Want to understand your DNA? There’s an app for that

Helix will sequence your genes for $80 and lure app developers to sell you access to different parts of it.AnalyticsAnywhere

A Silicon Valley startup called Helix is betting on the notion that not only do people want to learn more about their DNA, but they’ll also pay to keep interacting with it.

Today the company, which was founded in 2015 with $100 million from genomics giant Illumina, is launching its much-anticipated online hub where people can digitally explore their genetic code by downloading different applications on their computers or mobile devices. Think of it as an app store for your genome.

Personalized genetic information has become an affordable commodity. The early success of leaders like 23andMe and AncestryDNA, which sell DNA testing kits for $200 or less, has ushered in a wave of new companies offering direct-to-consumer genetic tests for everything from ancestry to the wine you should drink based on your DNA.

Most of these genetic testing kits are one-time deals. You spit in a tube, and your saliva is sent off to a lab to be analyzed. A few weeks later you get a long, detailed report of your genetic makeup. Helix CEO Robin Thurston says all that information can be daunting, and most people don’t come back to the data again and again.

With Helix, people will be able to choose the things about their genome they want to learn about. For an initial $80, Helix sequences the most important part of the genome—about 20,000 genes plus some other bits—called the exome. That information is digitized and stored by Helix, which doles out pieces of the information to companies selling other apps through Helix. “It’s our goal that someone will have a lifelong relationship with their DNA data,” Thurston says.

Other direct-to-consumer testing companies like 23andMe and AncestryDNA use a technology called genotyping to analyze a customer’s genes. Helix uses a more detailed method known as DNA sequencing, which yields about 100 times more information. So far, most people who have gotten exome sequencing, which can cost several hundred to more than a thousand dollars elsewhere, have been patients with rare or unknown medical conditions who hope their genes can provide more answers. Exome sequencing for healthy people is a new, untapped market.

From the consumer side, people will have to get their genes sequenced only once, then they can choose from different apps in categories like ancestry, fitness, health, and nutrition and pay as they go. About a dozen companies are debuting apps on Helix today, and each app is designed to tell you something different about your genome. Some are more medically relevant, like those that estimate risk for inherited cholesterol and heart problems, test for food sensitivity, or check to see if you could pass a serious genetic condition on to your child. Only the apps people buy will have access to their personal information.

One company, Exploragen, says it can tell you about your sleep patterns—like whether you’re a morning person or a night owl—just by looking at your DNA (in case you needed help knowing that one). Another company, Dot One, will examine the tiny portion of your genes that makes you different from everyone else and print that unique code onto a customized fabric scarf (because, why not?).

A third company, Insitome, has an app that will determine what percentage of your DNA you inherited from Neanderthals and what traits you inherited from them. Insitome CEO Spencer Wells says this initial app will cost $30.

Wells, who previously led the National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project, which mapped human migration throughout history by analyzing people’s DNA samples, says he likes the idea of Helix’s platform because it means that companies can develop additional apps as new scientific discoveries are made about the human genome.

Helix has also managed to attract major medical institutions like the Mayo Clinic and Mount Sinai Health System to develop apps for its store. Eventually, Thurston wants to offer hundreds of apps. He estimates the average customer will buy three to five apps each.

But having access to all these DNA apps might not be a good thing for consumers. Daniel MacArthur, a scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School who studies the human genome, says there’s a danger associated with mixing medically serious tests, such as disease carrier testing, with a range of lifestyle, nutrition, and wellness tests that have little scientific evidence to support them.

“Promoting tests with little or no scientific backing runs the risk of inflating customer expectations and ultimately undermining consumer confidence in genuinely clinically useful genetic tests,” he says.

Direct-to-consumer genetic tests, including ones that claim to predict disease risk, are loosely regulated in the U.S. That worries Stephen Montgomery, a geneticist at Stanford University, who says the Helix platform creates a bigger opportunity for companies to develop products that don’t provide much value to people.

“Helix will have to think very carefully about what apps to allow on the platform,” he says. The average customer probably can’t discern which products are based on sound science from those that aren’t, so he hopes Helix will have some way of evaluating the quality of information the apps provide.

Source: MIT Technology Review

Announcing the All-New Flipboard, the Place for All Your Passions

Most people are interested in lots of things, but true passions run deep. The all-new Flipboard is built around those obsessions that define your work, life and play.


Flipboard 4.0 is a response to our ever-growing ecosystem of publishers, Flipboard Magazines, topics and more. With over 30 million magazines created, thousands of publishers on our platform, and tens of thousands of topics—plus input from social networks like Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn—we re-imagined Flipboard to more effortlessly get you to the things you love. Long-time readers who follow lots of content should find a more streamlined experience, while new users will be able to dive right into their passions with minimal setup.

