Cool Software

Great Calendar App for iPhone & iPad that Works with Google Calendar

Posted by | Cool Software | 3 Comments

8 Months ago, I was pretty content with the way calendars, contacts & emails from Google were syncing with my iDevices. I used Google Apps for Business and Apple hardware. When Google decided to stop supporting Microsoft Exchange on Apple devices (read an old post here) it made it a bit more buggy for many of my customers who were upgrading devices or buying new ones for employees. So there are ways to get Google Apps to work on the iPhones and iPads, but I’m finding that there are some pretty cools Apps that I’m using now that work just the same if not better.

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Basecamp Adds a Calendar Function to iPhone App

Posted by | Cool Software | 2 Comments

When I use a product longer than a year, it must be good! I am always on the lookout for quality, cloud-based programs that work well for small businesses. Basecamp, by 37 Signals, is one of those programs that I’ve used for close to a decade now. I do have a laundry list of things I’d like to add to Basecamp’s functionality, but in the meantime, I am content with the current tools and features within Basecamp. I have hunted for the perfect project management tool and I keep coming back to Basecamp! It just works! Read More

Alternative to GoToMeeting

Posted by | Cool Software, Small Business Solutions | 7 Comments

Updated June 2016

I first came across StartMeeting in late 2012/early 2013. I was told by my contact there that they would be adding video conferencing in the late summer of 2013. That did not happen until now! Starting this month, video is included at no extra charge. This now makes StartMeeting less expensive and a great alternative than GoToMeeting and other online meeting software. 

…For web conferencing (screen sharing) and now video conferencing, StartMeeting is easy and inexpensive. Read on about my original post if you’d like or give it a trial

Original Post from March 2013:

For the last 4 years, I’ve basically used one online program for meetings and webinars, GoToMeeting. It really is a pretty simple product to use. The only real complaints I have regarding GoToMeeting are, 1) A little expensive for what I use it for and 2) My customers and I seem to always have to install updates. I tend to be coaching my clients on how to use GoToMeeting more often than not. A little frustrating, but on the other hand, there was nothing on the market that was better. Webex was a good program but cost more than GoToMeeting. I tried every other one I could find and chose to stick with GoToMeeting. Until…

Meet StartMeeting

Recently another online meeting tool surfaced in my inbox. I used a conference line company at times when I need it called Free Conference Call. That company is a sister company to the latest and greatest online meeting program called StartMeeting (affiliate link). I really had no reason to switch from GoToMeeting to StartMeeting but thought I’d contact the company and drill them about why their program was the same or better than GoToMeeting.

I scheduled a call with Greg Plum, VP of Channel Development. He walked me through all the features and benefits of StartMeeting and how it compared to GoToMeeting. I really had no problems using GoToMeeting, so I would not even consider switching unless it was easy to use for my clients, had screen sharing, was cheaper and featured mouse sharing. Greg did a great job convincing me about StartMeeting and the vision of his company too!

Selling Points That Are Making Me Switch

After close to an hour walking through the program, I was very impressed. StartMeeting was created to go to battle against GoToMeeting. That is their main competitor. That is why it intrigued me! I wanted the same product for less. I’m not being cheap. I just have a lot of small monthly cost programs, and I want to simplify my expenses! StartMeeting offered some key selling points for me:

  • The price point for 50 users was half of what GoToMeeting offers: $19.95.
  • It allows for the user to have a company branded “wall” which is where people can schedule a meeting or start a meeting. The background and logo are fully customizable.
  • One Meeting ID and Phone Number. I didn’t like having to schedule a meeting with GoToMeeting…as sometimes I’d be on the wrong call waiting for my clients who received a different Meeting ID. So it keeps it simple
  • Screen and Mouse Sharing: Most of my calls are to run marketing meetings. Yet I do get involved “fixing” or setting up certain programs and features on my client’s machines sometimes. Therefore it is nice to have the mouse sharing feature. If it did not have this feature, I would not even consider switching.
  • Video Conference: This feature is a little weak, currently, but the presenter can show himself using his camera. This is good for a webinar. The weak part is it does not allow a two way video sharing like GoToMeeting’s HD Faces. This is a feature, StartMeeting said they will be working on. Again, for the price savings, I’m switching…as I don’t use HD faces all that much. If I want to do that, I just use Google Hangout which is free and simple to use as an alternative.
  • Downloading and Upgrades: I’ve not used StartMeeting much just yet, but they assured me that my clients and I won’t have to be continually updating my computer with v1.3, v1.4, v1.5 etc. This sounds great!

