Why Modular Productivity Softwares Are Only Just Beginning

Where are Notion, Coda and Airtable heading in 2019?!

Francesco D'Alessio
6 min readNov 20, 2018

“Modular Productivity Software” is a term to explain applications that allow you freedom to customise layout and help you to get things done.

Software like Notion, Airtable, Coda and Milanote are perfect examples of modular productivity software. Helping you to plan your tasks, manage lists, co-ordinate projects and bring forward ideas, all in one workspace.

The best way to describe modular productivity software is as online lego.

This made-up term “modular productivity software” has caught on in my everyday explanations and captures the essence of this new wave of resources But thanks to the freshness of this movement, there’s very little vocabulary dedicated to explain what and how these tools work.

With modular productivity software on the rise in 2018. Will this progressive form of software be only a trend? Or will it stand the test of time as a reliable way to handle and control people’s everyday habits, routines and tasks.

How do you define Modular Productivity Software?

The best way to describe modular productivity software is as online lego.

Lego can be moulded and created into anything, but at its core, lego is a set of bricks. Once crafted, lego is at the mercy of the creator. The lego blocks can be shaped to any need, desire or resource, much like these new softwares.

This term is given to software, inside of the productivity category, that includes the following:

  • Customisable Layouts — A canvas to create whatever structure you like.
  • A range of interactive “blocks” to add — A set of components that allow you to build whatever set-up or system you like within the canvas.
  • A set of templates — A library of pre-created set-ups to build from.
  • Additional Views — Optional viewing angles for providing more.

Notion is one of the picture perfect examples of modular productivity software. Notion allows you to create custom layouts to any extent, add interactive blocks, develop from templates and have a host of different optional views. Notion adds even more additions every month to make this resource even more opportunistic for new and existing users.

Another great example is Coda, where you can build out your own applications, using your own creative freedom and the set of tools provided.

Coda’s App Creation Tools

Applications like Airtable, Coda, Milanote are all perfect examples of growing modular productivity software for both teams and individuals.

The rise in popularity in 2018 has showcased to us that this is only the beginning of the tale for many of these applications.

With the struggles of traditional apps like Evernote, we’ve only seen more demand for the modular resources this year and a huge migration over to tools like this as an all-in-one workspace tool.

So, what’s next for these resources now they’ve hit the attention of the public eye? And what have we got to look forward too if they continue their success?

1. Automations

Automation has been all the rage for many years.

Resources like Zapier have helped us to connect our most popular tools to save us time and communicate between apps. And even with iOS 12’s new Shortcuts resource, people have been striving to connect up their applications to do all sorts. Whereas automation is not yet full proof and totally adopted on the mass market, it’s heading in the right direction to be.

In reference to modular tool, Coda has already kicked this journey off with their new automations block. Imagine a workspace that automates small efforts, like updating other apps whilst in the one you’re working in.

This is exactly Coda’s goal with their new automations experience, allowing users to connect up “Packs” to their most popular existing workspace tools, allowing users to spend more time in Coda planning and less time managing the small things.

This is exactly where the modular productivity space is heading next.

Now that these massive workspaces have solved the structural issue, it’s now the workplace pains that they need to fix and that begins with automations. Next up, Notion will begin to add their API and look at Zapier connectivity, Coda will expand their remit of tools and the journey will continue.

Automation will only become easier and all forms of applications will be connected up, including personal and workplace team tools. With the one goal of adding even more abilities to this one workspace.

2. Machine Learning

The next big leap is AI and machine learning.

A few years away, I can only assume, once people have set up their own layouts, spent time in app, and mastered automation, resources will begin to learn from learnt habits, routine data input and use of the workspace.

This is something I discussed on the podcast below about whether Google would embrace and take a leap on applications like Notion and Coda by adding a layer of AI and machine learning — giving the tools the superpower they need to become responsive to your needs.

How will this work in the every day?

The way I see it, is that you may have a page you open each morning to check a daily briefing. That page will be automating data from other sites, bringing in news resources, company analytics, your day’s schedule based on current priorities, and combine it that all as a responsive newspaper to your day ahead. And each time you open, it learns about your needs.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Naturally, there are so many other examples. This is just a feeler.

Will 2019 be the year of the modular productivity software?

Inherently, 2018 has been one of exploration and it seems that tools like Notion, Coda, Milanote are all getting adopted for the set-up, but it’s important these companies continue to innovate to develop what’s next.


The last year for the productivity space has been an opportunity to witness a mini-industrial wave, a new chapter, and that continues to be very exciting and difficult to put a tab on what’s coming up, but a positive direction for the selection of tools ready for 2019 and the years ahead.

What are your thoughts on modular tools?

We’d love to hear from you in the comments! Share them below!

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Francesco D'Alessio

Uncovering the future of productivity software. Building Tool Finder. Discover tools: https://toolfinder.co/