Software tends to suffer from feature creep, because it's tempting and easy for developers to keep stuffing features into a program until it's crushed under its own weight. This assortment of simple, lightweight apps for Android and PC will help you tackle business tasks without bogging you down with unnecessary features.
The list offers a little something for everyone: invoicing software, a video converter, a basic Wiki for collaboration and archiving, a notes app, a sleek and gentle alarm clock, and an Android onscreen keyboard that acts just like your PC keyboard.
Simple, Efficient Apps for Small Business
Invoicing doesn't have to be a big fat pain, especially when your invoicing needs aren't very complex. SimpleInvoices does a nice job of packing a lot of functionality into a streamlined interface. It is perfect for people who want to create and manage invoices, and easily track paid, unpaid, and past-due invoices, without setting up a complicated customer relations management (CRM) and accounting backend.
Figure 1: SimpleInvoices dashboard; you are rarely more than one click away from what you want to do.
SimpleInvoices makes pretty invoices that you can export to multiple formats: PDF, XLS (spreadsheet), and DOC. You can send invoices to a printer or email with one click, and create estimates, quotes, and receipts in addition to invoices.
SimpleInvoices includes a statement generator and reports, such as total amount owed per customer, aging status, product sales, and product sales per customer.
You can install and run SimpleInvoices on your own Webserver for free, or take advantage of the hosting service for $10 per month. You access the program from any computer or portable device via Web browser, and it looks good on a 7-inch tablet, though a smartphone screen is uncomfortably small.
So there you are, all proud of the new promotional video you created. It looks and sounds great; it's engaging and informative, and you're ready to share it with the world. But you quickly learn that producing your beautiful video isn't the final step; converting it to multiple formats is the last step.
Your marketing people tell you that you need special mobile formats—and they're right. So what's a hardworking small business owner to do? Download the free Miro Video Converter to your Mac, Linux, or Windows PC, click a couple of buttons, and presto! Conversion accomplished.
Figure 2: The Miro conversion menu.
Miro includes a giant batch of conversion profiles for the Galaxy Tab, Kindle, iPhone, Playstation, Droid, and many more. If you like, you can dig under the hood to make your own custom conversion profiles.
But Miro is more than a nice easy audio and video converter; it's also a multi-media player and media library, so it makes a nice all-in-one media manager. It comes bundled with online media services such as YouTube, Hulu, Ted Talks, the Moth Radio Hour, and you can add your own.
Why do you want a Wiki? For managing your document archives, and controlling who has access to them. Computers have reduced our dependence on paper files, but they have made it way too easy to create vast digital archives full of nobody knows what.
Traditional Wiki software is complex to set up, and you need to know how to manage a database. DokuWiki is easy to install and use, and it doesn't require a database. It includes a set of access and authentication controls, and you can install plugins for extra functionality such as slideshows, charts, image galleries, YouTube video embedder, Google Maps plugins, media players, and scads more. Plus it has a search engine, built-in version control, and support for multiple languages. You can also use DocuWiki as a simple blogging platform, and as a public Wiki to share with partners and customers.
DocuWiki runs on any Webserver that supports the PHP programming language, such as Apache and Microsoft IIS, and is accessible via Web browser on any client. If your business runs Windows, go to dokuwiki.org/install:windows for prefab Windows installation packages. If your business runs Linux, go to Download DokuWiki!
Sure, Android note-taking apps are legion, but CrocodileNote is extra-nice. Unlike so many notes apps, it doesn't try to be a combination word processor/file manager/sync-with-the-world app. It just takes notes and organizes them in a simple file structure. It doesn't insist on a network connection, and it doesn't snoop on you.
Figure 3: CrocodileNote—note-taking the way it should be.
CrocodileNote does have some useful extra features. It supports strong encryption, and it logs you out automatically after 30 minutes of inactivity when it's in encrypted mode. In plain, unencrypted mode you can copy your notes to a PC over your normal Android connection, or store them on a removable SD card. It automatically creates hyperlinks from website and email addresses, and it exports to a Zip file for backup. CrocodileNote is open source and free of cost, though the developers won't object if you drop a few bucks into their PayPal tip jar.
5. Fake Dawn
They say that waking up is hard to do, so give Fake Dawn a try. Fake Dawn is an Android alarm clock that wakes you gently, starting at low volume and brightness, and gradually increasing until you shut it off. You can customize the screen colors and alarm tones, and it has a vibration mode, which is useful for gently maintaining alertness during long, dull meetings. Fake Dawn is open source and free of cost.
The Hacker's Keyboard for Android isn't just for programmers and hackers; this onscreen keyboard is for anyone who wants a proper five-row keyboard for their Android device. The Hacker's Keyboard supports more than 30 languages, offers separate number keys, placed the punctuation keys where they're supposed to be, and includes shift, tab, ctrl, and arrow keys.
Figure 4: Hacker's Keyboard for Android.
Obviously, the smaller a device's screen, the less-useful an onscreen keyboard becomes. If you do a lot of typing, then an external keyboard is better, and there are a lot of nice keyboards for tablets.
Fintie makes excellent Bluetooth folio keyboards for tablets; they're sturdy with crisp, clicky keys, and the keyboard and tablet fit together into an attractive leather folio. They turn tablets into wonderful little travel rigs. But even on small screens the Hacker's Keyboard is better than the default Android keyboard; everything you need is right there, like a PC keyboard, so you don't have to constantly switch modes.
Carla Schroder is the author of The Book of Audacity, Linux Cookbook, Linux Networking Cookbook,and hundreds of Linux how-to articles. She's the former managing editor of Linux Planet and Linux Today.
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