These days I'm on the road a lot. That means that I rely on my iPhone and iPad more than most people. To that end, people always ask me what my must-have iOS apps are. Below is a list of my current top 10 apps that keep me productive.
If you ask most sales people or people that travel a lot, they'll tell you that filing expenses is a pain. This is where TurboScan comes in. Gone are the days of carrying a ton of receipts around. Instead, either at the time that you're handed the receipt or shortly thereafter, launch TurboScan, put the receipt on a surface and then take a picture of it. TurboScan then offers a variety of options, including cropping to the area you want to capture, taking pictures in color, rotating the image, and more. In my case, I launch the app, take as many pictures as needed, name the session and then forward it as a PDF. I then verify that the PDF ended up in my e-mail and toss the paper receipts. All that's left after that is filing the expenses, but now I don't have to worry about a misplaced receipt.
I'm a practitioner of David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD). As a result, I'm all about categorized lists. I think I've probably used just about every Todo list program on the market, not to mention having created my own from time-to-time. Unfortunately, old habits die hard, so I used to always end up gravitating back to a plain, electronic piece of paper. Well, thanks to Wunderlist, that habit is finally in the past.
What's special about Wunderlist is that you can easily create a task or a list. From there you can move your tasks around, add new lists, add notes to a task, due dates, flags, and more. The best part, though, is that Wunderlist works on every platform out there. There's a great Mac client, that just happens to look and function just like the web-based one, and there are mobile apps for every platform. In addition, the offline support is perfect, allowing you to go through all of your tasks, move them around, and then sync back up to the cloud. You also have the ability to share a list with friends. There are some things I would improve with Wunderlist, like the ability to put a task into more than one list, and support for attaching documents to a task, but for now, Wunderlist is 99 percent what I need. By the way, the company is teasing the release of Wunderlist 2, which will feature a completely overhauled experience on all platforms, so stay tuned.
If you bill your time, or are just curious where all of your time is being spent during the day, look no further than OfficeTime. The iOS App couldn't be easier to use--the only hard part is remembering to use it.
In all seriousness, it's incredibly useful. To start OfficeTime you launch the app and then either prep it with projects beforehand, or add them effortlessly, on the fly. For example, imagine that you're about to start working on a project. You simply launch the app, tap new session and then tap start. That's really all you have to do to start tracking your activity. Later you can assign a project to the task you just started tracking, and even go into more detail about the project, if you so desire. You can also email your report directly from your iOS device, as an Excel doc, Numbers, and more.
I bill some of my time to projects so this has been a great way to not only see how much time I've been spending, but also see where my time went during the day.
I've used a number of products in the past to track my time, including ones that run in the background on my computer and record each time I switch programs or windows. OfficeTime works well for me since I can effortlessly track my time and then sync to the cloud or create a report all from the app.
Gmail / Sparrow
When I first started writing this article, I had Sparrow listed here. Not too long ago, Sparrow was acquired by Google (link), and now Google has released a new and improved Gmail client for iOS. The reason it makes my list is that it has support for multiple Gmail accounts, labels, archiving, and just about everything you can do on your desktop. I especially like its offline abilities, since I tend to compose, file, and overall manage my email while in flight, and then sync up once I land.
As for Sparrow, you can still download the latest version, which lets you input any e-mail account you want, not just Gmail.
If you tend to be on your iOS device and still need to stay in touch on Google Talk, VTok is my preferred app. Like all of the apps in this list, VTok is effortless to use. You launch the app, put in your GTalk username and password, and then start chatting up your friends. It includes support for status messages, and runs in the background, so you can do other things on your iOS device and then receive an alert when someone is chatting you. Recently I was on a conference call and was still able to chat with my co-workers while participating on the conference call, all from my iOS device. Another great feature is the support for free video and voice calls to your Google contacts over Wi-Fi and 3G. That's actually how I first was introduced to it, since FaceTime used to be a Wi-Fi only option, and Skype required Skype on both ends.
I've written about Good Reader in the past, and it continues to be a must-have app for me. These days I not only use it for opening and reading documents, but I also load it up with all types of media before hitting the road. Most days I have a bunch of Word Docs, PDFs and PowerPoints that I'd like to read, left open on my computer. Now, before I go mobile, I connect my iPad mini to iTunes, and drag over PowerPoints, PDFs, Word Docs, and even videos, to the Good Reader app in iTunes. Then when it's finally safe to turn on electronic devices, I catch up on my reading, or movies, by just taking my iPad out of the bag and launching Good Reader. I also use Good Reader to store documents that I want to save on my iOS device.
With all of the noise still going around about Apple Maps, I find Scout to be indispensable. I've written about Scout in the past, and it continues to be a daily use app for me whenever I'm on the road. The interface is easy to use, and the app grabs real-time traffic, does spoken directions, and even updates and reroutes on the fly. Most days you can even get the full app for either a discount or free. In my case, I paid $10 for it for a year, and it's well worth the money.
This is one of those apps that I use daily, even when not on the road. I mentioned about how I sync documents and media to Good Reader. Well, Instapaper is even easier to use. Just install the plug-in to your browser, or e-mail articles to yourself, and the Instapaper app does the rest. You can instantly read through all of the articles that you saved to Instapaper, whether on or offline.
I'm a daily Google Reader user. I have more RSS feeds than I can handle, so over the years, I've moved them into a variety of different categories for easy skimming. To that end, an app like Newsify is a must for me. While the Google Reader web-based interface does a great job, Newsify presents your feeds like a magazine, similar to Flipboard. What's different, though, is that Newsify has great offline support. This way I can catch up on all of my news while disconnected, which I tend to enjoy doing not just on a plane, but after a long work day. It also allows me to bring all of my Google Reader categories mobile, so I can instantly switch to feeds about Technology or Lifestyle, in one click.
Speaking of disconnected, I was a user of Netflix until I discovered the magic of Hulu while traveling. For just $8 a month, approximately 12 hours after my favorite shows air, I can enjoy them on my iOS device. I should mention that not all shows will show up on your iOS device, but there's enough to choose from that I find myself watching Hulu Plus to catch up on a lot of the shows I've missed. I also enjoy browsing some of the older shows or highlighted clips. The interface is super easy to use, so if you watch TV with any regularity, this app is the ultimate for keeping up with your favorite shows while on the road.
Do you have your own list of favorite apps? If so, share it below.