Apps at work

Business & Tech

I have a ton of apps in my iPad and iPhone. Majority of these fall into the seemed like a good idea at time category (i.e. I don’t use them). I do however use a select few. Some to the point of “I need it and depend on it”.

A little bit of background on what I do before I start:

  • I work in projects around the banking and technology sectors
  • I maintain 2 blogs
  • I’m doing some web development on the side.

I therefore historically bought apps that would help me in the above. Here are the ones I rate.

Mindmapping

Why: De-clutters the the mess in your head and organises thoughts logically. And mind you (had to get that in there), I use mind-mapping for all sorts of things so it’s not limited to using it for work purposes.

Apps: Mind Node, Simple Minds, Pearltree

  1. Mind Node is my personal fave and looks like the more traditional mind map tool out there. It is not as visual as other mind mapping tools, but it is the most effective in terms of the ease of use and speed in expressing thoughts.
  2. Simple Minds is another app that I would highly recommend and particularly works well on the smartphone (once again in terms of its ease of use and speed).
  3. Pearltree is a recent addition and is more social than the rest. This app has a big social aspect to it as it has the ability to share your favourite links (or pearls) with the Pearltree community.

Sample: Here’s a mind map I created using Mind Node for my Tech Blog post. Something like this would take approximately 5-10 minutes to do (so it’s pretty quick).

Mind Map example

Visualisation

Why: If you can see it, you can express it and write about it. And of course it helps communicate your message across.

Apps: Graffio, Zamurai, Sketches

  1. Grafio breaks 2 of my most important rules; the functionality takes time to learn and well, it takes time to do stuff too once you’ve learned. But despite that, it’s my numero uno for visualisation as the end output has quality written all over it.
  2. If the guys at Zamurai keep at it, they’ll rank on par with Grafio soon. They are still a few more icons away before being on par with the mighty Grafio – but if you’re looking for a visualisation tool that’s easy to use, then look no further.
  3. The catch with apps like Sketches is that they work best with a stylus (or at least that’s the way I work it). But once you have one, this app is pure magic to work with!  n.b. this app is so similar to Paper, but I just find that this app has a little bit more brushes and options (which makes all the difference).

Sample: I used Grafio to create this presentation as part of the Shut it Down post.

Life Risk scenario analysis

Wireframes

Why: Let’s see what the Wiki says about this: “website wireframe, also known as a page schematic or screen blueprint, is a visual guide that represents the skeletal framework of a website.” It’s basically a good idea to connect the dots between concept and design – and creating wireframes is a good way to help confirm / refine requirements.

Apps: Mocking Pad, iMockups

  1. Mocking Pad produce low-fidelity, unpretentious wireframes which is essential in the initial design process. Like all good apps, you don’t need to read the HELP section – you can simply open the app and work it out as you go along (which is the real magic with this app)
  2. iMockups produce higher-fidelity wireframes and like Mocking Pad is easy enough. Use this app when finalising your website design – the quality is there!

Sample: A Mocking Pad sample of a form and it’s submission.

wireframe

UML

Why: For expressing the components of a system and it’s many moving parts, UML is modeling language to use. I’ve been known to use Excel for this, but really there are better tools out there. The below are a couple I’ve stumbled upon with the iPad.

Apps: Astah Pad, Sequence IT

  1. Based on the site, Astah Pad does more than just class diagrams. It’s also used for ER diagrams, Sequence, DFD’s and many others. But the available app only does the class and object – which mind you is plenty good anyway.
  2. It’s unfortunate that a few people have bypassed SequenceIT for their UML sequence diagram needs. There may be other apps out there with more functions, but the functions this comes with, does the job with minimal fuss.

Now a disclaimer for this UML section: the last time I used these 2 apps was a little bit over a year ago so there may be other tools out there that may work better or the latest releases may have issues (I sure hope not!). But these 2 did the trick when I last touched them.

Sample: Here’s a very basic example using SequenceIT.

UML Sequence diagram

Unfortunately there were no good Use Case apps to note. I had a couple but they’re not even worth writing about.

Writing

Why: For obvious reasons. And I would just like to add that everyone needs an outlet to express themselves; writing gives us that freedom.

Apps: WordPress, Google Drive, Evernote

  1. WordPress There’s not much to say is there? There’s a reason why I chose WordPress as my blog of choice; it is function-rich, well supported, and configurable enough to suit your needs. If you want to write, start a WordPress site right now!
  2. Evernote provides such an elegant writing solution from your PC / MAC, to the interface provided in your tablet and smartphone. It comes in as an indispensable second for me.
  3. Google Drive makes its appearance here for its document and sharing solutions. In addition to this, you can fire up a presentation or a spreadsheet if need be (more below).

Sample: Well the best example really is this site. But just to be different, here’s what my local PC Evernote looks like.

evernote

The local app has a sync button which, for obvious reasons, provides you with the ability to sync your local work to the net. And from there on in, you can proceed to retrieve your latest document using your smartphone, tablet (using the Evernote apps) or your local C once again.

Cloud Services

Why: For storage reasons. Store your documents, presentations, photos and everything else in-between in one of these and you will never miss a beat.

Apps: Google Drive, Dropbox, Skydrive

  1. Google Drive is here at number 1 for its apps. From its common document, spreadsheet and presentation to the non-standard project app, drawing and everything else under the sun. Lately, I’ve been using the spreadsheets to create my JMD graphs and they work amazingly well.
  2. Dropbox are the guys that started this entire craze and I still use it for some of my older files. On a side note, if you’re using this as pure file storage then I really don’t see a lot of difference between this and Skydrive.
  3. Skydrive is easy enough to use and looks / feels very similar to Dropbox. They may have come later on to the party but there’s really not a lot that sets them apart.

Sample: I have my Job Market Demand (JMD) folder here on the old Google Drive:

Drive

Since I use an iPad and iPhone, I am not sure if these same apps are available on an Android – I am sure most of these are there though.

Do you have any apps not mentioned here? I would love to hear about them.

PC @ MMA

3 thoughts on “Apps at work

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