Sunday 28 December 2014

50 must-have apps for your business

Published 27/03/2014 | 02:30

Fifty must-have business apps.

Most Irish smartphone owners have a few apps to keep them amused, connected or informed. But what about apps for business-specific purposes?

What about editing work documents on the move or filing expenses? What about apps to help business travellers or cost-effective video-conferencing options? Adrian Weckler lists 50 of the most useful phone and tablet apps for the Irish business person

DocuSign

It’s been 15 years since ‘digital signatures’ were first flagged in Ireland. But most Irish institutions still look for faxed responses to signature-specific documents. DocuSign allows you to capture your signature and use it for online documents.

Evernote (iOS, Android; free)

If there is one note-taking app you should download, this is it. It works right across almost every type of device, meaning that you can access all of your notes, memos and documents (from years back, too) on any gadget you like. It also allows voice notes and images.

Documents To Go (iOS, Android; basic version free, premium version from €10)

This is a fairly decent, full-featured office software app that allows you to open, read, edit, create and share files in Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint.

Olive Office (iOS, Android, free)

If you’re looking for a free alternative to Documents To Go, this does a reasonable job. It allows you to open, review and edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents.

Cloudon (iOS, Android; free)

A third option for Office-compatibility is Cloudon, one of the most straightforward options around. With the ability to read, edit and create presentations and documents in Microsoft formats, it also now has a printing function.

Fiverr (iOS, Android; free)

One of the trickiest bits of starting your own business is getting small professional services done. Fiverr is like the eBay of service-providers. From artwork to design to voiceovers to other business services, this has lots available at reasonable prices.

Splashtop 2 (iOS, Android; free)

Sometimes there’s no substitute for your work PC. It could be a file or a document you think you left on the desktop. Or it could be something within an application there. This app allows you to get a look at your desktop PC from your mobile device.

Hightail (iOS, Android; free)

Anyone who finds YouSendIt useful might find this app handy. It lets you upload large files on your phone or tablet and share them instantly. It’s an efficient way to allow access to stuff. The only downside is that, unlike YouSendIt, you have to sign up for it.

mSecure (iOS, Android, W8.1; €8)

Remembering passwords is a nightmare. This app allows you to pick one password, which gains you entry into an online ‘safety vault’ where you store other passwords.

Clearer (Windows Phone; €1)

‘To do’ apps are a dime a dozen. Clearer does an excellent job of simplifying tasks and schedules in an extremely accessible, usable way that doesn’t make you feel like you’re looking at a jumbled pile of online notes.

Cisco WebEx Meetings (free, but part of WebEx subscription)

If you’re looking for high-class video conferencing, this is probably the best you can get. As well as top-class audio-visuals, it allows you to transfer other items – such as documents – among participants as you speak. It’s pricey, though.

AutoCad 360 (iOS, Android; free)

This is a very nice implementation of Autocad’s technical drawing application. You really need a (paid) online Autocad account to get the most from it, but it’s worth looking at.

Voice Record Pro (iPhone, iPad; free)

This is a really nice voice-recording app that allows you to convert audio clips to MP3 format and to share across a whole range of networks. It’s ad-supported and costs €2.70 to knock them off. (One free Android alternative is Smart Voice Recorder.)

Wunderlist (iOS, Android; free)

This is a superior personal to-do management app. Its arrangement of scheduled tasks is top notch while its ability to share and draw comments from others is great. (Another quality to-do app is Any.do.)

Box (iOS, Android; free with additional premium services)

What Dropbox is to punters, Box is to business. With an initial 10GB of space, it’s a well-made, efficient online storage and sharing facility with way more features than most of its rivals. It shines when dealing with exotic file types.

Hangouts (iOS, Android; free)

While Google+ is struggling to gain traction, Google’s free Hangouts service is an increasingly useful way to hold impromptu conferencing sessions, either social or professional.

Google Search (iPhone, iPad; free)

Most of us need to look things up several times a day. Having to first open a browser and type in g-o-o-g-l-e-.-i-e wastes time. Google's Search app, not pre-loaded on iPhones, is essential.

Camcard (iOS, Android; price varies on device)

Camcard is one of a number of apps that takes a photo of a business card and integrates the information into your phone's contacts.

Prizmo (iPhone; €4)

Optical character recognition translates photos into text. Take a snap of a page of text and it does a reasonable job turning it into editable text.

OfficeDrop (iPhone, Android; free for 2GB of storage and 50 scans per month)

This is another photo-scanning app, but it focuses on incorporating whatever you scan (via your phone’s camera) into a PDF. If it’s text, the PDF can be searched (but not edited).

Basecamp (Android, iPhone; free)

Lots of online software systems let you plan, edit and collaborate on projects. Basecamp is the original of the species, allowing multiple users to submit updates and tick scheduled items off.

LogMeIn (iOS, Android; 14-day free trial before but then requires paid subscription)

This app basically allows you to take complete control of a PC somewhere else, so long as that PC has downloaded Logmein's PC software, too. Very handy for light tech support.

OneDrive (iOS, Android, Windows Phone; free)

This is Microsoft’s answer to Dropbox and Google Drive. It’s quite easy to use and works well, although it is a different thing from Microsoft Office.

SwiftKey 3 (Android; €4)

Typing errors on touchscreens are rife. What this app does is to apply extra ‘intelligence' (based on phrases or sentences you often type) that informs its predictive system.

