It’s that time of year. We just wrapped up the holiday festivities, which were full of buying employee gifts and taking clients out for holiday celebrations. The accounting department wants everyone to submit their expenses before year-end. We can’t procrastinate any longer. Besides, getting our expense reports submitted means some extra money for the holiday season.
But I think we can all agree that expense reports are possibly the last thing any of us want to be doing at this time of year (or any time of year, for that matter).
Luckily, there are plenty of mobile apps that make it easier to track and submit expense reports. Here are seven handy apps specific to the iPhone.
Expensify (free) offers the ability to create photo receipts and iPhone expense reports, and it integrates with Expensify’s website for instant reimbursement. It also can connect with QuickBooks. Great for people who travel and want to record expenses as they are incurred.
Fresh Xpense Capture (free) allows you to record your expenses (including photo receipts) as they occur. Expenses can be submitted using a variety of different formats such as SMS, IM, Twitter and e-mail. They are stored on the Xpenser website (sign up is free), where they can be imported to Excel, Quicken or MS Money.
Out of Pocket ($1.99) allows you to record your out-of-pocket expenses including photo receipts. Then you can export your expenses to FreeAgent or IRIS OpenBooks (optional). Out of Pocket also provides search capabilities, for those times when you’re trying to remember a date or expense description.
After you snap a photo of your receipt, Shoeboxed Receipt Tracker (free) automatically enters the date, total, payment type and category. It generates expense reports that can be sent from your iPhone as well as exported to QuickBooks and Quicken.
Shoeboxed also provides a fee-based service that enables you to mail in receipts (and other documents) to be scanned and uploaded to your online Shoeboxed.com account.
ProOnGo Expense (free) allows you to not only track receipt and mileage expenses, but it also enables you to time expenses. This is very useful for consultants or professionals that operate on a billable hour basis. ProOnGo also integrates with Quickbooks. For an extra cost, a receipt reader service is available.
Another app that offers billable expense recording is JetSet Expenses (currently on sale for $4.99). It allows tracking of billable expenses, reimbursable expenses and non-reimbursable expenses. JetSet focuses on business travelers by offering international settings along with airline, hotel and rental car databases.
Don’t need a bunch of fancy options? iReceipt ($1.99) provides a simple, basic service. Record your expense details or take a photo of your paper receipt. Then e-mail yourself a text-generated expense report.
Google recently launched its Chrome Webstore for dedicated applications and extensions. Although the store is still in its early stages, there is already a wealth of choice for any small business owner.
This post highlights six noteworthy apps and extensions ranging from note-taking to project management. For small businesses with limited budgets, these resources can aid in productivity and time-management and let you concentrate on the more important aspects of your business.
Let us know in the comments below about any additional Chrome apps or extensions you would recommend.
This extension brings all the Google services to your browser in a space-saving pop-up next to your address bar. Reach services like Gmail, Google Reader, Google Maps, Google Calendar and many more in just two clicks from your browser. The extension includes more than 140 Google services and websites. Once installed, just open the settings to customize and personalize the extension.
The level of customization is extensive, including sorting and rearranging the order of the buttons, selecting from six different icon sizes (16, 24, 32, 42, 48, and 64 pixels), adding your own custom URL button, integrating the Goo.gl URL shortener and changing the URL and names of services.
The support for Google Apps is what makes this really stand out from the crowd of Google-related extensions. Just scroll to the last section named Custom Domain for Google Apps and type your Google Apps domain name in the place provided. Now select the services of the domain you wish to add as a shortcut.
Scribble employs an approach that combines the simplicity and flexibility of text files with the order and control of GTD applications. If you have a habit of saving .txt files to your desktop as reminders, notes, thoughts and random ideas, Scribble is for you. You can now manage all those notes in one place, clutter free. It also works offline, which is invaluable, meaning your notes are stored locally. It has an attractive, simple UI, as well.
Perhaps the neatest feature is the letter-by-letter auto-save — there is no save key — because your note gets saved with every keystroke. Other features include the ability to attach reminders to specific notes; drag, drop and arrange the notes however you want; and store to-do lists, grocery items, phone numbers and e-mail templates.
Scribble can become a lifesaver if you have a habit of opening Notepad or TextEdit to jot down notes and reminders; it even gives a desktop pop-up reminder when something is due.
The developer has sync-to-cloud features and keyboard shortcuts planned for future releases.
Vyew is a tool that allows you to meet and share information both in real-time and continuously. Upload images, files, videos and more, and Vyew will store the information in one “Room” that anyone can access and contribute to at any time. You can work independently over periods of time or in groups in real-time. All meeting content is auto-saved in real-time with no worry of losing work, even if a connection is lost.
