While we wait on the big Apple [AAPL] reveal tomorrow, it seemed logical to write something more useful than repeating previous speculation, so I've curated a short list of essential apps and services designed to make you more effective professionally.
[ABOVE: Warning: Angry Birds Go is unlikely to be of any help to your business.]
Beyond the obvious
First of all, the rules: I've skipped the obvious solutions everyone talks about: Dropbox, Google and Apple apps, Hootsuite, Facebook, Linked In, Bu.mp and so on: what's the point of simply repeating a list you'll find elsewhere? Read on for a selection of apps and services you may not have come across before.
So, without further ado:
First a confession: I have never been too good at dealing with business cards -- they end up stored in a small filing system in my office, but this isn't accessible enough. That's why I use CamCard -- it grabs data off my cards and merges it into my existing contacts database and is available across my devices. This isn't only an Apple solution, either: CamCard is available for iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Windows devices and syncs with Mac/PC.
The catch with this solution is that the OCR, while excellent may sometimes get it wrong, so you should check the info it grabs before filing your business cards away. The pro version of the app ($7.99) lets you create virtual business cards if you wish,
The basic ads-supported service is free but limited to 50 scans, after which you need to upgrade to the pro version.
Run a business? Collect receipts? Keep losing them? You won't with Shoeboxed that lets you take a picture of your receipt at the time you receive it, storing the image safely away for inclusion in your later tax record, expenses claim or whatever. Now the small print: prices start at $9.95 though there's a free trial so you can see how you get along with the service.
You need this. 50 percent of the Fortune 500 already use it (apparently). The app lets you sign documents electronically, so you can speed up business deals, contractual agreements and so on while also reducing the risk of valuable paperwork becoming lost or stolen. The only downfall is that the service is fairly expensive, starting at $180/year for a single user, so you need to really need a service of this kind, which is available for iOS and Android devices. Here's a list of a few other signature solutions.
This is a Gmail plug-in that brings all your social networking data into your Web-based mailbox.
How this works in practice is that when you select an email you'll see a picture of the sender along with their job, company and LinkedIn profile information. Additional features include location data (if they enable this) so you can see if they're nearby, and the potential to follow contacts on your social networks, to make private notes about the contact and a few other details pulled in from apps like Skype or MailChimp.
This may sound a little intrusive, but given this is all information you have already it's really just a neat way to make effective use of the contacts you already have, and, of course, to create a few fresh connections.
Everyone eats, right, so think about this: If you're a LinkedIn user you've probably spent a lot of time assembling a pool of contacts you know well, along with a few you rarely if ever see.
We all know the truism that it is not what you know, but who you know, but how can you make the best of your professional relationships if you don't invest a little time consolidating these? Enter Getlunched, a service which allows you to search through profiles of other users to find people who might be good connections for you. Drop them a line, agree who is buying, choose a restaurant and go for lunch with this person. This way you're going to expand your contacts in your sector, and potentially meet someone else interesting in a neutral space.
Available in beta Getlunched will be available in Android, iOS and BlackBerry app formats "soon".
Travel broadens the mind, helps build your contacts network and keeps your mind fresh: but keeping all your travel information together can be a pain, that's why you need Tripit.
Billed as an "All-in-one travel organizer", this solution assembles your travel plans within an itinerary that keeps all your trip details in one place -- automatically: travel confirmations, travel notes, images, recommendations and maps can be kept together within your itinerary which is available on a Mac/PC and a range of mobile devices. You can share itineraries with colleagues, friends and family, while the pro version ($49/year) also provides you with VIP car rentals and access to 1,200 airport business lounges.
The iOS app was recently made a little more intelligent: the app will now figure out what you need to now based on where you are and show you the information it thinks you are most likely to need at the time. Just arrived at the airport? Tripit will show you your flight number and gate details. Just landed? You'll get travel and hotel info.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter: these social media feeds are always interesting, but if you're trying to keep an eye on particular topics, or to sift out your professional from your personal interests you might want to take a look at Cloze.
The service lets you gather the best of your social media "people" into one place, helping you sift out the rest to help you stay on top of the information you most need. Sure, it's not the only social media sifting solution, and it may not be attractive to some people, but it does have a couple of features to make it worth a look.
It's intelligent enough to keep track (it automatically figures out the relative importance) of every contact, email, Tweet, post and other event; it lets you pool information in teams (so you can all share valuable data pulled from your feeds) and lets you respond from within the app. The app is available for iOS devices.
It seems almost every apps/services collection blathers on about Evernote, but I see Notesuite as a viable and perhaps more powerful alternative to that service. Available for Mac ($9.99) and iPad ($4.99), NoteSuite lets you capture almost any kind of information on any page.
The solution is searchable, graphically rich and comprises note taking and multimedia elements to help you manage projects, research topics, collaborate and more. All information syncs across your systems and is also available offline.
The best bit? Your data is not held within a proprietary file system so it remains easy to export to other solutions and/or services.
Notesuite is great, but sometimes you find yourself attempting to carve out a workflow from all these items. There's lots of solutions for this, but WorkFlowy appears to be picking up a number of converts, mainly because it's so easy to use and flexible.
How it works: You create lists. You tag these lists to lead to other lists. Lists can be nested, you can zoom into sub-lists, add notes to any list item and mark items up as they are completed. Workflowy will sync its data between your phone, tablet and computer.
Its dead simple, and that’s its beauty: you don’t want to have to make a to do list to learn to use your to do list, after all.
Rescue Time, www.rescuetime.com
Because time is precious it's no great surprise most of us waste so much of it. Rescue Time aims to help you claim some of that time back.
First it watches the time you spend on applications and websites to offer you an accurate picture of how you spend your time. Armed with this information you can choose to set alerts to let you know how much time you spend doing something; you can block the websites that distract you for defined lengths of time so you can focus; and lets you analyze how much time you spend engaged in particular tasks.
Available for Mac, PC, Android, Linux the application runs discreetly in the background. The basic service is free, a more advanced version is available and costs $9.99/m.
Honorable mention: OneLeap
Available only as a Web service I've not used OneLeap so don't feel I can completely recommend it, however I do think it sounds interesting and I'd be interested to hear from those who do use it.
At its simplest, OneLeap is an invitation-only community that allows entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs and innovators to get introduced to more senior people within their fields. Once you're part of the service you can make contact with these senior types for the cost of a small charitable contribution.
It seems an interesting and relatively well-protected way to find investors, secure good clients or get credible advice from people in the know. I'm certain it's going to be of use to someone, but can't yet vouch for how effective OneLeap actually is.
That’s it for now. I do hope I've found a service or solution that may make a positive difference to you -- but, please, if you can recommend another solution or service that makes a difference to your life, do let everybody know in comments below. I'd appreciate that.
Google+? If you're one of those who likes to use social media and also happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic's Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?
Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when these items are published here first on Computerworld