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Apps and online tools

Apps and online toolsThanks to the proliferation of clever apps for smart phones, it's easier than ever to stay productive while you're out of the office.

You can do nearly anything on your smart phone, from checking emails and arranging meetings to tweeting and working on documents.

The range of apps available to you will depend on what kind of mobile device you have. However, most popular apps are available for Apple iPhones and iPads, as well as Android phones and tablets.

If you use a Microsoft Windows Phone or a BlackBerry device, you may find that you have a smaller selection of apps from which to choose.

Which are the best apps for businesses?

There are apps for everything. There are apps to help you organise your task lists and prompt you with reminders. There are apps to help you remember your passwords. There are also apps to help you access and share files. You can even organise your thoughts with mind-mapping apps.

Social networking apps allow you to keep up with the conversations on Twitter and manage your activity on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social networks.

There are also many location-based apps. These use GPS technology to help you find where you are going and also to show potential customers where your business is. (Always forgetting where you parked? Some apps allow you to tag the spot.)

Can I develop my own app?

Many businesses have developed their own apps. However, think carefully before you create one for yourself or your customers.

If you want to build an app for you and your staff to use, there's an excellent chance that an app already exists to do what you need. If you haven't found it yet, it might just be that you haven't searched enough.

Alternatively, a mobile app can be a good way to build a closer relationship with your customers, but only if it delivers something they want and can't get elsewhere.

With over 1.5m apps available for Apple devices alone, yours has to be really special to stand out. It's easy to spend a lot of money on an app that attracts very few users, so think carefully and do plenty of research before going ahead.

Also, remember that an app can only work on the type of device for which it is designed. It takes significant effort to create an app for all the major mobile platforms.

For most smaller businesses, it usually makes sense to invest in a website that functions properly on mobile devices. Once you've done that, you can consider whether an additional app will really hlep your company.

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