There are several real-world applications for Vyew, including hosting presentations, reviewing documents, drawing and annotating, tutoring and training, desktop sharing and the ability to publish (read-only) versions of your meetings to a website, blog or through e-mail.
The app also includes a free conference call service, which means you can quickly and easily bring all your collaborators and participants together via telephone for live conferences. You can also use VoIP (up to two users) and webcams (up to five users).
Todo.ly is an intuitive and easy-to-use to-do list and task manager to help you stay organized and get things done. Todo.ly was designed to be as simple to use as possible and fit in with your workflow.
It lets you divide your work into projects, which may have sub-projects. A task can also have sub-tasks. Managing “Tasks” and projects is straightforward; using the intuitive drag-and-drop interface, you can simply move your task from one project to another. Tasks will also pop into your “Today” list as due dates approach.
Due dates and filters (Inbox, Today, Next) are supported. The filters are easy to use and have been designed according to the Getting Things Done method. You can right-click tasks to edit them or add new tasks before or after it. The interface has been kept simple and functional and you’ll be up and running quickly. For example, if you want a simple unordered to-do list, you can simply start entering tasks.
While Todo.ly isn’t team-oriented at the moment, it has enough power under the hood and selection of features to be an excellent aid in personal productivity.
Write Space is a customizable full-screen text editor for Chrome that is designed for distraction-free writing. It works offline, saves data locally and persistently backs up your work as each document is automatically saved with every key-press, so there is no worry of losing work. It allows customization to the font, background, width of the editor window and more. The live document statistics mean there’s no need to dig around menus to find the word count.
The standout feature is the ability to make Chrome go full-screen for a truly distraction-free environment. You can also set it to open in full-screen mode automatically by right-clicking on the application icon and selecting ‘Open full screen.’ You can import plain-text files, though if you already have data saved in Write Space, make sure you back it up before importing.
As Google Chrome does not yet support the HTML5 File Writer API, Write Space does not currently have an automated export function. However, you can export your work manually by copying the text in the browser window to another file or location.
Write Space is open source software, so you are free and encouraged to edit the application as you see fit.
Pivotal Tracker is a simple, story-based project management tool that allows teams to collaborate and react to feedback in real time. It’s based on agile software methods, but can be employed on a wide range of projects. It can be used on anything that you or your team works on that delivers some value, and that is large enough to benefit from being broken down into small, concrete pieces. It’s commonly used for organizing marketing campaigns or for general productivity management.
Everyone shares the same, up-to-the-minute view of what’s going on with the project and what needs to be done next. It lets project owners know exactly where things are without having to ask, and lets the rest of the team spend time on work, rather than on reporting the work.
You can create a Twitter account for your project, and let followers (team members) see project updates as they occur, as well as being kept up-to-date via Campfire, e-mail or web callbacks.
Iterate also provides a way to access Pivotal Tracker from your iPhone, with the same simple, well-designed UI as Pivotal.
Here is a selection of quick links to six apps and extensions that are also worthy of making it into your Chrome setup:
Scratchpad – A simple note-taking app from Google that allows you to take notes offline and optionally sync to the cloud when you’re online.
Ge.tt – A real-time file-sharing service that allows you to share any number of files, no matter how large, within seconds.
280 Slides – Create beautiful presentations, access them from anywhere, and share them with the world.
Hootsuite – Publish updates, track activity, and analyze results across multiple social networks including Twitter and Facebook.
LovelyCharts – Online diagram software to create professional-looking flowcharts, sitemaps, organization charts, wireframes and more.
Gpanion – Gpanion is your Google companion and provides a sleek dashboard for working with your Google Apps.
What other noteworthy Google Chrome apps or extensions have you discovered? Be sure to share your picks in the comments below.
Traditionally, I didn’t like playing games on my phone. However, with iPhone’s amazing capacitive touchscreen, you can’t resist procrastinating by playing Angry Birds on the iPhone. While the app store is full of colourful and joyous games, we’ve selected the top seven games to save you some time researching.
Probably the world’s most popular iPhone game, and for good reason. There’s something about launching these different sorts of aviary ammunition into the precarious pig pens that just never gets old. There are always new birds and new stages coming out the pipeline to keep things fresh, too.
With excellent pixel art and an admirably morbid sense of humor, twisting your iPhone around to avoid falling objects is way more fun than it sounds. And you have to appreciate anything that makes the apocalypse this enjoyable.
Some have called it the heir apparent to Angry Birds for quick, clever, doesn’t-really-ever-get-boring iPhone gameplay—lofty praise, but in many ways deserved! Cutting a rope to swing a candy into a little monsters mouth, avoiding electrical currents and spiders along the way, is quite fun.
