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23 Online Office Essentials For Your Smart Phone

By Gail Z. Martin

            When you’re working on the go, many of the helpful tools you take for granted in your office aren’t at hand.  Fortunately, there’s an app for that.

Appzilla, Appzilla2 and Apzilla 3 are the Swiss Army knives of the app world.  Appzilla comes with 90 mini apps, and Appzilla2 has 120, including a book lamp, checklist, countdown timer, area code look-up, alarm clock, currency converter, date calculator, flashlight, and links to nine Google apps.  Sure, Appzilla also has fun things like a metronome, moon calculator and Morse code generator, but those can be a momentary distraction when you’re stuck in an airport.

Need a dictionary?  Try the Dictionary! app or the Dictionary.com app and have the English language at your fingertips. The Dictionary.com app even includes a thesaurus, or you can grab FreeSaurus on iTunes.

Looking for a phone number?  Before you pay for a 411 look-up, try the WhitePagesMobile app.  Use it to search for either businesses or people, and get maps or directions.  YPMobile gives you the Yellow Pages business directory, plus ratings and event information.

Want to translate a phrase into Chinese or Serbian?  The FreeTranslator app will help you with the important short sentences necessary to get by when you’re traveling.  Can’t remember the source of a quote?  Quotationary probably has what you’re looking for.  Need to know where in the world you are?  Try World Atlas HD for maps and useful details about every country on the globe.  Struggling with a metric conversion question?  Convertbot has the answer.  Not sure when your package will arrive?  DeliveryStatus will get an answer for you.  Need a mirror to see if the lettuce from your salad at lunch is still in your teeth?  The Mirror app turns your smart phone into, yep, a mirror that you won’t lose in your desk drawer.

If you miss your filing drawer back at the office, try FilesToGo, a Cloud-based filing system that gives you access when you’re traveling.  No need to juggle loose printouts on the plane: GoodReader can translate a PDF file into an iPad-friendly format so you can read it from your touchscreen.  Bento is an app that works like a virtual clipboard/database/desktop organizer for either the iPad or iPhone.

When you’d rather speak than use a keyboard, you’ve got several great options.  DragonDictation’s app (and program for the PC)  lets you speak into your smart phone and activate your email or your text messages.  To use your phone to take dictation or just record a message to send later, try Say It & Mail It Pro Recorder or QuickVoice2TextEmail.

Keep track of your time while you’re on the road with TimeMaster + Billing—it’s even got a billing module.  Take your pick: Timewerks, TimeLogger or iTimeSheetLite can also help you manage and monetize your time.  They differ in capabilities, so pick the one that works best for you.

If there’s still anything you’re missing from your bricks-and-mortar office, a quick search on iTunes or Android app store will probably turn up several contenders to help you create your home away from home.

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Martin.  Order this book here https://amzn.com/1601632266

 

 

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10 Mobile Apps for Business You Can’t Live Without

By Gail Z. Martin

Whether you’re a true road warrior or you just seem to be on the go all the time, mobile apps from your tablet PC or smart phone can make your life much more productive.  Even better: many great apps are free, and others are very inexpensive, so productivity seems sweeter than ever.

What are the basics you need to get work done when you’re not in the office?  At a minimum, you need some good ways to take notes, work on or read documents, store and retrieve files, and access the tools you usually have close at hand in an office or on your laptop.  Fortunately, there are apps for all these needs, and on your smart phone or tablet PC, they’re truly at your fingertips.

Smart phones and tablet PCs are desirable because they’re smaller and lighter than a laptop and easier to carry around.  But that same portability comes with a price: they can’t carry all of the files stored so conveniently on your laptop.  Good news: an ever-increasing array of apps bridge that gap between laptop and mobile device, making it easier than ever to work on the go.

Quick note taking is essential to keep your thoughts organized, especially when you’re constantly in motion.  iPhones and iPads come with a basic Notes app, which while not perfect, is quite suitable for the kinds of things you’d jot on a cocktail napkin.  While it doesn’t sync with other apps and it doesn’t have any security beyond that of your phone’s keypad, Notes is perfect for jotting down something you don’t want to forget and assuring that you won’t lose the scrap of paper you wrote it on.  Not perfect, but it’s free, and there’s a lot of basic function that goes a long way.

