Apps that mean business

Travelling for work? Download these apps to keep you on track

Are you the incessant air-mile collector like George Clooney in the 2009 Hollywood film Up In The Air? The kind of business traveller who’s more at home at airports across the world rather than back at home? If yes, these apps might help you reduce your stress and get some more work done on the go.


Want to chat and video chat on the go with your team? Head to HipChat, a group chat platform for teams. Other than allowing voice and video chats in groups, it also lets you screen-share, share files through a simple drag-and-drop interface and share code and ideas with your teams. You can have a one-to-one with a co-worker from the team at any point. If there’s a meeting on HipChat that you weren’t able to attend, you can see the chat history and continue conversations right where you left them. All communication through HipChat is encrypted so it’s safe for meetings. The best part? It runs on almost every platform.; free on iTunes, Google Play, Linux, Windows, Mac and the Web. In-app (or additional) purchase of the video-calling service costs $2 (or around Rs.120) a month


Mynd is a smart calendar which manages your time efficiently. Updated in July, the app syncs your existing calendars and then uses its adaptive machine learning to help you like a virtual assistant, getting smarter with every choice you make. The aim is to save you time, manage your goals, prepare you for meetings and get you from point A to B. You can dial-in to conference calls with one click; the calendar also coordinates a group’s meeting by proposing multiple meeting times. Every morning it will warn you of how long it will take you to reach work. It also syncs with your LinkedIn account and automatically discovers and displays information about the people you’re going to meet.; free on iPhone


Want someone to make an itinerary for you? Head to WorldMate. All you have to do is forward your flight and hotel confirmation emails to and the app converts it into an itinerary. Once your itinerary is made, the app will send flight alerts and if it perceives you’re going to miss it, WorldMate sends details of alternative flights to the same destination. You can share the itinerary, add more to the schedule and get a map view of your travels. Updated in July, the app also recommends hotels based on your past trips and personal preferences. The best feature is its LinkedIn integration, which alerts you if any of your colleagues are nearby for an impromptu meeting or dinner.; free on Google Play, iTunes and Windows Phone


Meant for managers who don’t want to keep decisions pending while they’re travelling, DocuSign lets you sign documents electronically and send them in just minutes to your team. Built on digital transaction management technology, which is a category of secure cloud-based software to digitally manage business transactions, DocuSign electronic signatures are valid and legally binding across the world…


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Articles written in March

An app for a hobby

Write more, sing a better song, take a spectacular photograph or sketch something quickly. Take your hobby to the next level with these aids


VSCO Cam 3.0


Started by a group of people who love taking pictures, VSCO Cam comes with delightful features and its tools give you manual control over the picture. “I love their presets and find the feature of turning on the flashlight and taking a picture, instead of one-blink flash, really, really useful,” says Naina Redhu, a visual storyteller and photographer based in New Delhi.

The tools provide precision, including fine-tuning, exposure, temperature, contrast, fade and vignette. Once you have tinkered with the image, the app shows you the original and the final.

For quickies, it also has preset packs. Once done, you can share it easily on multiple social platforms like Facebook and Twitter. In February, the VSCO Cam app released a new version, fully integrating itself to the VSCO Grid, a free photo publishing platform that has become the ‘it’ place for photographers.

VSCO Cam 3.0, free on Google play and iTunes; in-app purchases, or additional features, Rs.55 onwards.


645 Pro Mk II


Released in June, 645 Pro’s new version is a perfect app to convert your iPhone into a manual camera. The features include real-time ISO, shutter-speed readings, focus, exposure control, real-time GPS data and a choice of histograms. The interface can be customized and you can configure the Shutter Release button to behave the way you want it to. This new version allows you to give an old-style, film-look output and save completely unprocessed image data at the highest quality possible. “With 645 I can shoot TIFF or RAW files from my iPhone which are raw and have higher resolution than a JPEG,” says Aneesh Bhasin, a photographer based in Mumbai. “I have managed to shoot a major professional assignment (for a book) with just my iPhone and this app.”

The app also comes with wow features like Film Modes, inspired by classic film stock from the 1960s, which can be edited, personalized and saved unprocessed to process later on your desktop.

645 Pro Mk II, Rs.220 on iTunes.

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Snooze away

World Sleep Day went by on Friday and if you still haven’t figured out the best way to nod your way to dreamland, here are some apps and gadgets that can help


Facebook and Twitter got you addicted to notifications; smartphones have been termed sleep killers; and then there is the addiction to late-night TV. According to a 2012 study published in the journal PLOS ONE, light from the smartphone’s LED screen is responsible for convincing your brain that it’s daytime, turning you into a sleepless zombie. The same gadget, however, can sing you a lullaby, be a sleep doctor, even remind you when you need to nod off. We have compiled a list of apps and gadgets that can help you catch some Zzzs.

Sleep Genius

Having trouble sleeping? Sleep Genius uses neurosensory algorithms that were first used to zonk out astronauts in space who couldn’t sleep because they were weightless and couldn’t lie down. The app produces vibrations that simulate a rocking motion like a cradle for your brain. The “noise” it creates has a calming effect and slows heart rate and breathing, creating a lull perfect for deep sleep. It also makes sure that your alarm wakes you up with gentle soothing sounds rather than a sudden blast of noise. Plus, if you want to sneak in a nap, it lets you take an average 30-minute one (you can also set your own time).

