Thursday 21 September 2017

Get smart and boost profits with the 40 best business apps

It's a jungle out there, with hundreds of thousands of business apps available. Here the top 40

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME: The ease of mobile software applications has resulted in the thousands of apps now on the market. Smart use of them can help make your business more efficient and profitable
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME: The ease of mobile software applications has resulted in the thousands of apps now on the market. Smart use of them can help make your business more efficient and profitable

Colin White and Harry Leech

Business has changed. Entrepreneurs are now more likely to be cutting deals on their iPads in Starbucks than agreeing mergers over a fine Amarone in a Michelin-starred restaurant.

Technology has completely revolutionised the way commerce is conducted today. Business is more mobile, more connected. There are now thousands of apps on the market to help make your business more efficient and more profitable. Some are already legendary – others are duds.

Apps, if you didn't already know, are software application designed to run on smartphones, tablet PCs and other mobile devices – basically, pocket-sized versions of the software packages you run on desktop PCs.

We picked 40 of the best apps out there. So in no particular order, here goes:

LinkedIn

The app version of the hugely successful social networking website for professionals features smart design and is, in essence, a stripped down version of its site.

It grants users access to their LinkedIn accounts on-the-fly – very useful prior to business meetings. The app allows the user to sync with iOS Calendar and retrieve details about contacts – a great research tool for that short-notice appointment.

Boomerang

A place for everything, and everything in its place. The importance of a tidy workspace and, in turn, an organised system of dealing with hundreds of emails, is paramount for most.

Boomerang exists as two plug-ins that work inside Gmail, helping to keep your inbox clean. Tick the check box of an important email and the message will 'boomerang' back to you at a chosen timeframe if no reply is received.

An excellent scheduling tool and great for chasing those hard-to-reach clients.

DocuSign

Those involved in the onerous task of multiple-signature contracts – especially with varying geographical locations – should exalt this nifty software. DocuSign allows court-accepted electronic signatures to be obtained over email.

Its free service permits up to five documents to be sent per month. You can select in which order recipients receive the contract and send reminders. DocuSign's helpful tagging system shows recipients where to sign – simple and convenient.

Office2 HD

Can the iPad realistically replace the laptop for document editing? Perhaps, but only with the appropriate software installed.

Editing existing Word, Excel and PowerPoint files – as well as creating new ones – has been made easier on the iPad by Office2 HD, an Office document editor. This speedy app supports Dropbox and presents a cheaper option than many of its contemporaries on the market.

TED

TED spreads ideas about technology, entertainment and design via a global set of conferences. The ability to keep one step ahead of the bunch is an invaluable skill and there is no shortage of inspiration to be taken from the world's most inspired thinkers in over 1,000 free TED Talks available via this app.

Meeting Mapper

Taking notes at a meeting or a conference has never been more straightforward with Meeting Mapper for iPad.

As many will appreciate, keeping notes organised – and more importantly legible – can be challenging. Meeting Mapper allows you to document important information easily: view a graphical display of colour-coded participants; enter details of their roles; and add individuals to a meeting already in progress. Export the findings as a pdf for email, or save to a device for later viewing.

YouSendIt

We've all experienced that feeling of hopelessness when an email fails to reach its intended recipient due to a gargantuan file attachment. With YouSendIt, you can easily attach and send very large files to anyone with an email address for free.

The app also offers download tracking and password protection and you'll receive an email confirmation when your file has sent and a notification when your recipient/s have downloaded the file/s.

Pocket

Pocket (formally ReadItLater) is perfect for avid readers who have too much to read and not enough time to read it. Pocket allows you to save websites and articles to read later.

If you use a bookmark or browser extension on your computer, you can save articles to Pocket and then sync to your iPad. A great option for those interested in saving video, images, text and other content, all in one place.

Wunderlist

This rather pretty app, which is available across multiple devices, is a modern twist on the loveable 'to-do' list – the backbone of successful task management.

Simplicity is the key here: anyone can share a list with anyone else via email or Facebook. The lists are automatically synced and, with a Pro account, you can also delegate tasks. Only the person assigning tasks needs a Pro account and you'll get a notification when changes are made to the tasks you've assigned to others.

Evernote Business

Want to see everything from important company documents to projects and research collected by other teams? Evernote Business gives you quick access to all of your company's knowledge in whatever form it takes.

Particularly useful for small businesses, as it offers an effortless solution to note-taking and syncing. A 'note' can be a smartphone photo, the text of a memo, a list, an audio recording, etc. Evernote Business is a great organisational app, for both personal and business use, and Evernote's impressive search engine makes locating files easy.

Dropbox for Business

Dropbox recently announced a replacement to Dropbox for Teams, a service for businesses who would have an obvious use for a tool that allows files to be synced easily between devices and shared with users.

Dropbox for Business offers businesses copious amounts of sharable storage. It works in much the same way as the regular Dropbox service, which is great for backing up files and collaborating. Dropbox for Business makes sharing easy and safe, as your data is disguised with encryption.

