Edit: updated list http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/nh3/update_to_the_list_of_apps_that_are_useful_to_me/

I have noticed I often wish "Damn I wish someone had made an app for that" and when I search for it I can't find it.  Then I outsource the search to facebook or other people; and they can usually say - yes, its called X.  Which I can put down to an inability to know how to search for an app on my part; more than anything else.

With that in mind; I wanted to solve the problem of finding apps for other people.

The following is a list of apps that I find useful (and use often) for productive reasons:

The environment

This list is long.  The most valuable ones are the top section that I use regularly.  

Other things to mention:

Internal storage - I have a large internal memory card because I knew I would need lots of space.  So I played the "out of sight out of mind game" and tried to give myself as much space as possible by buying a large internal card.

Battery - I use anker external battery blocks to save myself the trouble of worrying about batteries.  If prepared I leave my house with 2 days of phone charge (of 100% use).  I used to count "wins" of days I beat my phone battery (stay awake longer than it) but they are few and far between.  Also I doubled my external battery power and it sits at two days not one (28000mA + 2*460ma spare phone batteries)

Phone - I have a Samsung S4 (android Running KitKat) because it has a few features I found useful that were not found in many other phones - Cheap, Removable battery, external storage card, replaceable case.

Screen cover - I am using the one that came with the phone still

I carry a spare phone case, in the beginning I used to go through one each month; now I have a harder case than before it hasn't broken.

MicroUSB cables - I went through a lot of effort to sort this out, it's still not sorted, but its "okay for now".  The advice I have - buy several good cables (read online reviews about it), test them wherever possible, and realise that they die.  Also carry a spare or two.

Restart - I restart my phone probably most days when it gets slow.  It's got programming bugs, but this solution works for now.

The overlays

These sit on my screen all the time.

Data monitor - Gives an overview of bits per second upload or download. updated every second.

CpuTemp - Gives an overlay of the current core temperature.  My phone is always hot, I run it hard with bluetooth, GPS and wifi blaring all the time.  I also have a lot of active apps.

Mindfulness bell - My phone makes a chime every half hour to remind me to check, "Am I doing something of high-value right now?" it sometimes stops me from doing crap things.

Facebook chat heads - I often have them open, they have memory leaks and start slowing down my phone after a while, I close and reopen them when I care enough.


The normals:

Facebook - communicate with people.  I do this a lot.

Inkpad - its a note-taking app, but not an exceptionally great one; open to a better suggestion.

Ingress - it makes me walk; it gave me friends; it put me in a community.  Downside is that it takes up more time than you want to give it.  It's a mobile GPS game.  Join the Resistance.

Maps (google maps) - I use this most days; mostly for traffic assistance to places that I know how to get to.

Camera - I take about 1000 photos a month.  Generic phone-app one.

Assistive light - Generic torch app (widget) I use this daily.

Hello - SMS app.  I don't like it but its marginally better than the native one.

Sunrise calendar - I don't like the native calendar; I don't like this or any other calendar.  This is the least bad one I have found.  I have an app called "facebook sync" which helps with entering in a fraction of the events in my life.  

Phone, address book, chrome browser.

GPS logger - I have a log of my current gps location every 5 minutes.  If google tracks me I might as well track myself.  I don't use this data yet but its free for me to track; so if I can find a use for the historic data that will be a win.


Quantified apps:

Fit - google fit; here for multiple redundancy

S Health - Samsung health - here for multiple redundancy

Fitbit - I wear a flex step tracker every day, and input my weight daily manually through this app

Basis - I wear a B1 watch, and track my sleep like a hawk.

Rescuetime - I track my hours on technology and wish it would give a better breakdown. (I also paid for their premium service)

Voice recorder - generic phone app; I record around 1-2 hours of things I do per week.  Would like to increase that.

Narrative - I recently acquired a life-logging device called a narrative, and don't really know how to best use the data it gives.  But its a start.

How are you feeling? - Mood tracking app - this one is broken but the best one I have found, it doesn't seem to open itself after a phone restart; so it won't remind you to enter in a current mood.  I use a widget so that I can enter in the mood quickly.  The best parts of this app are the way it lets you zoom out, and having a 10 point scale.  I used to write a quick sentence about what I was feeling, but that took too much time so I stopped doing it.

