15 Time-Tested Apps Your Business Can't Live Without
In app-land, there’s a never-ending quest to serve up the next thing that makes life easier. But we think you’d be better served with our collection of battle-tested apps. They’ll help you run your business more efficiently and let you do so from your iOS or Android smartphone.
Take a photo of any receipt with your smartphone. From there, the simple and intuitive Expensify lets you assign it to a trip, category or client and save it. When your event is over, sign in to the app’s connected website and download a clean expense report or sync it with one of many business accounting software programs, including QuickBooks. Bonus: Each account allows for multiple users, enabling business owners to get a one-stop snapshot of where the money goes. Pricing starts at $5 per user per month.
Ideal for small-business owners who do it all, the FreshBooks mobile app lets you create and send estimates, log billable hours and project expenses, then turn them into invoices that can be sent straight from your smartphone. It’ll even let you accept credit cards with that invoice to speed up payment, then mark the invoice as paid. All this, and it seamlessly integrates with its browser-based platform. Subscription required; pricing starts at $9.95 per month.
It’s been around for a while, but GoToMeeting keeps getting better. Users can schedule, lead or join conference calls or video chats from a smartphone, and share or view files from a mobile browser or Dropbox. Subscription required; pricing starts at $19 per month, which allows for unlimited sessions involving up to five participants at a time.
Think of Slack as an instant-messenger system on steroids. Join a project group discussion or even companywide chat from any device, as well as upload files and links and open them to edit. The app’s ability to jump seamlessly between smartphone and desktop and search through conversation threads quickly makes it an invaluable collaboration tool, enabling users to save email communication for more important conversations. Slack Lite is free; enhanced versions start at $6.67 per user per month.
Going international? Google Translate can help you say or write the right thing. Speak English into the mic, and the translation plays in real time. The person you’re talking to can respond in their native tongue, and you’ll hear the English translation. The app works for 90 languages, including translating Chinese and Japanese written characters into English and vice versa. With Word Lens, a recent app update, you can point your phone’s camera at a street sign, menu and other text written in Russian, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, French or German and immediately view the English translation. Free.
With up to 1 TB available to Dropbox Pro subscribers, giant PowerPoint presentations or a suite of training videos can be stored in the cloud and grabbed when you need them, instead of letting them eat up storage space on your smartphone or tablet. Dropbox Pro can also be used to store hours of video, photos or audio recorded with a smartphone. The interface is clean and syncs easily between phone, desktop and web browser. Subscriptions are $99 per year.
With Office 365, Microsoft’s subscription-based Office suite, users get access to an iOS or Android app that allows for editing capabilities with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more—the workhorse programs still used by millions of businesses. Bonus: Microsoft throws in access to 1 TB of storage on its cloud-based OneDrive platform for up to five users. Subscriptions to Office 365 Small Business Premium (which can be used on up to five computers) are $150 per year.
Scanbot allows you to turn a smartphone photo of a contract into a PDF, then sign it with your finger or stylus and email it or stash it away in your Dropbox or OneDrive account. This simple app lets you combine multiple snaps of multiple pages into one PDF and features optical character recognition (OCR), the ability to read a document and convert it into editable text. The app costs $2; the OCR feature is an additional $5.
More than just a journal, Evernote collects and stores audio and video snips, photos, files and notes in the cloud. Users can seamlessly edit or search for anything across all devices and computers. Another plus: Share a “notebook” with your team members and use it as a repository for everyone’s input and research. The basic app is free; subscriptions to Evernote Premium are $5 per month.
If you need to manage multiple social media feeds at once and see them all in one place, it’s hard to beat Hootsuite. It’s still the top choice for marketing pros who want to manage clients’ feeds across major social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The mobile app also provides analytics and scheduling capabilities. The app is free; small-business plans start at $9.99 per month.
Like Hootsuite, Buffer allows users to manage what’s going out via social media but also makes it possible for multiple people to schedule posts through the same feed—so your marketing department won’t duplicate your sales department’s tweets. Its specialty is the ability to instantly share any page you’re on with your followers. The app is free; small-business plans start at $9.99 per month.
It may be easier to friend a customer, vendor or someone in your business network via Facebook than to get their email address or get them to respond to a LinkedIn request. Once you’re connected, you can make judicious use of Facebook Messenger to bypass their inbox or voicemail. Free.
Link TripIt to your email account, and it’ll automatically find your flight, hotel and car-rental confirmation emails and convert them into a master itinerary stored on your phone. The Pro version tracks flight delays, gate changes and even the traffic en route to the airport or your meeting location. It’s still the gold standard of travel-organizing apps. The basic version is free; TripIt Pro costs $49 per year.
Download Waze, and the next time you get in your car, you’ll join millions of users who are reporting real-time traffic information. Punch in a destination, and you’ll see alternate-route information and a realistic arrival time that you can share with anyone. Free.
With TripLog, all you need to do is plug your phone into your car or sync it through Bluetooth, and it’ll automatically start tracking your mileage once you go faster than 5 mph. Turning your car off or unplugging the unit stops it from tracking. Easy. From there, the app turns your trips into IRS-friendly reports.
A premium account integrates with QuickBooks accounting software and allows you to track and manage a fleet of vehicles. The app is free; small-business plans start at $25 per year.