10 Helpful & Useful Apps for Small Business

By now, you’ve probably used a fair share of apps in your entrepreneurial endeavors. If you’ve recently got into business or working on a few projects on the side, there are a number of useful, free or affordable apps that can help you grow your business with ease.

The top ten apps, in my opinion, aren’t specific to small business, but are exponentially helpful for anyone who wants to be productive and efficient with their time with powerful apps. I’ve also tossed in a few extras that you might want to consider. You’ll gain a lot of efficiencies in terms of capability, speed, cost and quality of work produced in your business. Oh, and most of these apps are free or very cheap.

10 helpful and useful apps for small business lg 10 Helpful & Useful Apps for Small Business

  1. Firefox – Firefox was an alternative (now, mainstream) browser of choice. It’s less susceptible to malware and maintains high performance throughout its access of Websites. In addition, Firefox supports the usage of thousands of addons at their fingertips and take advantage of the best of the open-source development community.  Supports cross-platform usage.
  2. OpenOffice – OpenOffice, an open-source office suite is an underrated office suite that is very suitable for many small businesses and entrepreneurs. While not necessarily a head-to-head replacement for Microsoft Office, OpenOffice is a great core set of apps that that allow you author documents, presentations and spreadsheets with ease. Supports cross-platform usage.
  3. Pidgin – If you’re like many people, you need answers quick and even enjoy idle conversation with people. One pain many people have is their Instant Messaging software contains ads, has intrusive pop-ups and drains system resources. With Pidgin, you can connect to nearly any IM network that you use (even internal XMPP-based ones) and it makes IM’ing a flawless experience. Supports cross-platform usage.
  4. Adium – If you have a Mac, this is the preferred IM client to use. Not only is it attractive, packed with many Mac-friendly features, it also is easy on the system resources. Connects to many IM networks similar to Pidgin.
  5. FileZilla – For those who manage their Website or have a server they need to store files publicly, FileZilla is a great FTP client to help small businesses manage their Website without clunky editors (CoffeeCup … FrontPage, anyone?). It cross-platform friendly and supports secure FTP transfer protocols (SFTP/SSH) so you can be safe that no one will sniff your credentials [easily].
  6. Komodo Edit – The secret weapon of choice by our Web guy. I was turned onto this app because of it’s insane ability to make coding HTML, PHP or 50 other languages easily. While, this does require that you got basic coding skills under your belt, this app is a huge time-saver as you build your pages with auto-complete and auto-hinting at how to write clean, good code. If you haven’t already told your Webmaster about this, do it. They’ll love you for it. It’s cross-platform compatible.
  7. TweetDeck – I admit, as a guy who lives and dies by social media, I have found this application helpful for establishing and reinforcing relationships between people, brands and communities. The key features for small businesses is to group people, auto-shortening of URLs and the ability to perform cursory searches and save them.
  8. Picasa – If you take photos and are ashamed with the results, and even if you shy away from taking photos because you know how cumbersome the import process is… you need Picasa. Acquired/maintained by Google, it’s a stellar product that helps the average person import and manage their photos. Supports Web-based syncing. The time-saver here is the impressive built-in editing features for great looking photos.
  9. Jing Project – Many businesses these days need screenshots, screencasts for things to communicate ideas or processes. Jing is a product of the TechSmith family and is like a introduction to Snag-It/Camtasia without the financial crunch. Jing is a small app (albeit sometimes resource-intensive) that allows you to take quick, simple, clear screengrabs anytime and save them/upload them instantly. It’s free, but it’s “pro” version is well worth the $20.
  10. Mozilla Thunderbird – Admittedly, I am biased in favor of Mozilla’s creations, but I assure you this is a great app for small businesses and entrepreneurs alike. Thunderbird is a very powerful email client that supports email signatures, high performance searching, tagging and an open-format address book that supports easy migration in and out of Thunderbird. Like Firefox, Thunderbird supports cool addons made by the open-source developer community.

Honorable Mentions

  1. Basecamp – If you work hands on with individual projects, but in-depth ones, 37Signals nailed down the best place to host that data. Similar to Infusionsoft, it’s a SaaS, Web-based service and has a limited free version and affordable upgrades.
  2. Google Apps – Google Apps comes in two flavors: Personal and Enterprise. Depending on the size of your business, you could choose either and end up ahead in storing documents and email in “the cloud.”
  3. Squarespace – Not all small businesses create websites equally. Not every small business can afford to hire a Web guy (or gal); and not all small businesses are Web-design savvy. Squarespace, is a trusted partner of Infusionsoft, and makes Web design very easy and slick so you can build an entire site or a family of landing pages quickly. They have plans starting at $8/mo.

As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you need to try different apps and services to see how they help your business and ultimately, the bottom line. Most of these apps are free or are very cheap to acquire. Combined together, amazing stuff could be created – or at worst, you’ll just try them and gain valuable experience with what’s out there.

Do you have any favorite apps that you use in your small business? If so, share them below!

[Photo modified from Lee Coursey on Flickr]

ICON14: Small Business Conference
  • http://www.templatesforall.com Scott Hough

    If you wanted to put a paid email app on your list, I like http://www.postbox-inc.com It's based on Thunderbird, with quite a few new features.

    One of the new features it has is it indexes all your email and makes images, attachments, and links available without needing to dig through emails to find them.