At the heart of this edition is the Smart Magazine, a new way to organize the world’s stories, curated by experts and enthusiasts, into continually updating collections that can be personalized by you. Your Smart Magazines have a sleek new ‘shelf space’—the Home carousel—for quick access to important and inspiring content about your passions.

Here’s how it all works:
•Swipe left to add a passion to your Flipboard. Let’s say you pick “Photography.”

Source: Flipboard

Apple Services have a huge quarter as App Store sees ‘record activity’

Apple breaks iPhone sales record with 78.3 million units sold in the holiday quarter

Apple just released its first quarterly earnings report of the new year, and the company was quick to share that it was a banner quarter for the company’s Services segment which topped $7.17 billion, growing 18 percent year-over-year from $6.05 billion in Q1 of 2016.

“Revenue from Services grew strongly over last year, led by record customer activity on the App Store, and we are very excited about the products in our pipeline,” CEO Tim Cook said in a press release from the company.

“Services,” which includes revenue from Apple’s digital content plays like iCloud, ApplePay, Apple Music, the App Store and other services like AppleCare has long been an increasingly critical market for the tech giant, especially as it sees some of its central hardware categories grow a bit long in the tooth.

In the earnings call following the quarterly release, Apple CEO Tim Cook detailed that he expected the company’s Services sector to double in the next four years, and that this year he expected revenues in the category to grow to the size of a Fortune 100 company.

He also detailed that the App Store saw around $3 billion in purchases in December alone, its largest month to date he said. Overall App Store sales saw a 43% year-over-year increase with an increase in both the number of accounts and the average revenue per account.

Last quarter, Services revenues popped above the company’s overall Mac sales but this quarter, holiday sales of the Mac grew to eclipse services yet again. This may be the last quarter we ever see this trend however as Services seem to blast off.

This growth all comes as Apple prepares to make the risky but potentially highly lucrative entrance into producing original digital content, though it will likely initially be bundled into the company’s Apple Music subscription.

Lucas Matney

4 App-Assisted Methods to Get the Most Out of Your 24 Hours

Whether you’re working a traditional nine-to-five from an office or turning a passion project into a lucrative side business from your garage, there are some days where you can’t seem to find enough time to get everything done.

And while mobile devices are supposed to help us be more efficient on the go, they can just as easily become the ultimate distraction. In our quest to multitask, we end up not completing any task. But used the right way, our phones — really tiny supercomputers — can help us shave hours off of our work week.

Here are four productivity tips to get more from your work day without disrupting your life.

  1. Be proactive, not reactive.

Ever find yourself scrambling from one task to another without a second to think where you might need to be and what to tackle next? Separate urgent from important by using a task management app to stay on top of your to-dos and save you from a flustered rush in the first place. Apps like Todoist and Accomplish allow you to make lists, prioritize tasks and set reminders to make sure you deliver the most important stuff on time.

Even getting to and from work, offsite meetings and networking events can easily eat up a big chunk of the day. The average person spends an equivalent of five weeks a year commuting, according to the recent Commuter Index from Citi. In urban areas, of course, there’s Uber and Lyft to get from point A to point B, but Waze and Beat The Traffic provide crowd-sourced traffic updates to give you a heads up about accidents and other hazards so you can minimize drive times. If you find yourself running low on gas, GasBuddy and Gas Guru help you find the most cost-effective options that won’t take you too far out of your way.

  1. Cut the cords.

When you have to get work done and can’t be in the office, you want the experience to be seamless and use features you’re already accustomed to when you are behind the desk. Tools like Office 365 bring the latest version of Office to all of your devices to create, edit, review and share documents no matter where you are. Whether you need to take a quick glance at a document from your kid’s soccer game, or make a business call while you’re walking the dog, having these tools on hand help you integrate work into your day to day.

Save time recapping your brainstorm or compiling your monthly expenses by turning your phone into a mobile scanner with the new Lens app. This tool can also save you time at networking events or trade shows by handily capturing information from business cards and saving it directly into your phone’s contact app. In addition, remote access apps such as LogMeIn and TeamViewer allow you to access and control your desktop from your phone or tablet, so you can grab and update important files that aren’t on your device.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Running a special project might lead to unexpected situations that throw a wrench in your time management for the day. If you need extra help to make sure everything gets executed on time, there are plenty of crowd sourced apps to lend a helping hand.

Companies like UpWork, TaskRabbit and Fiverr can help you find the talent you need when you need it. Whether you’re looking for a freelancer or someone to help you run last-minute errands for your event, these apps will get you the help you need without breaking the bank. Leadership is all about delegation — you can manage the overall process better and gain back valuable time to work through other items by getting help with the smaller pieces.

