Our Favorite iPhone Apps: Top productivity tools

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One of most tantalizing possibilities posed by the arrival of native third-party apps for the iPhone and iPod touch was the promise that some of the App Store’s offerings would extend the device’s capabilities—thereby making you more productive. A multitude of apps deliver on this promise, and we’ve selected nine of our favorite productivity tools.

The apps listed below will help you manage your to-dos, track your time, move your files, crunch numbers, organize your searches, and even control your Mac. As with our favorite iPhone games and top communication tools, our favorite productivity apps all shipped before November 1, 2008.

Best search organizer

Imagine that the results of your Google searches were offered in pictorial form—an image that represents a link—and you begin to grasp what the free Cooliris ( ) from the developer of the same name is about. Supporting Google, Flickr, Yahoo, Smugmug, and DevianArt just like its free desktop counterpart, Cooliris lets you surf the Web’s images in a Cover Flow kind of way and provides links to content based on those images. The interface is stunning and accelerometer-aware.—CHRISTOPHER BREEN

Read our review of Cooliris; get more info on Cooliris at the App Store.

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Best file-transfer tool

Whether you need to transfer images, Office and iWork files, RTF documents, or whatever, the $5 FileMagnet ( ) from Magnetism Studios lets you move those files to your iPhone and view them on the go. You name the file format, and FileMagnet most likely supports it. You can even use the app’s tilt-scrolling feature to read your documents without touching the screen, just by tilting your iPhone.—JASON SNELL

Read our review of FileMagnet; get more info on FileMagnet at the App Store.

Best time tracker

Professionals who bill by the hour understand the need for scrupulous timekeeping. TimeLogger ( ) is a practical, dynamic app that lets you keep close track of your time and ensures that you get paid for every minute you’re owed. Besides basic tracking features, Costmo Soft’s TimeLogger lets you schedule starts and stops and allows multiple timers to run at once with different time intervals for people who bill by the hour, half hour, tenth-of-an-hour, or by the minute. You can also export your time sheets by e-mail as either a plain text or a spreadsheet file.—BEN BOYCHUK

Read our review of TimeLogger; get more info on TimeLogger at the App Store.

Best basic to-do list manager

Even those of us who aren’t to-do list freaks still need to keep track of what needs doing or risk becoming viewed as hopelessly disorganized and confused. Things ( ), a $10 app from Cultured Code doesn’t provide the overkill that many adherents of the church of Getting Things Done will prefer. But it does offer an easy-to-use way to create tasks, set their due dates, and check them off when you’re done. The auto-sync integration with Cultured Code’s $49 version for desktop Macs is also immaculate.—JS

Read our review of Things; get more info on Things at the App Store.

Best way to share to-dos

Zenbe Lists ( ) is an easy-to-use app for keeping multiple to-do or shopping lists, each item with or without a due date. Those lists are synced with the Zenbe Web site, so you can update them on your iPhone or desktop. But the real beauty of the $3 Zenbe Lists is that you can share your lists with both other Zenbe Lists users and anyone with a Web browser. So, for example, your spouse back home can add items to the grocery list while you’re walking the aisles of the supermarket.—DAN FRAKES

Read our review of Zenbe Lists; get more info on Zenbe Lists at the App Store.

Best calculator for power users

If the iPhone’s built-in calculator seems a bit low-powered for your needs, give TLA Systems’ $10 PCalc RPN Calculator ( ) a try. Just like the built-in calculator, you’ll get a basic calculator in portrait mode and a more full-featured version when you rotate the iPhone to landscape mode. Unlike the built-in calculator, you can choose to use Reverse Polish Notation data entry mode, do conversions, and use a number of constants (such as the speed of light or pi) with a couple of screen taps. Another difference from the iPhone’s Calculator: PCalc’s keyboard can appear in horizontal form, making it easy to confirm that you’ve tapped the right key.—ROB GRIFFITHS

Read our review of PCalc; get more info on PCalc RPN Calculator at the App Store.

Best conversion tool

If you ever find yourself needing to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius, years to seconds, miles to kilometers, liters to pints, or grams to pounds, TheMacBox’s free Units ( ) is worth the download. It lets you convert numbers for area, temperature, time, weight, speed, length, pressure, power, volume, and data storage from one unit of measurement to many others. It also has the ability to convert among 35 different currencies (updated wirelessly for accurate results). There’s even an on-screen ruler that lets you measure small items up to two-and-a-half inches or seven centimeters. The app’s design is simple, without any bells and whistles, but it just works.—JONATHAN SEFF

Read our review of Units; get more info on Units from the App Store.

Best tool for hearing the sound of your own voice

There are a slew of voice-recording apps out there for iPhone and iPod touch users. But the free iTalk Recorder ( ) from Griffin Technology offers a compelling combination of variable recording quality, useful features (such as pause/resume, appended recordings, time/date stamps, and text notes), a great interface, and an easy way to transfer your recordings to your Mac (using a free companion app).—DF

Read our review of iTalk Recorder; get more info on iTalk Recorder at the App Store.

Best way to keep tabs on your Mac

Leopard’s new screen-sharing feature is handy for remote troubleshooting, but what about checking on things when you’re not at your computer? No problem: with Mocha VNC’s free Mocha VNC Lite ( ), you can view and interact with your Mac (or PC) anywhere you’ve got your iPhone. Mocha VNC Lite works in both portrait and landscape orientations, and you can pinch to zoom in and out of the remote screen. It also lets you store up to six computers as shortcuts so you don’t have to key in server information every time.—DAN MOREN

Read our review of Mocha VNC Lite; get more info on Mocha VNC at the App Store.

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