Outstanding Apps That Will Increase Your Productivity – Part 1

2011/04/26

I’ve spent almost 15 years recording sound effects for Airborne Sound. On any given day I’d rather be out in the world field recording but the necessity of digital audio means field recordists need to work in dark rooms with computers.

I’ve made a list of outstanding apps that help me work better and return to field recording quickly. This list doesn’t specifically apply to sound editing. If you’re working with a sound effects library on a computer you’ll likely need these kind of apps at some point.

I chose these programs based on:

  • productivity – does they save me time?
  • usefulness – do they fill a need?
  • aesthetic – is the app designed with the user in mind? Is it easy on the eyes, making for a more smoother, pleasant experience? I’m a sucker for the ‘Mac look’ and interface.

I think most people know the popular sound editing programs and tools (some lists of links are here and here) so I won’t address those. I wrote this post with the idea of bring some less popular apps to your attention. There are of course hundreds of great apps. These programs I found particularly useful, productive or attractive.

The first post will list sound converters, admin and writing apps.

I work mostly on a Mac, so this list is Apple-centric. I’ve noted when the apps have Windows versions. Share in the comments if you know of any other outstanding Mac or Windows apps you use.

Sound Conversion

  • BarbabatchBarbabatch ($395, Mac OS X) is a batch sound file converter by the Dutch company Audio Ease. Drag and drop any amount of files or folders, specify the conversion and the sound files convert quickly. In addition to converting over 50 sound file types and sample rates up to 192 kHz, Barbabatch also can:

    • convert out portions of sound files
    • apply fades
    • copy markers
    • apply MP3 tags
    • gate silence
    • normalize

    This is my sound converter of choice. Cavet emptor: it can only handle stereo and mono files. A new mutli-channel version is apparently in the works but Audio Ease is a bit slow with updates.

  • SnapperSnapper ($79, Mac) is another excellent offering from Audio Ease. This little app allows you to audition multi-channel sounds directly in the Mac’s Finder. A small display snaps to the bottom of the active window, complete with multi-channel waveform and playhead.

    It supports spot-to-cursor import directly to Nuendo, Cubase, Pro Tools and Logic, as well as drag-and-drop. You can download a 100-day demo for free.

    With the combination a Mac OS X’s spotlight and a well organized sound library, Snapper can be a more economical alternative to Soundminer.

  • SoundConverterthis tiny app (shareware, $15, Windows and Mac OS X) has saved my skin more than once. It has many obscure file formats found nowhere else. The interface is simple and the operation isn’t as smooth as Barbabatch, but you can’t beat the price or conversion options. Updated regularly.

Administrative Apps

  • Billings – most freelancers avoid dealing with finances. All we really want to do is to keep creating. Wading through finances is as fun as going to the dentist. Billings ($59, Mac, iOS) helps ease the pain.

    This stunning software makes it easy to create and track invoices. It comes with attractive invoice templates. I wish it could handle multiple currencies and client creation a bit better, but those are tiny gripes. Excellent software.

  • Things – feel overwhelmed by an endless to do lists? Productivity gurus say putting tasks into an actonionable list removes metal clutter and returns you to what’s important: creating.

    Things ($59.95, Mac OS X, iOS) is a beautiful task manager that helps you sort your to-do list by project. Things’ checklists ensure that my to-do list gets completed. There’s also an iPhone app that helps me jot down new items while mobile.

Writing Apps

  • Byword – minimalist writing tools have recently become popular. I’m now convinced: Byword ($4.99, Mac OS X, iOS) replaces screen clutter with a smooth font and soothing background and nothing else. It’s clean and attractive.

    It has a cool feature that dims all text other than your current paragraph. This helps me concentrate and write blog posts faster without distraction. Some favour alternates like OmmWriter and WriteRoom. I prefer Byword’s soothing look more.

  • Celtx – I have a few field recording videos planned and scripted. A friend recently turned me on to Celtx ($Free, Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, iOS). This software auto-formats scripts, creates storyboards, attaches photos and videos to the document, creates call sheets and more. I’m just starting with this one but so far I’m impressed.

  • Evernote – I used to have hundreds of text clips and photos of notes and ideas scattered between my computers. Evernote ($Free, Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, Android, Blackberry, Palm) is a fantastic app that captures and organizes text, audio and photos in the cloud.

    I use it as a repository for any random data. Text clippings, articles I want to read later, photos and ideas are all gathered in one place. I feel more organized and there is less clutter.

    I jot ideas on the go with the mobile version. As the app advertises, you’ll never lose an idea again. I find the iPhone app has problems with large photos and sometimes crashes. The desktop app is fine.

    Yojimbo by Bare Bones Software is similar, with a better interface, and costs $38.99.

In my next post I’ll list some utilities, internet, coding and social media apps that have saved me a lot of time.

Know some outstanding apps? Leave suggestions for other readers in the comments.

To stay in touch, follow me on Twitter, or receive free updates by RSS or email.

Creative Commons License