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Five Portable and Productive Apps

Here are five apps that put more productivity in your palm.

This story appears in the March 2011 issue of Start Up.

Sometimes it's a waste of time to buy a laptop when a smartphone or tablet will do. Here are alternative tech tools to consider.

Bento ($4.99)

Works on: iPhone, iPad

What it is: The portable version of FileMaker's personal database.

What it does: Manages contacts, tracks projects and plans events.

Pros: 25 customizable database templates, iTunes-style search and integration with other apps.

Cons: Probably most helpful when synced with Bento's desktop software (about $50). Some restrictions to how much you can customize the app.

Verdict: Type As will love the ability to keep all their notes and lists in one place.

Dropbox (Free for 2 GB, $9.99 A month and up for more)

Works on: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad

What it is: A virtual hard drive.

What it does: Lets you save a Word doc, photo, PDF or other file to Dropbox so you--or a colleague or client--can access it from another device.

Pros: It beats carrying a thumb drive or e-mailing stuff to yourself or clients, especially monster files.

Cons: Not all clients will want to install Dropbox, but they still can access files via a secure web portal.

Verdict: A convenient, inexpensive way to share and sync files.

Egnyte (Free)

Works on: iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry

What it is: Access to your files, on the go.

What it does: Puts your Egnyte cloud-storage filing system on your mobile device. Securely and remotely gives you access to your online file storage, file sharing and backup.

Pros: Create, edit, share, delete and sync your entire file server.

Cons: Features vary by smartphone OS, and there's not yet a native app for the BlackBerry.

Verdict: If you already use your smartphone for practically everything, this is for you.

Evernote (Free)

Works on: iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Palm webOS, Windows Mobile

What it is: A note-taking and archiving app: "An extension of your brain."

What it does: Captures your brilliant ideas and insights as text, audio recordings or photos and automatically syncs it all to your desktop.

Pros: Easily search through your notes by keywords, titles or tags. Evernote has multiple language support, and all notes include geo-location information for mapping and search.

Cons: If you're a visual person with an iPad, you won't be able to store photos of what strikes your entrepreneurial fancy.

Verdict: Perfect for both detail-oriented and big-picture people.

Quickoffice ($9.99 and up, based on operating system)

Works on: Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, Symbian, Palm webOS

What it is: A suite of word processing, spreadsheet and other office tools for smartphones and tablets.

What it does: Gives you another way to stay productive if you don't want to carry a laptop and don't need every bell and whistle of a PC-based office suite.

Pros: Good compatibility with Microsoft Office, and integrates with Dropbox.

Cons: Often crashes when trying to autosave long, formatted documents, and lacks some basic tools such as word count.

Verdict: One of the best handheld office suites out there.