Must-Have Tools for Digital Professionals in 2021

Your digital workflow is made up of several apps and tools. They’ll allow you to work better, faster and your computer will be an extension of you. In this blog I collected my favourite productivity, writing and creative apps. I believe they’re all must-haves for digital professionals in 2021.

Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash

As a digital professional, I don’t want to waste time or complete things that feel unnecessary. I use a lot of apps and tools. I also like to experiment a lot. I regularly recommend apps and tools when a workflow needs improvement. In this blog I summarised my favourite apps with a quick description of why and what I think makes them special.

Disclaimer: I am a Mac user. Not all suggestions might work with your setup. Feel free to share them in the comments.

I organised my tool recommendations in three categories: productivity, writing and creative tools.

Productivity

This is by far one of my absolute favourite apps to use. Bear is a very modern looking note-taking app. In Bear, you can create unlimited notes with great formatting options. It looks neat and the cataloguing system is superior. Each note is added to the catalogue through # ’s, and adding sub categories with / ’s. I use Bear for writing down quick ideas, writing blogs and using one note to save all thoughts on projects. Bear synchs between Mac and iOS.

A literal lifesaver, I manage most of my projects and to-do’s in Asana. Both for my private projects, as well as for work. Using Getting Things Done (GTD), I log my projects, save useful information and plan my next steps. This helps me to stay on top of things and use my brain for thinking instead of memorising. It works surprisingly well for my private projects. Sometimes I leave them alone for a few months and can then pick up right where I left off in Asana. Asana offers the best combination of customisation, flexibility, and pro features to take your workflow to the next level. Of course there are other great project management tools. I’ve found that the tasks, inbox, and projects in Asana are the best to keep track and plan ahead.

Today, emoji are an essential communication tool. On our mobile devices, the way of typing emoji is pretty alright. However, on our personal computers it can be quite a hassle finding the right emoji to work with. That’s where Rocket comes in. It offers the same experience with emoji as Slack, but then in all other apps. Start typing the colon :, followed by a word and emoji automatically appear.

Window management on the Mac can sometimes get messy. Resizing and moving windows around with the trackpad is time-consuming. Magnet is a Mac app that allows you to resize windows and move them around with keyboard shortcuts. And it allows you to snap windows in place, in the case that you’re using your trackpad again.

Writing tools

This web app gives you feedback on your writing in English. The feedback ranges from readability improvements to suggesting alternatives to improve the quality of your writing. You just paste your text into it, and you get live feedback, word count and readability grade.

This tool performs a check on spelling and grammar in many languages. It helps you to write consistently and concise. Suggestions are adapted within the platform itself. This tool has helped me with different kinds of writing. Such as emails, blog posts and presentations. It is especially nice to have when you’re sending an important email. And when you want to ensure you didn’t make a typo after reading it three times.

Google Translate is great and all, but compared to Deepl it feels wonky and outdated. This browser based translator allows you to translate huge chunks of text. Into multiple languages. The translated text can be edited to bring our own nuance and style in by clicking on the words. Deepl will give you alternative formulations and synonyms, and then finishes the sentence. This has helped me especially when writing in German.

Creative apps

Now, when it comes to creative apps, the Adobe Creative Cloud apps have been the standard for many years. As a lightweight and affordable alternative there’s the Affinity app suite. Currently, they offer Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer and Affinity Publisher. They’re pretty easy to use, run very smooth, and are constantly updated. And a lot of the Adobe file formats are editable. I use Affinity Designer for all my small design work. For example when creating a quick logo or other stuff for websites or presentations. Affinity Photo is my go-to photo resize app. It lets me resize and adjust images on the fly without compromising performance of my workflow, like the heavier editors do. Affinity Publisher is great for all printed and digital work I don’t want to create in Pages or Google Docs. It’s robust and lets you create beautiful documents ready to print in a whiff. For example, most of my workshop materials are made with Publisher. In my experience, all Affinity apps run smooth and are easy to use.

Thinking is at the centre of all creative work and often text is not enough to capture thoughts. Milanote is like a digital whiteboard with interactive features. It lets you create mind-maps, roadmaps, project dashboards and more. I often use it to save all research and visual material for a single project. Again using GTD to store the thoughts externally, meaning I can pick up where I left off.

My favourite app to build presentations, ever. Keynote is the strongest platform for presentations. It is easy to use, runs smooth on most Macs, and has many pro features to live your full designer fantasy. The interface is clean. Tools & features are where you expect them to be. Keynote is very intuitive. A presentation is easily made, or if you want you can create complex slides. Keynote is pretty much too good to be free.

For this blog I used Bear, Hemmingway Editor, Languagetool, Affinity Photo and Asana.

Thank you for reading & share your tool and app tips in the comments! 🙌

Digital Strategist from Amsterdam, focused on earned first social media, content & digital. Writes about content marketing, productivity and digital things.

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