Today’s office is not some cubed workspace with Ikea desks, ergonomic mesh chairs and full spectrum fluorescent lights.
The modern “office” is under a palm tree on a quiet beach, reclining in a lounge chair with your toes in the sand and fishing boats in the distance, hardly moving on calm, turquoise waters.
Today’s workspace is in a lodge at the mountains, next to the fireplace, sipping hot coco after a day of skiing with family and friends.
Thanks to smartphones and tablets, your office can literally be anywhere you like, an exotic beach, a private ski lodge, or at your favorite local coffee shop.
Our current phones have more computer processing power that the average desktop computer did just a few years ago and allow you to be just as productive away from the traditional office.
Thanks to all the apps available for your mobile device, you can stay on top of customer service, participate in meetings, manage your website and even respond to blog commenters.
Even if you’re not into travel, the fact that you have a smartphone with you at all times can give you more time in the day to get things done. Think about all the waiting you do every day, at the doctor’s office, getting your oil changed, lines in stores and at banks.
You can service your customers faster, respond immediately to new leads and capture fresh thought and ideas. In other words…your phone helps you make more money!
In this article we look at some of the top productivity apps available for Android devices, and iOS devices, such as the iPhone and iPad.
(I assume you’re already using typical productivity apps, like email and social media apps, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I tried to highlight apps you may not have thought about using for work.)
Skype’s desktop and mobile apps allow you to send and receive voice calls, conference calls, real-time video chats, and digital messages across your phones regular data plan, up to 25 people at a time for free. In addition to its free services, Skype offers premium services which allows you to make calls to landline phone numbers
Skype is how business gets done these days. Being asked for your Skype handle and not having one is about as embarrassing as not having a website in today’s age.
The Skype app allows you to do most things the desktop version does: chat, voice and video calls. If you have Skype subscriptions, you can make direct dial calls to from your phone to other phones using your Skype account instead of your phone minutes.
Having Skype on your phone is crucial for business in my opinion.
Once I had an important meeting scheduled, and a strong storm knocked out my power and Internet. The Skype app saved the day as I was able to attend the meeting using my phone and not miss a beat.
Also, there’s just something fun about making calls for free from your cell phone!
The Skype app is free and can be installed on both Android and Apple iOS devices.
Google Hangouts is fast becoming an alternative, perhaps replacement, for Skype. Both have similar features, like chat, video calls and screen sharing. But you’re probably wondering which one is better? Here are a few differences:
- Hangouts allows video chat with up to 10 (9 friends plus yourself) participants, while Skype charges for more than 2 people on a call. (If you have Google Apps for Business or an EDU account you may have 15.)
- Hangouts has built in Google apps like Google Docs and YouTube live stream
- Hangouts have live streaming via “On Air.” Viewers can watch a Hangout live on YouTube, great for your own “TV” show or other broadcast.
- Skype has “rooms” you can join that are like discussion groups. On Hangouts you can have a group chat but it doesn’t quite work the same.
Hangouts has some great features, and what makes it sweeter is that they are free. For basic chat and one-on-one video calls, I don’t think either one is hugely better than the other. I end up using both for various reasons. There are some people I need to talk to who are used to Skype and don’t want to use Hangouts. Then there are frequent times Skype’s voice or video quality is poor. Sometimes to get through a meeting we move from Skype to Hangouts.
If you love Skype and have no intention of switching, Hangouts can be a great a backup in case the Skype network is overloaded and quality drops. You may end up using both tools like I do.
Needless to say, the Skype app currently and has always had these basic features missing from Hangouts. Skype has a few other things Google Hangouts doesn’t.
Skype has “rooms” you can jump in any time after being invited. They are like ongoing discussion groups. On Hangouts you can have a group chat but it doesn’t quite work the same, when everyone leaves the chat “room” is gone. Skype rooms stay open until the organizer closes it, so they can go on for weeks and months. I have not figured out how to do the same on Hangouts and don’t even know if it will support such a behavior. If anyone reading this knows that Hangouts has the same feature, please share how to make it work.
Rooms may not seem like a major feature, but Skype rooms have become an important networking venue where many agreements and big deals happen every day. Skype is how business gets done these days, and I don’t see a lot of old-timers jumping on to Hangouts any time soon.