Instagram

Instagram you say? How can the hipsters' choice of photo-sharing possibly be of benefit to my company?

Instagram can help to give images the professional touch with its built-in features and, because of this visual power, is an excellent tool for engaging with customers and, in turn, promoting your business.

Use the app in conjunction with other social networks to strengthen your online business presence.

Lookout Mobile Security

Practically all employees are bringing their phones to work and, in many situations, company data ends up on these devices.

Lookout for Business helps companies keep this data secure. Lookout Mobile Security adds another layer of security to your phone by providing anti-virus/malware functionality. Its 'Find My Phone' feature helps locate your device if it's been lost or stolen. Most importantly, it securely protects any data on your phone.

Teleprompt+

A teleprompt, or autocue, is a display device that prompts by showing text electronically to the reader – a very convenient tool for that important presentation.

Teleprompt+ is a user-friendly app that's as practical for beginners as it is for professionals. It's possible to record audio and video during speech, and the app's integration with Google Docs and Dropbox is a helpful addition.

Beware of sabotage, however, as a second iPad or an iPhone can be synced for enhanced control – anchorman Ron Burgundy-like moments are best avoided!

UX Write

By using an iPad as a word processor, you can save a lot of money (and weight). It certainly has the screen and all the power required for word processing.

UX Write has the potential to become one of the word processors for the post-PC generation. It can be used in conjunction with the onscreen iPad keyboard or with a Bluetooth keyboard. UX Write is also available on iPhone.

Bump

Bump is a file transferring app that lets users exchange their details between devices by simply 'bumping' them together.

It is one of the fastest ways to send pictures and calendar events, and can connect to other people's Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn accounts by tapping devices together and selecting which information to transmit. Bump uses near field communication, a set of standards for smartphones and similar devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching them together or bringing them into close proximity. Bump works cross-platform and many experts believe it will ultimately spell the end for old-fashioned business cards.

Expensify

Travel has become a necessity for more in the workplace in the past decade. Keeping up with expenses when 'on the road' can be a laborious duty for many. Expensify aims to make life less problematic for the traveller. As well as storing expenses on a smartphone, reports are also stored on the Expensify website and once they're all entered, you can compile them into a report.

The Expensify app is free for the end-user, but it bills the person who is approving (and typically, reimbursing) reports.

An ideal app for those whose smartphone rarely leaves their palm during working trips.

InDinero

Managing business finances can get very complicated if you have multiple members of staff and – as professional accountants are expensive – a cloud-based financial tracking service can provide this service for you.

InDinero continuously pulls in information from various credit card and bank accounts, along with electronic payment services and can generate a comprehensive view of your business finances. Available on iPhone iPad, InDinero gives small businesses quick and useful financial intelligence, at a relatively low price.

Carrot

To-do lists have existed since commerce began and quite frankly very little would be done without them.

But it's so often easy to ignore the tough stuff on a list and stick to the tasks that are easier to achieve.

Step forward Carrot, the first to-do list with a personality. Get things done and she will reward you with points which can unlock upgrades and fun games; procrastinate and avoid tasks and she will soon turn mean.

Sprout Social

When adopting social media software, reaching your audience across networks promptly is vital. Sprout Social can keep tabs on conversations and effectively engage your audience.

Using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn to increase brand awareness is a great idea, but it can be difficult for an inexperienced user. Sprout Social offers easy-to-use reporting tools, powerful search tools and customisable messaging from multiple networks in one location.

LogMeIn Ignition

LogMeIn is a remote access application that allows users to open files, launch applications and file through folders on a distant Mac or PC.

This remote access is made possible through a code created during the sign-up process.

A menu appears instructing how to use the multi-touch gestures needed to navigate the remote computer.

LogMeIn provides a surprisingly lag-free connection with the ability to move files between multiple remote computers. It also supports an unlimited amount of remote computers.

Inkflow

Not all of us do our best thinking in front of a word processor or in linear fashion; for some the best business ideas are best sketched out on a pad or piece of paper, which can unfortunately get lost all too easy. That's why you need Inkflow, which turns your tablet into a sketchpad where your best ideas can be fleshed out and saved for posterity.

1Password

Human's are terrible at creating passwords in order to create passwords that they can remember; most people create passwords that could be hacked by one monkey with a typewriter in an afternoon.

Given all the social media accounts, bank accounts and work accounts we have to access by password, this is a problem – thankfully 1Password will collate all your passwords, protected by strong encryption, and you can access them through just one password (hence the name).

Airdisplay

If news websites, LinkedIn and other online distractions are taking your attention from the spreadsheet that your boos needs yesterday, Air Display can help you out.

Recent studies have shown that a second monitor can increase productivity by up to 50 per cent and Airdisplay turns your iPad into a second monitor for your Mac or PC.

Dragon Dictation

Back in the old days, even middle management had a personal assistant to dictate their memos to after a long lunch. The other side of the shilling is that there wasn't much else good about the Fifties in Ireland.

