Wednesday, August 7, 2013

My Favorite Productivity Apps

It's been 4 months since I abandoned my notebook as my primary computer. Now I use a PC Desktop computer exclusively at work and a tablet (iPad) when away. It has been a pretty smooth transition, experimenting with various apps that allow me access to all my data, documents and messages wherever I am.

I have narrowed down the app field to a few favorites:

Evernote is my go-to for keyboard-entered notes. It's easy to use, works seamlessly on all my devices and provides a simple way to create and manage text, audio and webcam notes. In Evernote, I am able to keep all of my notes and information organized by categories within notebooks. I have been using the free version for several years.

Notability is a more recent addition to my iPad. It is a low-cost app that is optimized for the iPad allowing me to completely replace a paper notebook. When typing notes is not an opton and more free-form entry is required this app is a terrific tool. Using a standard stylus, I am able to create and modify handwritten notes and diagrams easily, which can then be printed, or saved to a PDF file on a variety of cloud-based platforms including Dropbox. One of the best features of Notability is its sliding virtual wristguard preventing erroneous marks appearing on the document when resting your writing hand.

After experimenting with various cloud platforms for collaborating with team members and clients, I have chosen Dropbox as my primary storage and shareable resource. Although I have access to iCloud, Google Drive and SkyDrive, I found it is much too complex to try to use more than one. I chose Dropbox since I found it to be the most widely accepted and easiest to use. I am able to access and share documents, programs and images in Dropbox folders from my desktop PC, iPad and iPhone. One unanticipated bonus is that each time a document is updated the old version is saved. More than once it was helpful to go back and reread or restore from an earlier file version.

There are times when you just need to gain access to your work computer remotely. I have found that PocketCloud and its companion program that resides on the remote PC provides that capability in a simple-to-use application. This program basically converts your tablet to a remote desktop. It looks and feels like you are running Windows on your tablet and comes with a unique "mouse" pointer for navigating Windows remotely.

The biggest disappointment for me is the lack of good support for editing and creating Microsoft Office documents tools on the iPad. There are a variety of apps to read any Microsoft-formatted document (e.g. Word, Excel and PowerPoint). However the tools to create or edit MS Office files on the tablet are pretty simplistic, somewhat expensive and have limited access to cloud platforms for sharing. Even Microsoft's own Office Mobile for Office 365 (which requires an Office 365 subscription) only runs on the iPhone and only supports Microsoft Skydrive.

What are your favorite productivity apps?