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Must Have Apps for Work

By Mary Teresa Bitti

Whatever you need to know or do, there’s an app for that. Here’s a rundown of the must-haves and hidden gems to make your work go smoother.

Imagine your smartphone and tablet without any apps. Is it even possible? If the statistics are any indication, the answer is a definite no. Consider this: from July 2008 to October 2014, 85 billion apps were downloaded from Apple. Downloads of Google’s Android apps are in the same range. According to some estimates, the world is on its way to downloading more than 100 million apps daily by 2017. Games are by far the most popular category, followed by education and business apps, particularly those used to boost productivity. We’re using apps to take notes, brainstorm and manage, well, just about everything. Demand continues to grow. Mobile app usage in the US alone skyrocketed 52% last year, fuelling the growth of the mobile industry. Supply is growing just as fast. In an effort to cut through the clutter, CPA Magazine has compiled a list of 10 apps to help you be more productive. Even better, most of them are free.

1Password (agilebits.com/onepassword). Having trouble remembering all your passwords and logins? You’re not alone. AgileBits’ 1Password tracks and creates strong, unique passwords, automatically completes forms and serves as the digital version of your physical wallet, safely storing your credit cards, passport and licence information in its vault. You can even create and save notes you want kept from prying eyes here. All items are automatically organized into categories, making it easy to find them. All you have to do is log in with a single tap. It offers extensions for desktop browsers on Mac and Windows, a built-in browser on iOS and an Android app. Plus, it syncs with iCloud and Dropbox so you can update your data easily when you need it from wherever you may be.

Cost: $9.99 and up
Available for: iOS, Android, Mac, Windows

IFTTT (ifttt.com). This app allows you to automate your digital life by building customized tasks or “recipes” based on “if this, then that.” Clever. Each recipe connects a trigger channel (this) to an action channel (that). Channels can range from websites to other apps to devices. So, for example, you can have IFTTT mute your smartphone when you get to the office, organize and back up your LinkedIn contacts to a Google spreadsheet, or schedule a weather alert to be sent to your email at a specific time. In addition to making your own recipes, you can browse through other people’s trending or featured recipes and install or modify them.

Cost: free
Available for: Android, iOS

XE Currency App (xe.com). It’s easy to see why this app has been downloaded 25 million times and counting. It gives you immediate access to live rates and the ability to calculate prices and convert more than 180 world currencies. You can also access more than 30,000 currency charts to view historical rates and chart highs and lows for specific time frames. Currency profiles provide context. Dead simple and useful.

Cost: free
Available for: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, FirefoxOS, Windows Phone, Windows 8 and more

Evernote (evernote.com). Billed as a note-taking app, Evernote is really a collaboration/organization tool. As the name suggests, you can take and manage notes on your mobile device wherever you are. Notes in this case extend beyond the typed word to links, photos, audio and tables that can be synchronized to the cloud as well as to your other devices across platforms. In meetings, you can choose to type and record audio. You can also share your notes or opt to keep them private, plus you can view notes that were originally created on your desktop or laptop. Each project is its own notebook, so you can keep track of all you have going on. There is also a scanning feature, which is useful for documents and business cards. It may take a while to get comfortable with this app because it’s not as intuitive as it could be, but the functionality is impressive.

Cost: free to $10 a month per user depending on level of service
Available for: iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Nokia

Signnow (signnow.com). Electronic signatures are on the rise and for good reason: they are secure and streamline the signing process. Acquired by Barracuda Networks, a cybersecurity solutions provider, SignNow is no exception. Upload a Word document or PDF and tap to insert your signature. You can do this by uploading a saved signature or signing with your finger.

If you need others to sign too, just mark where and if you require additional info, such as dates and names, you can create a field for the appropriate parties to fill in. Fields are colour-coded so you know who will sign in each place. Hit send and SignNow will send the document to all required signers in the order they need to sign. They can access it and sign from their mobile device or computer. All parties receive a copy of the signed document and every document is archived for future access and independent proof. The biggest drawback is the price.

