You work hard running your business, so why not let your iOS device do some of the heavy lifting? With the right apps, your iPhone or iPad can help you take notes, update your calendar and even balance the books. Here are our top picks.
Microsoft Excel, Word and PowerPoint (Free)
Don't confuse these apps with the old, limited Office Mobile app, which was intended to let you make basic edits to documents, spreadsheets and presentations on an iPhone or iPad. Instead, these are full-fledged mobile versions of Excel, Word and PowerPoint. All of the apps are jam-packed with advanced formatting and editing features, although they don't include quite as many options as the desktop versions. They're also beautifully designed and touch optimized, with big, easy-to-tap buttons. Unfortunately, they only work on iPads; iPhone users should stick to Apple's own iWork suite (which includes Pages, Numbers and Keynote).
Microsoft's new email app for iOS is packed with perks for business users, especially if you already use Outlook to manage your inbox at the office. Outlook for iOS fully integrates with the desktop Outlook calendar, so you can send and accept meeting invitations via email and then receive alerts when it's time to meet. You can also access your full calendar right from the app to review appointments and schedule new ones. We also like the app's Focused Inbox feature, which intelligently sorts your email to keep important messages at the forefront.
Microsoft's OneNote app for iOS is a great pick for workers, since it integrates natively with the desktop version of Microsoft Office. Everything punched into the OneNote app is automatically synced across Microsoft's cloud storage platform, so you can access your notes using the OneNote app on any desktop computer. What makes this setup extra convenient is that OneNote comes pre-loaded on just about every Windows 10 system out there. Plus, the app is just plain well-designed, balancing powerful features with an easy-to-use interface.
There are plenty of good cloud storage platforms for iOS, but OneDrive is our top pick for business users, thanks to its tight integration with Windows. The app lets you access your files from anywhere on your iPhone or iPad, including documents saved to your Microsoft Office account. And PC users don't have to download any extra apps to get the system working; just drag files into the OneDrive folder on your PC, and they'll be backed up to the cloud automatically. As with other cloud storage systems, you can even recover deleted files and revert to previously saved versions, to give you a little peace of mind.
CamCard (99 cents)
Even in the digital age, swapping business cards is still one of the best networking tools for entrepreneurs. But cards are easy to lose, and manually inputting all that contact information into your address book is a time-consuming chore. Thankfully, the CamCard app can automate the process. Just point your iPhone or iPad camera at a business card and snap a photo. CamCard's text-recognition software will extract key details like names, addresses and contact information, and then update your address book automatically.
GoToMeeting is a solid videoconferencing app with good options for business users. For starters, the app lets you host virtual meetings with up to 25 attendees joining remotely from just about any Web-connected device. And with its built-in invitation system, it can also streamline the process of scheduling a meeting. Plus, it has handy features like speaker identification, so you always know who's talking in a crowded meeting. You can share your screen with a few taps, which is great for remote presentations. You can even share your keyboard and mouse controls with other attendees to collaborate on a project from anywhere.
Access your work PC
Microsoft Remote Desktop (Free)
Your work PC has everything you need for a productive day, including your programs, files and documents. But what if you can't make it into the office? A good remote desktop application like Microsoft Remote Desktop can be a lifesaver in those situations. The app works like a direct portal back to your desktop computer, letting you virtually view your Windows desktop, and even remotely control Windows programs from your iPhone or iPad. Using the app is as simple as installing a client application onto your workstation so it can mirror your desktop on the screen of your mobile device.
Square Register (Free)
What if your small business could accept credit cards and didn't need a lot of special equipment to do it? That's the idea behind Square Register, a mobile payment app that lets you process customer payments using your iPhone or iPad. Once you sign up, you can request to receive a credit card reader dongle in the mail. Plug the accessory into the headphone jack on your mobile device, and then swipe a credit card to accept a payment from anywhere. As with all card processing services, Square takes a cut of each payment. But face it: If your business doesn't accept credit cards, you are losing out on business.
FreshBooks (Free to download with a FreshBooks subscription, starting at $20/month)
FreshBooks is a full-featured mobile accounting app with solid cloud integration and an easy-to-use interface. Most important, the app lets you record and track your business's expenses and profits. Then, there's extra functionality, like a feature to track how long you or your employees spend on a project for easier invoice generation. And like any good accounting software, FreshBooks can help you file your taxes.
Slack is an instant messaging service built for business. Unlike basic SMS text messaging, Slack conversations are encrypted by default, to ensure your private messages stay private. And it's packed with productivity-boosting features like easy file sharing and powerful archiving, so you can easily find a message from months ago. Even better, Slack keeps all your conversations synced across devices, so you can chat whether you're on your phone at your office PC.