Stopwatch - "hybrid stopwatch" - about once a week I time something and my phone didn't have a native one.  This app is good at being a stopwatch.

Callinspector - tracks ingoing or outgoing calls and gives summaries of things like, who you most frequently call, how much data you use, etc.  can also set data limits.



Powercalc - the best calculator app I could find

Night mode - for saving batter (it dims your screen), I don't use this often but it is good at what it does.  I would consider an app that dims the blue light emitted from my screen; however I don't notice any negative sleep effects so I have been putting off getting around to it.

Advanced signal status - about once a month I am in a place with low phone signal - this one makes me feel better about knowing more details of what that means.

Ebay - To be able to buy those $5 solutions to problems on the spot is probably worth more than $5 of "impulse purchases" that they might be classified as.

Cal - another calendar app that sometimes catches events that the first one misses.

ES file explorer - for searching the guts of my phone for files that are annoying to find.  Not as used or as useful as I thought it would be but still useful.

Maps.Me - I went on an exploring adventure to places without signal; so I needed an offline mapping system.  This map saved my life.

Wikipedia - information lookup

Youtube - don't use it often, but its there.

How are you feeling? (again) - I have this in multiple places to make it as easy as possible for me to enter in this data

Play store - Makes it easy to find.

Gallery - I take a lot of photos, but this is the native gallery and I could use a better app.



In no particular order;

Facebook groups, Yahoo Mail, Skype, Facebook Messenger chat heads, Whatsapp, meetup, google+, Hangouts, Slack, Viber, OKcupid, Gmail, Tinder.

They do social things.  Not much to add here.


Not used:





AnkiDroid - Anki memoriser app for a phone.

MyFitnessPal - looks like a really good app, have not used it 

Fitocracy - looked good

I got these apps for a reason; but don't use them.


Not on my front pages:

These I don't use as often; or have not moved to my front pages (skipping the ones I didn't install or don't use)

S memo - samsung note taking thing, I rarely use, but do use once a month or so.

Drive, Docs, Sheets - The google package.  Its terrible to interact with documents on your phone, but I still sometimes access things from my phone.

bubble - I don't think I have ever used this

Compass pro - gives extra details about direction. I never use it.

(ingress apps) Glypher, Agentstats, integrated timer, cram, notify

TripView (public transport app for my city)

Convertpad - converts numbers to other numbers. Sometimes quicker than a google search.

ABC Iview - National TV broadcasting channel app.  Every program on this channel is uploaded to this app, I have used it once to watch a documentary since I got the app.

AnkiDroid - I don't need to memorise information in the way it is intended to be used; so I don't use it. Cram is also a flashcard app but I don't use it.

First aid - I know my first aid but I have it anyway for the marginal loss of 50mb of space.

Triangle scanner - I can scan details from NFC chips sometimes.

MX player - does videos better than native apps.

Zarchiver - Iunno.  Does something.

Pandora - Never used

Soundcloud - used once every two months, some of my friends post music online.

Barcode scanner - never used

Diskusage - Very useful.  Visualises where data is being taken up on your phone, helps when trying to free up space.

Swiftkey - Better than native keyboards.  Gives more freedom, I wanted a keyboard with black background and pale keys, swiftkey has it.

Google calendar - don't use it, but its there to try to use.

Sleepbot - doesn't seem to work with my phone, also I track with other methods, and I forget to turn it on; so its entirely not useful in my life for sleep tracking.

My service provider's app.

AdobeAcrobat - use often; not via the icon though.

Wheresmydroid? - seems good to have; never used.  My phone is attached to me too well for me to lose it often.  I have it open most of the waking day maybe.

Uber - I don't use ubers.

Terminal emulator, AIDE, PdDroid party, Processing Android, An editor for processing, processing reference, learn C++ - programming apps for my phone, I don't use them, and I don't program much.

Airbnb - Have not used yet, done a few searches for estimating prices of things.

Heart rate - measures your heart rate using the camera/flash.  Neat, not useful other than showing off to people how its possible to do.

Basis - (B1 app), - has less info available than their new app

BPM counter - Neat if you care about what a "BPM" is for music.  Don't use often.

Sketch guru - fun to play with, draws things.