So I’m making the transition from GoToMeeting to StartMeeting to keep the pricing and features simple. If you are interested in giving it a shot for your business, the first 30 days are free. Let me know what you think. My referral link is here: StartMeeting. (same cost as going directly through them.)

Base CRM’s Fall 2012 Update (Now Zendesk Sell)

Posted by | Cool Software, Small Business Solutions | 12 Comments

Update: November 2018: Base has joined with Zendesk Support. Their new name is Zendesk Sell. Their pricing structure has changed as well. It spans from $19, $49, $99 and $199 per user. I use the words Base CRM in the article below, written in 2012.

Base CRM from Future Simple keeps getting more robust every month I use their product. To learn more about the details of what this simple CRM can do, read my previous reviews on Base 1 Post Here and 2. Post Here Read More

Best Bluetooth Earpiece for Driving

Posted by | Cool Software, Small Business Solutions | No Comments

Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent more money on bluetooth earpieces than I have cell phones. I’ve tried the cheap and the most expensive devices I could find. I’ve had the phone reps swear up and down of their personal favorites: Jawbone I, Jawbone II, Motorola, Jabra, Blue Ant, Plantronics etc. Yes, I’ve tried them and always had mediocre success. I wanted a bluetooth earpiece where I could hear the person I was talking to clearly and visa versa.

Earlier this year, I was told by my sister that her husband was using the Bose earpiece and loved it. He was not a techie guy, so I figured it must be easy to use and good. I was sick of spending $125+ on earpieces but decided to do it one final time. I gave the Bose 2 a try. As I write this blog, 6 months later, I am still a fan of the Bose 2 Bluetooth Earpiece. It truly is the best earpiece on the market for those driving a loud truck or sitting in an office. In fact, I switched from using my landline to using my Bose Bluetooth for almost all phone calls. You can connect it easily to a smartphone or your computer. This is the first time ever people cannot tell I’m using an earpiece.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Cloud Computing & Mobile Solutions Discussion, Mid-Maryland NARI

Posted by | Cool Software, The Obvious | No Comments

I spent most of my working hours as a marketing manager for service companies. However, my main hobby for many years is discovering the best technology solutions for small business owners. Anyone who knows me well knows I always have a number of gadgets with me at all times. I’m continually testing Apps, Cloud Programs & Devices to see what works best for each of my clients. If I can’t figure out how to use something quickly, I don’t recommend it.

April 18th Cloud & Mobile Solutions Talks

Those who live in the N. Virginia, DC, Baltimore or Frederick areas are welcome to attend this week’s NARI meeting. I’ll be sharing a bit more about what cloud computing is, how to use it and why to consider to use it. I’ll spend the second half of the discussion sharing my favorite Business Essential Apps for Apple devices. I might have a couple Android suggestions too, but I really am no expert on Android devices or applications.

Who Can Attend

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) has local chapters throughout the United States. I will be speaking at the Mid-Maryland chapter. Typically you will find owners of general contracting and remodeling companies in attendance along with individual contracting trades. Vendors who service contractors, called industry partners, and usually attending as well. If you are not a member, you can still attend this meeting for $50, which includes dinner. This month, the Women’s Council of Realtors will also be attending this talk. The event is from 6-9PM at Dutch’s Daughters in Frederick, MD.

To sign up online and learn more, visit the NARI Mid-Maryland Website.

So I have my work cut out for me. I have slightly over an hour to tell 4 different groups: contractors, vendors, sub contractors and realtors all about Cloud and Mobile Solutions. They way I usually do my discussions is I always welcome questions during the entire presentation. I like to keep people awake, so come prepared to ask me about your mobile or technology questions.

Top 5 Apps To Help Grow Your Small Business

Posted by | Cool Software | 3 Comments

Guest Post: Not all the apps below I’ve had the opportunity to try myself. This was a post written by Jane Johnson. Thank you for taking the time to write this for my audience. I’ll begin to look into your recommendations and give you my feedback. Based on a quick look of each app, they all look promising. Enjoy.

Stock your business arsenal with the right tools for success

The business world is ever-evolving, and as business owners we must stay ahead of the curve to succeed. Technology can help businesses, large and small, stay competitive, grow, and survive during hard times thanks to thousands of smart phone apps specifically for business. Apps for business provide many of the tools and resources that small businesses might not otherwise have access to. However, with so many business apps to choose from, how do you know you’re downloading the best business arsenal for your particular needs?

