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Consumer Electronics Authors: Dana Gardner, Jayaram Krishnaswamy, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Esmeralda Swartz

Article

Trendspotting: Mobile Apps that Sync with Their Desktop Counterparts

Mobile Applications that Can Actually Increase Your Efficiency

One of the defining characteristics of modern office life is that we divide our work and attention between the big screen (our computers) and the small screen (our mobile phones). Smart application developers have spotted this trend and designed their software to better support this workflow.

The critical feature that you should look for when evaluating these apps is how well they keep your information and configuration in sync between the two screens. Applications that excel at that will allow you to seamlessly switch screens and waste no time getting your work done. You should be able to enter items in the mobile app and see them in the desktop app, check items in the desktop app and have the new state reflected in the mobile app.

Here are 3 fantastic applications that exemplify this new development approach:

Twitter client: Tweetdeck

TweetDeck desktop
The TweetDeck Desktop app

TweetDeck is a client for social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Google Buzz. TweetDeck is ultra-configurable and the tool of choice for a lot of social marketing experts, who use it to monitor and engage customers in discussions about products and services.

TweetDeck uses an online account that you can sign up for from the client to save all your configuration, primarily what columns and saved searches you want to see.

Then, you can configure your mobile app with those same views, columns and searches.

TweetDeck for iPhone
TweetDeck for iPhone

It's easy to turn Twitter into a time-waster and productivity sink, but used with good criteria, it can turn into a powerful marketing tool. The trick is to make Twitter an integral part of your marketing diet... and encourage employees to engage customers online.

To-list management GTD-style: OmniFocus

OmniGroup produces some of the finest Mac software. They have great attention to detail and OmniFocus is a paramount example. Omnifocus is a power tool for well organized people. It allows you to track all your to-dos and projects using the Getting Things Done methodology popularized by David Allen and idolized by geeks worldwide.

The OmniFocus for Mac application allows you to capture to-dos from any of your Mac apps, organize them into projects and lists by dragging and dropping, reviewing them on a regular basis and prioritizing them according to a number of criteria such as how long they take to complete, their dependencies and much more.

The big payoff of having a well structured task management system like GTD is that it relieves you of the stress of worrying about all the things that you have to do and helps you focus on what you can actually do right now, with the time and energy that you have available.

For this system to work, to get todos out of your mind and into your GTD system, you need to be able to enter them whenever they occur to you, and your iPhone is a perfect device to do that, as you probably carry it with you most of the time.

OmniFocus can sync your tasks between your Mac and your iPhone in a number of ways, but the two most useful are:

OmniFocus for iPhone
OmniFocus for iPhone
  • Syncing via your wifi... whenever your iPhone is roaming in the same wifi as your Mac both versions of the program find each other via Bonjour technology and exchange the latest tasks.
  • Syncing over the Internet... if you sign up for the wonderfully simple and powerful Spootnik service, you can sync via their servers... with the added benefit that you can sync with Basecamp, a project management service. Using Basecamp, Spootnik and OmniFocus you can set up a company wide GTD system... an incredible productivity tool worth a future post

 

Virtual PBX and Contact Sharing software: Ringio

Let's say that you want to increase the chances that when somebody calls your business phone number, or the cell phone of one of your employees that you will know who they are, how to greet them, who they've talked to before and what they want.

For that to happen you are going to need a call collaboration solution that will help you get those phone calls routed to the right person in the right department, and that will enable each user to share their online address books and call histories.

You're also going to need some sort of screen pops that allow you to see the information about them in the context of the phone call.

That, in a nutshell, is what Ringio does.

The Ringio Desktop software sits neatly on your Windows, Mac or Linux computer and gives you all this info at your fingertips. When a call comes in, you get a screen pop on your computer and then you can decide to take the call or send it to somebody else. Ringio will then log that phone call.

Ringio Desktop software
Ringio Desktop software
Ringio Mobile for Android
Ringio Mobile for Android

Ringio is a great example of a new generation of applications that takes syncing one step further. Not only does it sync between the desktop and the Android mobile app, it syncs between users in the same company and between the Ringio service and online address books such as Google Contacts / Gmail.

In conclusion

Over the next few years we will see an emerging super-class of mobile apps that is very much aware of all your data, whether it sits on your computer, your mobile or the internet, and will be able to help you stay productive and informed.

More Stories By Sam Aparicio

A widely recognized thought leader in the areas of usability, interface design and software innovation, Sam is a frequent speaker at technology events and author of numerous articles on technology, product design, and management. Sam drives Ringio’s strategy and tactics, customer and revenue acquisition, marketing, and product management. Prior to Ringio, Sam was the CTO at Angel.com, where he was responsible for the company’s technology strategy and the design, implementation and successful launch of its award-winning Virtual Call Center product. Sam is fascinated by all aspects of collaboration and communication, and is an expert in designing highly fault-tolerant enterprise SaaS technology.