DJ studio 5 - I did a dj thing for a friend once, used my phone.  was good.

Facebook calendar Sync - as the name says.

Dual N-back - I Don't use it.  I don't think it has value giving properties.

Awesome calendar - I don't use but it comes with good reccomendations.

Battery monitor 3 - Makes a graph of temperature and frequency of the cores.  Useful to see a few times.  Eventually its a bell curve.

urbanspoon - local food places app.

Gumtree - Australian Ebay (also ebay owns it now)

Printer app to go with my printer

Car Roadside assistance app to go with my insurance

Virgin air entertainment app - you can use your phone while on the plane and download entertainment from their in-flight system.

Two things now;

What am I missing? Was this useful?  Ask me to elaborate on any app and why I used it.  If I get time I will do that anyway. 

P.S. this took two hours to write.

P.P.S - I was intending to make, keep and maintain a list of useful apps, that is not what this document is.  If there are enough suggestions that it's time to make and keep a list; I will do that.

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33 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 7:36 AM

Upvoted for promoting more instrumental rationality.

I think it would be slightly more useful if you said what kind of phone you use at the top rather than at the bottom and specified which version of Android you're running, because different OSs have different app ecosystems.

Will modify original post

I use Sleep as Android to wake me up when I'm in a good sleep phase for it. You put your phone on your mattress and it uses the accelerometer to guess how deeply you're sleeping by your movements. I give it a 15 minute period where it's allowed to wake me if I'm in light sleep, and then at the end of that it wakes me regardless. Seems to work well enough.

I sleep without alarms anyway. But someone should find this description useful!

More apps for Android (5.0.2):

Alarm clock plus - probably the most feature rich alarm bell app. It allows for multiple alarms on different days with different tones, alarm labels, gently rising alarm, quick to set one time alarms and alarms that won't stop unless you solve a math problem which is useful for deep sleepers.

Clockwork Tomato - a fully customizable pomodoro timer.

Darker - pretty much the same as Night Mode, except that it also allows for color adjustment. Unfortunately Android doesn't seem to support dimming certain wavelengths and the color is just slapped over everything (the strength is adjustable), so the contrast isn't that great.

I think what sets the above mentioned ES File Explorer above others is the integrated networking capability, you can use cloud storage, FTP and LAN sharing with the same app.

FBReader with TTS Plugin - listen to .epub and .mobi formatted ebooks.

Libra - weight tracking with charts, weight loss goal tracking, statistics on weight change and excess/shortage of calories.

Pocket - put articles you find during browsing to a safe place for later reading. It has a browser extension on PC for Firefox and Chrome and sync capability. Also, it has a page flipping mode that allows reading articles as if you were reading an ebook, and inverted color rendering for night time reading.

Repligo PDF Reader - I think I've tried every pdf reader there is on Android, and this is the only one that can both reliably reflow text for easier readability and has inverted rendering. Also has a text-to-speech option.

Rittr Labs Push Ups, Sit Ups, Pull Ups and Squats - All of the four apps are separate but I haven't found a better app for automatically generated calisthenics workouts. These calculate the first workout sets based on your max repetitions and the next workout based on how people usually progress, which is further adjusted by telling the program whether the workout was too hard, just right or too easy. I'd recommend you give at least a day or two for recovery between workouts, for example have a different workout for each day with a four day rotation.

Can I get a link to repligo? Can't seem to find it in a quick search...

Also I downloaded the RittR labs stuff and alarm clock plus to try it out.

You know what's sad? It seems the support was discontinued a year ago. I never noticed because it still works just fine, syncs the annotated pdf files to dropbox and all that, and still seems to be the best pdf reader there is.

Found and apk that seems legit, I'll pm the link to you, try at your own risk.

