10 tech tools to increase productivity

We could all use some help improving our productivity. Here are 10 apps that help you collaborate, take notes or just plain save time.

10 Tech Tools to Get Things Done Faster

Executives today must digest an increasing amount of information, set strategic directives, juggle social media interactions and stay productive on the move. To be effective, they may have to work on a bewildering variety of devices: PCs, personal laptops, tablets and even smartphones.

With this in mind, here are 10 versatile, cross-platform tools to get things done faster. They cover tasks such as synchronizing notes through the cloud, tracking productivity and more effectively managing social media interactions.

Paul Mah is a freelance writer and blogger who lives in Singapore. He has worked in various capacities within the IT industry and enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones and networking devices. You can reach Paul at paul@mah.sg and follow him on Twitter at @paulmah.

Buffer
Buffer

Buffer removes the tedium of manually staggering social media interactions throughout the entire day in order to maximize social presence. The online service currently works with social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+ Pages to automatically post updates through an established schedule.

To make it easier to queue updates, Buffer is integrated with a large number of apps, including SocialBro and Instapaper, and has extensions for the Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Safari browsers.

Review: Buffer for iOS, Android Worth a Look

Google Chrome
Google Chrome

The Chrome Web browser, released in 2008, is available today for OS X and Linux, as well as the iOS and Android mobile operating systems, and forms the basis of Google's Chrome OS.

Chrome helps you save time by syncing settings such as bookmarks, passwords and autocomplete history across devices. In addition, new themes and extensions can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store to add new capabilities that are available across all supported desktop platforms.

More: 10 Free Google Chrome Extensions That Increase Productivity

Evernote
Evernote

Evernote, the popular online note-taking service, has earned a huge following, in part because you can quickly save and access notes from the Web and supported mobile devices. The service is offered free, though paid premium and business versions are available.

Evernote Premium comes with additional capabilities such as offline notebooks on mobile devices and the ability to search inside PDFs and attached documents. Evernote Business offers easier content sharing content and the ability to search across "business notebooks."

Feature: 10 What We Love (and Hate) About Evernote
More: Evernote Adds Two-Factor Authentication, Other Security Features

Microsoft Exchange Online
Microsoft Exchange Online

For all the attention directed at Google Apps, Microsoft has been steadily improving its Office 365 offerings. If you don't care about editing online documents, the stripped-down Exchange Online Plan 1 delivers compelling value at just $4 per user, per month with 50GB of mailbox storage.

Aside from email, Exchange offers Calendar, Contacts, Notes and Tasks to help get a leg up on productivity. All features can be accessed from a wide variety of devices, including all mobile platforms, online, or from the Outlook desktop app, which is available on both the PC and the Mac.

Comparison: Microsoft Office Web Apps vs. Google Docs

IrfanView
IrfanView

Though the IrfanView viewer works only on the PC platform, it's too good to not mention. This freeware app works on all versions of Windows, from Windows 9x to Windows 8, and has earned a reputation as a fast, compact graphic viewer.

IrfanView supports an incredible number of file formats, as well as a good number of video and audio formats. You will appreciate its powerful batch conversion capabilities for large quantities image files, including the capability to perform advanced image processing.

News: MIT Researchers Streamline Coding for Image Processing

LastPass
LastPass

Still scribbling passwords on pieces of paper? The password manager LastPass stores your passwords and credit card information in a digital vault. This encrypted achieve can be stored either online at Lastpass.com or on a USB storage drive.

LastPass is free for use on common desktop platforms such as Windows, OS X and Linux. A $1 per month premium version offers access to native mobile apps for just about every mobile device, support for top Web browsers and multifactor authentication.

Then Again … PayPal Says It's Time to Ditch Passwords and PINs

Pocket
Pocket

Pocket is a popular "reader" service specially designed to help you archive lengthy articles for further reading at a more appropriate time. You can add Web content to their reading lists from more than 500 apps that currently offer Pocket integration.

Once in the list, articles can be viewed from a range of major devices including the iOS and Android platforms. Pocket supports the Chrome, Firefox, Opera and Safari browsers.

Review: Why Samsung Galaxy Note Is Nearly Ideal for E-Reader Apps

RescueTime
RescueTime

The RescueTime service offers a quick, easy way to keep track of how you're spending your time. After creating an account and downloading the app onto your platform of choice, the client utility runs unobtrusively in the background to monitor the amount of time spent on productivity apps and social media websites. This information is then presented on an online dashboard.

RescueTime is available on Windows, OS X, Linux and Android. The basic version is free, while a premium version with more detailed reporting is available for $6 per month.

Also: New iOS App Helps Determine How Much Time You Waste Each Day

Snagit
Snagit

Available as a separate product ($49.95) on Windows and the Mac, Snagit makes it easy to capture images and videos from a computer. Snagit is useful for creating step-by-step video tutorials or how-to documents, and it can facilitate collaboration with team members on complex projects.

You can capture and subsequently read lengthy Web pages without having to scroll manually; they can also highlight portions of images or add other markups prior to sharing with the team.

Also: Wirelessly Transfer Images with New Wi-Fi-Enabled Memory Cards

Trillian
Trillian

The Trillian IM chat client is available on top platforms, including Windows, OS X, iOS, and Android. Beyond its interoperability with all the important IM networks, Trillian offers social integration with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

One notable feature of Trillian is its "continuous chat" capability, which lets you pick up a conversation from a different device without missing out on important snippets. The searchable message history viewer makes sifting through prior conversations a snap. Trillian is free, though a paid version offers an ad-free experience.

Related: Outlook.com Lets Users Engage in IM Chats with Gmail Users