  1. Ditch the pen and paper to know your numbers.

Your financial data is digital, so it’s time you were too! From speaking with small business owners, we found that 52 percent still manage their finances in a spreadsheet or with pen and paper, which means more time spent attending to taxes around April 15. Jumpstart your taxes and save time by connecting your bank and credit card accounts, PayPal and ecommerce transactions to an online accounting app. It seems like a small task, but you’ll reduce pain at tax time and you’ll be doing yourself a favor by getting a holistic view of all of your finances.

From Entrepreneur

10 Great Apps Every Leader Needs to Be Effective

Let technology radically enhance your leadership.

It’s not enough for twenty-first-century leaders to focus on getting things done. They must also connect with employees to inspire performance. Digging deeper, top management today needs to marry purpose and meaning to each employee’s contribution. Amid these expectations, and these are but a handful, it’s easy for a leader to overlook herself.

A leader depleted of energy is no good to anyone. Turning to digital for solutions, the list below recommends apps to help you be more effective in your life professionally and personally.

The recommended apps are broken down into six categories to increase your leadership effectiveness.

Personal Growth: Deepen your skills through personal development
Communication: Increase clarity, awareness, and understanding within your team
Productivity: Get more done and have energy left to be who you need to be to people important in your life
Inspiration: Know how and why to inspire people
Creativity: Add fulfillment in your work through creating solutions to business problems
Collaboration: Strengthen how you get things done through others. Work is a team sport.

  1. Personal Growth

The Leadership Challenge: Hands down the best leadership app out there. Developed by the authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner and based on their best-selling book of the same name, this app gives you tangible actions to grow your leadership according to five leadership practices: Model the Way, Inspire a Shared Vision, Challenge the Process, Enable Others to Act, Encourage the Heart. Excellent app if you want to grow as a leader.

Igniter: There’s a saying, “Know what you stand for, or you’ll fall for anything.” To accomplish the first part of the saying, you need to know what your personal values are. Igniter, from Luck Companies, takes you through an automated process of identifying your core personal values. You ought to know what you stand for. Values are your true north.

Day One: Keep track of what’s important to you. Capture ideas. Record memories. Day One is a journaling app to help you develop a routine of reflection. The best leaders take time to reflect.

  1. Communication

Slack: My team of seven is completely virtual. Rather than overwhelm email with small requests or updates, of which there are many in a day, we use Slack. Think of Slack as texting on steroids. You can sync many other apps to Slack: Dropbox and Drive, for example. Try /giphy for some fun. Decrease unnecessary meetings and emails. Free up time to focus on higher-value leadership actions.

  1. Productivity

2Do: I’ve tried practically every Getting Things Done productivity app. I find 2Do to be the best. Imagine when you’re in a meeting and you volunteer to take on an assignment. Simply input the task(s) into 2Do and never lose track of your commitments.

Minute: Minute syncs with your calendar and guides you in creating agendas for meetings. You can share the agenda–people can access it on any device or computer. Take notes; capture action items from the meetings directly in the app. Then send the minutes to everyone quickly from within the app. There’s real-time collaboration functionality, too. Effective leaders run productive meetings.

TripIt: If you travel often, then you need TripIt. TripIt syncs with your email and mines it for travel itineraries. It groups them into trips automatically for you. No more digging through printed itineraries or searching through your email. The premium account will alert you when it’s time to check in, when a gate changes, or what gate you need for a connecting flight.

  1. Inspiration

Super Note: Imagine you’re driving and think of a great idea to celebrate your team’s recent success. Or as you’re walking from a meeting and into another, you think of a way to recognize a team member for excellent work. Super Note is a way to capture voice recordings, add pictures, and color code your notes for ease.

  1. Creativity

Post-it Plus: You brainstormed with your team ideas for rolling out a new product. With Post-it Plus you can snap a picture of the sticky notes and send it to everyone. You can even move the notes around and group them together from your device. You can even add new notes. This is a handy tool for brainstorming and capturing ideas even after the meeting ends.

  1. Collaboration

Zoom: Forget about Skype. Zoom is the collaboration tool for teams that have remote members or are virtual. The HD-quality video is superb. You can have up to 25 people participate in a Zoom session. There is breakout room functionality. You can whiteboard during meetings and screen share, too.

By having the latest technology in the palm of your hand or at your fingertips, you can lead more dynamically: You can accomplish more, grow as a leader, and connect more deeply with your team. Twenty-first-century leaders use technology not to be distracted but to be more effective.

Inc Magazine

15 Apps That Make Freelancer Life Easier

Figuring everything out on your own can be hard, so we asked freelancers what makes their lives easier. Here are their favorite tools.