Cost: $15 a month or $180 for the yearly subscription for an individual user. The more users in the organization, the better the rate, which drops to $3.33 per month per user when 500 employees are enrolled.
Available for: iOS, Android

Contacts+ (contactspls.com). This online address book organizes and integrates your contacts with your social media accounts, automatically importing information from LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. The key draw: everything is in one place. And it looks great. Connect to Facebook to automatically add your contacts’ photos. You can organize your contacts into groups that make sense for you and over time, the people you contact most will be prioritized. Searching is easy thanks to a smart dialer that allows you to text, call, email or Facetime.

Cost: free
Available for: Android, iOS

Feedly (feedly.com). This is a simple way to stay on top of what’s happening in the world or your field of interest without having to jump from site to site. Just type in your go-to sources for news and info or choose from a list of topics and collect and save all your favourite news sites and feeds here. Read and share articles from wherever you are.

Cost: free
Available for: iOS, Android, Kindle

Dropbox (dropbox.com). Simply put, Dropbox is a cloud-based storage locker for your files, documents, spreadsheets, photos, etc. Once saved in a Dropbox folder, you can access them anytime on any device anywhere because the app synchronizes all the contents in the folder to the cloud. It also lets you share folders with collaborators you invite to Dropbox, which means you can avoid sending large files via email.

Cost: free personal accounts give you 2GB of space but you can earn free bonus space if you refer Dropbox to friends. If you ever run out of space, you can upgrade to Dropbox Pro at a cost of $10.99 a month or Dropbox Business at $15 per user, per month.
Available for: iOS, Android, BlackBerry

FollowUp.cc (followup.cc). This may just be the way to achieve the stuff of legend: a zero inbox. How? Instead of leaving emails in your inbox for days or weeks to follow up on later, FollowUp.cc lets you schedule them to reappear when you need them. Entirely email based, it works with any type of email account on any device.

To use it, you just forward the email you need to follow up on to the date you want it to reappear, for example monday-9am@followup.cc. FollowUp.cc emails you a reminder at the specified time.

Cost: from $4 to $18 a month, depending on the level of service
Available for: iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows

Business Messenger (heywirebusiness.com/businessmessenger). This is a convenient way to keep your personal and professional lives separate. Business Messenger adds text to your desktop office number, allowing you to send texts from your smartphone, computer or tablet. It will take about three hours to connect your landline with wireless carriers across the US and Canada and then you can start texting clients and colleagues using your current office landline, which means you never have to give someone your personal mobile number for business. The complementary Mac and Windows desktop and Cisco Jabber messaging apps allow you to send and receive text, pictures and voice texts from anyone on whatever device you like.

Cost: it’s always free to receive texts and co-worker messaging but after the initial 60-day trial, Business Messenger costs $9.99 a month for unlimited outgoing and incoming texting in the US and Canada Available for: iOS and Android.

Mary Teresa Bitti is a freelance writer based in Oakville, Ont.

This article was originally published in the December 2014 issue of CPA Magazine.


App habits: smartphones beat tablets; Android more popular

More than one-third of all US smartphone owners download at least one app per month. Of these, the top 7% account for nearly half of all download activity in a given month.

88% of app activity occurs on smartphones versus 82% on tablets. In fact, the vast majority of app users access media on their mobile devices, accounting for seven out of every eight minutes of media consumption.

More than half (57%) of smartphone users access apps every single day of the month, while 26% of tablet users do so. Seventy-nine percent of smartphone users access apps at least 26 days per month, while 52% of tablet users do so.
42% of all app time spent on smartphones occurs on the user’s single most used app. Nearly three out of every four minutes of app usage occurs on one of the user’s top four apps.

The median iPhone app user earns $85,000 per year, while the median Android phone user earns $61,000. On average, iPhone users engage with their smartphone apps for nine more hours in a given month than Android users.
Android ranks as the top smartphone operating system with 83.8 million US smartphone subscribers, approximately 15.9 million more than those who subscribe to Apple’s iOS platform.

Source: The U.S. Mobile App Report by ComScore