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Posts tagged ‘Communication’

Solo: Visually Simple Project Management


We’ve seen an awful lot of really good, comprehensive project management web apps launch over the past year. But, we can’t help from writing about them. Any time someone takes a new POV, we feel compelled to share it.

Solo is a new project management app built with freelancers in mind. The service handles both project management and invoicing, which makes it capable of tackling the more sophisticated offerings on the market.

Logging into the service brings you to your dashboard. At first glance, users realize they’re staring at a service unlike anything they’ve seen before. The creators at Solo approached their web app beginning with a blank page, and you’ll notice a few surprising design decisions. The visual hierarchy for graphical elements is a bit different from other project management apps available today. For example, the main page highlights the earnings to date with text, and charts and pushed down lower on the page. Sidebars don’t exist at all. Even the website’s terms and conditions are only viewable as a PDF, and they’re probably the most pleasing terms we’ve seen in a while.

The service is still young with a few necessary features on the way, such as QuickBooks integration, client login areas and an internal messaging system. Before jumping over entirely, try out the service and see if it’s something you’d want to integrate into your workflow. Fortunately, signing up comes with a 14-day free trial, and a paid account is available for a limited time at $10 per month.

Ifttt: A Scriptable Social Web


Ifttt, or “If This, Then That”, is a new web service that activates triggers based on specific events. The service works in conjunction with your social networks, so if someone tags you in a photo on Facebook, you could set up a service to send you an SMS. Ifttt has a seemingly unlimited amount of uses. Once you get the hang of creating tasks, you’ll find it difficult to stop creating and tweaking.

When you create a new task, you’re given the ability to specify your trigger. A trigger forms the first part of the task, like the “If this” part. Triggers can come from just about anything: receiving an email, fluctuations in the stock market, changes in weather, particular times of the day or week, or new posts on Facebook, just to name a few.

The second part of the task is the action, or the “then that” part. Ifttt likes to focus a lot of its potential on communication. As a result, the actions generally cover the ability to send a tweet, email, text message or IM. When you put them all together, you can be SMSed once your stock drops below a threshold or texted when you’re tagged in a photo on Facebook.

Ifttt is currently in private beta. Sign up for your own invitation through their sign-up form.

Freedcamp: Totally Free Project Manager


Freedcamp is yet another project management Basecamp competitor. Why do we need another Basecamp competitor? Because Freedcamp is completely free.

The app is divided into a few pages. To-Dos can be added and sorted with AJAX bliss. If you have multiple users signed-up, Discussions act like a private forum. The Milestones tab lets people create to-dos with deadlines. The Time tab tracks hours for billable professions, and it comes with a web-based stopwatch to keep you focused on your work, not on the clock. There’s also a tab for files, because every Freedcamp account comes with 20MB of storage space.

So what’s missing from Freedcamp that we would see from other competitors? Things like a calendar, gigabytes of storage and API interaction that help magnify any app’s abilities were all left out of the launch. But it’s difficult for us to find fault with a free app. In fact, Freedcamp currently doesn’t even offer tiered paid plans at all. The free plan is the only plan.

Freedcamp is capable of satisfying the needs of almost all Basecamp users. Plus, the FAQ section is surprisingly well fleshed out to help you get started quickly.

Talkita: Launch a Community on Any Site

Talkita is a new, free Chrome extension that allows other web users to chat when visiting the same website. Visit the Chrome Web Store to install, and turn it on. It’s specific by domain, not page, so you’ll likely find more focused conversations on product and company websites versus news sites and blogs. At the moment, the extension doesn’t work with HTTPS sites, so don’t think you’ll be able to talk to every single Gmail user at the same time.

We’ve seen a few sites like Talkita before. Sign up at a site, grab a bookmarklet, and leave comments on any page. Except, as an extension, Talkita will likely gather a stronger following, and as an extension for Chrome, it’ll likely have more web savvy users. Talkita users don’t need to register for a new username either; Google, Facebook or Twitter logins are accepted.

Talkita offers a unique opportunity for any website to grow into a community. Web developers don’t need to write code for sign-ups or commenting. Instead, users are able to engage themselves on their own. It’s empowering for a user, but it also pulls control from the web owners themselves. On any ordinary blog, web owners can turn off comments to try and control sentiment around their content, but with Talkita, the option is given to the users whether or not they want to discuss.

