10 Cloud Apps For Boosting Productivity

Cloudy With A Chance Of Apps

Today's office runs on cloud apps. We store and process words and numbers in the cloud, extract facts and figures from the cloud, and communicate and collaborate with co-workers through the cloud. Our files are stored there; our stores do business there; and our calendars, calls and contacts are housed there. So it seems a natural progression for apps to emerge that make cloud apps easier to use and work better together. Here are 10 such apps.


For LinkedIn users who treat their Gmail inbox as a to-do list, Rapportive is a must-have. When an email is selected, this free add-on for Chrome and Firefox displays a synopsis of the sender's LinkedIn profile in Gmail's right-hand column instead of ads. Along with their picture, information includes their email, title and location, connection status and thumbnail pictures with facts of users' connections in common. Not already a 1st-level connection? There's also a "connect" button.


Another useful tool for Gmail junkies is Boomerang, a free extension for Chrome and Firefox that puts sending and receiving emails in a user's complete control. Just read an email about a problem you want to address later? Boomerang allows a user to assign a time for that email to pop up again in the inbox and appear unread, starred or at the top of the heap. Want to send emails before or after working hours? The tool also lets users schedule emails for sending at specific times or on particular days or dates. Need to follow up on email inquiries? There's also a "remind if I don't hear back" that can be assigned to any outgoing email. Boomerang would make a good companion for sales and marketing staff, and anyone that relies heavily on Gmail for their daily productivity.


It's one thing to use an inbox as a task generator. It's another to spend hours sifting through old emails for status updates on a project. For collaborative teams, particularly geographically dispersed ones, Asana is a free cloud-based task management system with a browser front end that's easy to use. Founded by former top execs at Facebook, Asana presents a three-paned interface to make easy work of viewing and sorting tasks by project, team member, importance and other factors. Changes appear in realtime, and tasks can be subdivided with priorities and users assigned across a company as needs dictate. Asana also offers apps for Android and for iOS.

Box Notes

For companies already using Box, the cloud-storage company offers Box Notes, which lets multiple users collaborate on documents in realtime through a browser, or the latest versions of its app for Android and for iOS. Box Notes provides an easy way to create to-do lists, collect meeting minutes or distribute drafts for editing or approval. Updates are added in a single version of a file.


CloudOn is a free service that executes Office apps in the cloud and permits apps for Android and for iOS to open and edit files stored in an existing Box, Drive, Dropbox or OneDrive account. This Citrixlike approach to mobile file editing delivers the features and user interface of the real McCoy (Office desktop apps) without reinventing the wheel. Printing requires the $3.99-per-month Pro version.


If Gantt charts are your thing, the cloud has an app for that as well. Gantter is a free project management service for creating, storing and sharing gantt charts a la Microsoft Project in the cloud. Once set up, login is through an existing Google Drive or Google Apps account, with realtime chart editing with other Google users, and sharing with anyone or limiting it to an enterprise domain. There's also Microsoft Project import/export capabilities and an option to log in with Facebook or LinkedIn.


Taking charts to an even higher level is LucidChart, which can do org charts, flow charts, wire mapping, circuit diagrams, UML diagrams, network diagrams, Venn diagrams, business process modeling, mind mapping, floor plans, you name it. The free version is limited to 60 objects per document and 25 MB of free online storage. Team pricing starts at $21 per month for five users, unlimited objects and 5 GB of storage.


Law offices, mortgage brokers, sales departments and literally anyone dealing with contracts or legal documents of any kind can use DocuSign, a low-cost service for distributing and securely signing documents of all kinds. Real signatures can be gathered on mobile and other devices that have touch capability. For nontouch systems, DocuSign offers several handwriting fonts to fill the role. DocuSign works with all major cloud storage systems, distributes documents using just the recipient's signature, then stores the appended documents in a secure repository for reference. Pricing starts at $10 per user per month.

Cloudy For Gmail

For Gmail users, sharing or email-attaching docs stored in Google Drive is literally three clicks away. But for Box and other non-Google cloud repositories, not so much -- unless you install Cloudy for Gmail. This Chrome extension adds a cloud icon to the toolbar that links to an existing Box, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, GitHub, Instagram or OneDrive account to attach files, photos, notes and other objects stored in those locations as easily as with Google Drive. It even works with Drive, just to keep things consistent. No charge.


This one did its job so well that last year it was gobbled up by Citrix. ByteSquared and its QuickEdit for iOS provide an easy way to store, share, open and edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents from an iPad, iPhone or iPod. The solution now includes a free Citrix ShareFile account with 1 GB of online storage. The tool supports all major program features, including footnotes, comments, spell-check and auto-correct. It also supports all file formats, and can print and save as a PDF. Citrix is currently integrating the system with its Worx mobile platform and other enterprise document solutions.