Here's the homescreen of my main Android phone (with some obvious apps omitted, e.g. Phone, Flashlight etc):

  • Google Voice Search - I use it all the time for setting alarms and adding tasks to Wunderlist inbox.
  • Google Fit - mostly for making sure I walk my 12000 steps every day.
  • Opera - I use it instead of Chrome because it's the only browser that reflows text when zooming in.
  • Wunderlist - an essential GTD app which I hate. I'm working on my own todo app to replace it.
  • Barcode Scanner - to grab articles from the desktop PC to the phone via the QRCode Chrome addon.
  • Google Docs - for work, use it all the time.
  • Kindle - I read all my books via the Android Kindle app. I stopped byuing paper books years ago.
  • Dropbox - I like to have all my files accessible to me at any moment.
  • Trello - I use it a lot, for work projects, hobby projects, self-improvement and Internet bookmarks.
  • Workflowy - Was on hiatus, but I came back to it recently. It's an excellent thought capture tool.
  • Evernote - for note-taking (all non-actionable reference stuff goes here). I use premium, PIN-protected.
  • Slack - an excellent chat for work.

Some of the apps I use (Trello, Workflowy, Google Docs) are in your "not used" or "second-tier" bins, but I find them absolutely indispensable.

Another point is that I use mostly cloud-based apps, so if my phone gets lost or stolen, I still have access to my data. The phone is essentially disposable.


Wunderlist - an essential GTD app which I hate. I'm working on my own todo app to replace it

What features is it lacking that you're looking for... I've tried quite a few productivity apps, and might know an answer without having to create one from scratch :).

Haha, thanks, but I already specced out and outsourced Stage 1 of the MVP :)))

Anyway, here's what I find lacking in other personal Todo apps:

1. Recurring Task Fragility

I rely on recurring / repeating tasks a lot, I use them to automate my life. The problem is, in most todo apps recurring tasks are too brittle.

For example, I have a task on 15th of each month. One month I decide to do it earlier, on 12th of the month. The natural way would be to just reassign the due date from 15th to 12th, but doing that would change the recurrence condition of the task: it will now recur on 12th of each month! And God forbid I delete the task because I don’t need it this month -- this would delete all future recurrences!

Because of all this, I’m forced to walk on eggshells around recurring tasks. I’m afraid to treat them as normal tasks. I can’t rename them, can’t delete them, can’t move them to another list, can’t change the due date.

This happens because most todo apps conflate the recurring task instance with the definition of recurring task. I want to de-conflate these concepts. In my app, the recurrence logic is defined by a Schedule Item, which ‘spawns’ recurring task instances that can be deleted, modified, renamed etc. You won’t accidentally change the recurrence settings of a task by editing it in the task list. If you want to modify the recurrence settings, go to Schedule and do that explicitly.

(As a bonus, in the above system all recurring tasks will be visible in one place, the Schedule. This is essentially my life program, my human crontab. I like the ability to edit my life in one place.)

(And there’s another bonus to this system: forward visibility of recurring tasks. Most todo apps don’t display recurring tasks in forecast views. My app will. When you define a Schedule Item in Schedule, the recurring tasks ‘spawned’ by it will be visible across the entire future timeline. That is, you can literally look at the day Sep 1st 3215 and see that you have to walk the dog, buy the groceries and arrange a check up with the doctor.)

2. Due Date Pollution

My personal productivity system is closer to Autofocus than to GTD, so when I have a task in my list, and don’t want or cannot do it at the moment, I want it to temporarily disappear from my list until I’m ready to do it.

The only way to “disappear” a task in most todo apps is to set its Due Date to Tomorrow or such, but if I do this to a dateless task, it would become dateful! Why the hell must I make my dateless tasks dateful just to dismiss them for a while?

A Due Date should only be used on tasks that must be done on that specific date, so it doesn’t make any sense on dateless tasks. Which brings us to the next topic, Dismiss:

3. Proper Dismiss.

So, to combat Due Date Pollution, I need a proper Dismiss Until command that hides the task until some condition is met without making the task dateful. For example, Dismiss Until Tomorrow Morning, or Dismiss Until September 1st, 2015. I would like this function to be easily accessible, for example via the swipe-away gesture on list items.

Now, Dismiss Until Tomorrow is nice, and Dismiss Until Evening is great, but I also want Dismiss until I’m at Work, Dismiss until I’m in Boston, Dismiss until I’m near Bob Smith, or even Dismiss Until (NASDAQ:AAPL < 100) AND (Weather in Moscow is Good). Which brings us to our next topic, Contexts and Triggers:

4. Contexts and Triggers

For example, I have a task which I want to do only on workdays, in the evening and outside of work. When these conditions are met, I want the task to be visible in my list, and otherwise it should stay hidden.