The web’s constantly evolving to be more social and open ended (no surprise here). Talkita is just another catalyst in this progression. Web owners need to grow comfortable with relinquishing control over their communities and realize they may someday serve as nothing more than conversation starters.

Apollo: Simplified Project Management

We have calendar web apps, to-do lists, address books and project management web apps. Apollo is a new web app that crosses borders and pulls these services together. It features a to-do list, calendar, sophisticated project management app and address book all on the same page.

Apollo was crafted as a modern web app. We see a high level of attention to detail both with the design and the development. New windows slide down like sheets or panels, which will make Mac users feel right at home. Double-clicking on a particular spot on your calendar springs open a window to create a meeting beginning at that time. Tasks with approaching deadlines dispatch an email reminder to your inbox, giving peace of mind knowing you’re staying on top of your priorities. As a new app, we were blown away to see the features we demand in a calendar app or to-do list app are available.

Each of the individual modules seem to be aware of one another. Your projects can be assigned to multiple people, which also appear in your Tasks, and your Tasks also appear on your calendar. Apollo helps eliminate a lot of individual web apps you may already use in order to create one, single web app to handle it all.

It’s new, but missing a few features. We didn’t see an Import function to get your data out of your existing programs and into Apollo. That means manual transcription for your contacts and calendar items, which may be too high of a barrier for users at this point. Also, features like data export and an API are in the works but not available to users. Apollo likely scaled back a few features in order to launch. We’re looking forward to seeing them added.

These objections don’t really represent a cause of concern. Apollo is refined and polished, so create a free account to see how a modern web app should behave. The service is in a private beta at the moment. Email them for an invite code, and be sure to mention Mini Sprout.

Hardtree: Online Business Management


Business owners have quite the toolbox for managing their businesses. They have their email, but they may also use services that cover CRM, billing, accounting, calendar management and group discussions. New startups are taking a stab at pulling all resources together, giving owners one dashboard and an instant snapshot of their business.

Hardtree is an online business management service. The web app is set up like an online collaboration tool with additional enhancements to make it a true holistic service. Logging in to the service reveals your dashboard, which spotlights new messages or support tickets. Move around Hardtree by clicking on one of its fifteen tabs on your dashboard. Tools are organized by task, which means project management falls under “Projects,” leads are housed in “Sales & Stock,” and your accounting ledger appears under “Finance.”

There’s enough room for everyone on your team too. Add users and create groups for multiple users. You can also specify which users or groups access which tasks pretty simply.

Perhaps what makes Hardtree remarkable is yet to be seen by the public. Business management services like these thrive on creating a singular destination to manage activities. Hardtree will have plenty of data about your organization. Their next step is launching a new module called Intelligence. This feature will be able to make recommendations for your business based on your data. Therefore, it will be able to make data-driven business improvements. We have yet to see how and to what extent this new feature will play a role in Hardtree, but it has the potential to become a business owner’s most trusted advisor.

The service is available in paid tiers starting at £9.99 per month. A free trial is also available.

There’s a lot to explore in Hardtree. Owners may not use each component, but they’ll see a benefit when they tailor the space to their demands. In fact, Hardtree is the type of tool that may make its way into your web browser and remain open all day.

Mini App Round-Up: Dec 17, 2010

Our Mini App Round-Ups cover smaller apps that rock. If you have a suggestion for an app, send it our way.

Teach Parents Tech

noresizeA few few folks from Google put together Teach Parents Tech as a free video tutorial service for inexperienced web browsers (like some of our parents). Users put together a package by filling out a simple form, and they specify which videos to include. The tutorials range from the basics, like copy and paste, to the result-oriented, like checking the weather or building a blog. The videos feature high production values and begin every video by stating exactly what the viewer can expect.

Buzzword Bingo HD

noresizeWho could survive a conference call without a game of Buzzword Bingo? The new iPad app Buzzword Bingo HD brings a time honored tradition to the tablet. Start the app for a random game card. You’ll see words like, authentic, strategy, framework or three-letter acronym. Tap a square when a word is mentioned to throw down a dot. You can also connect your iPad with other players through Bluetooth. Give it a try, and you and your team may actually end up with better communication skills.

Minus

noresizeMinus is a back-to-basics photo sharing web app. Visit their main page, and drag a photo into your browser window to upload. Then share the link with friends. Links work well anywhere, like IM conversations or through Twitter. No registration is required, which means no hassles. It’s one of the easiest ways we’ve seen to get your photos online.

