The best 10 apps for Australian small business

Category: Technology

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1. Business card scanners

Cardmunch

Sitting on the Editor’s desk here at My Business are a pair of unsightly, unfiled and unstable stacks of business cards. The guilt about all that un-captured data doesn’t gnaw at us, because almost everyone we know has the same stacks. But when we found the cardmunch app from LinkedIn, we started to tame the stack. The app uses the iPhone’s camera to scan a business card, a process made easier by on-screen guides to align the camera so it has the best chance of an accurate scan. Once you press the camera button the image is whizzed off into a cloud somewhere (we’re told real people may help out too) so that machines can read the card and translate it into a contact on your iPhone and a contact on LinkedIn. Cardmunch is free and iPhone only, but there are plenty of paid apps that do the same job for both Android and the iPhone.

2. IA Writer IA Writer is a wonderfully simple word processor which works a treat on the iPad. We like it more than Apple’s own Pages app, and not only because IA Writer is cheaper (at $1. 99) than the $9. 99 Apple product. It’s also better than the various productivity suite apps we’ve seen. IA Writer succeeds because, like the iPad, there’s no clutter to stop you from what you want to achieve, which here at My Business is generating text we’ll edit later on a PC. IA Writer makes that possible with a very easy interface and the ability to share documents by email or with the DropBox file sharing and synchronisation utility (see File transfer apps, below). If you hate typing with an on-screen keyboard, the Dragon Dictate speech recognition app is well-reviewed

3. Remember the Milk Remember the Milk is a terrific to-do list app that works on iPhone, Android and Blackberry, can integrate with your calendar and sends SMS reminders before appointments. The app is free, with a Pro version offered at $25 a year. Best of all, the app is Australian!

4. Printing apps When you want to print a document, you want it now – not after going through the hassle of synching a tablet or smartphone. Plenty of apps offer to do this for you. HP, Brother and Canon offer apps, but they are tied to their own printers. Third party apps like PrintCentral for the iPad offer broader printer support

5. Kindle Amazon’s Kindle e-readers have a software shadow in the form of an iPhone and Android app. Both work wonderfully well, because you can buy a book on your Kindle, copy it to your phone or tablet and Amazon’s backend systems automatically synch to the furthest point you’ve read. This means that if you knock off a chapter of a book on your phone in an airport lounge, your Kindle will pick up at that point when you hop into bed for a pre-snooze read. The icing on the cake is a new Kindle feature, the Kindle email address, which makes it possible to email just about any document to your Kindle app or physical Kindle device. And did we mention the price – $0. 00 – for the app? That’s tough to beat. One last thing – you can use the Kindle app even if you don’t have a Kindle. Amazon doesn’t care if you own a Kindle so long as you buy eBooks from Amazon. com

6. File transfer apps File transfer apps provide you with cloud storage and then automatically synch the data you store there to different devices. There are three contenders in this market: DropBox, Evernote and Box. All do the job well, but if one has an edge it is probably DropBox thanks to its business accounts that allow you to control access with a little more precision.

7. Remote desktop apps This class of app lets you access your PC from a smartphone or tablet device. We’ve used a couple of these in the past and the experience wasn’t great, so we recommend them as a useful option rather than something you’ll use every day. LogMeIn and Citrix’s receiver are the names to look out for in this category and both have free and paid apps. A company called Wyse is a player and an app called VNC is worth a look too.

8. Flipboard and Google Currents Flipboard is a free iPad app which collects content from websites and presents the stories in a wonderfully easy-to-access format that’s not a million miles away from flicking through a magazine. The app even sucks in all the links your friends post to social networks and presents them in the same magazine-like format, a very convenient function. Google Currents is the closest alternative for Android tablets. Both will change the way you read your favourite websites on a tablet. If you don't believe us, check out the demo of Flipboard for iPhone below.

9. Commbank Kaching The Commonwealth Bank’s Kaching app deserves your attention because it hints at the future of payments. The iPhone-only app lets you accept payment from other Kaching users, making it a nifty payment alternative for some businesses. You can also pay anyone via mobile, email or Facebook, make BPAY payments and transfer money between your accounts. Another feature comes alive when you buy the special ‘iCarte’ case, at which point the handset can make contactless payments at the PayPass terminals cropping up in many retailers. Google has already built the technology from the iCarte into new phones and lots of other handset makers will follow suit. Once that happens, Kaching’s potential will really become apparent.

10. Alarm clock apps

Apparently you'll sleep better
with your phone under your pillow

Most smartphones come with an alarm clock. So why would you pay for an app like Sleep Cycle, an iPhone and Android app? The answer is that this app uses your phone’s motion sensor (you need to rest the phone on your mattress while you sleep) to figure out where you are in your sleep cycle. You feed the app the time you want to be woken and it analyses the most natural time to wake you instead of jolting you awake at an arbitrary time. We’ve heard mixed reports about the app’s efficacy, but fans of these apps are raving fans. At $0. 99 for the iPhone version it’s not an expensive investment in your wellbeing and – just maybe – a bit more energy to direct into your business.


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