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TECHNOLOGY

Five apps that take the bumps out of business travel Add to ...

If you’re on the road a lot, your smartphone is an essential tool – there’s an app for just about anything you can think of.

Here are a handful that are particularly worth having for those who spend a lot of time in cars, planes and hotels:.

Expensify

This one is “designed to be a complete end-to-end solution” for tracking travel expenses and itineraries, says David Barrett, founder and chief executive of San Francisco-based Expensify Inc. It can import credit-card transactions as well as scanning receipts, and if you scan the receipt for a credit-card transaction, Mr. Barrett says, Expensify will attach it to the corresponding record from the credit-card statement.

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It also tracks mileage – you can enter starting and ending odometer readings or the length of your trip, or you can supply the starting and ending addresses and Expensify will use Google Maps data to calculate the distance. It can even use the Global Positioning System (GPS) to find your start and destination locations automatically, Mr. Barrett says.

Expensify also handles trip itineraries. Enter your flights in the app and it will pop up reminders before departure and notify you if your flight is delayed.

Mr. Barrett says Expensify is meant for everyone from very small businesses to large corporations, and supports 158 currencies and a wide range of mobile platforms.

Expensify is free for one or two users, then $5 to $10 per active user per month. It’s available for iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone and Palm devices.

Taxi Magic

This app is for booking taxis, sedans and shuttles from a mobile phone. Once you’ve ordered your ride, Taxi Magic will let you know when it’s on the way and when it has arrived at your location. It also gives you the cab number and the driver’s name, and if you’re standing at the curb you can have the app display the cab number in large digits on your phone screen to help the driver to spot you.

Taxi Magic lets you pay online from your phone, and once you have paid, it provides an electronic receipt, so you don’t have to deal with a wallet full of crumpled taxi receipts when filing expenses.

Taxi Magic works only in cities where its developer, RideCharge Inc., has established relationships with cab companies. Service has launched in Vancouver, says Sanders Partee, co-founder and president of RideCharge in Alexandria, Va., and will be rolling out to more Canadian cities over the next few months.

Taxi Magic is free for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry.

Trip Cubby

David Barnard, founder of App Cubby in Austin, Tex., says he developed this simple mileage log app because his wife, who travels a lot for work, was tired of scribbling odometer readings on scraps of paper and losing them. With travel reimbursements running at 55 cents a mile in the U.S., Mr. Barnard says, “if you drive a small, efficient car, you can make good money by tracking your mileage.”

A Trip Cubby user can enter any two of the starting odometer reading, ending odometer reading and distance travelled, Mr. Barnard says, and the app will calculate the third. If your employer is happy with just the distance and doesn’t require actual odometer readings, you can enter that.

A key point about Trip Cubby is that it will export data into an Excel spreadsheet or send an Excel-compatible spreadsheet directly from your phone. Mr. Barnard says many users file monthly travel logs directly from their iPhones.

Trip Cubby is $2.99 (U.S.) from the App Store.

Gas Cubby

Also from App Cubby, this iPhone app may appeal to those whose travel is mostly in their own cars. It calculates fuel economy based on data you record when buying gas and keeps a record of maintenance. Gas Cubby is $2.99 from the App Store.

DocuSign Ink

While many of the problems that come with constant travel have to do with the travel itself – like arranging transportation and tracking expenses – others arise from never being in the office. Signing documents, for instance. DocuSign Ink turns a mobile device into a tool for putting virtual pen to paper.

DocuSign, from DocuSign Inc. of San Francisco, can make a bitmap image of any document from any device with an Internet connection – computer, tablet or smartphone – and send it to people who need to sign it. The recipient can not only insert a digital signature but also add other required information. DocuSign Ink mobile apps make this possible on iPhone, iPad and Android smartphones.

If sender and recipient agree to use DocuSign, says Dustin Grosse, the company’s senior vice-president and chief marketing officer, the signature is legally binding. DocuSign can also be used to sign a document received as an ordinary attached PDF file.

DocuSign Ink is available free for iPhone and iPad and for Android smartphones. A browser-based version of DocuSign works with BlackBerry and Windows Mobile.

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