate? The weekly view on top and the stuff that isn’t scheduled on the bottom is just perfect. Move up and down to your heart’s content. Use on iPhone, iPad and iMac. Prefer to do my deep planning on the big iMac screen in early morning and then happily cross things off on my iPhone as day progresses.

  6. posted by Leslie on

    I used to email/text myself when I had something that I need to remember. And then I switched to Wunderlist. It syncs to my phone and PC and I have a variety of lists (movies to watch, books, shopping, to do, to pack/bring on a trip, medications, etc) going at any one time. I did recently have all my physical photos scanned and cleaned up, so now I have thousands of photos that need sorting, tagging and organizing, as well as deleting the ones I don’t want. That, and oh my, thousands of bookmarks that need organizing as I have a tendency to hit Ctrl-D and move on. So many of them are no longer valid, I wish there was an app that would go through all my bookmarks and delete the ones that no longer exist. Is there?

  7. posted by Brandee on

    Just discovered Wunderlist this week and love it because I have a several “categories” of to-do lists. I’ve also fallen in love with for menu planning and a grocery list generator and just downloaded Cozi so we can have a family calendar.

  8. posted by Rebekah on

    Brand new photo management software that is absolutely amazing: Mylio. I highly highly recommend it.

  9. posted by Annina on

    A really cool and brand new tool for saving and organizing (especially large amounts of) links is – you should try it! You can take a peek at 🙂

  10. posted by Gwen on

    Thanks for all the great suggestions. I saw a lot of apps Mentioned in the blog post as well as the comments that I want to check out.

  11. posted by Jane on

    “Priorities” is my favorite to-do list. It is on my phone and iPad and is web based for computer and things sync really well. You can do multiple lists, and rearranging things is a breeze. It’s the one I always go back to.

  12. posted by Kim on

    Another good one is Shoebox app
    Automatically uploads/backups iPhone camera roll pics, native file format, without the app needing to be open. For $5 a month, upgrades you to full resolution unlimited backup. Native file automatic and instant backup is something Apple does not do with the camera roll. Hugely important if you are someone who lives and breathes the pictures on your camera roll.
    Cons: doesn’t do videos, and $5 a month

    Another one: Photosync. Also backs up videos. Caveat: only automatic when you come and go from your WAN’s GPS “geofence” (so will only automatically backup once a day if you return to your house once a day). So, not as instant as Shoebox, but also does video. $5 app for unlimited and full resolution.
    Cons: not instantaneous automatic backup. I’ve tried to trick the geofence by toggling airplane mode, but that doesn’t work. Easier to just manually sync every so often if you’re thinking about it!

    And for “starting over” with your camera roll, once your phone starts getting too full, Tansee photo backup cannot be beat. Use this program to backup native format pics and videos on your iPhone, then delete on your iPhone and start over. Windows merely cooies your pictures over using Apple’s horrific file folder structure on your iPhone, and starts the naming over again once pics are deleted. So next time you backup, you will have to have a whole other set of horrific folders so as not to overwrite the pics from your first backup.

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