Aside from actually drumming up business, a lot of the stress of freelance life involves staying organized and on task. Fortunately, technology is there to help us, but it’s not always clear what’s actually worth the cost or the time spent figuring it out. Here are some programs, apps, and tricks that successful freelancers swear by:

For Organized Writing

Chicago author and editor Wendy McClure turned me on to Evernote, which helped me out greatly when I was working on a story that referenced several articles and emails, which is what Wendy uses it for, too. When she has all her saved references in on space on the Evernote desktop or phone app, she says, “I can free up my web browser for other tasks, or just close it up if I want to stay offline to focus on my draft.” McClure also adds that the app is helpful for scanning receipts for tax purposes.

Scrivener is writing software that has seriously changed my life,” says Chicago health writer Cindy Kuzma. “I write a lot of medical articles that involve sourcing from research studies; Scrivener helps me stay organized by housing everything in one file and then by showing two files in split screen, so I can have the source material on one side and my draft on the other. I know I only use a small portion of its functionality; I think it’s worth at least double the $45 price tag.”

For Keeping Distractions At Bay

The internet is a distracting place. For those freelancers who can’t rely on good, old-fashioned willpower to stay focused, many swear by Freedom, a program that locks your computer off the Internet for as long as you command it. “It’s awesome for forcing oneself to actually write versus ‘write,’” says marketer Brooke O’Neill. Crucially, it talks to your phone as well, so you can’t cheat.

Some research says there’s a science to how long you should work uninterrupted. “Twenty-five minutes is a pomodoro—how long you can really work on something before you need a teeny break,” says writer Courtney Rubin. For those, she says, “I am as low-rent as it gets. I use a timer on my phone. I set it for 25 minutes, and I generally don’t check my email during that time.” When she has to source emails for a story, “I cut and paste it all into a Word document so I’m not tempted to cheat.” She will also switch the phone to airplane mode during this time so she won’t be distracted by notifications.

Pomodoros (named for the Italian word for tomato by a study-abroad student who coined the method using a tomato-shaped kitchen timer) can be set by your computer, too. “Every day I use TomatoTimer.com. It’s much faster and less unwieldy than setting the timer on your phone,” says editor and writer Lindsay Robertson. “There are also browser extensions that let you work in 25-minute increments and take a five-minute break and block social media sites, but I’ve found that sometimes I actually need to look at a social media site for work, and it’s annoying when it’s blocked.”

If you want to be hardcore, though: “In times of great desperation, I sometimes resort to Write or Die,” says Chicago writer Anne Ford. It’s a program that can be set to start deleting your text if you stop writing for too long.

For Keeping Your Finances In Order

When I first started out, pop culture writer Nathan Rabin referred me to Aynax, which he described as “perfectly adequate” when it comes to tracking invoices. Sometimes “perfectly adequate” is all you need. I then use an app called TinyScanner for sending off contracts. Robertson, meanwhile, recommends Harvest for invoices: “It is so incredibly easy that I don’t dread invoicing.”

HelloSign, says business writer Ann Logue, is a Gmail add-on that “lets me sign contracts without the horrible steps of printing, signing, scanning, then emailing. You click on the form, fill it out, and send it back. It saves a ton of time and energy.”

“I use Freshbooks for invoicing, time tracking, and expenses,” says Kuzma. “I really like that I can use it to take photos of my receipts for expenses, then I don’t have to hoard paper copies. The invoices themselves look professional, and I can either send them as pdfs or send an email directly through the program to my client.” Plus, her accountant can simply log into her account when he needs to do her taxes.

For Recording and Transcribing

For phone interviews I use an iPhone app called TapeACall (the pro version). It takes a few steps, but if I can figure it out, anyone can. It saves your recordings, and then you can export them to DropBox or anyplace you like for transcribing.

For taping Skype interviews, Ford says, “There’s a great add-on called Call Recorder. It pops up when you open Skype, and you just click a button to start recording a call. Super-easy, and it’s never failed me.”

Kuzma points out that Scrievener is also helpful for transcribing. “You can have a soundfile on one side and the transcript on the other, then use quick keys to pause and restart. Plus, there’s a feature that will automatically rewind a few seconds each time you restart, so you can get anything you might have missed.

For Deadlines And Reminders

I live in fear of forgetting an assignment or an appointment. My husband, producer Steve Delahoyde, was the one who told me about Wunderlist. “I like that it works across devices, so I have my to-do list everywhere and it’s always in sync. I also like the Pavlovian ‘ding!’ that sounds when you check something off,” he says. I also like that we now have a shared grocery list on it, so he has no excuse not to get what we need at the store when he’s there.

Speaking of mixing work and groceries, author and columnist Jolie Kerr likes AnyList. “I find really helpful for juggling household responsibilities with work, which can be really tricky when you work at home and can get easily distracted by the fact that you just ran out of olive oil.” She uses it to jot down shopping lists and errands. She also recommends the Chrome extension called Dayboard. “It lets you create a five-point to-do list that shows up any time you open a new tab. It’s super helpful for noting things like deadlines or reminders to send and check up on invoices.”


