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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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].
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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]