Smartphones have given today’s mobile workers the ability to not have to worry about having everything they need before they get moving. Which is great, until they end up in a conference, airplane, or other no-reception zone without the crucial One Thing I Need. Good smartphone and tablet tools don’t just provide access – they think ahead and plan for contingencies, like a personal assistant. They’re the tools that can make your job a whole lot easier.
Which apps do this? We happen to have seven of them, linked and ready for installing. The best part: all of them, except one category, are free, and the one that isn’t free is notably less than a hamburger.
TripIt is a personal assistant for travel, especially if you give it access to your email inbox and let it scan for tickets and itineraries. Afterward, you literally don’t have to do anything except open the app to see all the details: your confirmation number, your departure time, the address of your hotel, the distance to the conference center, and the website of the restaurant you’re supposed to eat at Friday night. Open it up at least once before you journey and TripIt will hold your travel details for offline viewing, in case you don’t want to spring for WiFi on the plane. (iPhone/iPad, Android)
There are all kinds of mobile business apps that claim to work well with Microsoft Office documents, but only so many offer only read-only access. Those that do offer editing tools often want to tie you into their own cloud storage schemes. Not QuickOffice. This app was recently acquired by Google, but it still works as a utilitarian open, edit, and save solution for quick views and adjustments. We’ve talked about the importance of information mobility, and this app provides a great way for mobile workers to access documents on the go. (iTunes, Android)
3. POCKET (OR INSTAPAPER)
Which app looks and works better is a matter of taste, but both Pocket and Instapaper do their jobs remarkably well. That job: take blog posts, news articles, and other content on the web (including everything at WorkIntelligent.ly – shameless plug), strip it down to just the text and necessary images, and save them to your device for reading when you have time. Big offices used to have such “clipping services” way back when, but they didn’t let you choose your favorite font. (Pocket: iTunes, Android; Instapaper: iTunes, Android)
4. AGENDA (OR FANTASTICAL)
It’s odd how unhelpful the default calendar on an iPhone or Android can be. With how much design has gone into the OS of each, how can something as simple as a calendar cause so many headaches? Why can’t you just get an agenda view of everything that’s happening today when you start it up? Why does entering the time and date of an event feel like unlocking a bank vault? My own fix is Agenda Calendar 4, which makes smart guesses about when you want to schedule things, shows your day in a well-designed glance view, and generally gives you more information and links from an event than Calendar. If you frequently use the iPhone’s Reminders function, you might instead try Fantastical 2, which ties directly into the iPhone’s alerts and reminders systems. (Agenda: iTunes, Android; Fantastical: iTunes)
Chrome is Google’s own browser. Your iPhone already has the Safari browser, and your Android phone likely has its own default browser. So why would you bother to install a browser that shows the same web pages as either of these? One big reason: if you use Chrome on a desktop computer and sign in on both your desktop and phone with your Google account, you can see and open any tab you had open on your desktop browser when you left it. Or just start typing in a few words from the page you already went to into Chrome’s search bar, and Chrome should come up with it. It feels magical (and maybe a bit creepy). (iTunes, Android)
6. CLOUDCUBE (ANDROID ONLY)
Maybe you already feel backed up, cloud-connected, and ready to grab your files from anywhere. So cloud-connected, in fact, that you sometimes have a hard time remembering in which cloud you stored that certain file, and where you have room to put that next big one. CloudCube works with all the notable syncing services: Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive, Box, SugarSync, and more. Move files between clouds, see what’s inside each account, and even sync folders between your Android device and your services of choice. (Android)
7. IFTTT (IF THIS THEN THAT) (IPHONE ONLY)
Wouldn’t it be neat if every time you took a screenshot of your iPhone, that screenshot was automatically saved to where you want it? Or if every time you completed a Reminder on your phone, it emailed the appropriate person to let them know, automatically? Or if you could see, on your phone, every photo you’ve been tagged in from Facebook? With IFTTT (short for If This Then That), that kind of two-step, non-thinking action is entirely possible. The hardest part is thinking up the “recipes” that you want for your phone, but after playing with the website a bit, you should get a real sense of just how many things can be done without your having to even think about it. Be sure to install this iPhone app so you can take full advantage of that set-and-forget productivity. (iTunes).
Compiled by Kevin Purdy