Apps

8 apps to use when working from home

Conquer your to-do list and maintain your productivity!

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The outbreak of COVID-19 shows no sign of stopping. With no end in sight for the deadly disease, companies are resorting to a remote working environment for their employees. After all, most employees use smartphones and laptops that makes work from home possible.

For employees working at home for the first time, it can be a difficult task on where to start. There are many apps out there that could potentially distract you from reaching your full productivity levels. That’s why we compiled apps which can help you on your daily grind at the comfort of your home.

Tide (meditation and timer app)

Working for hours can be draining. As such, you tend to lose focus and your productivity levels suffer as a result. This is where Tide comes in. The name itself invokes a familiar sight on a calm beach. For the app itself, the combination of meditation and productivity timer in one makes it a great tool for everyone working at home.

You can set different timers for focusing on your work. By default, the app uses the pomodoro technique where tasks are divided into 25-minute sessions with breaks in between. The app’s breathe mode allows you to meditate and focus on your breath. Meanwhile, the sleep and nap timer tracks and helps you achieve that elusive sleep after a long day of grinding at work.

Download on Google Play Store or Apple App Store

Slack (work collaboration app)

Slack is a household name for remote work collaboration. As a matter of fact, we use this app at GadgetMatch for updates and pitching in articles. The app is straightforward to use — it’s comparable to most chat apps on the market, but better. You can reply to someone’s message, which will become a thread in itself where you can also react and reply to keep the conversation going.

Slack shines the most when used as a collaboration tool for work teams. As such, the app may not be useful to you if your company doesn’t have its own Slack workspace. You’ll need an invite to join a workspace and a channel. Once you’re invited, you can say anything to the channel you’re allowed in. Plus, you can also message a fellow user directly and privately.

Download on Google Play Store or Apple App Store

Gmail (email app)

Who doesn’t use Gmail to handle their email inbox? Google’s mail service has been around for a long time, making it a popular tool for sending and receiving emails. To utilize Gmail for best productivity, you can create automatic filters and labels which does the job of sorting out important work emails from personal ones.

Gmail’s smart compose feature is also a plus when typing new emails to your colleagues and bosses. And with the intelligent features baked in, you will see important emails right in front of your inbox. That makes it perfect for dealing with tasks with tight deadlines.

Download on Google Play Store or Apple App Store

Microsoft To-Do (to-do list app)

A day’s work is more exciting if you have a to-do list to conquer. Microsoft To-Do is basically that: a to-do list app, but with added features so you can conquer the day with confidence. By default, the app takes you to the “My Day” tab, where you can add your own to-do for the day. You have the option to create a sub-task within a certain task too, making it a versatile companion for focusing on your daily hustle.

The app’s versatility doesn’t stop there. You can remind yourself of an upcoming to-do, and even set it to repeat daily, weekly, monthly or yearly. Plus, you can even set it to repeat at a custom time. The biggest advantage of this app, however, is the option to set a due date. Setting a deadline for a certain task is very useful especially when working at home where numerous distractions abound.

And unlike other to-do list app, you can add images, notes, and files directly to a certain task.

Download on Google Play Store or Apple App Store

Microsoft Office (document creation app)

If you ever need a mobile companion for editing documents on the go, Microsoft Office app will more than suit your needs. Almost everything that you would expect from the desktop app is on the mobile app too. In the past, Microsoft used to offer three different app for editing document, spreadsheet, and presentation files just like in the desktop. However, the company recently released a brand-new app which bundles Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and even Lens in one.

From the app, you can open and edit any documents from the local file directory or your Onedrive account. Microsoft Office even supports opening and converting PDFs, so you can view and edit an important document from your email inbox.

Download on Google Play Store or Apple App Store

Google Keep (note-taking app)

Keeping tabs of notes while working on a certain task can be daunting. While some of us may opt for a physical sticky-notes to keep tabs of the important stuff, some prefer a digital solution. After all, it’s much easier to use a digital note-taking app that synchronizes your notes on all devices.

That is what Google Keep does for its users. It’s dead simple to use and you can jot your notes within the app in no time. Additionally, you can change the color and label of your own notes if you’re obsessed with organizing stuffs. The biggest advantage of this app yet over its traditional counterpart is the ability to store and sync your notes from the cloud. Worrying over a sticky-note that you were supposed to pin on a board is now a thing of the past with this app.

Download on Google Play Store or Apple App Store

Toggl (time tracking app)

It can be a struggle to keep track of the time you work on something while at home. Toggl is a timesheet app that simplifies time tracking for you. You can set the app to automatically track the time while you work on a certain task. The time tracked can be displayed on your calendar too.

At the end of the day, the app will nudge you with stats and reports so you can see how productive you are for the day. This is useful if you always struggle completing a task because you had numerous distractions at home.

Download on Google Play Store or Apple App Store

LinkedIn (work social networking app)

LinkedIn is a social networking site just like Facebook. However, it’s more focused on work-related stuff. Here, you can follow a company’s profile for any updates related to work and daily operations. Plus, you can also follow a colleague. Following a colleague allows you to message him/her at any time of the day too. This is useful for getting in touch with a workmate regarding any company announcement that you missed while at home.

You could also search for new jobs on LinkedIn. The job search feature allows you to search for a part-time freelancing gig. More importantly, you could build connections with other people who can vouch you for a job you’re applying. And since this is a social networking site for work, your own profile will serve as a resume where you can post your achievements and boast your real-life skills.

