20 Free or Inexpensive Productivity Tools to Boost Efficiency Working from Home

When working from an office space, your surroundings are built to help you focus and be productive at work. There is very little distraction and everything you need for your work is easily accessible. You can’t expect the same when you’re working from home though. Working remotely means managing distant communication with your team, maintaining focus (more so if you don’t live alone), keeping track of schedule, taking more notes and managing several other issues.

But you can work through these challenges of a remote work from home environment with a range of free or inexpensive apps and tools online. Here are 20 awesome free or inexpensive productivity tools you should try and recommend to your team:

1. Freedcamp – Project and team management
2. Krisp – Cut background noise
3. Boomerang – Email management
4. Cold Turkey – App and site blocker
5. iDoneThis – Team activity tracking
6. Toggl – Time tracking
7. Mindmeister – Mind mapping
8. Harvest – Time and expense tracking
9. Lucidchart – Data visualization
10. Zapier – Task automation
11. TickTick – Organizing and goal setting
12. CamScanner – Document scanning
13. Snagit – Screen capture and recording
14. Otter – Transcription
15. Habitica – Habit building and task management
16. Skitch – Screenshot editing and sharing
17. Slack – Communication and messaging
18. Google Hangouts & Zoom – Video communication
19. Google Keep – Note taking
20. Google Drive and Docs – Cloud storage and collaboration

 

 

1. Freedcamp – Project and team management

Freedcamp is a multi utility platform that can help with every function you need to perform at work. From planning projects to tracking tasks and having discussions with your team, everything can be managed from one place. It offers a calendar for tracking events and deadlines. It has a tool named Wiki that is a central storage space for all your documents. It also has an Issue tracker and time tracker for all your billing and workday tracking needs.

Freedcamp has a free plan with all the essential features included. The paid plans with additional features – Minimalist, Business and Enterprise – are also extremely affordable, with the Minimalist plan starting at just $1.49/user/month billed annually.

 

2. Krisp – Cut background noise

Noise is a major concern when you’re working from home. Background noises can be very distracting when you are on an important call or attending a meeting online. Krisp is a unique app that removes all kinds of background noise when you are on a work call or are listening to a webinar or a presentation. It removes the background noises going from you to other participants and vice versa. And this can be done very easily. You can mute noise for your speaker or your microphone with the click of a single button.

The basic plan is free which is actually good enough for people who occasionally work remotely . The Pro plan is priced at $3.33/month.

 

3. Boomerang – Email management

Boomerang is an email management tool that works with your Gmail and G Suite emails. With Boomerang, you can write an email and schedule it to be sent automatically at the right time. It also helps you sort your inbox by allowing you to archive messages and bring them back to the inbox as unread messages when you need them. The tool also lets you keep track of whether your important messages have been replied to by giving reminders so you don’t forget to follow up.

Boomerang has a free plan with the basic features that you can use as long as you want. There are also paid plans with added features starting at $4.99/month.

 

4. Cold Turkey – App and site blocker

Working on your personal computer, or simply not being under scrutiny may tempt you to wander off into other sites such as social media or e-commerce sites. Cold Turkey helps you block all those sites that distract you during work. And not just social media sites, Cold Turkey lets you block applications, the whole internet, and even your entire computer. You can use the default distraction list, or create your own customized block lists, which can be started by a timer or scheduled blocks.

The basic plan is free but the Pro plan will cost you a one time payment of 20.92 USD.

 

5. iDoneThis – Team activity tracking

iDoneThis is a tracking app that tracks your team members’ progress, keeps track of their daily check ins and the status of tasks assigned to them. The app has a free 3 day trial on all plans. The easy daily check-ins require everybody on the team to check in either in their browser or via email.

The most popular plan on the platform is the Standard plan that costs $9/user/month annually. You can avail a free trial before buying a plan though.

 

6. Toggl – Time tracking

Toggl is a time tracking app that is extremely easy to use. If you forget to start tracking some day, the app has its inbuilt tracking reminders and idle detection to remind you to start again. The app can also help you break down your hours by projects, clients and tasks to see what’s making you money, and what’s lacking. Apart from time tracking, Toggl also has other features like manual time entries to your calendar, tracking data, project dashboards and assigning billable rates to your tasks.

Toggl has a free plan with most of the basic features. The paid plans begin with Starter, costing $9/user/month billed yearly.

 

7. Mindmeister – Mind mapping

Mindmeister is a mind mapping tool that lets you capture, develop and share ideas visually. It is great for brainstorming sessions, note taking and project planning or any other creative task for that matter. The app is entirely web based so you don’t need to download or install anything. It is a great tool for collaborations and presentations.

The basic plan is free, which gives you upto 3 mind maps. The paid plans are also extremely inexpensive starting at $2.49/month.

 

8. Harvest – Time and expense tracking

Another great time tracking software is Harvest. Harvest lets you track time and expenses to gain valuable insights on how productive your processes are. Harvest can also track your team’s time and collate this raw timesheet data into a visual summary of where your team’s time is going.

The free plan allows 1 user and 2 projects. The paid plan priced at $12/user/month gives access to unlimited users and projects.