Skype also allows you to make calls to phone numbers from anywhere in the world (per subscription). Oh, but you say there’s Google Voice, which is expected to be integrated with Hangouts. If you live outside the U.S. you’re out of luck with Voice; it’s only available to people in the states. Skype doesn’t have this restriction, another point for Skype.
Hangouts still makes a great backup in case the Skype network is overloaded and quality drops.
I take it since you’re on a site run by a WordPress developer, you know what it is. Assumptions aside, WordPress was created as an open-source blogging tool. Created in 2003, WordPress has evolved through the availability of plug-ins to become among the most widely used website platforms in the world. By January 2015, WordPress was installed in almost 24% of all websites in existence, representing a 60.3% market share of websites utilizing content management systems. WordPress’ founder has a goal to power 50% of all sites on the web.
In addition to content creation, users can create storefronts for retail or service companies and complete online transactions through point-of-sale interfaces and shopping carts. WordPress has revolutionized how websites can be created and maintained.
I do most of my WordPress publishing from my desktop or laptop computers. But having the app on my phone has helped me stay connected with readers. It’s has also minimized embarrassing situations. Read on…
Say you’re enjoying a nice afternoon break after publishing your latest wit and wisdom on your blog, and have decided to treat yourself to a Chocolate Devotion at Cold Stone Creamery.
You sit down to enjoy your well-deserved treat, and your phone chirps indicating there’s a new email. You glance at your inbox to see there’s a comment on your blog, and open it to read in horror a comment about a misspelling in your article title.
Most would panic at this point, but you’re unshaken. You don’t need to abandon your little midday break to rush home to make the correction. You simply navigate to your article on the WordPress app and fix the title. You even respond to the commenter, thanking them for pointing out the error.
You go back to enjoy your ice cream before there’s any hint of melting.
The above scenario has happened to me before, more than once actually. Okay, I added the ice cream part to make it more dramatic, but you get the point.
If use WordPress, the WordPress app is an enormous help in managing your sites. Especially, if you moderate comments, you can respond instantly to readers and keep the conversation going.
And of course, you can use the app to write and publish new articles and follow blogs on WordPress.com.
The WordPress app is free and can be used on both Android and iOS devices.
Designed for the information overload age, Evernote can save and organize any type of information. From web pages, to photos, your own written notes and voice recordings, Evernote takes these and can create meaningful sets of information.
Evernote is much more than a simple note capturing app. It started as a virtual notebook for keeping track of all your ideas/images/pdfs/notes etc across multiple devices. But it’s also used by many as a complete project management platform with checklists, team chat features, sharing of notebooks, ways to capture contact details, and more. It’s my favorite tool for fleshing out new ideas, taking them from mere thoughts to full-blown products.
The Evernote cloud service keeps all your notes organized and handy from all your devices, syncing between your phones, tablets and desktop computers.
The app give you access to your “notes” saved with Evernote, and allows you to create new ones.
If your phone is stolen, no need to fear the next big idea you jotted down getting into the wrong hands. The paid version of the app can secure your notes with a PIN.
Evernote is free for both Apple iOS and Android devices.
Have you ever signed up for a webinar and then miss it because you had to be out of the house when the meeting started? With the GoToMeeting app you’ll never miss another webinar or meeting just because you couldn’t be in front of your desktop computer.
With this app you can listen and watch meetings in progress, and participate by asking questions, just like you would if you were at your computer.
I’ve listened in on meetings using my phone and a headset while driving home.
Many webinars are one-time events and sometimes the presenter doesn’t post a replay online, or can’t because the recording has problems. Now you don’t have worry about missing out on the next big live online event when you can’t get home in time.
You might be wondering if you can host and run your own webinar with the app. Yes you can, but I think you’d be better off running important meeting or webinars with hundreds of attendees from your desktop computer. Listening in or watching a webinar is one thing, but running a presentation from your phone may be risky.
The GoToMeeting app is free for Apple iOS and Adroid devices which will allow for attending meetings. Hosting meetings requires a paid GoToMeeting account.
By now you’re probably using or at least have heard of Dropbox. For those of you who aren’t use Dropbox, it’s the easiest way to share files with colleagues, friends and family.
The app lets you save files on your phone or tablet to any of your Dropbox folders. What’s nice is if you have any shared folders, those who you’ve selected to share with will automatically receive your files -a real time saver.
Dropbox stores your documents in their cloud storage, and then your different devices will sync to the cloud. So, if you created a document on your desktop computer and need to review or make a quick edit, you can also do that from your phone. You can even share links to Dropbox files from anywhere, including your phone.