Download on Google Play Store or Apple App Store

Bonus: Forest (productivity gaming app)

Who says that work at home can’t be fun? This app literally gamifies your work session. It works by letting you grow a virtual tree within a 25-minute period. The tree slowly grows as time progresses. However, once you leave the app, the tree dies. You wouldn’t want a tree to die, so you’ll be left with no other choice but to stick to the app and let the timer finish.

As such, you will be forced to focus on your work while the tree grows. It’s relaxing and satisfying to watch your tree grow while you conquer your task within the given time. The app cultivates a habit of productivity too, since any tree you’ve successfully grown will earn you coins that you can use to purchase another tree species. And the best part about this is that you can donate that coin to tree planting and conservation efforts for our planet.

Download on Google Play Store or Apple App Store

SEE ALSO:
How to disinfect your tech from the coronavirus
Apple: Coronavirus might cause iPhone shortage
COVID-19 effect: Facebook, Twitter employees advised to work from home


As general rules, the CDC or The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed these to help with preventing the spread of COVID-19:

  • Stay home when sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes
  • Frequently wash hands with soap and water
  • Clean frequently touched surfaces

Apps

Amazon bans TikTok for employees, reverses decision in a few hours

Everyone’s worried about using TikTok now

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Amazon sent an internal memo to its employees, asking them to remove the TikTok from any mobile device that can access their company email. The memo was picked up by the mainstream media almost immediately and it served as an indication of how American companies are losing trust in the Chinese-backed app.

However, the company soon backtracked and an Amazon spokesperson said the request had been sent out in error and that there was no change to the company’s policies at the moment.

Company spokeswoman Jaci Anderson declined to answer questions about what caused the confounding turnaround or error. The original memo cited “security risks” as the reason for avoiding TikTok.

In response, TikTok failed to understand Amazon’s concerns. It did not receive any communication from Amazon before the email went out.

However, the social media app has received a lot of backlash from authorities due to its poor data privacy history. TikTok is banned in India and recently, the US suggested it’s considering a similar ban on the app.

Furthermore, US lawmakers have been concerned about the app for months now. The US army and navy instructed soldiers to delete the app from military devices in December. The biggest concern regarding TikTok is that its parent company, based in China, is required to share information collected on users with the Chinese government.

“We still do not understand their concerns, we welcome a dialogue so we can address any issues they may have and enable their team to continue participating in our community,” TikTok said.

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Apps

4K streaming could be cheaper soon

Thanks to the H.266 format

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Watching 4K videos on YouTube or Netflix is taxing on mobile data, consuming about a gigabyte or more. But a new compression method could change 4K streaming soon.

Developed by Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute, the H.266 / Versatile Video Coding format aims to bring a more efficient way of compressing and streaming videos digitally. This new standard is meant to replace two existing standards — the H.264/AVC and H.265 HEVC.

Compared to the two, H.266 can transmit 4K videos at a much lower file size. The institute says H.266 can transmit a 10-minute UHD video at only 5GB of data.

This is almost 50 percent more efficient than the most advanced video format in the market, H.265 HEVC. Right now, HEVC requires 10GB of data to transmit the same 10-minute UHD video. As such, consumers can expect cheaper 4K streams with the H.266 format.

For example, a 25-minute 4K video that clocks in at 4GB can be streamed at a much lower 2GB with the new format. This will drastically reduce data and bandwidth consumption for consumers and companies.

The new video format also tries to solve the patent royalty system that has long plagued H.264 and H.265. Right now, companies have to deal with the messy system of paying licenses and royalties just to include these formats to their apps and websites. H.266 does away with these licenses, promising a better deal than the old formats.

Support and availability

As of right now, support for H.266 is being worked on both the software and hardware level. According to the institute that developed the format, Media Coding Industry Format is working on chip designs that support the new format on a hardware level.

Meanwhile, the institute is working on an encoder and decoder software which will be released this autumn.

It is worth noting, however, that H.266/VVC is not the only format that promises to improve 4K streaming on devices. Most tech companies today are adopting AV1 alongside VP9. These two formats are developed by separate organizations.

Right now, these formats — along with the H.266 — promise a better way of streaming 4K that will ultimately benefit everyone.

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Apps

Google removes 25 apps for secretly stealing your data

The apps were downloaded more than 2 million times

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Google has removed 25 apps from its Play Store for slyly collecting your data in the background. The apps were collectively downloaded more than 2.3 million times before the company clamped down.

According to French cybersecurity firm Evina, the malicious apps were developed by the same threat group. They seemed to offer different functionalities but were fundamentally designed to phish data.

The apps disguised themselves as step counters, image editors, video editors, wallpaper apps, flashlight applications, file managers, and mobile games. While offering some functionality on the front, the end-goal was always to collect user data.

Basically, what these sinister apps do is steal Facebook user’s credentials if they regularly open the account on their phone. The phishing app would overlay a web browser window on top of the official Facebook app and load a fake Facebook login page. You’d assume you’re logging in to your account, but in reality, you just handed over your username and password.

Image by Evina

Evina discovered the flaw in these apps and contacted Google for further action at the end of May. Once the company’s findings were verified, the apps were kicked from the Play Store. Google not only removed the apps from the Play Store but also disabled them on users’ smartphones and informs them via the Play Protect feature.

In recent times, users are increasingly aware of phishing and data collection since social platforms like TikTok have also been caught red-handed. Apple has emphasized its focus on privacy and announced a host of new features to protect the user via iOS 14. Even Xiaomi has added a range of new methods to protect the user in MIUI 12.

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