50 Free Apps To Make You An Incredibly Productive Person

Communicate with ease, tame your schedule, and get things done with these great tools.

You’re running a million miles an hour, trying to hold down a tight schedule full of tight deadlines on a tight ship. From messages to meetings to managing meddlesome minutiae, these 50 apps can help you work wonders with your otherwise limited time.

Email And Communications

Unify Your Inboxes

If you’re like most people, you’ve signed up for at least a handful of email services. CloudMagic (Android, iOS) does an impeccable job of tying popular email offerings together into one powerful, feature-filled app. It’ll handle your corporate mail with ease, along with Gmail, Yahoo, iCloud, and a host of others, and you can save messages to big-name note taking, list making, and CRM services.

Keep In Touch With Your Team

Instead of relying on a mish-mash of email, instant messaging, text messaging, and phone calls, Slack (Android, iOS, web) does a good job of streamlining things down into a real-time communications tool that can hook into a heaping helping of popular third-party services. You and your team discuss topics in different virtual channels full of updates, images, files, tweets, and links that are open for all to see, which can help keep everyone on the same page. The free offering lets you set up an unlimited number of users, archives 10,000 past messages, and can integrate with up to 10 services (here’s the full services list).

Procrastinate Smarter, Not Harder

Boomerang (web) lets you temporarily clear messages out of your inbox to return at a time and date you specify. It’s a dead-simple way to turn messages into individual reminders. You can also use it to prewrite messages and schedule them to be sent later as well. Want that client to think you’re working hard on their big, important project? Schedule an email to send out at 3:30 a.m., even though you’re writing it at 2 p.m. They’ll think you’re burning the midnight oil, even though you’re really burning a grilled cheese before a Netflix binge. The free version lets you play God with 10 messages each month.

Never Stop To Answer, “Where Are You?” Again

Glympse (Android, iOS, Windows Phone) is a simple but powerful way to share your location with people for up to four hours at a time—perfect for keeping your team informed about your whereabouts without having to constantly update them manually. Your invitees get a text message or email with a link they can use to track you, and they don’t need to have the Glympse app installed themselves, which is a big selling point.

Snag A Temporary Phone Number

Use Burner (Android, iOS) to set up a disposable phone number while you’re interviewing candidates or collecting bids on projects—especially those posted on publicly accessible sites. You get a free number to start with, which forwards to your main number but can have its own separate voicemail greeting. You can return calls using your virtual number so you don’t reveal your personal number, and once your project has wrapped up, you can torch your burner number to avoid being inundated with phone calls.

Talk Like You’re Texting

Cord (Android, iOS) blends the straightforwardness of text messaging with the expressiveness of phone calls. The app lets you bandy 12-second voice messages back and forth between your colleagues, either individually or in a group. The home screen shows little round bubbles with each of your fellow Cord users’ faces, along with how many messages you have from each. Tap each person to listen to their messages and then hold down to reply.

Make And Take Calls As Though You’re At Your Desk

If you work for a large-ish company, chances are you’ve got a fancy Avaya phone on your desk. If you do, you might be able to use the Avaya one-X Mobile (Android, BlackBerry, iOS) app to route calls to and from your smartphone while your clients are none the wiser. You can look up colleagues via your business’s phone directory and deal with your voicemail while on the go as well.

Create Quick Groups

Should you find yourself working on project after project, each time with different people, check out GroupMe (Android, iOS, web, Windows Phone). Assuming everyone knows how text-message works (right? right??), you’ll be able to quickly cobble together a private chat room where you can meet with coworkers, contractors, vendors, and clients. Once you’ve wrapped up one project, eighty-six the room and start over with your next group.

Harness Your Inner Nextel

Relieve the glory days of push-to-talk service. Voxer (Android, iOS) turns your phone into a walkie-talkie, letting you and your work buddies instantly bandy intel to and fro. If you’re at an event, for instance, you can add text, photos, and location information for some additional color, and if nobody’s home on the other end, you can leave old-school voice messages for them to listen to later.

Send Self-Destructing Notes

Privnote (web) helps you send messages electronically without leaving a paper trail. Simply write a note in the site’s Post-It-like interface and you’ll be provided with a unique URL. Send the URL to your recipient via email, text message, or any other method, and once they click the link, they’ll have access to the note, but the link and its message will get killed off for anyone who tries to access it in the future.

Scheduling And Meetings

Get Your Day Together Before Even Getting Out Of Bed

Load up Sunrise Calendar (Android, iOS, Mac App Store, web). It makes keeping a calendar . . . fun? Maybe not fun, but it definitely makes it not awful. Sunrise plays nicely with Google, iCloud, and Exchange calendars, connecting to your various accounts—Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, LinkedIn, and a host of others—to automatically pull in pertinent info for you. You’ll get birthday reminders, travel updates, weather forecasts, and maps to route you to your next appointment. Adding entries is a snap, too: just type in plain English (“Bike ride tomorrow at noon in Boston”) and the app will parse your meaning.