Evernote, which I’ve discussed earlier in the book, also has a mobile app.  So if you love it on your other devices, you can bring it along in your pocket with your phone or tablet PC.  A few other note taking apps include Awesome Note, WriteRoom, Simplenote and RememberTheMilk make it easy to jot down what you need to remember, and come with varying additional capabilities, such as being able to sync to other devices or store data in the Cloud.

Pages is very good, basic app for reading and writing documents.  Documents you create in Pages can be emailed in RTF or Word format, and you can email yourself (small) documents in those formats and edit using Pages.  While I find it cumbersome to type documents of any length with the on-screen keyboard or a phone or tablet PC, when you pair Pages with a wireless keyboard, the result is pretty efficient.

For those who want to access their Microsoft Office files from their iPad or iPhone, Quickoffice® Pro HD bridges the gap between Microsoft and Apple.  There’s also a scaled down version, Quickoffice Connect Suite.  With Quickoffice, you can open a Word document, access a PowerPoint presentation, or edit, save and share other types of Office-based files.  Office2 HD is a similar program, offering a few more capabilities for word processing than some of the more basic apps.  Documents To Go® Premium Office Suite not only handles Word and PowerPoint, but it will also access Excel spreadsheets, and it syncs with storage programs including Dropbox, SugarSync and Box.net.

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Martin.  Order here: https://amzn.com/1601632266

 

 

 

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Three Things You Should Know About Access-Anywhere Software

By Gail Z. Martin

            Being able to access your software from anywhere on any device can be a real lifesaver when you’re on the road.  Programs that live on web servers that you can access via the Internet are what Cloud Computing is all about, and it’s the key to using your smart phone and tablet PC to get more done when you’re on the go.

But if your programs don’t live on your computer hard drive, how safe are you from hackers and viruses?

If the idea of having your valuable and proprietary data residing in the Cloud worries you, there are steps you can take to set your mind at ease.

First, make sure that you understand the individual service provider’s privacy policies, terms of use, and recommended methods for safeguarding the security and integrity of your data.

Secondly, always back up essential information.  This can mean creating a print-out, saving a Web-based document as a file or a screen shot, or copying essential information to your hard drive or an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) storage site.  An FTP site allows you to store and share documents or files that are too large for regular email.  Yes, FTP sites are also Cloud computing sites—a good example is www.4shared.com, but there are many similar sites.

Third, be certain to safeguard your password.  Realize that when you share access to your Cloud computing sites with an administrative assistant or colleague, they may gain access to your billing and credit card information unless the site allows for different levels of access.  Some Cloud computing sites offer a group membership, so that you can provide access to several employees or partners while keeping your own account information private. Other programs make it possible to designate an “administrator” who can access everything except the billing/payment information.  If you must share your password with an assistant, keep track of which passwords have been shared and be sure to change your password if your relationship with the assistant ends.

Cloud computing programs can boost your productivity by giving you access to powerful software without the hassle of downloads and updates.  You save time, reduce the in-house needs for online storage, and reduce your dependence on hired computer professionals.  Just think–no more losing part of a day as your IT consultant tinkers with the settings to make sure a newly downloaded program doesn’t wreck your network!

Small businesses and solo professionals also benefit by gaining access to valuable online services and software which would be prohibitively expensive to license on an individual basis, and which would require significant investment in servers and personnel to install and manage in-house.

For big productivity gains and lower costs, get into the Cloud!

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Martin.  Order this book at https://amzn.com/1601632266

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4 Easy Ways to Make Sure You Never Forget An Important File Again

By Gail Z. Martin

When you’re on the go, it’s difficult to bring all your files with you.  Carrying a laptop can be difficult when traveling through airports, and taking your computer with you puts you at risk for theft and damage.  Printouts are cumbersome, offer data security risks, and provide only a static snapshot.

To address these problems, Cloud computing programs make it possible for users to access their computers remotely and store files in secure storage sites that can be accessed on the go.  For users who rely on instant, mobile access to stored data but don’t want to lug their laptops everywhere they go, these programs offer portability, security and easy access.

GoToMyPC enables subscribers to securely access their computer back at the office while they’re on the road.  If you’ve ever had an “oops” moment of panic as you realized that you left the folder or the flash drive you needed for your out-of-office presentation back on your desk, you can appreciate the appeal.

GoToMyPC is compatible with both Microsoft and Apple computers, and can also be accessed from an iPad. The service offers access to files, email, applications and network resources via a secure, encrypted connection.

Other virtual access programs include LogMeIn.com, PCAnywhere.com and Anyplace-Control.com.