To help take the stress out of business apps, I’ve put together the following list of the Top 5 Apps to Help Grow Your Small Business. These apps are available for download, many for absolutely free, to your iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S, and numerous other wireless devices.

1. MetroFax (Free)

This fax app for the iPhone offers small businesses a fully-accessible fax service. Enjoy the big business perks with MetroFax, an app that allows you to send and receive faxes—right from your iPhone. You’ll never have to stress about missing an invoice, an important fax, or legal documents ever again.

2. LinkedIn (Free)

I like to think of LinkedIn as my personal marketing team—even though I have a small business consisting of one employee: me! The LinkedIn app is all I really need for network with prospective clients, business partners, freelance employees, business partners, and vendors. Simply, this app connects those who need a service with those who can provide that service. It’s professional networking at my fingertips. I can use my iPhone (or Android, BlackBerry, or any smart phone) to connect with potential customers anywhere, at any time of day.

3. Primadesk (Free)

This multi-functional app (for Web, iOS and Android) makes content management easy. The Primadesk app keeps all cloud-based business content organized and easily accessible via search hash tags. Plus, it’s great for remote groups who need to share, view, manage and backup all business content from a single interface—i.e., if collaborating on a project—regardless of their chosen computer or mobile device. To share or save a document simply drag and drop Word docs, multimedia, spreadsheets, and photos from your desktop to Primadesk.

4. Abukai (Free)

This financial business app was given the “Editor’s Choice”, a 2011 award given by PC Magazine for outstanding business expensing applications. Not a hard task when you’re compatible with almost any mobile device—including iPhone, Android and Blackberry. The Abukai app makes filing financial reports a synch in three easy steps:

I. Take a picture of any receipt or invoice with your mobile device s

II. Submit it

III. Receive a completed expense report at the end of a designated period (week’s end, month’s end)

5. OmniFocus ($19.99)

Pricy, but totally worth every penny—the OmniFocus app for iPhone puts you in control of task management when you have your smart phone within arm’s reach. That’s why it won the Apple Design Award for best Productivity App. OmniFocus tracks tasks by project name or number, place, person, or even the date. you’ll always have your important information at hand, whether it’s a shopping list, agenda items to discuss at work, things to do at home—whatever you need.

Bio: Jane Johnson is a writer for GoingCellular, a popular site that provides cell phone related news, commentary, reviews on popular providers like T-Mobile.

How To Free Up Space on Your iPhone or Android using Google Music

Posted by | Cool Software | No Comments

If you are an iPhone user like me, I don’t see the big reason to buy the $299 or $399 iPhones with more space. Why? Because many companies offer cloud (online) storage. The only reason to upgrade to a 32GB or 64GB iPhone device is to store more photos, videos and songs. Now, thanks to Google Music, there is a simple way to store all your music on Google’s servers (for free) and clean up your iPhone device for other important things. The steps below will work for Google’s Android phones too. Once complete, you can remove all music from your device!

  1. Visit Google Music
  2. Sign into your Google Account
  3. Click on Upload Music (top right corner of screen)
  4. Download Music Manager (free) and follow the steps to upload all or some of your music to Google Music (very simple)
  5. Once completed, download the Android App or 3rd Party App for iPhone (free or paid version)
  6. Once you download the App to your device, you just sign in to your google account and enjoy streaming music!

Save your money and enjoy more free storage! For photo storage, try either Dropbox, Egnyte, or iCloud.

 

Should I get a Kindle or an iPad?

Posted by | Cool Software, The Obvious | 2 Comments

If you are ready to move more towards the small gadgets for your reading, web searching, emailing and so on, then you are probably wondering if you should get an iPad, a Kindle or an Android Tablet, right? I hope to shed some light on some of the main differences between the iPad and the Kindle. I will not be focusing on Android Tablets or the Barnes & Noble Nook. I do have an Android Tablet but just don’t use it. I did not purchase the Nook as I was already a pretty loyal Amazon customer. I use both the iPad and the Amazon Kindle, and I like them both.

Why a Kindle?

