One of the most prolific developers of business-focused apps in the Google Play Store for Android is, surprise, Microsoft. In the past year, Redmond has shipped new apps for the entire Office suite, OneDrive, Microsoft Intune, and Dynamics CRM. Not to mention a smattering of interesting utilities designed to make the Android experience better. Here are 10 of my favorites.
Microsoft jump-started its Outlook app for Android and iOS with a couple of shrewd acquisitions: Acompli and Sunrise. The latest version of the Outlook app has grown leaps and bounds from its tentative beginnings a year ago, offering unified support for all sorts of mail servers and strong calendar and contact management features. In the email app, shown here, a swipe left lets you schedule a message to appear in your inbox when you're ready to handle it.
The biggest leap in OneDrive cloud file storage over the past year is a unified sync client that lets you manage personal files from OneDrive and work-related files from OneDrive for Business using the same app. You can link OneDrive to Office apps, so that Excel files and Word documents open effortlessly. The app also includes excellent photo handling features with the ability to automatically upload your camera roll to the cloud.
I have more than a dozen years of interviews, lab notes, lists, and online clippings saved in OneNote, and all of it is available from the cloud using the OneNote app. The latest addition to the Android version is a "badge" that floats on the home screen, letting me tap to add a quick note or a photograph to a OneNote notebook without having to open the app itself.
I'm a huge believer in two-factor authentication, and the Microsoft Account app offers several options for verifying access to online services from an unrecognized device. After verifying your account with a mobile device, you can configure the app to receive requests that you simply tap to approve. For cases where receiving a request isn't practical, you have the option to use a time-based security code generated by the app instead.
The Word app for Android displays documents with remarkable fidelity to the original. You can tap a button to shift from the print layout to a more readable "Reflow" display. The editing controls, which slide up in a pane from the bottom of the document, are consistent across all the Office apps. I especially like the sharing options, which make it easy to send a file as an attachment or as a OneDrive link.
The Excel Android app contains all the essential calculation tools you'd expect, although for advanced features like PivotTables it drops back to read-only mode. This screenshot shows the Keyboard for Excel app, which temporarily replaces the standard keyboard with one that's tailor made for entering financial data and formulas.
No one in their right mind would want to create and polish a presentation on a smartphone, and that's not what the PowerPoint Android app is optimized for. What it does very well, however, is to display your presentation in full-screen mode or with speaker notes, so you can rehearse your presentation and make last-minute tweaks during downtime while traveling. And with the ability to beam a presentation from your phone to a large display, you deliver the presentation from the phone as well.
Office Lens is one of those apps that makes no sense until you use it. Think of it as a pocket scanner. Tap the Office Lens icon, and then use the camera to snap a picture of a document, a whiteboard, or a business card. When you hit the Save button, you can choose a target, including OneNote, OneDrive, Word, PowerPoint, or a standard PDF or photo format. The whiteboard processing feature is especially slick. If you take your picture from an odd angle, Office Lens will let you mark the edges of the section you want keep, then straighten, brighten, and clean up the saved copy.
There are two Remote Desktop apps for Android. I recommend the one with the (beta) label after the name, which offers much better support for touchscreens, allowing you to connect to Windows desktops or servers in landscape mode on your smartphone. The default view shows the full display, which can be distinctly unreadable on the small screen. Tap the magnifying glass and then use the faint four-headed arrow in the center of the screen to pan to the region you're interested in.
Microsoft's Azure cloud service contains a robust, full-strength identity service called Azure Active Directory. You can use the Azure Authenticator app as a second factor to tighten access to cloud-based computing resources and services. But that same Azure AD infrastructure also powers the rest of the Microsoft cloud, which means you can secure email and files stored in Office 365 and even enable single sign-on for cloud-based SaaS apps like Box, Salesforce, and even (gasp) Google Apps.