You’ll need to weigh the convenience of remote access against the possibility, however slim, that even the most secure data connections can (at least theoretically), be compromised.  If you travel frequently and have ever had a deal compromised by a missing file, the benefits may be well worth the risk to you.  This is especially true for one-person companies who lack the home office staff to email or overnight a forgotten document.

If you’re in a business where a security breech would be catastrophic, it’s probably worth the price to confer with your Information Technology consultant to explore options.  While the remote access programs themselves may be secure, there are inherent security risks to using public access computers, such as those in hotels, libraries and office supply stores.  Only you can decide whether the risks outweigh the convenience.  If you’re not sure how to assess the risks, talk to your IT consultant.

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Martin.  Order this book at https://amzn.com/1601632266

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11 Important Reasons to Move to The Big Storage Unit In The Sky

By Gail Z. Martin

No, this isn’t about the afterlife.  It’s about how you can store files someplace that never runs out of room, and back up your important data in a safe place outside your home or office.

Corporations store their data backup in salt mines and high security off-site locations.  That’s a little extreme (and expensive) for most small businesses, but the need for secure storage and backup isn’t limited to large corporations.  A flood, fire or natural disaster could wipe out your computer and your locally-stored flash drives and portable hard drives.  Frequent back-ups to a storage location reduce your risk of a catastrophic data loss.

Storage capacity is another challenge for many users.  While storage costs have decreased tremendously, making terabytes of capacity reasonably priced, some users rapidly exceed their on-site storage capability.

Fortunately, Cloud computing offers alternatives for both data security and data storage.

Carbonite, Mozy, MyOtherDrive, iBackup, Dropbox, GoogleDocs, GoDaddy, Sugarsync, ElephantDrive, LiveDrive, MyPCBackup and other sites offer Cloud-based data backup and storage capabilities.  Most sites provide automated back-up, making it less likely that you’ll forget to update files.  In addition, files stored on the Cloud can be accessed from any location, giving you portability.

When looking into Cloud-based data storage, remember that you’re entrusting your sensitive files to a third party.  Here are some questions to consider as you weigh your alternatives.

  • What happens to my data if the provider is sold, merged or goes out of business?
  • How does the provider assure site security?
  • What precautions are taken against hackers?
  • How does the provider do its own back-up to assure my data is safe if the provider has a catastrophic event at their location?
  • What do other users say about the ease of use, security and customer support?

Cloud-based storage and back-up can be valuable and affordable services.  Having your files saved from just one on-site disaster could well be worth the investment in monthly fees.  As always, be sure to check out provider options to find the service that is the best fit for your business.

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Martin.  Order this book at https://amzn.com/1601632266

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4 Simple Ways You Can Be in Two (or More) Places at Once

By Gail Z. Martin

Sure, you’d love to rule the web with a gazillion fans, friends and followers on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.  You know you should be posting more frequently; if not once a day, at least several times a week.  But who has time?

Fortunately for you, there are a growing number of social media productivity tools available to help you organize your online activity, making it easier for you to get more done in less time.  Most of these sites enable you to post once and have your messages go to numerous social media sites, and a few of them have additional handy bells and whistles to help you manage your online life more efficiently.

“Dashboard” programs provide all-in-one-place control, much like the console of a car or airplane.  Programs like HootSuite, Social Oomph, Ping and TweetDeck make it possible for you to plan your social media campaigns and load content in advance.

One of the central benefits of a dashboard program is the “set it and forget it” feature; the ability to enter content into the dashboard and schedule blog posts, Facebook updates and Twitter tweets to go out over a period of time.  While pre-scheduled content is no substitute for live conversations, dashboard programs fill the very real need of making sure that busy people maintain a baseline, consistent level of content without large gaps.  You can always pop in online to add updates, post photos or jump into conversations in addition to your pre-scheduled content, but you won’t get to Thursday and realize you haven’t posted or tweeted all week.

A caveat: many dashboard programs post content with a source credit that says “from API”, meaning that it has been automatically posted.  Some social media users and search engines view pre-scheduled content as less desirable than live-posted information, regardless of the quality of the actual information itself.  This means that to keep your friends, fans and followers happy and to raise your social media score with ranking programs like Klout and Alexa, keep a good balance of live posts and pre-scheduled posts.  On the other hand, realize that pre-scheduled content is better than no content. Followers, search engines and ranking programs also take a dim view of prolonged absences. I maintain that if the best you can do during a busy period is pre-scheduled content, being present on a consistent basis far outweighs the alternatives.