    • http://twitter.com/joemanna Joseph Manna

      Thanks, Scott. That app definitely sounds attractive for someone who needs quick access to email archives and files. It's like the Mozilla-like response to Xobni for Outlook. Thanks again for dropping by.


  • http://www.thekissbusiness.co.uk/ Karin H

    Where to start?
    ScreenSteps Dekstop http://www.bluemangolearning.com/screensteps/ (and ScreenSteps Live), Able Internet Payrol http://www.ableinternetpayroll.com/
    Two very simple, user friendly programs which makes live of a one-man/one-woman band easier.

    Won't mention what we use for email marketing ;-)

    • http://twitter.com/joemanna Joseph Manna


      Thanks for suggesting these apps. Those too are very necessary and great assets for small businesses. I like the idea of the screensteps app… definitely great for someone who does a lot of screenshotting. The payroll thing is nice and seems affordable .. Web based, no mess, no junk. :)

      Thanks again for dropping by and adding your suggestions.


  • http://twitter.com/jarrod_morris Jarrod Morris

    This is a phenomenal list – I know because I'm using almost all of them and I can't imagine doing business with out these. I can't wait to check out Adium though. Mac's out-of-the-box iChat is clean and simple, but overall just simple.

    One app you didn't list here that is most definitely in my top 10 list and high on the list is bubbl.us. As it states on the site, it is a simple and free web application that lets you brainstorm online. You can create really sharp, colorful mindmaps. We do this in our own business as well as for our clients. The app allows for great collaboration. I discuss it more and give an example of a mind map we made using it on our blog: http://imarketingmavens.com

    Before I ponied up for Photoshop, I used Gimp and Paint.net. Both free applications that are pretty robust in functionality when it comes to graphic design and photo editing.

    Last but not least… Screentoaster.com. I'm really stoked about this one. Found it 2 days ago. Think Jing but perhaps even more cutting edge with an online community like YouTube for sharing your screen capture videos online. Check it out Joe, I'm pretty sure you'll love it.


    Jarrod Morris

    • http://twitter.com/joemanna Joseph Manna


      Thanks for the comments. I was debating about Bubble.us internally only because I'm not totally sure that it can be used for commercial purposes (most of the apps mentioned are GPL-licensed, free reign). But definitely notable as Bubble.us is great for flowcharting and mind-mapping thoughts clearly and visually. I love it!

      iChat is simple but doesn't support the newer networks (gmail, facebook, msn etc.) I'm a believer that one shouldn't stick with one network, but more or less go where their contacts are. I think you'll like Adium. It takes IM to a new level. :)

      GIMP. Oh, poor GIMP. I use it personally, but wouldn't recommend it (realistically) for small bsuinesses because the learning curve on that far outweighs the cost of outsourcing design work to qualified folks who use Photoshop/Illustrator. It's notable, but it's a pain to get used to at first.

      Screentoaster looks hot. Haha, pun intended. The quality definitely seems attractive and who knows, we might even borrow from their offering and show some helpful screencasts here. I dig the captioned steps, too. :)

      Thanks again for the comments. You always keep me thinking. :)


  • http://twitter.com/BrendonWalker Brendon Walker

    @unmarketing put me onto Freemind for mind mapping. Cool tool for getting business ideas started.

  • mattfenn

    Great list Joe, like Jarrod I'm using most of these myself!

    I would like to add Moobiz http://www.moobiz.com as it covers all of the stuff you would need to run a service based business from crm, project management, estimates, invoices and accounting to email broadcast and even website/ecommerce. All for one price (from £15/month).

    Worth checking out!

  • http://twitter.com/pramodh Pramodh

    An impressive list of tools. I have been using most of them, and cannot do without these for the business. Though I use a few more powerful tools, which I thought the forum would like to take advantage of.

    I have been using ScreenJelly for onscreen recording in conjunction with Twitter and it's a very good combination. You can instead just sending your twitter followers to a particular page, can now insert your EXPERTISE by recording the onscreen video.

    For collaborating with my team, and getting to interacting and building relationship with our customers, we use Injoos, a social collaboration product. Solves the problem of scattered information, and provides web conference and library / resource centre. This is an integrated product for collaboration – the social way.

  • davidlad

    You sound like a linux guy! Thanks for the apps..I've been looking for a tool like pidgin for some time (running yum install pidgin in the background) and I seem to be using half the list already.

    My favourite app which I found is quite good for mini graphics task is the GIMP…its fast, can do a lot of things and I think it belongs in this list.

    I'm currently developing for a property rental site and I have to do some image manipulation which the GIMP has helped with loads of times.

    I know a lot of people think the GIMP is complicated but it getting a lot better. A lot of the action is now graphics driven and when you use a linux desktop…it's a must have tool.

  • http://www.perqworks.com/ Christopher Altman

    Another great application for small business is Perq (http://www.perqworks.com). Perq helps create and track employee paid time off (PTO). Perq is integrated with Outlook, Google Calendar, and iCal, Perq helps companies define vacation, sick, and personal time off policies, and Perq makes requesting time away from the office easy.

  • http://www.perqworks.com matterco

    Another great application for small business is Perq (http://www.perqworks.com). Perq helps create and track employee paid time off (PTO). Perq is integrated with Outlook, Google Calendar, and iCal, Perq helps companies define vacation, sick, and personal time off policies, and Perq makes requesting time away from the office easy.