I travel about 80% of the time for business and rely on mobile applications for productivity while on the road. I have tested and researched many mobility applications for the iPhone and iPad and came up with the following list for those looking to minimize the need to carry around a laptop:

What’s New:

Docusign- Ink Use for signing or editing documents in most common formats, including PDF and MS Office. Alternative to computer/laptop PDF editor (such as Acrobat) and eliminates need to print, physically sign, and scan/fax.  Previous recommendation for signatures was “Easysign,” a Pay App.  Docusign-Inc does everything EasySign does, and more, plus, it’s a free App.

Xpenser- Great for expense management.  No need to save receipts.  Quickly record your expenses, snap a picture of your receipts, add notes, and later generate electronic or hard-copy customized reports.

Evaluating:

Jump- Easy remote screen access to PC or MAC.  This is a Pay App but best I have been able to find so far.  Looking for easier, cheaper alternatives.

Password Management-  In search of a better way.  “1Password” is popular but I’m not there yet.  Will give it a look however.

Bookmark Synchronization-  “XMarks” used to be the solution for bookmark synchronization across devices and different browser types.  When company changed ownership, functionality degraded so I’m using Firefox Synch and manual updates for other browsers.  Looking for a better way.

Previous Unchanged Recommendations:

iMExchange2- App for keeping tasks and notes in synch with Outlook Exchange across adevices.

Evernote- Use for keeping meeting notes and documents organized, easily accessible, and in synch across devices.

DropBox- Best cloud storage application I can find, and I’ve used a bunch, including MobileMe.

Print n Share- Application for printing documents directly from your mobile device. You do not need to be on the same WiFi network to do so as it works over 3G.

JotNotPro- Use for scanning via a mobile camera, converting to PDF, and emailing. Eliminates need for scanner and fax.

QuickOffice– Office applications for the iPAD. Compatible with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. For iPhone, DocsToGo is best I have found.

Penultimate– Eliminates need for pad and paper. Enables digital storage and filing of handwritten notes on iPad, and conversion to digital format, including PDF. Alternate App: NoteTaker HD

 

Note: These applications were tested and used on an iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, Macbook Pro running Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion, and a Dell Latitude E600 Running Windows 7 Pro. I purchased them all on the Apple App Store. I expect many would be available on Android, RIM, or Microsoft App Stores.

Productivity:

  • Google Calendar- Extension and App
  • Google Tasks- Extension and App
  • Google Scratchpad-  App used for notes
  • Google Docs- App for word processing;  compatable with Word
  • Google Sheets-  App for spreadsheets;  compatable with Excel
  • Google Slides-  App used for presentations;  compatable with Powerpoint
  • LucidChart-  App used for drawings;  compatable with Visio

Utilities:

  • Click to Print- Extension for one-click printing from Chrome
  • Pocket-  Extension to save web pages and read later
  • CleanSave- Extension to print cleansed text/articles from Chrome (removes extraneous info)
  • Google Drive-  Extension and App to save to the drive
  • Send Link with Gmail- Extension to forward current web page via Gmail account
  • Screen Capture-  Extension to Cut and paste screen or portions thereof
  • AddThis-  Extension for easy social networking shares
  • Google Dictionary-  Extension
  • XMarks-  Extension for bookmark synchronization
  • Click & Clean-  Extension to clean up web info
  • AdBlock-  Extension

Extensions can be obtained from the “Tools” menu in Chrome.  Apps  from the Chrome Web store.

For email management on an Exchange Server, I have yet to find an iPhone or iPad application that performs better than the RIM Blackberry, and I haven’t been a Blackberry user since 2009. Specifically, I am referring to managing email folders and files from a mobile device. I have also found the Blackberry more reliable in managing and saving drafts compiled on an airplane or in offline mode.

Although the iPhone is great and does many things better than a Blackberry, the RIM Blackberry was (and likely still is) the best device I have used for Exchange Server Integration. Case in point, I just lost hours of emails stored in my IOS outbox while on a plane…Unrecoverable! Never happened in 8 years as a Blackberry Power User.

It will be interesting to see if future releases of IOS improve this capability and how the RIM “Blackberry 10” platform evolves.

Solid State Drive Upgrade Improves Performance Significantly

If you are in the market for a new laptop, you may wish to consider upgrading the hard drive and RAM instead of purchasing a new machine. I did it myself for my three-year old Macbook Pro (13-inch mid-2009 model, Intel 2.53 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo) and it works like a new machine.

My Macbook was running very slow and I completed various maintenance procedures to improve the hard drive that came with the machine. When the hard drive malfunctioned, I brought to the Apple Store and they verified I needed a new hard drive. Instead of having the Apple Store replace the drive out-of-warranty, I went to Fry’s Electronics and purchased a 256GB Solid State Drive (SSD). I would have purchased a 128GB SSD but the store was out. You can get a 128GB SSD for about $150. A 256GB SSD will run around $400. I purchased the Patriot Wildfire 256GB SSD, installed it myself, and it worked great. Performance is much improved.

If you simply wish to replace the hard drive with a conventional HD, and internal storage capacity is important, they are available for about half (or less) the cost of the SSDs. Speed and performance were the most important to me and most of my data is either stored on an external HD or the cloud.

Bottom line, my MacBook Pro with the $400 SSD upgrade now performs at close to Ultrabook speed. A similarly equipped current model Macbook Pro would cost over $2,000. ​The installation was easy and I was able to restore my operating system and software with Time Machine (be sure to prepare a boot disk).

RAM Upgrade

For about $50, I was able to buy an 8GB RAM upgrade that I will be installing next. More on that in a future post…

Update
Upgraded to 8GB RAM on the 2009 Macbook Pro and it complimented the SSD. It’s like a new laptop and I expect to have it now for a few more years.

