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No doubt about it, phones and tablets are changing the way we do business and live our lives. Cool apps can leverage our time and energy, and offer a bit of entertainment. Here is a list of my favorite apps, and a few from contractor friends, family members and productive business associates. Enjoy!
Protect your privacy
Perhaps, like me, you have one word (childhood pet name?) that is the basis of every password you have created. It’s time to update.
1Password gets rave five-star reviews for their simple approach to password security. It creates strong, unique passwords for every site and remembers them. You just log in with one master password. That, I can remember.
Ramp up production
These apps can help you get organized and get more done. Features include task and project management, collaboration, due dates, identifying labels, email alerts, and file integration. Pick one and work with it for 21 days. That’s long enough to see if it’s a good fit for you.
Trello is my latest obsession. I’ve gotten a lot done in my life with just a single-subject spiral-bound notebook. However, I’ve taken on some projects that have lots of moving parts, and involve other people. (Like updating our website and launching a franchise.) I’m sold on Trello’s layout—on desktop, phone and tablet—and the freebie version is enough.
Evernote is a popular alternative. You can write with your finger or a stylus, and the app converts it to text. Kinda cool if you are into that.
Todoist offers all the standard project management stuff, plus a “karma” score—a report on how you performed based on your weekly goals for productivity.
Slack isn’t as robust as the others, and that may be a good thing. It offers an alternative to dead-end email boxes by organizing all communications between team members, including Twitter tweets. You can search by name or keyword, and attached files are searchable, too. There are shortcut commands and real-time chat options.
NOTE: It helps to have an overarching strategy for getting projects done. Check out the book "Scrum—The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time," by Jeff Sutherland. You can modify and apply his approach as you engage one of these cool apps.
Track the moolah
For our industry, I recommend using a hip dispatch/customer service/marketing program that dovetails with QuickBooks for accounting. That said, for tracking home expenses; if you have a very small business; or if you work for someone else, these apps are worth a gander.
Mint links to your bank accounts and creates friendly financial reports and graphs. This is a terrific program for kids going off to college. They can see their credit card balance every day, and track income, expenses and loans.
Foreceipt scans and stores receipts and generates lovely reports. It allows for multiple users, so the whole family can keep an eye on the pie. It speaks in any currency, which is a plus if you spend time and money outside the U.S.
Acorns invests the spare change from everyday transactions into your own investment portfolio. Neat idea! There’s no commission, but there are fees—$1 per month for low-balance accounts—so read the fine print.
Tools of the trade
These apps come highly recommended by my husband, Hotrod, and other PHC pros.
SolarChecker by SMA determines solar radiation at a specific location, then it calculates the ROI for a proposed solar system based on roof area. Super cool tool for the solar and hydronic pro.
Safety Meeting offers 950-plus topics for your safety meeting, and helps you manage and document OSHA issues, accidents and near-misses—even employee attendance. It covers 35 trades as well as unlimited users and employees. Perfect example of an app making short work of a cumbersome job.
Photo Measures allows you to take a picture of the job site and document measurements directly on the photo. Great tool for confirming project specs and equipment dimensions.
There are lots of free app choices for a bubble level. For more, check out iHandy Carpenter. It includes a glamorous plumb bob level, a bubble level, a surface level, a ruler and a protractor.
NOTE: Your phone utilities already include a voice recorder, a handy compass and a surprisingly bright flashlight. Nice Apps.
When the tough get going, these travel apps make the going less tough.
Waze coordinates real-time reports from drivers about traffic and road information. Drive with the app open and you’re automatically contributing data. You can report accidents, speed traps and hazards—“watch out for deer on I-40”—to other travelers.
Flightview. I have TripCase and it does a nice job of letting me know if my flight is on time (or not). Flightview tracks all flights on all carriers. This is handy if you need to check out alternative flights, or if you are waiting to pick someone up from the airport. A cab driver turned me on to this app and I use it all the time.
Viber members can call and text for free anywhere in the world—with other Viber members. It’s a free app and a liberating option—if you don’t want to get an overseas phone plan upgrade.
Turboscan is a big help when you are out of the office and have to sign and scan a contract. It’s so easy, I end up using it in the office. You can do multiple pages, too.
Fitbit not for you? These apps can help you develop healthy habits.
Eat Slower has a timer that helps speedy eaters slow down. Chew until the timer goes off and then take another bite. Sounds kind of naggy, but a friend of mine has dropped 10 pounds with this app.
Zombies, Run! 3 encourages you to keep running or be devoured by zombies. You can earn supplies that help you stay alive and save the human race. How motivating! The wildly popular app has over 1 million users.
Charity Miles contributes dollars for miles. Open up the app and log your miles. When you share your run on Facebook, you essentially post an ad, and you get “paid” with a small contribution to your favorite charity.
Something new in social media
Ready to break away from Facebook and Instagram? Start a new trend, maybe, with these entertaining apps.
Dubsmash lets you regale friends with videos of you lip-syncing your favorite song snippet or movie line. Go ahead. Crush it and hit send.
Periscope brings you into another’s world, in real time. You, or one of your Twitter followers, can broadcast live. Then you and other Periscope pals can chat and share the experience together. Weird? Kinda. Fascinating? Yes.
Is there an app in you?
Think you have a cool idea for an app? Joel Comm launched iFart, a tasteless—and hilarious—virtual Whoopie Cushion. The home screen is brown, naturally, and you choose your fart style by scrolling a roll of toilet paper. Select Bombardier or Burrito Maximo. Classy! I searched Google for the app's total revenue and I got this answer from Joel "As creator of iFart, I can tell you that we have sold over 800,000 copies at .99 each. Apple takes 30 percent revenue share. There are also additional revenues from in-app purchases."
Well, how about that? You may have the next iFart! Or you may have something really useful, like that drain flow-meter idea you’ve been “noodling” for the last five years.
An app a day, and one that may pay.
Ellen Rohr provides “in the trenches” insight that business owners can relate to. Comments? Questions? A different view? Reach her at 417-753-1111 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also join the Bare Bones Biz community, at www.ellenrohr.com, for fee tips, problem-solving webinars, money-making tools, and lots of love.