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Martin.  Order this book at https://amzn.com/1601632266

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My 3 Favorite Do-It-All From One Place Web Sites

By Gail Z. Martin

Social media “dashboards” allow you to post and monitor many of your social media sites all from one convenient place.  Even better, you can upload and schedule your tweets and posts so that you can keep a more consistent social media presence, which is important to friends, fans and followers.

There are a lot of programs out there to help you organize your social media life.  Here are a few of my favorites:

HootSuite is one of the best-known dashboard programs.  It’s a powerful, user-friendly site that offers levels of membership ranging from a basic free service to a more robust Pro level.  The heart of HootSuite is the ability to enter posts in advance into the dashboard and program when your content goes live across multiple social media sites.  This works especially well if you are using a virtual assistant to help you load the content you’ve written, and it makes it easy to keep track of what you’ve said and where you said it.  HootSuite also has a convenient mobile app for smart phones, so you can keep an eye on your account when you’re on the go.

SocialOomph is another dashboard with many of the same capabilities as HootSuite.  As you’d expect, SocialOomph lets you pre-load and schedule on Twitter, blogs and Facebook, and provides both a basic free level of service and an extended professional level.  You can track keywords, view your @Mentions and Retweets, purge spammy Direct Messages (DM), and monitor multiple accounts from one dashboard.  The professional level offers blog integration, profile filters, and some interesting ways to assess which of your followers might be your most valuable prospects.  While SocialOomph leans heavily toward Twitter with a nod toward Facebook and blogs, it does enable Ping to send your information to LinkedIn and MySpace.

TweetDeck is another of the well-known dashboards.  TweetDeck offers connectivity with Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Buzz, and Foursquare.  It makes it easy to create and manage Twitter Lists and helps cut down on Twitter spam.  Another valuable feature is the ability to follow Twitter Trends, real-time topics and TwitScoop to stay abreast of the most popular topics.  TweetDeck is available for iPhone, Android, iPad and a new Web-based interface, as well as the original desktop version.  At the time of this writing, TweetDeck is free, which is good for a solid, basic dashboard.  However, if you’re looking for a pro version with additional features or you want more analytics, at the moment, they’re not built into TweetDeck, so one of the other dashboards may do a better job if those elements are important to you.

Regardless of which dashboard program you use, remember that it’s your content that matters.  If you’re creating content that is highly targeted and meets the needs of your ideal audience, then how it gets posted is a back office issue of no consequence to your online network.  Remember also that while these dashboards have the ability to increase your reach, poor quality content will hurt your brand and over-posting with hard-sell copy will lose you friends and followers, and may get your account suspended.  These are power tools; use them with caution!

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Martin.  Order this book at https://amzn.com/1601632266

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4 Tips for Managing Your Documents When You’re On the Road

By Gail Z. Martin

Cloud computing programs let you access powerful software (usually with a monthly membership) while the programs live on web servers and not on your hard drive, meaning you don’t have to worry about installing, updating and uninstalling.   Most of these cloud-based programs have mobile apps, so you can truly access your information no matter where you are or what kind of device you’re using.

This is where the power of the Cloud really makes a difference, because through Cloud-based storage, you can access, edit and share many more documents than your mobile phone or tablet PC could store locally, without slowing down your device or maxing out your storage.  Google Docs, SugarSync, Box.net, and Dropbox all have mobile apps, making it easy to grab your documents no matter where you are.

Many apps also allow you to email documents as attachments, which is a nice back-up storage option.  Be wary, however, of relying on email if your document is large or your WiFi connection is of questionable strength.  Remember, too, that if you’re using a public WiFi connection in a hotel or airport, your data is not encrypted so don’t email or upload sensitive files until you have a secure connection. Also, mobile plans differ in the way they charge for data usage, especially if you’re using your own Internet hot spot, so make sure you understand your phone plan pricing or you could be in for a surprise when your next bill arrives.

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Martin.  Order this book at https://amzn.com/1601632266

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7 Great Reasons to Store Your Programs in the “Cloud”

By Gail Z. Martin

The term “Cloud computing” sounds intangible, and that’s just the point.

“Cloud computing” refers to access to software that is accessible via subscription over the Internet.  Programs that reside in the Cloud are actually housed on the servers of the company that owns the software and which provides subscription access.  Unlike traditional software, such as word processing or spreadsheet programs that are stored on your computer’s hard drive, programs that reside in the Cloud never have to be installed, updated or uninstalled from your computer.  That’s the beauty of the “Cloud.”