Thankfully the good people at Nuance have realised that we may have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and have created an app that they say can type up your thoughts five times faster than typing on a keyboard.

eFax

Faxes may seem like a relic of the 20th century, but if you're dealing with suppliers in China or some other BRIC countries, sometimes they're a necessary evil.

Now thanks to eFax you can do away with the chunky machine in the corner, sending and receiving faxes on your sleek tablet computer. Very handy for out of office communications, too.

Workshare

If you need to be able to share documents between some colleagues or work stations but not others, then Workshare may be for you.

The app is tightly integrated with all Microsoft Office products and can convert documents to PDF's with ease, so no one needs to learn a new operating system in order to use it.

It also can track changes to documents so if you lose an important paragraph in an edit, it can be recovered.

Cam Card

If you're inundated with business cards from a conference or business meeting and your wallet or purse is starting to look like a recycling bin stuffed to the gills with small pieces of card, then Cam Card could be what you've been dreaming of.

Lay them out on a table, capture them all with the camera on your phone, then Cam Card converts them to contacts in your phone. This app alone makes a smart-phone worthwhile.

Scanner Pro

For businesspeople who are on the road a lot scanning documents can be a pain – hotel business centres don't always have a scanner handy, or if they do, you need to learn how to use a new machine each time. No more.

Scanner pro turns your iPhone or iPad into a pretty darn good scanner which can capture documents with impressive accuracy.

Quick Office Pro HD

If you're working remotely or on your commute, having a full Office suite on your iPad would be handy. Quick Office Pro HD does just that with word processor, spreadsheet slide-show variations which you can work on and then export to your computer.

As a result, you can leave the laptop behind on the train journey home and still do some work, should you feel the need.

Receipts Pro

A senior executive of a multinational who retired recently had a novel attitude to expenses, of which he had many due to the thousands of miles of international travel he accrued each month – put them all in a see-through plastic bag, give it a good shake, seal it, and tell accounts it's their problem.

Sadly those days are gone, but Receipts Pro will make it easy to keep track of receipts, assign them to places or accounts, and also allows you to generate receipts for customers.

USB Disk

We've all been in a situation when we need to transfer files from a work station to a home PC or where we need to get an important document from a client but don't have a USB disc handy.

This handy app takes advantage of the fact that we always have a phone to hand by turning your smartphone (or tablet) into a portable USB key. It's like something from a Bond movie.

Penultimate

If you like to take notes but don't always have a notepad to hand, Penultimate is for you.

The easy-to-use handwriting app lets you take notes on your iPad, sync them to a number of devices and also make them searchable, which makes it far more useful than your average notepad.

HF Scientific Calculator

For those in businesses where a digit out can mean a building that isn't as structurally sound as it should be, or a plane isn't exactly as aerodynamic as is desirable, double-checking the numbers is more than just an accounting exercise.

HF Scientific Calculator is a great app, as it's a scientific calculator with lots of complex operations, and it also supports graphs.

SpeechCloud Voice dialler

If the Mick Wallace controversy has taught us anything, it's that doing business over the phone in the car can be dangerous, not just to yourself, other drivers and pedestrians, but also to political careers.

Too soon? Having a hands-free kit installed is great, but it still leaves out the problem of how to dial that number. Thankfully SpeechCloud lets you dial using just your voice, leaving your political career intact.

Jott

If ideas come to you when you're out walking the dog and you're worried you'll forget them by the time Fido has decided he's ready to go, Jott is a handy app for your phone.

Make short voice memos of ideas or tasks that need to be completed, then turn them into text and categorise them by type. Simple as that.

Google Maps

If you're heading to a business meeting, this app is a great way to plan your route ahead of time and you can get directions whether you're on foot or driving.

The newest version also acts as a SatNav, giving you directions as you navigate through traffic. Unlike a conventional SatNav, you don't need any upgrades if work takes you to the United States or further afield.

Wi-Fi Analyser

Being able to access email and operating systems when you need to operate remotely is great, but how much work you get done from the conference centre can depend on how good the Wi-Fi signal you choose is.

Where you've got an option, Wi-Fi analyser will help you choose the least congested signal, and where you have only one to choose it will help you find the part of the building with the best signal.

Google Translate

More than ever, business in Ireland is reliant on the global economy and more than ever, Irish people are terrible at learning foreign languages.

Thankfully our inability to be multilingual no longer has to be a hindrance to commerce as Google Translate and similar apps can help us translate emails far quicker than a Chinese-English dictionary could.

Cisco WebEx Meetings

Video conferencing has saved a lot of air miles in recent years, but it still has its limitations, as it usually has to be conducted from a dedicated office environment, which isn't always convenient for staff who have to be in the field.

Cisco WebEx puts paid to this and allows you to join any web conference from your tablet or smartphone. The app is compatible with Cisco WebEx Meeting Centre, Cisco WebEx Training Centre and Cisco WebEx Meetings.

Irish Independent

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