To implement this, my app will have an Active When field, which can specify activation conditions for the task. For the above task, that would be something along the lines of @workday AND @evening AND (NOT @work).

@work, @evening and @workday are Triggers. The terminology is not final, and I don’t yet know how to call them, but essentially Triggers are boolean functions that can be incorporated into tasks in order to activate them when certain events happen.

Triggers can also be used in Dismiss Until command, and I plan a version of Schedule based on Triggers. That is, you can specify conditions, and when these conditions are met, a specified task will appear in your task list.

5. Multi-line Todo Items.

I need multi-line todo items in order to word my tasks properly. A task titled “Widgets!” is much less meaningful than a task “Decide which Widget to buy. Ask Bob, he’s the expert on Widgets.” This may sound trivial, but many popular todo apps display todo items as single-line -- and Wunderlist is among them!

I’m not worried about the screen real estate occupied by multiline items. The primary way to consume a todo app these days is mobile, and scrolling on mobile is effortless.

So, to sum up, this is a hybrid of a todo app and IFTTT / Tasker for humans. I don’t think that there’s currently anything on the market that offers that. Anyway, the work is already underway, and the MVP should be ready by the end of the year. I’ll announce it here on Lesswrong.


Haha, thanks, but I already specced out and outsourced Stage 1 of the MVP :)))

Thats true, but at this point that's a sunk cost :).

However, as far as I know, there's nothing that has all these features together.

Things and Google Calendar have the best support for non-fragile recurring tasks,

Todoist has all your other features, but not quite in the way you want them. -Location aware and time aware tasks, but not other, smarter contexts. (I assume you're going to be doing plugins for individual smart contexts, otherwise I don't see how this would work). -Does multiple lines, but hidden in that you have to press Ctrl + M

Just checked out Google Calendar and indeed, it handles recurring tasks much better than most todo apps I've seen. When I enter a recurring task, it fills it into my future schedule, and lets me edit a concrete instance of that task, as opposed to editing the entire future schedule. Thanks for the tip!

As for Todoist and other features: does it allow to dismiss a dateless task temporarily without making it dateful? I have Todoist installed on my phone but haven't found how to do that.


This question doesn't make sense in the context of todoist. The default view is a completely customizable filter, and the default filter doesn't show dateless tasks. You can create any number of custom filters and rules to show or not show tasks based on arbitrary criteria.

I run into some of the same problems you listed above in my own use of productivity apps. I look forward to hearing more about your project! If you have a blog or some place you post progress, I'd be interested in following you there as well.

I don't have a blog or even Twitter for it yet, and I guess I need to set these up, but I still haven't came up with the final product name. (Am I yak-shaving? Maybe it would be better to just start blogging and worry about the name later?)

A lot of people like Evernote, but I need to write notes by voice. (My texting skills are lacking.) OneNote integrates easily with "OK Google", and I haven't been able to get anything else to do so. I just say "OK Google," then "note to self," then wait a second, then speak. But I don't like OneNote, because I can't seem to log in to the relevant Microsoft account to download my notes to my computer.

Any advice? My phone is a Samsung Galaxy S5.

I think Evernote should integrate with Google Now perfectly well. If Wunderlist does that, Evernote must do that as well. Here's an article that implies that this is possible: http://lifehacker.com/5992572/save-a-quick-note-to-evernote-gmail-and-other-apps-with-androids-voice-actions (and here's another one: http://www.getproductivefast.com/2013/03/google-now-voice-notes-to-evernote.html).

As for the text skills, try to use gesture typing or Fleksy. I prefer gesture typing on the stock Android keyboard on Nexus 5. If I remember correctly, Swype (the original gesture typing keyboard) is included with Samsung version of Android.

Downloading the swype app gives you more features than the stock version.


Yes, I tried it, but I like the stock one better for some reason.

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entering in voice is a keyboard-entry feature. Swiftkey has a shortcut to type-via-voice that is on the keyboard part when it pops up. I find it occasionally gets bumped but you would find it useful.

I think there are better solutions to sending articles between phone and PC - chrome should do it by itself but I can't seem to make it work all the time...

Any other people with the answer to this would be helpful!

Blocking websites I used to procrastinate has been helpful for me.

