Got a challenge in the workplace? There’s probably an app for it.
Businesses of all shapes and sizes can choose from a growing array of applications to boost efficiency in the office and across operations, says Jayme Canotal, business advisor with Small Business B.C.
“More apps are constantly coming on stream that allow business owners to work smarter and more efficiently, without the need for the long hours and stresses of previous generations,” she says.
While Evernote, Microsoft Office and Google Drive are standard tech fare these days, consider the following expert-recommended apps to kick your workplace’s productivity up a notch or two:
1. Everything, in this place: Notion
Called a “digital notebook,” the description doesn’t nearly do the versatility of this subscriber-based business software justice, says Shruti Shekar, a technology writer with MobileSyrup. It’s like Word, Excel and Notes in one, arranged in a tidy workflow to bolster efficiency, she says.
“It’s visually more appealing [than Word], which makes users want to do work and put things together.”
Notion allows users to create databases, task lists for projects, documents and spreadsheets, while collaborating with co-workers. As its own marketing states, Notion allows users to customize their workspace with “Lego-style building block ease.” Free to start, the business version begins at US$20 per month, per user.
2. Like Evernote, but ‘better’: Milanote
Another subscription-based app, Milanote is similar to Evernote – only “a lot better,” says Jonathan Le, training manager at New Media Manitoba, a non-profit serving the province’s digital media industry.
“If you have a whole bunch of disparate elements and need to make sense of them,” Milanote will help create a more orderly, big-picture view of all the bits and pieces for a major project, he says.
“It’s like that crazy board in every crime movie where they’re tracking the killer.”
You can brainstorm ideas, build mood boards to capture the spirit of a concept or create an “inspiration library.” Milanote is free, with the pro version going for $9.99 (U.S.) per month, per person. One drawback is that there’s no Android version available yet, although it does have a web-based version for Chrome.
3. Your volunteer accountant: Wave
While the idea of free accounting software may not be enough to stoke your interest, consider that Toronto-based Wave also has features like e-mail invoicing and the ability to track paid and unpaid accounts, says Ms. Canotal. “You can even accept payments and link with your bank account directly from the app.” Wave is also very easy to use, she adds.
Wave also offers payroll services for a monthly fee starting at $20. Most of its software is available online for desktop, but its free, on-the-go invoicing is available on Android and iPhone.
4. A Swiss Army knife for your phone camera: CamScanner
This app allows you to quickly scan text, images and handwriting with your mobile phone or tablet camera. Its software then enhances these documents – boosting legibility – and converts them into shareable and printable formats.
A Swiss Army knife for capturing media of all kinds, CamScanner uses optical character recognition, a technology that allows it to “take a wide variety of written text and turn it into digital text,” says Mr. Le.
“As long as your notes aren’t too bananas, it can usually do a pretty good job of transcribing them and turning that text into a Word document, or whatever format you want,” he adds.
The basic version is free to download for Apple and Android, with the premium rendition starting at US$4.99 per month.
5. Fertilizer for productivity: Forest
Stay focused on the task at hand and grow a digital tree. Get distracted and it dies.
That’s the premise of productivity-boosting app Forest. The app allows workers to set a time for focusing on a project, and during that time a virtual seedling will grow into a bush and eventually a tree.
“Let’s say you want to not look at your phone for an hour, and over that time, the plant can grow into a big bush,” Ms. Shekar says. If you pick up your phone to check your Instagram, the digital bush will wither and perish.
The neatest thing about Forest is it turns work into a game, Ms. Shekar says, which makes it “the coolest productivity app ever.” The company also donates a portion of its earnings to non-profit organization Trees for the Future, which will plant up to five real trees per user to fight deforestation.
Free to download, Forest does have in-app purchases, just like you’d expect from a game.