Let’s Swap

noresizeLet’s Swap is about artists inspiring artists. The site posts one limited edition piece from a designer, and other designers can respond with their own work they would be willing to swap. Communication is held offsite by email, allowing designers to not only talk but also connect.

Vanilla Forums: Conversations Refreshed


Web forums haven’t exactly experienced the same renaissance as other web tools. They’re built on the old technologies, running the same themes, and offering the same functionality we’ve seen since the early 2000s. They feel dated, mostly because there never was a point in time when they felt modern.

Vanilla Forums is a forum provider that modernizes the offerings. It has the potential to compete with industry heavyweights like vBulletin and truly challenge their claim as “the most powerful forum software available.” With Vanilla Forums, columns and posts are clean. Replies can be voted for with a simple Digg-like button, causing better responses to float to the top (purists will appreciate the toggle to sort replies by date added). There’s also a pretty hefty template system, bringing as much control to the appearance as possible on a WordPress theme.

Once you create an account with them, you can share you blog a few different ways. The easiest is just to grab the embed code and drop it in your site. Optionally, developers will want to dive into the API and add forum calls into existing tools and mobile apps, such as pulling in posts, searches and user profiles. If you want the downloadable version, it’s free on VanillaForums.org.

Vanilla Forums’ service is offered at tiered levels. The simplest option gives everything needed for a forum, but it also includes their ads, and you aren’t given upload disk space. It’s not a bad value considering the product.

WorkFlowly: Simply Brilliant Organization

WorkFlowly is a new web tool to track your tasks, errands and even random little tidbits you collect throughout the day. The app is set up like a to-do list. Type in items and hit Return to separate them. Each line automatically becomes a bullet in a list. You can add sub-bullets and drag them around, and clicking the Plus sign next to each line expands or collapses items buried within. They also threw in a few keyboard shortcuts for power users.

Any time you have structured lists like these, they have the tendency to get out of control. Some sections will be larger or more significant than others. That’s why, if you click the actual bullet of a line, WorkFlowly takes you to a new page specifically dedicated to that branch. You can isolate branches within branches, which gives the impression of flying through an infinite list with perfect precision.

The developers made it very fast to move around the app. Typing out items feels as responsive as a text editor. In fact, it’s faster to add items in WorkFlowly than in any to-do list web app we’ve ever used.

Since the service is young, the developers are still adding core functionality that probably should have been there since Day 1. For instance, there isn’t support for mobile yet, but they’re working on mobile apps for the iPhone, iPad and Android. They’re also working out some more advanced features like collaborating between users or backing up your lists.

For many people, WorkFlowly may be a perfect option for them. The creators took the overall concept of managing information and stripped out anything that didn’t fit. And through that process, the app almost seems to disappear, leaving nothing but you and your ideas. WorkFlowly lets you focus on what matters at any particular point.

Viber: Free Calls Via Your Data Network

Forget about cellular minutes. Viber replaces your mobile’s phone app by providing free calling between other Viber users. International calls come across just as well as local calls, and there’s no charge for crossing continents. Viber pulls in all of your contacts from your address book. Friends who also use the app see the Viber badge adjacent to their name. Tap their name to connect.

What helps distinguish Viber from other services is how it transmits calls. The app runs off your data network, so users can place calls using 3G or wifi. Comparable services, like Google Voice, rely on your phone’s cellular network, which means using minutes and paying for long distance calls. If a friend does not use Viber yet, you can still call using your cellular network or send an invitation to join.

The service supports features you’d expect from a phone app, like recent and missed calls. You can also view missed calls from people who tried reaching you while your phone was off or out of signal range. Push notifications are supported too, so you don’t need to keep the app open to receive calls. SMS is coming soon.

The only thing we see missing from Viber is the ability to leave voice mails. It seems like a highly demanded feature we hope will be added as the service expands.

At the moment, Viber is available as a free download on the iPhone App Store. Android and Blackberry versions are on their way.

We scrubbed their website and privacy policy, and we cannot find any indication of how the service plans to generate revenue. Google Voice and Skype sell credits to connect over a cellular network. Viber may also follow this plan in the future, especially since it wouldn’t diminish any of their current offerings. It’s just that we don’t have any reason to believe so. Until then, enjoy the free calls.