Schedule Meetings When People Can Actually Meet

Meekan (Android, iOS) not only hooks into the most popular calendar services, it’ll pinpoint everyone’s open time slots in order to schedule meetings when it’s most convenient. Setting meetings up entails little more than entering invitee email addresses, it takes time zones into account, and there’s a natural-language component that lets you enter things like “breakfast with John on Tuesday morning.”

Set Up Dead-Simple Conference Calls

Take a look at UberConference (Android, iOS, web). You can host an unlimited number of conference calls with up to 10 callers at a time, and there’s built-in call recording so you can play the calls back later. Guests can call in the old-fashioned way or connect to the conference via the web or mobile apps, which sport some additional features such as higher-quality audio. And the conference organizer has access to a nice web-based dashboard, with the ability to mute individual guests or text with each one privately. Not too shabby for zero dollars.

Get The Low-Down On Attendees

If you find yourself walking into a meeting with people you’ve never met, give Charlie (iOS, Web) a try. A few minutes before your meeting is supposed to start, the app will surface relevant info about attendees, pulling data in from hundreds of available sources—social apps, news articles, and more. Consider it a system for automated one-pagers that you can use to your advantage.

Make Presentations Pop

Prezi (Android, iOS, web) helps you create engaging, cloud-synched presentations that you can access from all sorts of devices. Companion mobile apps let you practice your presentations while you’re on your way to your meeting and control your presentations on the big screen once you’re there. You can even stream your presentations to remote attendees who can’t make meetings in person. The free version lets you create publicly viewable presentations, so you make sure you’re not outing any sensitive company info.


Tag-Team Your Docs And Spreadsheets

Quip (Android, iOS) injects a human element into an otherwise boring pasttime. It’s a relatively fully featured document and spreadsheet app that lets you and your cohorts work on things at the same time, tied together by a real-time chat system used to keep in touch alongside your documents. Files can be pulled in from popular cloud storage services and exported to Word, PDF, and Excel formats when they’re finished.

Quit Repeating The Same Tasks

Check to see if they can be automated with If (Android, iOS, web). The app works like a digital Rube Goldberg machine, connecting popular online services with one another. Let’s say your boss wants you to add every tweet you send out to a spreadsheet. Bo-ring! Formerly known as IFTTT—which stands for If This, Then That—the app can do that for you automatically so you don’t have to copy and paste tweets all day. And let’s say the same boss wants to get an email from you every time you add a new event to the company calendar. Yep: that can be automated too. It’s great for dealing with old-schoolers who always want to be “kept in the loop” without requiring a whole lot of effort on your part.

Digitally Detox

The tried-and-true CCleaner (Android, Kindle Fire, Mac, PC) scours your computers and mobile devices for excess crud—temporary files, cookies, old apps, and more—to clean out the cobwebs and, in turn, speed things up. Free versions of the app treat you to as-needed cleanups, which are plenty effective; paid versions offer real-time monitoring, automatic updates, lost file recovery, and premium support features.

Document Everything

Microsoft’s free OneNote app (Android, iOS, Windows Phone) is a note-taker on steroids that lets you type, handwrite, audio-record, snap photos, and more. Notes are saved and synched across devices, with different formats available—checklists, research, meetings, lectures—based on what you’re looking to do.

Fabricate A Form, Fast

Forget paper. If you need to whip up a form on the go, Canvas (Android, iOS) is worth a look. The app lets you cobble together custom forms—invoices, expense reports, checklists, work orders, and more—and sports additional features such as signature capturing and cloud synchronization. There are more than 5,000 prebuilt forms for you to finesse as you see fit.

Install A Ton Of Windows Apps At Once

Visit Ninite (Windows) for a great click-and-pick selection of popular Windows apps. Whether you’re setting up a new computer or want to update a bunch of your apps to their latest versions, the site will build you a customized one-time installer that packages up the programs you want and installs them all in one fell swoop: No need to go from site to site, sit through download after download, or weather installation after installation.

Get To Know Your Phone Better

Chances are, you probably haven’t fully tapped into all your phone’s features. Drippler (Android, iOS) provides Android- and Apple-specific versions that run down notable features, recent updates, and provide how-to articles that you can use to really get into the nitty-gritty of that handheld computer that’s always in your pocket.

Beef Up Your Brand

Like most businesses, it’s completely reasonable to think that much of your marketing strategy relies heavily upon popular social networks. Try Postfity (web) to manage your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus accounts. You can blast an update out to multiple accounts at the same time, or use the handy scheduling tool to dole your musings out at predetermined times. The free version lets you connect up to five accounts and schedule up to 10 updates.