A huge benefit it that it keeps documents and pictures out of your inbox. I tell people all the time, please send me documents via Dropbox instead of using email. Ever suddenly need a document but can’t find it in your inbox? Or get messages from colleagues to resend a file because now they can’t find it? It’s much easier (and less annoying) to keep track of documents with a tool like Dropbox.
The app is also convenient for taking pictures with your phone. Dropbox will save them to a folder as you take photos so you never have to connect your phone to computer to download pictures. And if you have your folder shared with family or friends, they’ll automatically get your photos.
Dropbox gives you 2GB of free online storage, and you can upgrade to a paid plan to get more space. You can get additional free space by inviting others to sign up. I have almost 20GB of free space for my account.
Dropbox is free and can be installed on Android and iOS devices.
Google Drive is Google’s answer to Drobbox, with apps and device syncing. Because you receive a limited amount of space for free from Drobbox, you may want to use additional free storage and syncing services such as Google Drive.
Google Drive gives you 15GB of free space (shared with your Gmail and Google Photos), but lacks some of the features of Dropbox. Sharing files with others is a two-step process for some reason. Nevertheless, free storage is free storage.
Drive is also free and can available for Android and iOS devices.
You may think of this one as a “social” app, but to millions of professionals, the LinkedIn app is a very important business tool.
Use the LinkedIn app to quickly update and connect with your business contacts. You can post updates about yourself, share interesting news, see what’s going on with your network, or quickly look up information about a business lead. Check out LinkedIn’s Pulse app too, which is a great way to find and share interesting news with your network.
The LinkedIn app is critical for staying on top of with new invitations and LinkedIn mail, which can pile up if you have hundreds of connections. LinkedIn messages may contain business proposals or information on potential deals and partnerships.
If you fall behind on reading and responding to LinkedIn messages, you may miss out on deals. I receive requests for my services about once a week, and I’m not really trying to market myself on LinkedIn! It’s a powerful network made even more powerful with the app.
You can also stay current and engaged with groups. For creating new groups and managing them, you’ll have to use the desktop site, but those are infrequent tasks. Thanks to the app you can participate in groups as often as you like.
Group involvement can be an effective strategy for your business, and the app makes it much easier to stay connected from wherever you are.
The LinkedIn app is free and can be downloaded on iOS and Android devices.
Advanced English and Thesaurus
There are several thesauruses for the iPhone and Android, but the Advanced English and Thesaurus app is one of the few free apps available for both platforms that is based on WordNet. WordNet is one of the most advanced English language databases ever designed.
This app comes is invaluable when writing articles or messages in text editors that don’t have a built-in thesaurus, which is common with most of the editors on mobile devices.
If you use the WordPress app to write and post articles from your phone, this app can be a valuable resource.
Available for both Android and iOS devices.
Passwords are a pain to deal with on mobile devices, especially phones. I literally have hundreds of passwords, and all of them are unique, strong passwords for security.
As you might imagine, logging into sites and apps on my phone with passwords that look like this…
..can be a real nightmare!
I’ve used RoboForm for years to manage my password hell on desktop computers. RoboForm manages all my passwords for me so I don’t have to remember any of them. It also generates strong passwords for new accounts and even fills my information in forms so I don’t have to type.
When RoboForm came out with an Android app I immediately started using it. I wasn’t entire happy with the app because it has to use its own browser to for the auto-fill to work. It’s not RoboForm’s fault, it’s just the way browsers work on mobile devices. Because of this limitation I tried a few other password apps and they were all worse.
Though it’s not as nice as the desktop version, I still use RoboForm on my mobile devices and simply paste my passwords into the form fields myself.
It’s really not that big of a deal to paste passwords in forms; it’s just I’ve been spoiled for so long my desktop version!
The app can stay in sync with the desktop version, so you’ll always have new account information to use on your phone. And just like the desktop version, the app is locked from use unless you know the master password.
The RoboForm app is free for Android and iOS devices, but requires a RoboForm Anywhere account which is a paid service. RoboForm syncs passwords across all your devices, mobile and desktop.
For those of us who read ePub format or DRM–free books, the best reader I’ve come across for Android is Moon Reader.