Also performed the same SSD and RAM upgrades on my 2-year old Dell Latitude E6400 with the same results. Installed a Crucial 228GB SSD, purchased on Amazon.com for about $350.

Overall these component upgrades are much less expensive than purchasing a new laptop or Ultrabook with SSD capabilities. I do expect to purchase an Ultrabook the next time I actually buy new laptops but for now, I am enjoying the enhanced performance on both my 2009 Macbook Pro and 2010 Dell Latitude E6400 with their new SSDs and increased RAM.

If you’re looking to synchronize your bookmarks across different browsers and devices (including smartphones), so am I! There used to be a program that did this brilliantly, “FoxMarks,” which had an ownership change, and merged with “XMarks.”

FoxMarks used to work. XMarks has limitations, especially across different browser types.

Unfortunately, XMarks does not work across all different platforms well, and creates many duplicates and errors. I integrate across Safari, Firebox, ad Internet Explorer on several devices including a Macbook Pro, Dell Latitude, iPhone, and an iPad. Somewhere in the integration of these platforms and devices, things go haywire. I’ve tried for months to isolate the issue, but today, have decided to abandon XMarks and look for other solutions as it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

Initial solutions I plan to evaluate include:

-Native Firefox and Safari Utilities
-Google Utilities (although it seems may force Chrome use)
-Other third-party solutions (TBD, limited to date)

Check back later for findings and recommendations…

Update on Synch Apps available February 2012:

After researching for a few hours and trying different options, I’ve come to the conclusion, that there are not now applications that can adequately synchronize bookmarks across different browser types. XMarks used to work before a change in ownership. For now, I am using both Firefox Synch and iCloud, and manually reconciling across platforms. I’ve found the manual effort is worth the trade-off of continuously reconciling cross-browser synchronization errors.

This blog entry will begin to outline my recommendations for non-productivity apps for leisure, news, and entertainment.

NEWS:
With so many choices, the following offer the easiest use, minimal ads, and flexibility.

Flipboard- By far the best app for The iPad. Allows user to specify categories and sources. Alternate recommendation for this type of content is Pulse.. I’ve tried Livestand, the new Yahoo app, and simply don’t like it.

Wall Street Journal- I have been a web content pay subscriber for years and would not have recommended the apps in the past due to the incremental fees WSJ used to charge for the privilege of viewing content you already bought, optimized for mobile. The mobile access fees are now waived or reasonable, although the ads are annoying.

USA Today- Free app, easy to navigate, comprehensive content.

The Onion- Satire news that I find amusing. Funny videos.

SPORTS:

Sportstap- Easy to navigate sports scores, news, standings, and live updates for games in progress. Note, I’ve tried other sports apps such as ESPN, CBS Sports, among others, but find them more difficult to navigate.

NFL Sunday Ticket- I used the app one Sunday during football season, and it was great. I was able to view multiple games simultaneously and flip between games with ease. Too bad DirecTV’s customer service is not very helpful. They will lock you into any contract you sign so beware.

MLB.com- Great for the playoffs and world series, especially if you at traveling. You can view the games live.

COMING SOON:
My recommendations for entertainment, travel, personal finance, books, multimedia, and reference

Siri Assistant, no more-

First, I will comment on Siri and it’s predecessor Siri Assistant, which was a free application, previously available on the iPhone 4 and 3GS. It’s a great application and works as advertised. Unfortunately, it’s now only available on the iPhone 4S as an integrated service, so if you don’t have an iPhone 4S, you can’t use Siri Assistant anymore, unless you jailbreak your phone.

Vlingo, free alternative for non-iPhone 4S-

I have found another free application, that has slightly different functionality, but is virtually the same. It’s called “Vlingo” and available in the App Store.

I travel about 80% of the time for business and rely on mobile applications for productivity while on the road. I have tested and researched many mobility applications for the iPhone and iPad and came up with the following list for those looking to minimize the need to carry around a laptop:

iMExchange2- App for keeping tasks and notes in synch with Outlook Exchange across adevices.

Evernote- Use for keeping meeting notes and documents organized, easily accessible, and in synch across devices.

DropBox- Best cloud storage application I can find, and I’ve used a bunch, including MobileMe.

Print n Share- Application for printing documents directly from your mobile device. You do not need to be on the same WiFi network to do so as it works over 3G.

JotNotPro- Use for scanning via a mobile camera, converting to PDF, and emailing. Eliminates need for scanner and fax.

Jump- Easy remote screen access to PC or MAC.

QuickOffice– Office applications for the iPAD. Compatible with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. For iPhone, DocsToGo is best I have found.

EasySign (not primary recommendation, see below) Use for signing or editing documents in most common formats, including PDF and MS Office. Alternative to computer/laptop PDF editor (such as Acrobat) and eliminates need to print, physically sign, and scan/fax.

Docusign- Ink does everything EasySign does, and more.  Also, It’s a free App.

Penultimate– Eliminates need for pad and paper. Enables digital storage and filing of handwritten notes on iPad, and conversion to digital format, including PDF. Alternate App: NoteTaker HD

Xpenser- Great for expense management.  No need to save receipts.  Quickly record your expenses, snap a picture of your receipts, add notes, and later generate electronic or hard-copy customized reports.

Note: These applications were tested and used on an iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, Macbook Pro running Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion, and a Dell Latitude E600 Running Windows 7 Pro. I purchased them all on the Apple App Store. I expect many would be available on Android, RIM, or Microsoft App Stores.

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Frank DeJoy’s Travel