It’s just the best racing game out, walking the tightrope between looking highly realistic and being incredibly fun to play. There’s a good selection of cars and tracks and the graphics look wonderful.
An exceptionally shiny first person shooter optimized for the iPhone 4, with slick, functional controls. Best of all is the 5 v 5 team deathmatch mode, which is just like the multiplayer action you’re used to on the consoles-including multiple guns, grenades, maps, and medals-except this one you play while you’re sitting on the toilet. $1 (map updates cost extra).
You know those people you see standing on the subway or waiting in line at the grocery store clutching their iPhone to their face and tilting their entire body to the side like they’re the leaning tower of Pisa? This is the game they’re playing.
Why did we, as an iPhone-wielding society, suddenly decide that push-notified Scrabble (or, more specifically, this knock-off) was the most fun to be had with words since Alphabet Soup? That I don’t know. But it is a hell of a lot of fun trying to slot that Triple Word Score against friends, family, and coworkers.
Your iPhone is the ultimate entertainment gadget. That is especially true since the app store carries the hippest and most exciting entertainment apps. However, only a handful of those are the ones that could be called the best. We’ve dug deep into the iTunes ocean to come up with top twelve entertainment apps for iPhone.
All the joys of Netflix in your pocket, all the time—including the power to battle that always growing Watch Instantly queue. Streaming’s silky smooth over Wi-Fi, less so over 3G, but the app itself is indispensable.
Apple’s official app for controlling iTunes from wherever your butt might find itself planted is pretty much perfect. Browse your entire library by artist, song, playlist, whatever, pick a tune, and there it is, playing in your iTunes.
You know that song you keep hearing everywhere but can’t quite place? Shazam can place it. Like, almost every time. Shazam Encore gets you unlimited tags and a host of other features like charts, recommendations, lyrics, etc.
Like Shazam, SoundHound dabbles in tune recognition (smaller library of songs, snappier tagging), but it also serves as a full replacement for your iPhone’s comparatively barren iPod app. Think lyrics, artist info, YouTube links, etc.
While it blows my mind that I can watch movies on my phone, one thing I need it to do, and need it to do well, is find movie times for theaters nearby. Flixter does that and much more, packing box office charts, Rotten Tomatoes reviews, DVD releases and what seems like a thousand other movie-related features in one extremely handy app. Free.
A lightweight client on your computer catalogues the videos of your choosing, as well as all your iTunes playlists, and then lets you easily stream the files in them easily to the app on your iPhone. The best part: all the transcoding is done on the fly, and pretty much any video format plays back superbly.
Pandora. You know the one. The internet radio app that has uplifted a million work hours and scored a million make-outs. It’s simply the best out there, streaming music at home or on the go over Wi-Fi or 3G.
Just because you don’t own a Kindle doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be buying Kindle ebooks—especially when Amazon’s iOS app is this good. While it looked for a while like iBooks might come along and disrupt Amazon’s ebooks hegemony, well, that didn’t happen.
Why do everyone’s iPhone photos look so damn hip while yours look so, you know, not. Probably cause they’re using Hipstamtic, the preeminent “make my photos look cool” app which lets you mix and match films and lenses (available for in app purchase) to make your iPhone photos look more analog than ever.
Even for the artistically disinclined, having a 3.5″ palette and canvas in your pocket can be fun. Brushes is the only one you’ll ever need, easy enough for the uninitiated to jump into and advanced enough to keep real artists happy. Hell, they paint New Yorker covers with this thing.
You’ve gotta have a news app on your iPhone, because, you know, news is important. NPR’s happens to be great—you can read NPR’s reliably-interesting stories, download them for offline reading, and, and, listen to NPR radio stations while you’re doing it.
There’s an ocean of social networking iPhone apps on the app store. However, only a handful of those are the ones that could be called the best. We’ve dug deep to come up with top five free social networking apps for iPhone.
Twitter thankfully didn’t make too many changes when they gobbled up the already-great Tweetie 2 from Atebits—same clean interface, same Tweet swiping, and the same it-feels-so-good pull to refresh mechanism.
Meebo is the king of iPhone messenger apps right now, with support for AIM, Google Talk, Facebook and the like (as well as an impressive list of smaller networks) all packed into a pretty, polished package.
Take a photo and dress it up with one of the supplied Hipstamatic-esque filters, Then you share it over the usual suspects—Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, etc —or, and here’s the interesting part, over Instagram’s built-in social networking service. It’s new and ambitious and that’s why we like it.
