Five FREE “Must Have” Apps for Business or Personal Productivity

What’s in your apps folder? As Google, Apple, Facebook and Yahoo continue to squabble for your desktop, tablet and mobile app dollars, we’re beneficiaries of a race to the top for productivity freeware. Google has just discontinued the Google Calendar synch features and it won’t be developing apps for Windows 8, but cutting these lesser distractions will allow it to focus on expanding functionalities most in demand, like its new mobile maps app, and creating “as yet undreamed of” features for the business community. Meanwhile, download these superstar offerings or applaud yourself if you already are using these apps, which are deemed among the safest, most reliable products on the (free) market today.

#1. Hootsuite: FREE for 5 social profiles OR $10/mo. for unlimited social networks
Hootsuite is a scheduling application for social media releases. Control when and how often you send out blogs, Twitter tweets, Facebook messages, Linked In postings, etc. by selecting the date and time a release will be sent or posted. (Note: The paid version also tracks brand mentions and analyzes social media traffic.) To use either version, sign in to your panel, create your message, then set the time and social network you want the posting to appear on. You can make postings consistent with special events or dates, or you can stagger them to work in advance (think vacation coverage!).

#2. Dropbox: FREE for 2 GB storage space; Pro is $10/mo for 100 – 500 GB
Dropbox lets you bring your photos, documents, and videos anywhere and share them easily. As the company says, “Never email yourself a file again!” You can synchronize files across devices such as your iPad, mobile phone, laptop and desktop computers. With permission, other users also can work on your documents “in the cloud”. Ample storage space but you can get more space allotments free based on activity levels (bringing in friends, adding computers, etc.). There also is a team version ($$). Since hiring Google’s Guido van Rossum last month, Dropbox — already at the 100 million-user marker — will likely emerge as the premier player in this space.

#3. Flickr: Free for 200 photos; Pro version is $25/year for unlimited files, easy upload
If photography plays into your marketing plan, Yahoo’s Flickr is an online photo management and sharing application with an iPhone ap that allows you to set privacy settings for each photo uploaded and store them in “sets” and “collections” for easy preview. Access your photos from any computer, with file sharing through invitation. The free version allows access to your most recent 200 uploaded photos; pro version offers unlimited files (I store 25,000+ photos, with backups of all personal photos in albums online). It interfaces well with Blurb, Facebook and other photo print/publishing applications. Before you decide, however, also explore SmugMug and Google+ (Flickr is about mid-range in cost).

#4. Evernote: Free; Premium $5/mo. more space, history, offline notebooks, team work
It’s your mobile “great idea” file. Capture anything – ideas, photos, web images (download the web clipper and install on your web browser), and then access your portfolio anywhere. Use the powerful embedded search feature to find a file by keyword, tag, or even printed and handwritten text inside images. You can synch your files across devices and share work. Related aps for remembering people, food diaries, and drawing attention to notes, and the company also makes Penultimate, for digital handwriting. Stronger than typical “note” software and well integrated into the other products.

#5. Square: FREE software and hardware setup; 2.75% service charge per transaction
Start accepting VISA, Mastercard, American Express and Discover credit cards today for business or personal transactions: 2.75% charge per swipe (no additional fees) and next-day deposits. Sign up for a free card reader that attaches to an iPhone, Android phone and/or iPad. You will be asked personal identity questions (don’t freak out about how much Square already knows about you; it’s a closed, secure system with financial identity searches built in). Then follow prompts on the screen to tie the service to your bank account for credit card deposits.

Now that you’re set with new tools, join us next week when we turn our attention to starting a new business: What to know (and do) before taking the plunge.

About Jody Glynn Patrick

Jody is President of Glynn Patrick & Associates, which provides management consulting, executive coaching and strategic planning services. She is Publisher Emeritus of In Business magazine, which she published for 17 years. Selected as the “U.S. Business Journalist of the Year” in 2007 in Washington, DC, by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Jody has been a business reporter, editor, radio talk show host , and has won other state and national journalism awards. At the same time, she has helped corporate clients grow their businesses -- the basis for her practical coaching advice here. She also was the 2005 Athena Award recipient for her leadership role in mentoring other professional women. Jody will be talking with you weekly on TDS’ blog to share her insights and tips from the C-Suite perspective. Follow on G+.

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