It's funny - if I really wanted to, I could take 30 seconds to google the article, type in the commands to unblock the websites, and then use them to procrastinate. But I don't. The 20-30 seconds is enough to prevent me to do it.

Applied Beware Trivial Inconveniences. I used that too some time ago to reduce procrastinating on my favorite pages. I just added them to /etc/hosts.

I wonder whether being effectively blocked by that 30-second obstacle is correlated with needing the blocking in the first place.

(It feels like it might be; on the other hand, I am a terrible procrastinator but strongly suspect that the 30-second obstacles would not suffice for me. Though perhaps I think that as an excuse for not putting the obstacles in place...)


This was great!

here are a few more that I have

-Second hyporational's suggestion for Clockwork Tomato

-Appdetox, for curbing how long I spend on certain apps

-Beeminder, for commitment contracts on my phone

-Contactually, for reminding me to keep in touch with people I care about/network with

-Evernote, and Everwebclipper, for saving everything interesting I come across

-Evernote Food, for discovering and accesing recipes.

-FocusAtWill, for music that boosts my focus.

-habitRPG, for recurring habits

-Meetup - to meet new interesting people.

-Mint, to track finances.

-Newsblur, to keep up to date on all my websites

-Prey, so I can locate my phone if it gets lost or stolen

-Tagtime, to get an overview of how I'm spending my time.

-Tasker, to automate things (I especially use it with Beeminder and tomato timer, which both have integrations)

-The brain, to put my knowledge in wider, more connected context.

-Timely, for a better timer/alarm clock than the default.

-Todoist, to keep track of all my tasks.

-Twilight, for changing the color temperature during the night.

-7 Minute workout, for when I'm on vacation so can't go to the gym.

+1 for beeminder, although I have not found it to work for me.

I have installed contactually. I hope it works.

Is focus@will free?

Pocketbook is a finance app, as is the "you need a budget" website; I think they have an app but not sure. Have not heard of mint (but I don't use pocketbook either)

Installed Prey. tagtime, todoist, twilight (because I have been meaning to),

which "7 min workout" do you use?

I just installed 6 apps.

  • CPU Thermometer
  • PowerCalc
  • Advanaced Signal Status
  • Compass
  • First Aid (US Red Cross)
  • Heart Rate

Thanks for writing this.

I found the best cpu temp app to be "cputemp"

I find I never use compass; having other mapping systems...

I find I never use first aid. To open the app and check something would probably take longer than is reasonable for applying first-aid support. And situations don't come up that often in my life.

Glad I could help!


Samsung Galaxy Note 5, awesome but expensive

Thanks for writing this. A few notes:

  • I find Evernote to be an exceptionally great notetaking app.

  • If you end up using Google Calendar, I like Smooth Calendar as a widget that shows a few appts and lets you click through to the full calendar.

  • I previously had an S4, now an S5. I use the InvisibleShield Glass screen cover - people seem to keep finding ways to damage the glass on their phone screen, so the durable cover might pay dividends. (And already did on my S4, when I dropped it about a meter onto slate. I currently have a BodyGlove phone case.

  • I am totally mystified as to how you "go through" a phone case every month - I tend to use rubber ones or semi-flexible plastic, so the phone electronics would probably be mauled by the shock before the case suffered significant damage. Do you use a very different type of case?

I was new to a smart phone; and was using a soft-plastic case with flip cover; I hold my phone with my fingers around the flip screen (left handed).

The first one I went through - the little arms that hold the case on wore down. The second and third ones the fabric between the case and the flip part tore because of how I hold it.

now I am using a hard plastic case and the flip part fabric is stronger, so it hasn't broken yet.

I think I am also getting used to a smart phone so I don't seem to be dropping it as often as I did in the first month.

Does anybody knows any moodtracking app that asks you about your mood at random time of the day? (Simple rating of the mood and maybe some small question about whether something happened that day influencing your mood) All I found needed me to turn on the app, which meant I used to forget to rate my mood or when I was down I just couldn't be bothered. So it would be perfect if it would just daily pop-up an alert, make me choose something and then disappeared.

"how are you feeling" other than not activating after a phone restart will popup at fixed intervals. I solved this by having duplicate icons everywhere so I often remember to reopen it. I have it set at 2 hours