Grab Screenshots In Seconds

FireShot (web) is a slick, lightweight screenshot tool that works with just about every browser to quickly grab whatever’s in your browser window. You can save the visible section of the page, the entire page, or a selection of your choosing, all with a single click. Once you’ve got what you need, you can download it as an image file, as a PDF file, or print it out.

Keep All Those Passwords Straight

If you use the same password for everything (don’t do it!), check out Dashlane (Android, iOS, web). It’s a password manager for mobile devices and desktops that keeps track of all your logins, automatically entering your credentials as you surf. The app will automatically generate new, super-strong passwords for you and can lock itself down if you lose your phone. The free version is limited to one device at a time.

Protect Your Email Address

Stop trading your email address for free stuff! MailDrop (web) lets you create a onetime address that disappears after you’re done with it—perfect for those quick-hit deals, downloads, and promotions. There’s no signup or passwords involved—by MailDrop’s admission, it should not be used for sensitive email—and you can store up to 10 messages should you need to engage in a bit of back and forth with your recipient. Leave your temporary mailbox untouched for 24 hours, and it’ll vanish forever.

Convert Videos With Your Eyes Closed

With several competing video formats out there, it’s hard to please everyone. Thankfully, Any Video Converter (Mac, Windows) makes it easy to convert a video from one format to another—or several videos from one format to another. Drag your videos into the app, and select from more than 150 possible output formats, all thoughtfully categorized for specific devices, web formats, and offline formats. Then hit the Convert Now button, grab a cup of coffee, and . . . well, that’s about it.

Let Your Phone Type For You

You’ve never really had a way with words, and scratching out screeds on a smartphone can be maddening. Try SwiftKey (Android, iOS) as a keyboard replacement. The more you use it, the more it learns about how you type, including the ability to pull data from popular cloud-connected services you use in order to return incredibly personalized predictions. Just type your first word and the app will suggest the next one right above the keyboard.

Surf Freely

The popular Betternet (Android, iOS, Mac, Windows) service provides a free, unlimited (albeit ad-supported) VPN connection that you can use to sidestep blocked sites and surf anonymously. There’s no signup required, making this one of the easiest—if not the easiest—VPN tools around.

Sync Your Stuff

There’s no shortage of file-shuttling solutions, but Daemon Sync (Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, PC) is worth a look, thanks to its sheer simplicity. Load the app up on your phone and install the agent on your PC or Mac, and every time your devices are on the same wireless network, your phone’s photos, videos, and other files you specify will seamlessly synch with the computer and get passed along to other mobile devices you have.

Troubleshoot Your Connection

Slow Internet? Maybe it’s actually slow, or maybe your device is acting up. Rule one of them out with Speedtest (Android, iOS, web). The service will connect you to a nearby test server so you can double-check your upload speeds, download speeds, and ping, with data relayed to you via a cool-looking speedometer.

Save Your Data

Few things sting more than a nice American data overage. In that spirit, Onavo (Android, iOS) works to preserve your precious data allotment. Tell the app how much you’ve got to work with each month, and it’ll compress various image files while you’re connected to your mobile network with smart tricks such as not loading images in your web browser unless you scroll down to the point that they’re in view.

Scratch Out Some Designs

If you’re not ready to tackle complicated prototyping and wireframing software, POP (Android, iOS) might be right up your alley. Short for Prototyping on Paper, you sketch your idea out on paper, snap a photo of it, and then trace around the elements on your phone to quickly create a digitized version of your design that you can manipulate as though it’s a live interface.

Edit Images Without Breaking The Bank

Photoshop may be powerful, but it’s also expensive. Paint.net (Windows) is free and features a lot of the same functionality, including a clean, straightforward interface and built-in effects along with the ability to use layers. There’s a vibrant user community as well, which offers up helpful tutorials and plugins to extend the program’s functionality.

Minimize Downtime

Like it or not, your website is probably going to crash once in a while. Montastic (web) can keep an eye on your site around the clock, sending you an email if your site goes down, and sending another one once it’s back up. The free plan lets you monitor up to three URLs at a time, and checks in every 30 minutes, while inexpensive paid plans shorten the check-in time to five minutes.


Get Your Ducks In A Row

When it comes to keeping track of life’s many, many tasks, Any.do (Android, iOS, web) offers plenty of options without being overly complicated. You can even forward an email message to turn it into a task—the 21st-century equivalent of stuffing Post-It notes all over your desk. And all your notes, tasks, and to-dos synchronize with the web-based version of Any.do so you can access them from just about anywhere.

Put Paper In Its Place

TinyScan (Android, iOS) helps you digitize the mountain of paperwork, receipts, and takeout menus threatening to split your desk in half. This very simple but effective scanner app lets you capture images as PDFs that you can email to yourself or save to Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, Box, and other popular cloud storage services. You can save documents in black and white or color, and you can string several snaps into single documents if you’re working with multiple items that belong together.