 

9. Lucidchart – Data visualization

Lucidchart is a collaboration tool for teams working remotely, that offers powerful diagramming, whiteboarding, and data visualization. The tool gives you insights on your IT architecture, employee data to help manage cross-functional teams. You can also visualize your processes as flow charts in current and future states to identify bottlenecks, areas of improvement, and process implementation.

Lucichart has a free plan that lets you create 3 documents with 60 objects per document. The paid plans start at $7.95 for individuals and $6.67 per user for teams of minimum 3 members, per month.

 

10. Zapier – Task automation

Zapier is an automation tool that shares information between your integrated web apps automatically. You can pick the triggers that set the workflow in motion and receive alerts on your linked messaging app when the task is completed. It can be integrated with more than 2000 other apps, like Gmail, Google Sheets, Google Calendar and Slack.

The basic features are available in the free plan which allows 100 tasks per month. The paid plans start at $19.99/month billed annually.

 

11. TickTick – Organizing and goal setting

TickTick is an organizing and goal setting tool that helps you create to-do lists, set reminders, customize your calendar view and share lists and tasks with your team. It has more than 30 features that work seamlessly across more than 10 platforms. You can also add voice notes and turn emails into tasks with TickTick.

The app is free to use but if you want advanced features, you can get the Premium version costing just Annual for $27.99 annually, that’s less than $2.4/month.

 

12. CamScanner – Document scanning

CamScanner is a very popular scanning app that helps you scan documents and save them in different formats. It offers high-resolution scans as well as an image editor. CamScanner also allows and-written annotation and customizable watermark generation. You can share your scanned documents from the app directly any time.

The app is available for free with general features but for premium added features you can opt for the paid plans starting at $4.99/month billed annually.

 

13. Snagit – Screen capture and recording

Snagit is a screen capture and recording software that lets you quickly capture a process, add your explanation, and create visual instructions. It is perfect for making visual how-to guides, creating quick simple answers to queries and providing better feedback. You can capture your screen and mark up your screenshots, or talk through a process and answer questions with a quick video.

You can have a free trial of the app and if you like it you can buy the license with a one time fee of approximately $57.93.

 

14. Otter – Transcription

Otter is a speech-to-text transcription tool which is very useful for taking notes for meetings, interviews, lectures, and other important voice conversations. You can record conversations on your phone or browser or even import or sync your recordings from other apps. Otter gives you real-time streaming transcripts and rich, searchable notes with text, audio, images, speaker ID, and key phrases, within minutes.

Otter has a free plan that gives 600 minutes of transcription per month along with the basic features. The paid plans start at $8.33/user/month billed annually.

 

15. Habitica – Habit building and task management

Habitica is probably one of the most interesting tools on this list. It is a task management app that works like a role-playing game. It is basically a habit-building app that improves your productivity by treating tasks like real life games. It offers rewards and punishments within the game to motivate you and provides a strong social network to keep the motivation going. Habitica is a good way to help your team achieve their goals while also enjoying the tasks.

Habitica is free to use for individuals but if you need a group plan, it will cost you $9/month plus $3/member monthly.

 

16. Skitch – Screenshot editing and sharing

Skitch from Evernote is a screenshot editing and sharing app. It allows you to add shapes and text to images and screenshots and share them instantly. Images can be exported to various formats. Skitch is, however, only available for Mac, iPad and iPhone currently.

Skitch is free to download from the Mac App Store.

 

17. Slack – Communication and messaging

Slack is another great communication platform where you can connect with your team when working remotely. Instead of having a common inbox for all your communications, you can create channels on Slack where you can add only the people who need to be there. It is also easier to follow conversations or find important information in an easily searchable archive.

For small teams the free plan is good enough. The paid plans start at $2.67/month, paid annually.

 

18. Google Hangouts & Zoom – Video communication

Google Hangouts and Zoom are both widely popular video communication tools for remote working. Hangouts offers messaging, voice and video calls and also allows group conversations. Zoom also supports video meetings, webinars, conferences, voice calls and chats.

Google Hangouts is free to use as long as you have a Google account. Zoom also has a free plan which can host up to 100 participants and paid plans start at $14.99/host/month.

 

19. Google Keep – Note taking

Google Keep is a note taking app. Keep has a variety of tools for note taking, including text, lists, images and audio too. It also lets you set reminders. The optical character recognition can extract text from images and voice recordings can also be transcribed.

Google Keep is also free to use for anyone having a Google account.

 

20. Google Drive and Docs – Cloud storage and collaboration

Google Drive and Google Docs are already quite popular as collaboration tools. Drive is a cloud storage and synchronization app. It allows you to store, share, and collaborate on files and folders from any mobile device, tablet, or computer.

Google Docs, on the other hand, lets you write and edit documents. You can collaborate with your team giving them access to view or edit documents as required. All changes are autosaved, there are numerous document templates to choose from and a variety of smart editing and styling tools as well.

Google Docs is free to use. On Google Drive, you get 15GB of free space, but if you need more space and added features, the lowest plan starts at about $1.72/month.

Summing up

Working from home can be a challenge for most people, especially if you have always worked out of a dedicated office space. But don’t let the circumstances get the better of you. Choose the right tools you need and you’re sure to keep up your productivity even when working remotely.

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