By March 7, 2013 Read More →

Apps and tools for the paperless home worker

Part 2 of home worker Alan Williams’ paperless experiment

Work from Home Wisdom - apps and tools for the paperless home worker, Alan WilliamsIn part one I looked at the practical aspects of becoming a paperless home worker. This time I’m sharing some of the apps and other gadgets that I’ve used to make this happen.

A caveat before I start though; I used an iPad for my experiment, so for those thinking of giving this a go with other tablets or gadgets, some of these apps may not be available to you.

1) Dropbox
In my opinion Dropbox, or a similar cloud based storage system, is essential for a home worker to work in a paperless way. You need somewhere you can store all of those reports that you need to read, and the notes of meetings that you have taken, without taking up valuable storage space on your device. I used Dropbox, with a simple free account, and with a folder simply named “Work”.

2) Notes Plus
I trialled a number of different note-taking apps, and other than the generic notes program that comes with the iPad I found this to be the most versatile, and reliable of them.
It allowed me to take notes either via the iPad keyboard or in handwriting using a stylus, and linked to my Dropbox account, so that I could access the notes from my desktop if needed. It has a good folder system, which meant that I was able to keep notes by individual project, and then for separate meetings for each project.
For longer project notes or report drafting I used IAWriter, and an external keyboard, but I was normally able to programme my work around being near a laptop or desktop for this.

3) Wunderlist
Wunderlist is a task management app. A tool that I find essential for tracking what I am supposed to be doing, and for replacing the hand-written ‘To-Do’ list that I used to keep in the back of my regular notebook.
Again I played with a number of different versions of task management apps. I settled on Wunderlist, because it was simple; gave me the level of detail that I needed to add to each task; and it was free. It also comes with versions for desktop and iPhone, which sync across the different devices.

4) CloudOn
This gives full access to MS Office files, but needs a good continuous connection to work properly. As a home worker on the move this app became more of a liability that a help, and I eventually ended up removing it from my app.

5) Email
I used the native iPad email app. It did everything that I wanted to and synced with both my work Exchange account and my gmail account.

6) Calendar/diary
As with my email, I was using the native calendar app on the iPad, and it worked very well, but I did have to remember to sync it regularly to keep my work appointments up-to-date.

7) Stylus
I tried a number of different ones, including the Stablio Smart ball, Duronic IS10 and the Wacom Bamboo Duo. All of these come as a stylus tip on one end and a conventional pen at the other.
For taking handwritten notes on the iPad, the Wacom and Duronic were the best (and also the most and least expensive respectively). The Smart Ball was okay, but a little bit unreliable for taking notes with, and it kept missing parts of words, leaving notes unreadable on the screen.

8) Keyboard
I did use a Bluetooth keyboard occasionally when doing a lot of report writing on the iPad, and if having to take extensive notes, but mostly I made do with the built in keyboard on the iPad. Ultimately I ended switching note taking back to a pad and pen.

You can take a peek into what else is in Alan’s work bag in our What’s in Your Bag? series. And find out more about Alan’s dogs, books and his crime fiction on his blog

Have you tried becoming a paperless home worker? Let us know your recommendations for apps and tools, and whether you agree with Alan’s findings.

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