The Kindle uses an E Ink technology which basically looks similar to ink on a newspaper. The benefit to this type of technology and the device:

  1. It is easy on the eyes compared to a computer or tablet screen.
  2. The Kindle weighs less than most books so it is easy to hold in your hand(s).
  3. It is so convenient. I personally like having books at my fingertips instead of a huge collection of loose books. I really don’t need to show off a room full of books to all my friends. Plus, I tend to lose books and spent too much time looking for them. I’ve also never been a big bookmark fan. The Kindle helps me get through a book from cover to cover because it keeps track of where I left off reading.
  4. The battery life is probably 10-20x longer than any computer tablet. The newer models of the Kindle can last up to two months on normal reading with the wireless settings turned off.
  5. Less distracting than other gadgets. We live in a world of distractions more than ever before. When using the Kindle, there isn’t much else to do on them than read. You can search the web using a WIFI connection, but it just isn’t worth it using E Ink technology. A Kindle was made for listening to audiobooks and reading a good book–that’s it.
  6. You can still allow other Kindle friends borrow your e-books and even check out books from your local library.
The iPad
The iPad keeps getting better and better as more quality applications and updates are released. I find myself picking up my iPad more than my laptop these days, because I can do a bit more with it. Here are some of the key features and differences between the iPad and Kindle when it comes to reading:
  1. The battery life is far less than a Kindle yet still very powerful: 7-10 hours (approximately).
  2. The iPad is more of a tablet computer than it is an e-reader. Yes, it has an iBook, Nook and Kindle App. And the Apps work great. You can pick up your iPad and continue reading where you left off on your Kindle. But it uses a full color screen, not E Ink technology. Although it is fine for a while, your eyes need a break from this full-color display. It cannot compare to E Ink.
  3. It is heavier than a Kindle. After 20 mins of reading a book while holding the iPad in your hands, you are definitely ready to put the device down. The kindle is around a 1/3 of the weight of an iPad, making it easy to hold for extended time periods.
  4. The iPad has so much to do and can be very distracting if your goal is to read a book. Believe me, I’ve tried it plenty of times before using the Kindle. I kept getting emails or thinking about something I needed to search the web for, which takes just seconds to do on the iPad. I really wasn’t getting anywhere. When reading on a Kindle, I do just that: I read.
  5. The price of the iPad ranges from $500 to $650. While the Kindle e-readers range from $79-189.
Which Device Wins?
Although the iPad can do what the Kindle does, the two gadgets are very different. If you are on the look out for a good e-reader, then get a Kindle over an iPad. You cannot beat the price. I use a Kindle Touch (latest Generation) and it is fantastic. I got the 3G version, but it was a waste of $50 since the WiFi is all I need. The older generation (Kindle 3 and earlier) were great too. The iPad, on the other hand, is an e-reader, a mini-laptop and a tablet. It does 10x more than a Kindle, but the price point of the iPad makes it out of reach for those looking to read more books. I also think you’ll read more books on a Kindle and get less distracted!
One Quick Word about the Nook vs the Kindle
Now, I did not really mention the Barnes and Noble Nook for a reason. I don’t own one. I also mentioned that I was already an Amazon customer. Amazon and B&N created their e-readers primarily to gain more customer loyalty. If you own a Nook, you can only buy e-books from B&N. If you own a Kindle, you can only buy from Amazon. Makes sense, right? So you must decide who you like doing business with more. I like Amazon because I have one account for all my other online purchases. Amazon has the upper hand because they carry just about anything you need! BUT the B&N Nook is incredible. The design features and usability are better than the Amazon Kindle. I absolutely love holding the Nook Touch. It is just about perfect. Yet, I won’t switch because I don’t want another online account and have already purchased a dozen or so books from Amazon.
(note: Don’t go with the Kindle Fire as then you’ll get more distracted and search the web…and the battery life isn’t great. It is Amazon’s first attempt at an Android Tablet).

How To Setup an Away Message on Your iPhone for Gmail

Posted by | Cool Software, Small Business Solutions | 6 Comments

If you are like me, I’ve run out of the office for an extended period of time and forgot to set my away message. Sure if you remember at some point during the day when you are in front of a desktop or laptop you can do it, but what about when you remember and all you have is your iPhone? If you use Google Apps for Business and an iPhone (I’m sure the same thing works with an Android) then this short tutorial will save you time and keep you looking professional.

Step By Step

Note: I’m giving you the detailed step by step approach. Advanced users of the iPhone know there are faster ways to access Gmail)

Step 1: Open up Safari and type in m.google.com in your browser

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