Moon Reader offers the smoothest reading with loads of customization features. It has settings and features to reduce eye fatigue for backlit screens, with several color schemes for various lighting conditions and a “healthy eyes” option that reminds you to give your eyes a rest after long periods of reading. It also has auto page scrolling with adjustable speed control.
Moon Reader is completely free and there is an ad-free version, Moon+ Reader Pro, that is highly recommended at only $4.99. The Pro version also supports PDF, speech, and has notes, bookmarking and annotation features.
One Pro feature I love is the Dropbox integration. I save ebook files to a Dropbox folder and they’re ready to read on my Android devices. Some publishers will save your book purchases directly to Dropbox. Once you checkout your books are already on your device. The publisher will even sync future book updates!
The free version of Moon Reader doesn’t open PDFs. If you want to read PDFs on your mobile device, you’ll need a PDF app, such as Adobe Reader. Even if you have Moon Reader Pro, you may want to install Adobe Reader for reading PDFs. Some PDF features give ereader apps problems and are more reliable with Adobe Reader.
There are many other features: support for online libraries, dictionary lookup, multiple languages (40 right now), and more. The Pro version has several additional features.
Moon Reader is free but the Pro version is highly recommended and available for Android devices only.
When looking up information about a topic from your phone, you could just do a search on Google. And there would likely be an entry in the results for Wikipedia that when tapped has the information you’re looking for.
Wouldn’t it be much faster to use an app and search directly? That’s why there’s a Wikipedia app.
As you may have guessed, the Wikipedia app provides convenient mobile access to the millions of articles in the Wikipedia database.
Wikipedia Mobile is free and available for the iOS and Android devices.
Those of us who are still tied to our laptops and desktops come across websites and content that would make perfect reading and viewing material for our tablets and phones. Every day I find new articles or colleagues send links I’d like to save and read on my phone when I have down time.
Back in the day (3 long years ago), I used a number of browser apps to get website content from my desktop to my mobile devices. There was Chrome to Phone, Diigo, Evernote and Instapaper; I used them all and each had its own strengths and weaknesses. When it came to blog posts and articles, none could provide a good reading experience on small screens. Instapaper did a decent job, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with the results.
And then along comes Pocket. I gave it a shot and it immediately became my primary save-it-for-later reading app. The saved versions of online articles are beautifully formatted for phone screens, including pictures and videos. It keeps a queue of saved items with headlines and thumbnails. Once items are read they come off the list or you can delete without reading. Read items are also archived if you want to reread anything.
Not only do I use it for saving reading material, it has a number of other very useful features like reading your article out loud, sharing valuable information with friends and organizing content via tags.
There are a few ways to save articles and other content you want to view later. The method I use most is the Chrome extension. There’s also a Firefox extension and a bookmarklet that should work with any other browser. The extension adds a button to the browser toolbar when clicked will save the page you’re viewing.
You can also email the links to your Pocket account that will get added to your reading queue. Sites have starting including Pocket buttons in their articles next to Twitter, Like and +1 buttons. Pocket is also and is integrated with dozens of other apps such as Flipboard and Google Currents.
All saved items are waiting for you on any device you have the app installed. When you find time to read, launch the app on your phone or tablet, and you’ll have a list of all items you’ve saved. And of course, you can access your reading list on your good ’ol desktop computer.
Oh, and your saved items are available offline on your mobile devices (as long as you’re sync’d before going offline).
This app is only available for Android devices with no iOS equivalent, but it’s so powerful I just had to include it. Taster: what does it do? The question is more like what can’t it do!
Tasker can automate actions on your device based on different events or contexts. I suppose the best way to explain Tasker is by giving you some practical examples of what you can use it for:
- Launch Wifi, apps or a website when you arrive at work.
- Play a song from your library as a wake up alarm.
- Remap physical buttons on your device.
- Automatically launch a follow up app after each phone call to record contact information or notes about the call.
- Silence your ringer by simply turning the phone face down.
- Automatically send a text message to a friend or family member letting them know you safely arrived home.
You can create icons that will launch tasks when tapped. It can also help manage battery life, automatically change the look of your screens, launch your music player when ear phones are plugged in. There are other apps that can do some of these tasks, but wouldn’t you rather use one app instead of dozens, and be able to create any other task you can think up?
Tasker is not free; it’s about $3 and in my opinion well worth it.
What about the iPhone or iPad? As I said earlier, Tasker only runs on Android. Perhaps with iOS 9, iPhone and iPad users might have a similar app.