Sleep Genius, free on iTunes


Developed by scientists who have 20 years’ experience in dealing with insomniacs, this app analyses why you can’t sleep. While you sleep, it uses data from a heart-rate monitor, along with your iPhone’s microphone, to monitor the quality of your sleep and analyse what may be disturbing you at night (barking dogs, snoring partners, it reveals all). During the day, it shoots questionnaires at you, including asking for information about your lifestyle, napping and stress habits. Finally, after five nights, using algorithms developed at the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, US, the app sifts through the data and sends a personalized report on how to improve dozing time.

Read the complete article here.


The right app(roach) for writing

Do you find it hard to actually get down to writing? Some of these apps and websites may be of help


There’s help at hand for everything—from creative ideas to a nudge, even the company of others. Illustration: Raajan/Mint

Got the feeling that you too could write a book if you had the time? If you harbour a secret wish to become a writer, we have a solution for you—technology aids which can help you overcome writer’s block, keep you motivated or help you spur your imagination.

I procrastinate/I am not motivated enough

Fear is a primal emotion. It makes you react in unexpected, emotional ways. Destroy the block in your mind which is not letting you write with Write or Die, a Web app which pushes you to write more, with gentle and harsh penalties if you don’t start typing. “The app encourages writing by punishing the tendency to avoid writing,” says the website. Write or Die gives you an online textbox to write in and comes with an auto-save feature. You can use the app in three modes—Gentle Mode, where a box pops up if you stop writing for a certain amount of time; Normal Mode, which plays an unpleasant sound if you don’t continue to write; and the desperate Kamikaze Mode, which will delete what you have already written if you don’t write more.

If you don’t want negative reinforcement, try out Written? Kitten! instead, which rewards you for getting work done. The app rewards you with a cutesy kitten photograph for every 100 (or 200 or 500 or 1,000) words that you write. The kitten photographs are selected randomly from Flickr’s “most interesting” photos matching the tags “kitten” and “cute”. You get the picture? If you haven’t, then write some more.

Write or Die is available online for Mac, PC and Linux ($10, or around Rs.525) and on iTunes for iPad ($9.99).

Written? Kitten! is available online for free.

I am overwhelmed by ideas

Whether you’re writing or filing a report for work or college, your text needs to be linear and logical, but that’s not how your brain functions. Your brain tends to send spurts of ideas, connections, links and visuals all together on the topic you have been thinking about. And collating all of it into an ordered linear progression can be an uphill task.

According to The Mind Map Book created by Tony and Barry Buzan (2010), the solution is to create a mind map of the idea. A mind map starts with a basic idea and helps you radiate outwards and develop it by putting in associated ideas, words, concepts and links, closely resembling the brain’s neuronal structure with its infinite connections and its multilateral thinking, write the Buzans in their book.

Mind-mapping is easier now with smartphones. SimpleMind offers a basic freeflowing mind-map layout with options to add in colours and icons to bubbles which you connect in your flow chart. If you want something more comprehensive, opt for iThoughtsHD, which gives you the option of attacking all the niggles in your writing not only with a free-flowing mind map but also with other corporate tools like Six Thinking Hats and SWOT analysis. The app is even used by pastors to plan sermons, developer Craig Scott tells us in an email.

SimpleMind is available on Google Play and iTunes (free).

iThoughts is available on iTunes for iPhone ($7.99) and iThoughtsHD for iPad ($9.99).

I can’t think of a good idea

Sometimes a spark is all you need to ignite your creative juices. Get phrases and words which will get you on a thinking binge for creative work by installing Fiction Idea Generator. FIG, as it is called, creates random plots with elements like tense (past, present, future), narrator type (first, second, third), period, situation, protagonist, tritagonist and their relationship.

If you don’t like a structured plot suggestion and would rather go for just a few random prompts, opt for Writing Prompts, an app by the popular writing help website You can opt for suggestions through sketches, current news headlines and articles or, simply, a group of jumbled words. All you have to do is shake your phone and something new will crop up on your screen.

Fiction Idea Generator is available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Samsung Apps (free).

Writing Prompts is available on iTunes, Google Play, Kindle Fire ($1.99).

I can’t find the time

It’s all about managing it right. The Pomodoro Technique helps people manage their 24 hours better by breaking them down into 25-minute periods of work called “pomodoros” (which means tomatoes in Italian), interspersed with 5-minute breaks. Created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, the technique sounds the alarm for you to take a break and get back to work.

“I use the Pomodoro Technique myself,” says Baris Sarer, owner of the newly launched app on iTunes,It’s Pomodoro Time!, “especially when writing. It helps focus without exhausting and overworking your brain.” He loves the technique enough to launch an app that uses all its features well. With It’s Pomodoro Time! you can set daily targets of how much you want to write, set your pomodoros and use alarms to give yourself the much deserving break (and more importantly, to send you back to your desk).

It’s Pomodoro Time! is available on iTunes ($0.99).

I need human stimulus to work

To write, you have to eschew the social world. But if you want sympathy, empathy or company, become a part of the National Novel Writing Month . NaNoWriMo is a monthly online writing forum which begins every year in November. The goal is to write 50,000 words in November, with forums and groups of participants to help you all the way. The app NaNo Saga lets you compare your progress with your buddies’ and shows your novel details and current word count as well as the number of days left. Trust us, with more than 200,000 participants from across the world writing with you (last year, a whopping 256,618 participants wrote together), you will never feel lonely again.

NaNo Saga is available on iTunes ($0.99)

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