Why would you want your software to be housed on the Cloud?  Several good reasons come to mind:

  • You don’t have to install the program, so you can use software that requires greater speed or memory than your desktop or laptop might possess.
  • Because the software is stored on the Cloud, it doesn’t hog memory or bog down your computer.
  • You don’t have to worry about updating the software; the tech staff at the company providing the software takes care of doing that.
  • Since you access the software via the Internet (and a secure password), you can access your software (and possibly your related files) from any computer, anywhere you have an Internet connection.
  • Since your access is via subscription (usually monthly or annually), your costs are much less than if you were to purchase a private license for the program.
  • When you no longer want or need the software, cancel the subscription.  There is no software to uninstall on your computer.
  • If there’s a problem with the software, your subscription includes access to technical support.  It’s the provider’s responsibility to fix the bugs, and you don’t have to download patches or new versions.

Starting to see the appeal?  Cloud computing programs offer extremely flexible access to powerful programs without the hassles of maintaining the software on your own computer.  If you’ve ever suffered through a lengthy software download (especially one that needed to be done over several times), you’ll understand the appeal of being able to “visit” your software instead of needing to have it all on your hard drive.

Excerpted from 30 Days to Virtual Productivity Success by Gail Martin.  Order this book at https://amzn.com/1601632266

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Social Media Becomes a Local Resource

By Gail Z. Martin

Google AdWords offers specialized services to target customers within a 20-mile radius from your business. AdWords permits you to add or exclude areas, and can integrate your targeted AdWords campaign with text messaging.

Facebook can serve as a showcase for your community activity. When you host an event that benefits a local charity or sponsor a local sporting team, promote before, during and after the event with updates, photos, Web video and testimonials. Encourage attendees to become part of an ongoing conversation. Many companies successfully use their Facebook page as an instantly updateable second Web site to let their community know what’s going on and to share information and updates.

Twitter has been used by local charities to mobilize volunteers for projects or to alert donors to immediate needs. Animal rescue groups and humane societies have used Twitter to match shelter animals with new homes. Schools have demonstrated Twitter’s ability to alert parents to unplanned closings or to request badly needed supplies or last-minute parent volunteers. Businesses tweet about their upcoming live entertainment, dinner specials, or daily discounts.

Twitter can also help you promote upcoming local events, share photos and video via links, and give your online press releases a broader readership as you tweet news and provide links to coverage you’ve received in local online publications. Your blog can also be an effective part of your online marketing program by sharing the story behind your achievements or by providing deeper insight into what’s happening with your business, which deals and events are coming up, or the news of your industry as it impacts local customers.

Foursquare is an intensely local social media application that makes going about your business or going out for the evening a shared experience treasure hunt. Foursquare users use the site and text messaging to share their current location as they patronize businesses, retailers, entertainment venues. They can become the “mayor” of frequently-visited sites, and can gather their friends to join them on a spur-of-the-moment basis. Foursquare rewards users who are out and about in their local area—and the local companies they frequent benefit as well.

Groupon subscribers can sign up to get special online deals from local businesses. Subscribers indicate their local area and their willingness to receive emails and social media alerts to short-lived discounts from local merchants. Companies sign up to provide limited-time special deals that are only available via Groupon. In some cases, deals are only available if a specified number of people show up to claim it. Groupon makes bargain hunting fun and social while retaining an intensely local flair.

LivingSocial is another site that offers a daily deal from local businesses with up to 90% off the regular price. Once a subscriber buys the daily deal, he/she has the opportunity to forward the deal to friends, and if one of those friends also buys, the original customer gets the deal item for free. It’s a fun way to publicize specials while encouraging customers to tell their friends about your company.

Yelp, Local.com and Citysearch are other sites that capitalize on the concept of “local.”  Not only can they help others to find your company more easily (both online and in person), many of these new locally-oriented sites also encourage customers to rate their recent experience.  Don’t let that scare you off.  If you provide good service and a good product, you have reason to expect most of your ratings to be positive.  Those that aren’t positive provide valuable feedback for you to make improvements, and a highly visible arena in which to demonstrate your great customer service to woo back a less-than-thrilled former customer.

Your neighbors, customers and prospects are online, and they respond to businesses that reach them where they spend their time. Customers also like getting relevant messages and discounts when they’re on the move. Create your own highly local online PR and marketing strategy and reap the benefits!

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