Wifi finder (iOS, Android; free)

One irritant for frequent travellers is exorbitant hotel wifi rates. This app shows you a bucketful of public wifi hotspots in your immediate vicinity, both free and paid.

Expensify (iPhone, Android; free)

Receipts and expenses are the bane of the business person. This is a very easy-to-use, well laid out app to log bills, credits, receipts, mileage and other common expenses. It gives you extra functionality, such as being able to import expenses from credit card or bank accounts.

PayPal (iOS, Android; free)

PayPal has ambitions to be universally accepted in shops, just like a credit card. This is more advanced in the US than it is here. Its well-designed app makes the process quicker.

Azimo (iOS, Android; free)

Wiring £1,000 (€1,180) from London to Dublin typically costs about €60 from a bank. But it costs around €10 using Azimo, which is for transferring cash from Britain to other countries.

Hailo (iOS, Android; free)

It’s hard to think of an app that has done more to evolve the process of using an everyday service than Hailo. The clever app gives you a real-time view of taxis in your area (Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick) and allows you to request one. You can pay by credit card, call the driver at any time and get a receipt via email.

Airbnb (iOS, Android; free)

The fastest growing alternative to hotel-booking for business travellers has a very usable app with excellent apartments, houses and other forms of accommodation you can rent for a night or two in different cities.

SeatGuru (Android, free)

For planning neurotics, this app allows you to check the seating plans of a flight to suss out where the best places are. It works for flights on 100 airlines, including Aer Lingus.

Instapaper (iOS, Android; free)

Getting on a plane usually means that you can’t catch up on your online reading. What this app does is to record and save web pages you visit in a nice, readable format for offline reading later.

Dublin Airport (iOS, Android; free)

This is very handy for live information on departures, arrivals, airport layout and other important information.

Hotel Tonight (iOS, Android; free)

This hotel-booking service is aimed at booking on the day you need the hotel. It offers a few high-end options, with which it negotiates special deals. It covers Dublin, the ‘West Coast’ and the ‘South Coast’.

Whatsapp (iOS, Android; free)

This is one of many apps that allows you to contact, text or chat to friends and colleagues with phones or tablets while bypassing most operator charges. The system works in the same basic way that an email works. The service even allows you to identify yourself by your mobile phone number.

Viber (iOS, Android; free)

This is one of the apps that brings tears to mobile operators’ eyes. Intended mainly for smartphones, Viber allows you to make calls or send messages to anyone else with the Viber app.

LinkedIn (iOS, Android; free)

LinkedIn's app is nicely designed (for all platforms) and gives you access to LinkedIn's best features quickly.

Bloomberg (iOS, Android; free)

This app provides instant access to every major stock market around the globe, including the Irish Stock Exchange. You can look any stock up, check headlines and listen to podcasts.

Google Drive (iOS, Android; free)

If you ever use Google Docs – and if you don't, you should – then Google Drive is a must-have app. It allows you to access and edit documents you have created on a PC, or create new ones. This includes word processing documents, presentations and other formats. The app also allows you to work with the apps offline, too.

Dropbox (iOS, Android; free)

Dropbox allows you to upload, download or access documents, photos or other files across lots of devices. Just download the app, sign in and it feels like you're accessing the files on your own phone. It's particularly handy if you want to give lots of people access to a collection of large files without having to email them.

 

10 BUSINESS APPS FOR THE IPAD

While the jury is out on whether iPads make efficient business tools or not, there is no denying that thousands of Irish business people now use them. Here are 10 business apps for your iPad:

Roambi Analytics  Free 30-day trial; subscription price varies

What used to be called ERP in the old days is now beautifully rendered by this well constructed app. In a nutshell, it reorganises 'enterprise data' (sales, inventories, accounts and other items) from a range of sources into one really concise view. Being described as 'the Flipboard of enterprise data' is not an exaggeration.

PDF Reader Pro  €9

The Irish business landscape is littered with PDFs. From Revenue guides to tender documents, there's no escaping them. This app gives you about as much control as possible over PDFs, allowing you to annotate or even sign them.

Office 2 HD €7

For heavy work-related activity, Microsoft Office is still a big draw for ordinary business people, despite cloud-based alternatives. This lets you create, view, edit and share documents in Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint. It also lets you track changes to each.

PrintCentral Pro €7

Sometimes we need to print documents off. PrintCentral allows you to print from your iPad to most wifi-enabled printers without any other software involved.

Scanner Pro €2.70

This app effectively turns your iPad into a scanner. it captures a high-resolution image that can then be mailed, merged or tinkered with in a range of other ways.

eFax for iPad Free for one month, €11 per month after

For some reason, faxes are still among us. This app lets you send and receive 150 faxes per month from (and to) your iPad.

Teleprompt+ for iPad €14

This app turns your iPad into a teleprompter. You cut and paste speech, hit 'start' and it becomes a teleprompter, with scrolling text. You can also control speed and pause the text, mid-flow.

Status Board €9

One of the problems with iPads is that they don't multitask very well. That means that you're constantly skipping from one app to the next for business status updates. Status Board gives you a view of stuff that's important. On top of the usual emails and tweets, you can also get it to present graphs out of CSV or HTML files it fetches on your behalf.

Penultimate Free

While Samsung features physical writing as a prized function of its tablets and 'phablets', Penultimate does a good job as a handwriting app for the iPad.

Skitch Free

If you want the freedom of marking and annotating documents and photos, Skitch is a fast, accessible way to do it. It's particularly effective on the larger screens of tablets. A nice alternative worth looking at is Notability.

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