David Cieslak
Five apps CPAs should have on their smart device

Take your mobile productivity to a whole new level.

February 3, 2014
by David Cieslak, CPA/CITP

For all but the most tech-averse souls, smartphones and tablets have quickly become an integral part of our daily lives. In fact, our mobile devices have become so useful that many of us can now make it through much of the day without sitting down in front of a traditional computer. Much of the credit for that luxury goes to the quality of the applications that now run on these mobile devices.

There seems to be a mobile app for every conceivable purpose—productive or not. Some apps are essential and somewhat ubiquitous—calendar, email, weather, traffic, maps, and news readers (AP Mobile, The New York Times, USA Today, etc.). Others allow you to listen to music, watch videos, check sports scores, play games, and spend time on all kinds of frivolous and distracting activities. With so many choices, it can be difficult to figure out which apps are right for you. This article examines five classes of apps that CPAs should have on their mobile device. If you thought you were efficient with your smart device before, these add-ons will help take your mobile productivity to a whole new level.

File sharing
File-sharing apps enable users to seamlessly and effortlessly share files and content across multiple devices. Dropbox, the application that helped define this category of applications, is still one of the best file-sharing apps available today. When a user saves a document to their Dropbox or other file-sharing application folder on their desktop, the document can then be accessed, viewed, and updated on any other device running the same file-sharing app. This is all made possible because the file-sharing application automatically synchronizes the documents placed in the shared folder to a secure storage location in the cloud—which then makes any of these files available anywhere, anytime on any device that can access this secure cloud location. Files and folders can also be shared with other users, making this a great team collaboration tool. File-sharing applications also provide a great way to back up critical data to the cloud—a double bonus, if you will.

CPAs should be careful about what kind of information they share using file-sharing apps. Because of issues such as content accessibility policies that allow file-sharing vendors’ employees to view information in files, CPAs should think long and hard before using Dropbox or another file-share service to handle or store documents with confidential client information.

Additional products to consider: Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive (soon to be renamed OneDrive), and SugarSync.

Given their lack of a physical keyboard and smaller form, smart devices are often best used for consuming information. But for those times when you need to take a few quick notes, or view notes originally created on a desktop or laptop, notetaking apps such as Evernote are invaluable. Similar to Dropbox, Evernote synchronizes notes and information to the cloud and other devices. In addition, content isn’t limited solely to simple text. Notes can include links, pictures, tables, etc. Notes can be kept personal and private or shared with other users. So whether taking notes in an important meeting or creating a grocery list to share with the entire family, a notetaking/sharing app is one more “must have” for any smart device.

Additional products to consider: Microsoft OneNote, Quip, Springpad.

News aggregators
Most people get their news from a variety of sources—with each source presenting the information in a unique manner. Looking to make the experience more consistent, developers have created a novel breed of apps called news aggregators. Drawing from a variety of sources, curating content based on a user’s stated interest and presenting in a pleasant and easy-to-navigate format, these apps have become a staple on many mobile devices. Flipboard is a standout among the news aggregation applications. Mimicking the “page turning” experience, Flipboard collects all of the latest news and information into a single enjoyable presentation. Users can now view virtually all the news content they have an interest in from one app.

Podcast players
In the same way news aggregators collect and present relevant text, pictures, and video, podcast players do the same for audio content. Think of it as a custom radio station, playing content specifically designed for the end user. Stitcher is an invaluable podcast application that helps keep a user up to date with the latest breaking information. So whether listening on their daily commute or during a workout, users can stay constantly in the know.

A bevy of apps is available for smart devices for the seasoned traveler, but clearly, one stands out and we don’t recommend hitting the road without it! Initially, when a user makes travel reservations, he or she simply forwards a copy of the confirmation email to TripIt. The service then gathers these travel plans and organizes them into an easy-to-read, concise itinerary that can be viewed and managed from any smart device or via the TripIt website. With TripIt, users always have confirmation numbers, addresses, phone numbers, and check-in times handy on their smart device. TripIt also will notify users of any flight delays or cancellations and other travel alerts.

So there it is—several apps that will make your smart device even smarter. Once you’ve had an opportunity to outfit your smart device with these apps, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without them.

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David Cieslak, CPA/CITP, GSEC, is a speaker on accounting technology topics and a principal in computer consulting firm Arxis Technology Inc. Learn more about the company and its services at arxistechnology.com.