The world we live and work within is changing at a rapid pace, technology is helping us to become smarter. Or at least it makes us appear smarter when we are hidden behind our screens at work or our mobile devices when we are on the move.
The fact is there are lots of web, mobile, and desktop apps, as well as gadgets which are designed to help us become more productive and they’re getting better all the time. These tools are assisting remote workers and small business owners to achieve so much more with their time, plus saving hundreds if not thousands of pounds versus outsourcing or more expensive options.
We all love a productivity tool or two, especially if they can make our lives simpler and more efficient. No doubt you already have a number of apps on your mobile or a software program or two on your laptop? And some of you may have already taken the leap of faith and invested in AI (Artificial Intelligence) such as Amazon Alexa or Googles Home devices.
But if you're a remote worker or a freelancer, a good quality internet connection and the right software tools are all you need to stay productive and in communication with your clients, suppliers and team members. The right tools can make the difference between wasting hours on a task versus to getting the job done. When you know the right tools to use, you can easily automate recurring tasks and spend your valuable time focused on more important things like growing your business.
Here is a selection of some of the best apps and tools you'll likely to need to stay productive, keep communicating and collaborating with others within and outside of your organisation. These are my recommendations and based on actual use whilst out of the office, either working remotely from home or on the road travelling for business and pleasure purposes.
I hope you find your next productivity tool for your virtual office arsenal.
#1 - Evernote
Evernote is a cloud-based software service designed for creating, organising and storing various media files. Whether it’s a text document, a photo, a video, an audio file or even a web page, Evernote keeps all of your stuff stored up in the cloud (as opposed to locally on your computer or mobile device) through your very own personal Evernote account.
If you're familiar with other popular cloud storage services like Google Drive, Dropbox or Apple's iCloud, then you can sort of think of Evernote as the same kind of service. Evernote, however, is focused more on the creation of notebooks and notes as opposed to uploading files directly from your machine and offers different features that you can't get from other competing services, which is why many users consider it to be their top choice for cloud storage and file management.
When you upload a file or make a change to an existing file in Evernote on one machine, like your laptop computer, it will sync up all changes across your entire account so even when you access it from a different machine, like your iPhone or tablet computer, everything will already be automatically updated with the changes you previously made. And because it's all stored on servers in the cloud, your files and notes won't take up tons of storage room on your computer or mobile device. You also won't lose anything if any of your devices are damaged or lost.
You could use Evernote for something as simple as a shopping list, which you could create on one device and later access from your smartphone when you’re out shopping. Alternatively, you could use Evernote for business purposes by sharing files and collaborating on projects.
Here are some ways you could use Evernote:
- Collecting recipes
- Taking screenshot images
- Working together with other team members on files
- Saving files based on geographic location
- Bookmarking pages on the web
- Adding notes to file attachments
- Recording audio & video, along with photos, digital content and hand-written text within a simple note.
#2 - MileIQ
One of the most tedious jobs that many small business owners, employees, and entrepreneurs have is tracking mileage. It is a task that is very easy to overlook, but also necessary for reducing your tax liabilities at the end of the fiscal year. With the MileIQ app, you no longer need to worry about journaling your mileage reports.
You also won’t need to look back at the calendar to estimate your mileage throughout the previous month or year. Instead, you can install the app, and it does the tracking for you.
There are easy reports that you can pull to see your mileage totals. Classifying if your drive as personal or business is as easy as swiping left or right.
The MileIQ app can automate the mileage tracking process to eliminate your headache. And, with miles worth 45 pence per mile, you want to claim every single one you can.
If you are a Microsoft Office 365 subscriber you can get access to MileIQ for free within your subscription.
#3 - 1Password
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that online security is important. You know you need to have strong passwords and change them regularly. But knowing this doesn’t make it any easier to actually do it.
Hackers are also getting more advanced, we all have a vast number of passwords to remember, and most of us would rather watch paint dry than change our passwords. That’s where a great password manager helps. It reduces one of the biggest security risks—using the same password on multiple sites—by storing all your (unique) passwords in an encrypted database secured by the only password you have to remember. Just make that master password as long and complex as possible.
In addition to 1Password’s incredibly rich desktop client, it also has a fully-featured universal iOS app that gives you access to all your logins, credit cards, notes, and more.
1Password is a free application for all platforms. There are multiple upgrade options available to you that unlock additional features.
#4 - Office365
You’ve heard all the talk about Office 365. Your team, partners and friends have been dropping hints about it. You’ve even taken a look at all the tools and features and now you’re wondering if Office 365 really is the solution for your small business. The answer is yes. Office 365 can help your employees work together in new and more efficient ways. But, Office 365 is more than just a set of tools. It’s a new way of working.
Office 365 "Office 365" refers to subscription plans that include access to Office applications plus other 'productivity' services that are enabled over the internet (cloud services). Some of these benefits include 1Tb to store documents, 50Gb email storage and access to download the latest Microsoft Office programmes on up to 5 devices.
The product includes communication and collaboration tools like email & calendar, instant chat, discussion groups, conferencing and more. With a single account, users can access document management features including real-time co-authoring with familiar Office online appls like Word, excel, powerpoint, easy storage and retrieval with intelligent search capability and sharing options for both internal and external collaborators.
#5 - Scannable
The scanner is dead. Long live the scanner!
Why rely on a bulky, expensive, deskbound piece of hardware when you can "scan" items just as easily with your smartphone? That's the idea behind Evernote's new Scannable for iOS, a free app that joins a plethora of similar tools -- but offers a few distinct advantages.
With Scannable, you simply position your document so it fits within the viewfinder (i.e., your iPhone's screen) -- the app will quickly and automatically capture it, then straighten, sharpen and otherwise improve the quality of the image.
This powerful little app scans anything you put in front of it and sends it to your Evernote account, or another place you want to store it, and has the ability to share the files with other people very intelligently, too. For example, say you're in a meeting with three other people. You can use the app to scan a few files from the meeting, and Scannable will automatically ask you if you want to share the images with the people in your meeting, as long as they're listed attendees in a meeting invite and you've granted Scannable access to your calendar. That's smart.
Scannable is free, but for the moment it's iOS-only. No word on when the Android version will arrive, only that it's in development.