4 min read

9 helpful apps for thinkers

9 helpful apps for thinkers

I took inventory of the apps I use almost every day and narrowed it down to this list of the truly awesome.  Let get right to it, shall we?

Microsoft One Note

The schools are now teaching the kids how to use One Note so they're definitely on to something.   I don't know about you but I can't read my own writing.   I also can't remember all the tidbits and facts that happen in my workday.  With multiple projects and topics flying around at the same time, it's just impossible to use a notebook and pen and have hope of finding what you wrote about 2 months ago.

One Note to the rescue.  The intuitive user interface is recognizable to everybody:  notebooks, sections within each notebook, pages within each section.      I've been using this for years at work.  Most of the time, I can find stuff using the search features.    The  Tags are an invaluable way to capture your follow-ups, things you are waiting on from others, in-progress items, and important things.   Find tags collects them all into a nice summary sheet.

While OneNote is a nice hierarchical way to capture notes, it's not so great at capturing and distilling ideas.  


A few months back, I came across this Mac app called Notion.

It can be used solo for note-taking or can be used together with a team to collaborate.  It has lots of templates to choose from to really customize the look and feel of things.  I may not have brushed the surface yet as there are many features to this tool.   It actually maybe a little too complicated.   It's worth a look but that leads me to my new little buddy...


This feels like Notion but peels away the complexity.  What remains is an open canvas where ideas can be generated.  There is a 'Daily Desk' feature right at the top.   This can be used to quickly catch an idea.   The idea goes into a 'brick'.   Each idea can be labelled with one or more tags.  This is where the real magic comes in.   You can make walls for any topic and set it up to show you certain tags.    So over time, you are building a network of ideas that fall right into place on the walls.  

This one is also free and premium.  You get 50 free bricks to get to know the tool, then if you want more it's time to signup.    I had a question this week and asked the Walling folks in an email.  They got right back to me with a friendly reply.  I like that.   I likely will sign up to make continued use of this software.    Check it out.

Quick aside:

Have you heard of the concept of a Second Brain?   These note-taking and idea generation apps are in this arena.   It's a concept where instead of trying to memorize all this stuff, we can capture it with these tools, and refer to it whenever needed.    Thus, leaving your "first brain" room to think.   I love it.  I've been taking notes like this for many years but just recently heard of the second brain.


This gem has been around a while but somehow I just recently started using it.  It's a simple tool that's just a landing spot for any web page you want to read later.  Perfect for those times when you find something interesting or quite long.  You want to check it out but want to wait until you are on the couch in the evening.    Sending the link to Instapaper is a snap.   And when you are ready to settle in for some reading, just open the app and get to it.  You can archive or discard anything you read.

Day One

This is a journaling app.   I have been writing in this journal almost daily for several months.    'A diary?' you ask.   Well yes, but it's a lot more than that.  Sure you can just open a blank window and start typing, but it has several built-in templates to get you going.  It asks intriguing tickler questions that you can explore too.   Pictures from your phone come in for easy commenting.    Mainly for me, this app is a form of meditation.  It is a cathartic way to get thoughts and events out of my head.     And over time, it will be neat to see what happened 'on this day' in prior years.  It makes it very easy to revisit past days like that.     Day One


I have 2 monitors going at all times.  I need something to corral my windows for better organization.  Enter this Magnet app.   With Magnet, you can drive the title bar on a window to different perimeter positions on your monitor.  Corners for example will resize your window to that quadrant.  If you drag a window to the 3 o'clock or 9 o'clock position then your window will take half the screen.  And if you go to the noon position, your window fills the whole screen.   Interestingly, this is a mac-only app because it's not included in the operation system, but Windows 10 includes it.  Try it out!  


Yes, I'm talking about the Spotify music service.  It's just awesome.  Pick a mood, pick an artist, pick a song....boom....it's in your ears.  It's a jukebox that has it all.  (look up 'jukebox' you kids).    When I am doing thinking work, I love to have music in my ears.  During the workday, I like mainly instrumental stuff because lyrics are just too distracting.   I'm amazed how many sub-genres there are out there.   Spotify also makes playlists based on your listening.  It's very fun for example to get the annual favorites in one tidy place.  

Kindle Cloud Reader

One of my goals this year is to read more.  A lot more.  I have had a Kindle for years and now have Kindle Unlimited.   Using my library of books is possible on many gadgets:  the Kindle, of course, the phone, the iPad.   The computer itself is yet another front end but could be easily forgotten.    I find myself reading a lot these days right on the computer.  Here's a quick link on how to get set up:  https://help.overdrive.com/en-us/0446.html


I must mention this one which I continue to enjoy daily.  I wrote about this one recently and the good folks at Braintoss saw it and featured the write-up.  Here's a link:  https://www.edsmoluk.com/brain-toss/

This Week's Quote

If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution. – Albert Einstein