Facebook advertising holds tremendous promise for marketers looking to reach targeted audiences online. Nowhere else do people willingly share such specific information about themselves – enabling marketers to target ads and evaluate performance based on details about consumers such as their age, interests, employers, location and even friends and relationships.
Facebook advertising, however, is still relatively new, and advertisers are only beginning to experiment with Facebook ads. Even digital marketing experts, familiar with advanced targeting techniques in paid search and display advertising, are just now figuring out how to effectively run advertising programs on Facebook.
To get your ads noticed by Facebook users, you’ll need to tailor your ads to work within the Facebook experience. Facebook users spend an inordinate amount of time –- more than any other website — on the social network. They interact with friends, share information and connect with their favorite causes; however, despite all their actions, people aren’t searching for products or services. That’s why carefully selecting images, modifying calls-to-action and subtly changing messaging to reach Facebook users is important for success in this channel.
Here are a few insider tricks you can use to take your Facebook targeting and ad performance to the next level.
1. Remember the User Experience
Many marketers dive right into Facebook ads expecting to drive traffic from Facebook directly to their site, just as in paid search. While this may work for some, tailoring the experience to Facebook users typically delivers better results. Using Custom Pages or Applications on Facebook to capture traffic allows you to keep users within Facebook for a consistent browsing experience, resulting in lower bounce rates. Custom Pages, as part of your Facebook Page, make it easy for consumers to “Like” your product or brand. For every user who Likes your page, you can remarket to them over time with status updates about deals or upcoming events.
Facebook Apps, on the other hand, provide the marketer with more control over the user experience, as well as the ability to gather detailed demographic data from user profiles. If converting traffic outside of Facebook is a requirement for you, consider tailoring your landing pages to social users. This could include writing different ad copy, the inclusion of Like and sharing buttons on your site and presenting user-generated content such as videos or reviews, as opposed to product information, for Facebook users arriving at your landing page.
2. Use Root Analysis to Expand Targeting
Facebook users can list any terms they want to define their likes and interests, so in order to target a full audience of potential customers, you may have to do some investigating for those terms and phrases that go beyond your general keyword search. For example, using the targeting parameter “camping,” your ad will not reach users who have listed “camping in the mountains” or “tent camping” on their profile.
Root analysis is a useful way to discover people’s likes and interests on Facebook to expand your audience and drive more conversions. Simply start with a root word and expand your targeting to include related interests. You can do this by typing the root word into Facebook’s “Likes & Interests” targeting settings and then typing a single letter to find related terms. Using the camping example, entering “camping i” results in a list that includes “camping in California” and “I love camping.” Adding these unique terms to your targeting criteria expands your audience, helping to discover additional valuable consumers and improve ROI.
3. Segment Your Ads
With 500 million users on Facebook, there are probably plenty of consumers that you want to reach with your ads. However, not all Facebook users are created equal. Breaking out your audiences to understand the value of each segment, and then adjusting your bids accordingly, will help you optimize your Facebook budget.
Dividing audiences by age, location, and gender should help you find the segments most likely to convert, making each segment more valuable to you. As you measure the performance variance between your segmented advertisements, you can adjust your bids to improve the overall ROI for your Facebook ad campaigns.
4. Prevent Ad Blindness
People use Facebook to interact with friends, share their photos and play games, not to look for products and services. Your ads need to grab their attention. Facebook users are inundated with content and typically scan images and text quickly, but there are tricks to modify creative to minimize ad blindness and increase click-through rates. The most successful ads include colorful, engaging images — and of course, a compelling and relevant offer. Adding borders to your photos in colors like orange or yellow, which contrast with the blue and white Facebook interface, is a simple way to pull the user’s eyes in your ad’s direction.
Make sure to test early and often here, as the results will surprise you. The most-clicked ads are not necessarily the most aesthetically pleasing; they are often the ones that stand out on the page. Also, because ads can be served to the same users multiple times, it doesn’t take long for users to completely tune out repeat ads, so you have to keep your approach creative and fresh. Rotating images and headline copy as performance drops over time can help boost click-through rates.
By using the tips above to target and optimize your advertisements, you should have a head start in Facebook marketing. More importantly, by building competencies in this new channel, you can build sustainable advantage over the competition through superior targeting and optimization.
Taking a wait-and-see approach may be the safe route, but now is the time to begin. The Facebook advertiser base is still relatively small in comparison to the Facebook audience. As a result, costs-per-click rates remain lower than paid search and other channels. As advertisers continue to shift dollars to Facebook, costs will rise, and advertisers that have managed to build a fan base early will be better positioned to reap dividends from their investment.
What tips can you offer? What has worked with your own advertising experience on Facebook? Do you also zone out uninspired ads? Let us know in the comments below.