Take No-Fuss Notes

Simplenote (Android, iOS) focuses on letting you take quick notes without worrying too much about organization. All your notes are searchable and synch to other devices, with a built-in to-do list to help you stay on track if you need to get certain tasks done. If you’re not naturally super organized, this can be a good first step towards a slightly less messy lifestyle.

Group Your Google Tools

Handle (Chrome, iOS) pulls your Gmail, Google Calendar, and to-do list together into one handy dashboard. It turns your email messages into actionable items and serves them up in the middle column of a distraction-free interface, flanked on either side by your projects and your calendar. The iOS app lets you add new tasks via Siri as well.

Whiteboard Together

Finally, a way to experience the white-knuckled thrill of a . . . well, it’s still whiteboarding. Even if you’re not in the same room as your colleagues, you can share a real-time virtual whiteboard with SyncSpace (Android, iOS). Add text and doodles as a group, and when you’ve finally gotten all your ideas down, your whiteboard can be emailed around as a set of images or even edited later if you need to make some changes.

Running Your Business

Get Your Site Up And Running

Go with Weebly (Android, iOS, web). The freebie account sports a slick drag-and-drop interface with plenty of starter templates, free hosting, and the ability to sell up to five e-commerce products (Weebly takes a 3% cut of each sale). The mobile apps make updating your site with new content and sharing it on social networks a breeze as well. You can even build your site entirely from your phone if you’re feeling adventurous. Weebly is a good option for people who know they need some sort of web presence but don’t want to put too much time and effort into dealing with one.

Find An Office On Demand

Breather (Android, iOS) helps you forgo the expense of a fixed office, offering up “spaces” that can be rented out around the city for a half hour at a time. Meet with a client, respond to email while you’ve got some time between appointments, or just get off your feet for a bit. Spaces can be unlocked with your phone and sport Wi-Fi, power plugs, and charging docks. The service is currently available in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Montreal, and Ottawa, with additional cities on the way.

Make Your Mark

You don’t have to read a stack of books or sit through grad school to make sure your marketing’s on point. Primer (Android, iOS) is a handy Google-built app that dishes up easily digestible lessons and tips that you can peruse whenever you have a few minutes to spare. Topics include advertising, content, design, marketing, and more.

Don’t Get Delayed By Deliveries

Use Slice (Android, iOS) to track your packages from big-name retailers Amazon, Best Buy, Nordstrom, Walmart, and several others. The app automatically plucks your purchase info from your email account and serves up a trackable map of your item as it makes its way to your house. Best of all, after you’ve bought something, Slice will alert you to price drops that fall within the retailer’s adjustment window, making it easy to save on stuff after the fact.

Seal The Deal

If you need to make sure your legal bases are covered, use Shake (Android, iOS). This app helps you whip up contracts that you and another party can sign on the spot. There are preselectable templates available that you can customize to your liking. Contracts can be signed and then sent electronically for signatures as well.

Get Your Clients To Pony Up

Load up Zoho Invoice and Time Tracker (Android, iOS, web, Windows Phone). Easy-to-create invoices get top billing here, but Zoho adds some nice extras like time- and expense-tracking, recurring bills, and connections with online payment processors. The mobile app handles just about everything that the web-based version does, with a straightforward layout and similarly robust feature set. You can bill up to five clients using the free version.

Estimate Your Windfall

When tax season draws near, get an idea of how much moola you’re getting back or—gulp—how much you’re going to owe. TaxCaster (Android, iOS), from popular tax preparation provider TurboTax, asks you for some basic info and then estimates the final tally. Just enter your filing status, your income, and any tax breaks you’re expecting, and watch the dial at the top of the app (hopefully) move from red to green to indicate that a refund is headed your way.

Keep Your Finances In Order

The easy-to-use Mint (Android, iOS) app helps you corral all your financial accounts—banking, credit cards, loans, and more—to present you with a nice overview of how much money you have. As far as taxes go, the app does a good job of breaking all your purchases down by category so that you can find various deductions without combing through statement after statement from each of your financial institutions.

(Re)cover Your Tracks

Business mileage can be a big write-off, so a good tracker like MileIQ (Android, iOS) is a must. The app can auto-log miles for you by using your phone’s GPS, or you can manually add entries for past trips. It’ll show you how much of a deduction you’ll get—rates are currently 57.5 cents per mile—and entries are stored in IRS-friendly formats. The app lets you log 40 drives for free every month; monthly fees start at $6 thereafter.

Make A Plan To Expand

Try Centro Business Planning Tool (Android, iOS) if you’re looking for some guidance when cobbling together a new business plan. The app steps you through a series of questions that cover finances, operations, your value proposition, target markets and more. The app is structured as a string of activities; once you complete them all, you’ll have yourself a nice little business plan to work with.