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In the Zone

Working from wherever? These mobile apps can help

Kevin Jacoby's picture

by Kevin Jacoby on 07/16/2021
Blog Category: devices

Forget getting back to normal. The global pandemic has created a new work from home (WFH) culture that’s here to stay.

Mobile apps are making the transition, too. The latest ones will let you and your customers work from just about anywhere.

If WFH taught us anything, it’s that the traditional office isn’t as necessary as we once thought. We can get on Zoom instead of getting on an airplane. We can collaborate on Slack instead of gathering in the bullpen. And we can store big PC files on DropBox, then later retrieve them on our phones.

This genie isn’t going back into the bottle. Sure, vaccination rates are climbing in many major U.S. cities. But there’s no cure for our desire to work smarter, more efficiently and without a long commute.

Office: beyond the office

Is your spreadsheet data reliable? If so, then no one cares where you made it. So why not run Excel on your iPad from wherever you happen to be?

Microsoft’s venerable Office 365, starting around $70/year, is truly cross-platform. You can start a project on your Windows laptop, add some facts and figures from your Android tablet, and review coworker comments on your iPhone while waiting in line for ice cream.

Microsoft Office mobile apps

Office 365 apps: made for mobile — Windows, Android or iOS

And soon you’ll be able to fire up a full version of Windows in any mobile or desktop browser. Microsoft just announced a new platform it calls the Cloud PC. The new Office 365 will take SaaS a step further by offering a browser based OS and apps accessible from any internet-enabled computer.

Or are you as tired of MS Office as you are of your physical office? In that case, variety is just a click away. Google offers a full office suite. Apple has one, too. Both allow you to import and export native Microsoft Office files.

Slack: not just for slackers

When the pandemic hit, WFHers had to scramble to stay in touch with coworkers throughout the day. Their challenge: find a smart, intuitive platform that meets everyone’s needs.

For many, the answer was Slack. That’s the uber-productivity platform that describes itself as “your virtual HQ.”

Once the worst-kept secret of the BuzzFeed crowd, Slack is now all grown up and ready to do some serious business. Its notable features include multimedia chats, video conferencing, project management, to-do’s and reminders.

Slack on mobile & desktop

Slack: stay in touch via both desktop and mobile

Slack even has a built-in function that enables collaboration among different companies. Imagine a PR firm, ad agency, video crew and client all working together on an ad campaign via Slack.

Slack subscriptions range from free with limited features to around $12/month/user for the full Business+ suite.

But Slack isn’t for everyone. If apps wore clothes, Slack would be compulsively clad in New Balance trainers and an ironic Van Halen T-shirt.

If your thing is more pinstripes and power ties, you may want to take a look at Microsoft Teams. Its super-tight integration with Office apps Word, Excel and PowerPoint delivers equal doses of convenience and sober maturity.

Cloud storage: So many files, so little time

No matter where you’re working, chances are you’re creating a ton of files, some of them quite large. What you need now is easy access to those files on every device, anywhere in the world. That’s where cloud-storage apps such as Dropbox come in.

Cloud storage makes perfect sense for mobile work. While you can easily put together terabytes of storage space on a PC, that’s not so easy with a tablet or smartphone. That’s why leasing space in the cloud — the average rent for 2 TB is around $10/month — will save you time, hard-drive space and sanity all at once.

Dropbox on a mobile device

Dropbox: all files on mobile — without taking up precious storage

And Dropbox isn’t the only game in town. You can also get cloud storage from Microsoft, Google, Apple, WeTransfer, Box, Amazon and dozens of other providers. Most offer a small amount of storage for free, making it easy to try before you buy.

Maximizing mobility

Now that Pandora’s Box is open, will we ever go back to the office again? The answer is both yes and no.

For some, office space is a necessary expense, necessary inconvenience — and necessary evil. For others, it’s an anachronistic ritual to be cast aside in favor of efficiency and convenience.

For the rest of us, we’ll settle into a hybrid solution, one that involves a little bit of mobile commuting as well as a little bit of mobile computing. Free from the earthly bonds of our desks, we’ll rise up, if not to the heavens, at least to the cloud.

It’s a big world out there. Go find a nice place to do some work!

 

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