5 Free Business Centric Apps To Start The New Year Off Right

Here we are in the last full week of 2013. It's been an interesting year and 2014 promises to be even more interesting.

Traditionally, this is the time of year when we start thinking about organizing our lives a bit better, or seriously plan a new venture, or just start clearing out the accumulated detritus in our lives. Regardless of your intent, having a bit of help can make any task easier to tackle and, more importantly, complete.

Free on iTunes

With that in mind, my next three Free on iTunes installments will focus on iTunes freebies that can lend a hand at whatever your New Year goals are. This week I'm going to focus on business-centric apps, next week I'll center on travel, and the last in the series will be about collaboration. Some of the items I've covered before, but I'm including them here because I feel you can benefit from them if you haven't already installed them.

So, without my normal preamble, let's get to it.

FedEx / UPS / USPS

  • FedEx: 8.7 MB, all iOS devices iOS 5.0 or later, Maker: FedEx Corp.
  • UPS: 9.1 MB, all iOS devices iOS 5.0 or later, Maker: UPS.
  • USPS: 12 MB all iOS devices iOS 5.0 or later, Maker: US Postal Service.

In the days and weeks leading up to Christmas there is always a flurry of package mailing activity. Keeping track of packages as they move through the three major delivery services can be a pain if you have to go to a website every time to get status. That's why I'm lumping these three apps together. You need all three. Put them in a folder and tap between them as needed.

FedexFedEx app works great

All three provide tracking info for packages you've sent, FedEx and UPS will alert you when there's a package headed your way as well. To get the alerts you'll have to create an account with both services. UPS provides email alerts for free while FedEx will also text you. Both services offer options for alternative delivery in case you're not at home.

UPSAnd UPS app has lots of info

USPS offers home delivery of mailing supplies and the option to have all your mail delivery put on hold while you're away.

USPSYou can do a lot with USPS app

There are paid apps that will let you access info and options of all three from one interface, but it's a convenience I can live without. Get these apps. They are useful and you WILL use them.

WriteRoom [2.9 MB, all iOS devices iOS 4.3 or later, Maker: Jesse Grosjean]

WriteRoomWriteRoom gives you just what you need to write. Nothing more.

Writing should be a simple and easy thing to do on your iOS device. Serious writers don't want the extra baggage and distractions typical text processors lug along, they just want a clean, easy to get into app that lets ideas flow. That's why you may like WriteRoom.

This app has an interface so spare that it may not look to be that useful, but once you get into it and start typing, you'll applaud its spartan features.

That's not to say that WriteRoom is without features. You get just what you need; file and folder access, slightly extended keyboard, DropBox syncing, font and font size adjustment, and more. None of that is apparent on your screen while you're tapping away, but all of it is easy to get to when you need it.

WriteRoom uses the iPhone's built in dictionary and thesaurus and other iOS editing features so its memory footprint is quite small, which makes it a no-brainer to have and keep on your iOS device for those moments when you get inspired.

Dictionary.com Dictionary & Thesaurus [57.7 MB, all iOS devices iOS 6.0 or later, Maker: Dictionary.com LLC]

DictionaryDictionary.com's good free dictionary and thesaurus

I refer to a dictionary many times during a typical day. Not just for definitions, but also to look up the often subtle differences a word may have. "Spare", for instance, can mean to have something extra as in spare tire or spare change, but it can also mean to have or offer very little as a sparely furnished room or to give sparingly. A good dictionary will show these definitions and more and give you examples of usage.

Dictionary.com's Dictionary & Thesaurus fits the bill nicely. It offers a myriad of features that are not offered by other apps. For instance, there's a built in language translator, favorites, and Word of the Day.

It's got a nice clean interface too that allows you to easily go from dictionary to thesaurus and back again.

The app is heavily ad supported and requires the Internet to use, but if you don't mind ads and have a good internet connection, this is the dictionary for you.

Circa [13.6 MB, all iOS devices iOS 6.0 or later, Maker: Circa 1605 Inc]

CircaCirca gives you condensed news worth reading

People are busy, so getting news should be quick and efficient. That's what Circa is all about. News stories get condensed into easy to read and digest chucks, no superfluous details or ads, just the meat of the story.

The interface is clean as well. Stories with photos appear in a scrollable list and you can follow any story, getting updates as the story develops. You can also view categories of stories.

That's pretty much all there is to it, and that's not a bad thing.

Skype [30.6 MB, all iOS devices iOS 5.9 or later, Maker: Skype Communications]

SkypeSkype, the great communicator

Skype has become the default platform agnostic communications app for a lot of people, so it surprises me how many people still don't know how to use, or worse still, about, Skype.

The app is easy and free to use as long as you don't make Skype to phone number calls. Even then it's fairly cheap.

Skype is very capable too. You can use it as a texting platform, video and voice calls, and you can pass files around with it. You can even send a video message which the recipient and enjoy anytime.

Even if you rely on FaceTime for video calls you should have Skype on your apps list. You'll be glad you do when your Android using friend calls to wish you a happy birthday.

And that's a wrap.

I'm guessing Apple took a week off, they are still offering Angry Birds: Star Wars II as the Free App of the Week, and Christina Perri's Something About December is still the Free Single of the Week, so if you didn't get a chance to grab it last week now is you chance to do so.