At one point or another in your career, you will report to a manager, the person you fondly – or not – call boss. The relationships that you create and manage, with both your immediate boss, and other company employees, are critical for your work success and career progress.
And, face it, whether you like it or not, you’re in charge of your relationship with your boss. No one will ever share as much concern as you do that the quality of the relationship helps you achieve your goals. At the same time, your boss has information that you need to succeed. He can’t do his job or accomplish his goals without your help.
So, your manager shares a critical interdependence with you. If you don’t accomplish your work, your manager will never shine for his or her overall responsibilities. You won’t progress without the information, perspective, experience, and support of your manager.
Despite knowing this, managers do come in every size and with all possible levels of skill and effectiveness. Some managers are just plain bad bosses; others are unaware of what you need from them. Managing up is challenging, but ultimately, worth your time.
How to Develop an Effective Relationship With Your Boss
These steps will help you develop a positive, ongoing, supportive relationship with your boss – a relationship that serves you well, your manager well, and, as a consequence, your organization well.
The first step in managing up is to develop a positive relationship with your boss. Relationships are based on trust. Do what you say you’ll do. Keep timeline commitments. Never blind side your manager with surprises that you could have predicted or prevented. Keep him informed about your projects and interactions with the rest of the organization.Tell the boss when you’ve made an error or one of your reporting staff has made a mistake. Cover-ups don’t contribute to an effective relationship. Lies or efforts to mislead always result in further stress for you as you worry about getting “caught” or somehow slipping up in the consistency of your story. Communicate daily or weekly to build the relationship.Get to know your manager as a person – he is one, after all. He shares the human experience, just as you do, with all of its joys and sorrows.
Recognize that success at work is not all about you; put your boss’s needs at the center of your universe. Identify your boss’s areas of weakness or greatest challenges and ask what you can do to help. What are your boss’s biggest worries; how can your contribution mitigate these concerns? Understand your boss’s goals and priorities. Place emphasis in your work to match his priorities. Think in terms of the overall success of your department and company, not just about your more narrow world at work.
Look for and focus on the “best” parts of your boss; just about every boss has both good points and bad. When you’re negative about your boss, the tendency is to focus on his worst traits and failings. This is neither positive for your work happiness nor your prospects for success in your organization. Instead, compliment your boss on something he does well. Provide positive recognition for contributions to your success. Make your boss feel valued. Isn’t this what you want from him for you?
Your boss is unlikely to change; he can choose to change, but the person who shows up to work every day has taken years and years of effort on his part to create. And, who your boss is has worked for him in the past and reinforced his actions and beliefs. Instead of trying to change your boss, focus instead, on trying to understand your boss’s work style.Identify what he values in an employee. Does he like frequent communication, autonomous employees, requests in writing in advance of meeting, or informal conversation as you pass in the hallway. Your boss’s preferences are important and the better you understand them, the better you will work with him.
Learning how to read your boss’s moods and reactions is also a helpful approach to communicate more effectively with him. There are times when you don’t want to introduce new ideas; if he is preoccupied with making this month’s numbers, your idea for a six month improvement may not be timely. Problems at home or a relative in failing health affect each of your workplace behaviors and openness to an improvement discussion. Additionally, if your boss regularly reacts in the same way to similar ideas, explore what he fundamentally likes or dislikes about your proposals.
Learn from your boss. Although some days it may not feel like it, your boss has much to teach you. Appreciate that he was promoted because your organization found aspects of his work, actions, and/or management style worthwhile. Promotions are usually the result of effective work and successful contributions. So, ask questions to learn and listen more than you speak to develop an effective relationship with your boss.
Ask your boss for feedback. Let the boss play the role of coach and mentor. Remember that your boss can’t read your mind. Enable him to offer you recognition for your excellent performance. Make sure he knows what you have accomplished. Create a space in your conversation for him to praise and thank you.
Value your boss’s time. Try to schedule, at least, a weekly meeting during which you are prepared with a list of what you need and your questions. This allows him to accomplish work without regular interruption.
Tie your work, your requests, and your project direction to your boss’s and the company’s overarching goals. When making proposals to your boss, try to see the larger picture. There are many reasons why your suggestion may not be adopted: resources, time, goals, and vision. Maintain strict confidentiality.
In your relationship with your boss you will sometimes disagree and occasionally experience an emotional reaction. Don’t hold grudges. Don’t make threats about leaving. Disagreement is fine; discord is not. Get over it. You need to come to terms with the fact that your boss has more authority and power than you do. You are unlikely to always get your way.
Use these tips to build a powerfully effective relationship with your boss. Have tips to share? Post the tip in ”comments”.