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These 5 free apps make your commute productive, not dead time

Choose the right route, take audio notes, manage your to-dos, and more.

These 5 free apps make your commute productive, not dead time
[Photo: Ryan Tang/Unsplash]

No matter how you get from Point A to Point B in the morning—and vice-versa in the afternoon—we can probably all agree that you could be making more of your daily commute. Here are five great (and free) apps to help pass the time, get caught up, and chip away at your various obligations.

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Obviously some of these work better when you’re not behind the wheel, so please—please!—be careful if your to-and-fro is car-based.

1. Get there faster

If you live in a metropolitan hub , sometimes it’s hard to decide how you’re going to get to work each day. Car? Train? Bus? Bike? Thankfully, Transit (Android, Apple) has you covered. With trip options for more than 125 cities around the world, real-time routes for rail, bus, ride sharing (Uber, Lyft, and others), and even bike- and scooter-sharing stations, you’ll have all the data you need to make an informed decision about how best to get to the office.

2. Get caught up

Nothing beats listening to a good, useful podcast to help you feel like you’re doing something productive, even if you’re behind the wheel. A great all-around option for corralling all your listenables (and finding new ones) is Castbox (Android, Apple, Web). It’s compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and sports north of 1 million podcast channels spanning news, entertainment, and more (and including Fast Company’s two podcasts, Secrets of the Most Productive People and Creative Conversation). Your preferred podcasts sync to the cloud as well, so you can start on one device and end on another.

3. Get your thoughts together

Because inspiration almost never strikes when you’re sitting idly at your desk, you’ll want something you can use to quickly capture your brilliant ideas. Take Otter Voice Notes (Android, Apple) for a spin to see how easy it is to not only record your own voice notes, but also go back and review previously recorded meetings between you and your team. Recordings are automatically transcribed and can be peppered with text, photos, and highlights to pinpoint the important stuff. The app offers 600 minutes of free transcription every month, which might well be more than you need.

4. Get your inbox in order

There’s little worse than starting each day with an overstuffed inbox. Buzzsaw through your many messages with the lightweight but powerful Email by Edison (Android, Apple) app. Featuring support for just about every email provider, a nimble interface, and a bunch of useful features (real-time travel notifications, easy unsubscribe features, custom swipes), you’ll be able to get your email situation under control by the time you finish that first cup of coffee.

5. Get things done

Sometimes to-do list apps try to do too much. Striking a nice balance between features and simplicity, Microsoft To-Do (Android, Apple, Windows) doesn’t try to do to-do with too much ado. Instead, you get a focused, at-a-glance daily list with suggestions for what to tackle next, easy sharing features, the ability to sync across multiple devices, and task integration with Microsoft’s ubiquitous Outlook email—all presented in a slick but friendly interface.

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Bonus App! Why bother?

Maybe you can ditch your commute altogether—as long as you still get dressed so you look professional for your video meetings. The excellent Zoom (multiple clients) platform features a more-than-fair free version that lets you pipe in up to 100 participants for up to 40 minutes, or one-to-one meetings of unlimited length.

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