How to make mobile devices work together with apps

Summary:With smartphones and tablets becoming the norm, it is possible to make them all work with the desktop to create a productive system that has all of the pieces working together.

Smartphones, tablets and notebooks are the tools that many carry to get things done each day. These devices have become so powerful and serve a variety of functions that turn them into tools for doing real work. Since many people now carry more than one of these devices, it is important to leverage them fully by using apps and services that make them work together. I have assembled a package of apps that make all of my devices work together for maximum benefit.

There are so many apps available for most platforms that I won't try to address them all. Your favorite app may not make this article as I am only going to address the apps and platforms I use every day. This doesn't mean there aren't good options available, only that I am not using them. Leave a comment that shares your solution so we can all benefit from your experience.

Online services

The first piece of a productive mobile system is the cloud and the services used to access them. This area has exploded in the last few years and there are some good solutions available. These services provide a central home for all of a user's data, and make the data accessible from just about any mobile device.

Gmail- I made the switch to Gmail years ago, leaving a hosted Exchange Server behind. This was the single best change I have made to my daily production system. Gmail works on virtually every platform and has almost no service outages. I have not regretted my switch to Gmail for even a second.

Google Calendar and Contacts- Using these tools came as a result of the switch to Gmail, given the integrated nature of the Google implementation on the desktop. All mobile platforms now support this fully, and like Gmail my calendar and contacts are always in sync on all platforms and mobile devices.

Google Docs- I switched from a local Microsoft Office setup to cloud-based Google Docs soon after making the switch to Gmail. Google Docs is not a full replacement for Office, but it meets my needs. In addition to providing the typical office suite applications (word processing, spreadsheet, etc.), Google Docs is a repository for all created documents in the cloud. This opens up tremendous opportunities on the mobile front through apps that can access these documents.

Toodledo- I always have a lot of projects underway, and that means a task list that I must stay on top of. Toodledo is a cloud-based system that is as full-featured as any I have tried, and is well supported on all mobile platforms. I can create new tasks on any device I use, and view the things I need to do anywhere I might be working. Toodledo supports a lot of options to view big task lists any way that makes sense, both online and through mobile apps.

Skype- Now that video calling is possible on most platforms, I am using Skype more than ever. It is a great tool for collaborating with colleagues located anywhere, and using whatever device is in hand.

Mobile apps

I can often be found with one mobile gadget or another in hand, either a smartphone or a tablet. These devices have been transformed into full production tools by the mobile apps that work with the online services as outlined. There are multiple apps in many cases that serve the same function, these are the ones I use on each platform. Currently I use a Nexus S 4G phone running Android Gingerbread, various Android tablets running either Gingerbread or Honeycomb, and the HP TouchPad tablet running webOS. My production system consists of mobile apps that work on all of these devices. These apps reflect the work that I do and may not all apply to everyone.

Google Gmail, Calendar, Contacts- All mobile platforms offer solid native support for Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Contacts. Email arrives and is instantly pushed to my phone and tablets. The version of Gmail on Honeycomb tablets is now superb and is as good as the desktop support. Versions on other platforms are also good, and the TouchPad app is already becoming a big part of my mobile kit. All calendar and contact entries made on any device are instantly pushed everywhere, so my important schedule and contact lists are always accurate.

Toodledo tasks- I use toodleTasks on the TouchPad which fully supports all of the capabilities of the online Toodledo service. I can view my tasks in any way I desire, and I can filter them by location. When I enter a task that can only be done at a certain place, I tag it in ToodleDo which lets me look at tasks that I need to do when I go there. On Android I use Pocket Informant which is a calendar app on steroids that also handles tasks. It syncs with ToodleDo so I can access my task list on my phone, Android tablets, and the TouchPad.

Google Docs- Having access to all of my office documents is important, and the apps I use for that serve my needs. On the TouchPad I am using QuickOffice which gives access to online documents and to those stored locally on the tablet. This app is for viewing only currently, but editing is due to appear soon. In the meantime the TouchPad web browser works well with Google Docs so editing can be done there. On the Android phone and tablets I use Documents to Go which does allow editing. Since I am working on documents stored in Google Docs on any device, changes are instantly reflected everywhere.

Skype- I can now make video calls from my phone, the TouchPad and the Samsung Galaxy Tab. Call quality is variable as Skype has issues to resolve, but I have regularly conducted video calls over an hour in length on all the devices I use. It is great to be able to have personal conversations with colleagues no matter where I am or what device I may be using. Of course, when I make video calls with Skype in a coffee shop or other public place, I take it outside to be a good patron.

Evernote- I regularly capture information for future reference, and I use Evernote for that. I can create notes with text, voice or even by snapping images with most mobile devices. These images can include documents, which Evernote interprets once the app uploads it to their servers. The text in the images then become searchable within the Evernote apps, turning this into a really useful tool. While Evernote app versions are available on most everything, there is not one for the new TouchPad yet. While it is not ideal, I am able to use the Evernote app for webOS phones until the company produces one specifically for webOS tablets.

Wordpress- As a professional blogger I spend a major portion of my day in Wordpress, and with varying degrees of success on the different platforms. I can use Wordpress apps on both Android and the TouchPad to work with my personal blog, but due to its sophistication the ZDNet system will only work with browsers. The Android browsers let me do basic stuff, but entering posts is not feasible. The TouchPad browser lets me enter posts, but I need to return to the desktop to finalize them. It is nice being able to access the blog for reference using any of my devices, but I need to hit the desktop to finalize blog posts.

This system works well for me, and it is madly liberating to be able to get things done no matter where I am or what gadget is in hand. The cloud system coupled with good mobile apps makes me a walking production machine, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Note: All of the screen shots used were taken on the TouchPad because it is the only device I use that facilitates easily taking them.

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Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Laptops, Smartphones, Tablets

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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